Tag Archives: Kansas City Royals

This is a walk-off story about George Brett, but someone else too …

I was hoping that in George Brett’s logs that there would be at least one walk-off moment from the 1980 season. That’s one of the all-time great seasons by a hitter in my lifetime. Brett hit .390/.454/.664, albeit in only 117 games. He struck out 22 times in 515 plate appearances. His performance was valued at 9.4 WAR, which is extraordinary considering the number of games he missed.

And there was.

But as good as I feel for George Brett and that season, I feel kind of bad for the opposing pitcher. Mike Parrott won 14 games and posted a 3.77 ERA for the Mariners in 1979. He was named their Opening Day starter and deservedly so, given that the Mariners didn’t have many good pitchers and that he was a first-round pick with some promise. On the back of his 1982 baseball card, it notes “The Mariners’ starting pitcher for the 1980 season opener, Mike gained win vs Blue Jays, April 9.”

There’s a reason that this was noted as Parrott’s baseball-card fact.

After winning on Opening Day, things didn’t go so well for Parrott. Thus began a long losing skid and a painful season in more ways than one. It is documented here that Parrott was hit in the groin by a batted ball.

Meanwhile, everything turned up roses for Brett, who was leading the Royals to the 1980 AL pennant.

As the season wound down, the Royals and Mariners played an epic game on September 30. The Royals had clinched the division already, though they were on an uncharacteristic eight-game losing streak. The Mariners were 59-97. The game is actually notable for something unrelated. Mariners pitcher Rick Honeycutt was ejected in the third inning because the home plate umpire said Honeycutt was cutting the ball with a thumb tack

The Royals led 4-3 in the ninth inning, but Bruce Bochte hit a game-tying home run for the Mariners against Royals starter Dennis Leonard.

In the 10th, Parrott came on on in relief for his first appearance in six days. And Parrott got through the next four innings. The one chance he had to face Brett resulted in an intentional walk, one that paid off when Parrott struck out Hal McRae and got Amos Otis to fly out with the winning run on third.

In the 14th inning, the Mariners broke through to take the lead on Dave Edler’s bunt hit.

Here’s where Parrott stood. He entered the game 1-14 with a 7.42 ERA and had dropped 14 straight decisions. He was in position to win this one. Wills rolled the dice and stayed with him.

The dice came up snake eyes.

Willie Wilson reached on an infield single and stole second. U.L. Washington singled, with Wilson holding at third. That brought up Brett in what was unfortunately, a mismatch. Brett hit a game-winning three-run home run on a 1-1 pitch. Afterwards, he spoke of how much fun he was having, even though the chase to hit .400 (which was basically out of reach) was stressful.

In the end, things worked out alright for all involved. Brett won an MVP , won a World Series with the Royals in 1985, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Parrott pitched one more game that season and lost that one too. He finished 1-16 with a 7.28 ERA. pitched one more year with the Mariners (it went a little better, but not much- his losing streak was snapped at 18 games. Only Anthony Young -27- has had a longer one since then), then spent five seasons in Triple-A without getting recalled. Three of those years were with the Royals organization.

After his playing career ended, Parrott became a baseball lifer. He’s been a minor league pitching coach since 1988(!) and has been with the Diamondbacks organization since 1997. One of his minor league managers, Phil Nevin, called Parrott “outstanding.” He’s spent the last three seasons with the Hillsboro Hops. By all accounts, he’s fared very well.

Props to him for sticking it out and making the most of what must have been a rough time in his career. I would bet that his struggles helped him considerably as a coach, because he can always tell one of his players “You think you’re struggling …”

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Bo Jackson knows walk-offs

If you’re my age, you probably remember Bo Jackson pretty well. You recall his amazing runs at Auburn, his untackleable Tecmo Bowl character from his Raiders days, or his home run to open the 1989 All-Star Game. He was a phenomenal athlete and a huge star whose career was cut way too short.

I was wondering if Jackson had ever hit a walk-off home run. He did not disappoint. In fact, it came the Saturday before that famous 1989 All-Star Game.

Jackson’s Royals trailed the White Sox 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, after George Brett had gotten doubled off second base on Jackson’s flyout to end the eighth inning. But Jackson and Brett’s teammate, Danny Tartabull picked them up with a game-tying home run against White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen in the ninth inning.

The game stretched to the 11th inning where Jackson led off against John Davis and on a 2-1 pitch, he hit a home run that cleared the fence in left center by more than 30 feet. It was his 21st home run of the season. Brett was the first to greet Jackson after the home run. You can see it here.

It was good timing too. The Miami Herald ran a 2,000-word feature by Bob Rubin on Sunday spotlighting Jackson’s phenomenal athletic ability (it asked if he was from the planet Zork). This was Bo Jackson at his peak. There was talk he could go 40-40 (he finished with 32 home runs and 26 steals).

“Watching Bo,” Mark McGwire said in the article, “he just belongs in another league.”

It’s funny to note that the next day, Jackson came up in the bottom of the ninth in another walk-off scenario, with Brett on second and one out in a tie game. He was intentionally walked. The next batter, Willie Wilson, hit a game-winning single. I suppose White Sox manager Jeff Torborg laughed when he watched Jackson homer in the All-Star Game and thought to himself “at least he didn’t do that.”

Bo Knows Minutiae
– Jackson is better known for a walk-off denial. That came in the form of a 300-plus foot throw on the fly from the left field warning track on Scott Bradley’s double, to nail Harold Reynolds at the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning of a tie game against the Mariners in Seattle on June 5, 1989.

“There is no one on the planet who can make that throw, but Bo did,” said Royals catcher Bob Boone.

By the way, in batting practice that day, Jackson hit a 480-foot home run.

“I’m a better defensive player than offensive,” Jackson said afterwards.

If you want to see the throw, click here.

– The Royals needed Bo Jackson that season. They were 79-54 that season when he started, 13-16 when he didn’t.

– Bo Jackson never had a walk-off touchdown in the NFL. Of his 18 scores, 16 of them came in the first three quarters.

– If you had asked me which team Bo Jackson finished his MLB career with, I would have said the White Sox. I would not have guessed the Angels, for whom he concluded with in 1994.

– Bo Jackson’s penchant for striking out makes some of his numbers rather comical. He had 20 strikeouts in 28 at-bats against Mark Langston, 13 in 24 at-bats against Roger Clemens, 11 in 20 at-bats against Randy Johnson and 12 in 20 at-bats against Nolan Ryan. He did hit a 461-foot homer vs Ryan though.