Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff died this morning from complications of melanoma and oral cancer. He was 64.
Splittorff spent his entire 15-year big league career with the Royals, winning 166 games. His 166 wins are still a Royals team record. The bespectacled southpaw was a dependable part of a Royals team that won four American League West titles between 1976 and 1980. They would finally beat the Yankees in the 1980 ALCS to win their first AL pennant. Splittorff’s best two seasons came in 1973 and 1978 when he won 20 and 19 games, respectively. He retired in the middle of the 1984 season. It is a shame he did not hang on one more year when the Royals won their only World Series title. But by then it would have been near impossible to break into a rotation which consisted of Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson, Charlie Leibrandt, Mark Gubicza and Bud Black.
I enjoyed watching Splittorff pitch. He didn’t throw hard. But he knew how to move the ball around the plate and he worked quickly. Splittorff also had a low-key sense of humor. When he saw his teammate George Brett hit a long homerun, he remarked, “Anything that goes that far ought to have a stewardess on it.”
After his playing days, Splittorff enjoyed a distinguished broadcasting career not only with the Royals but also in college basketball and even high school football.
Splittorff only went public with his illness earlier this month although it was apparent he hadn’t been well for some time as he was receiving get well soon cards. With characteristic modesty, Splittorff said, “Send them to your servicemen.”
Here’s an interview Splittorff did last September in Omaha, Nebraska on the closing of Rosenblatt Stadium – the home of the College World Series and where he pitched as a minor leaguer from 1969 to 1971.
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