The Cardinals have been a part of the Royals’ history ever since Kansas City entered the American League as an expansion franchise in 1969.
The cross-state Missouri clubs renew their rivalry this weekend, June 15-17, in a regular-season interleague series at St. Louis.
St. Louis and the Royals first faced one another in the regular season on Aug. 29, 1997, when the Cardinals won, 9-7, at Kansas City. Designated hitter Willie McGee drove in three runs for St. Louis. First baseman Mark McGwire and right fielder Phil Plantier each hit a solo home run for the winners. Boxscore
Kansas City and the Cardinals also opposed one another in the 1985 World Series.
But the first game between the Cardinals and Royals occurred long before that.
The Cardinals were the opponent for the Royals’ first game at Kansas City, an exhibition on Saturday, April 5, on the weekend before the opening of the 1969 regular season.
St. Louis won, 1-0, behind the pitching of Mike Torrez and Dave Giusti. Torrez, a native of Topeka, Kan., held Kansas City to three singles in five innings and scored the lone run. Left fielder Lou Brock drove in Torrez with a triple to right-center off Roger Nelson after Torrez had doubled into right field with two out in the third.
Giusti, considered one of the Cardinals’ key off-season acquisitions, limited the Royals to a hit over the last four innings. In addition to Nelson, who went five innings, the Royals also pitched Bill Butler and Dave Wickersham.
Stan Musial, who would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame that summer, delivered the ceremonial first pitch for the second and last game of the exhibition series the following day, Easter Sunday, April 6. St. Louis won, 6-5.
“If the Cardinals don’t clinch the pennant by July, there ought to be an investigation,” Royals coach Charlie Metro said to The Sporting News.
After winning National League pennants in 1967 and ’68, plus the ’67 World Series championship, the Cardinals were considered favorites to at least finish atop the NL East in 1969, the first year Major League Baseball split the two leagues into two divisions each. In addition to adding Giusti from the Astros, St. Louis had acquired Vada Pinson from the Reds to replace Roger Maris in right field and Joe Torre from the Braves to replace Orlando Cepeda at first base.
“As much as everyone liked Roger Maris and appreciated what he did for us, I think Vada will help us more,” Cardinals reliever Ron Willis said to The Sporting News.
Pinson hit .449 in spring training for St. Louis. Third baseman Mike Shannon batted .371 with 17 RBI in the spring exhibition season.
“Mike looks 50 percent better, at bat and at third base,” said St. Louis hitting coach Dick Sisler.
Said Cardinals infielder Phil Gagliano: “Those first three hitters (Brock, Curt Flood and Pinson) are tough. Moon (Shannon) will drive in 100 runs _ if Torre doesn’t get ‘em first.”
After winning the two exhibition games at Kansas City, the Cardinals went to St. Louis to open the regular season with three games against the Pirates. “It’ll take a lot of luck to stop the Cardinals,” Pirates manager Larry Shepard said to the Associated Press. “They’re far and away the best club. This is the best team they’ve had in three years.”
Only Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst expressed caution. Asked whether the Cubs were the Cardinals’ top threat, Schoendienst told The Sporting News, “The Cubs and the Mets. The Mets have had great pitching the last couple of years and now some of their young guys at the other positions are coming through. They’re not making so many mistakes as they used to.”
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Schoendienst was right and everyone else was wrong. The Pirates swept the opening series against the Cardinals. Pinson didn’t live up to expectations, batting .255 in 1969 and posting a weak on-base percentage of .303. Shannon fell far short of 100 RBI, with 55. The Cardinals finished in fourth place in the six-team NL East, a game behind the third-place Pirates.
The Mets, dubbed a miracle team by most, developed just as Schoendienst had feared, winning the division and league titles and defeating the Orioles in the World Series.
The Royals? The expansion club finished as high in the standings as the Cardinals _ fourth in the six-team American League West.
Previously: How Charlie Metro miffed Stan Musial