The Kansas City Royals took care of business so quickly against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship series that I have been scrambling to get this post ready. The promise was should the Royals make the World Series, I would dig through the archives and take a look back at the Royals’ World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Truth is, I am very happy to do this for all Royals fans and because it gives me a chance to tell one of my favorite stories from my 45 years of photography. Let us take care of the game action first.
By now everyone knows the Royals won the 1985 I-70 series over the Cardinals in seven games after coming back from a 3-1 deficit. There is not enough time, nor need, to go through all seven games. That Series was all about one flat-out stud pitcher and the unlikely heroes that made the sixth game “one for the ages,” as they say.
That stud was Bret Saberhagen, the winner of game three after the Royals had lost the first two games of the Series in Kansas City. The 21-year-old Saberhagen walked out to mound in Busch Stadium and held the Cardinals to one run on six hits in the complete game victory. Even better, in game seven, Saberhagen shutout the Cardinals on only five hits to win the Series MVP award just one day after becoming a father.
After game four, Saberhagen’s father and I struck up a conversation in a hotel bar. The Royals had just lost 3-0 to fall behind 3-1 with another game to be played in St. Louis. Saberhagen’s father was clearly worried the Series would never return to Kansas City and his son would not pitch again. Having lived through this exact scenario in the American League Championship series, I told him with complete faith that Danny Jackson would win game five just as he did against Toronto. That would lead to a victory in game six and then his son would dominate the Cardinals again. Jackson did his part and the rest truly is great history.
While the 1985 and 2014 Royals’ teams might not seem all that similar, there is one unmistakable similarity, both teams truly believe they could and now can win no matter what obstacles stand in the way. Game six was the complete embodiment of that belief in 1985, along with some amazing good fortune.
Leading 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, Cardinals’ first baseman Jack Clark fielded a ground ball hit by leadoff batter Jorge Orta and flipped a throw to pitcher Todd Worrell covering first. To the shock of Cardinals’ fans everywhere, umpire Don Denkinger called Orta safe. Television replays, and one important photograph, proved that call to be very wrong, but without replay, the terrible call stood.
Still in shock, the Cardinals’ catcher and first baseman then dropped a foul ball giving Steve Balboni the opportunity to single to left. A poor sacrifice bunt by Jim Sundberg forced Orta out at third base, but a passed ball by former Royals’ catcher Darrell Porter advanced runners to second and third. Hal McRae was then intentionally walked.
That is when Dane Iorg became a legend in the legacy of the Royals. Pinch hitting for relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry, in the final Series played with no designated hitter, Iorg lined a ball to right field driving in two runs to give the Royals the dramatic victory that effectively won the World Series.
The next night, as expected, Saberhagen dominated the Cardinals. Amazingly, it took under three hours to play each of the seven games. The Royals had their title, but that is not the only Series title decided that night.
While it might be hard for some to grasp, photographing big events in those days for the Topeka Capital-Journal was almost as intense as the play on the field. Our competition was the Kansas City Star and their massive staff sent to dominate coverage.
Former C-J photographers John Bock, Earl Richardson and myself composed our smaller staff for home games with Bock and myself for games in St. Louis. Together we did everything we could to make sure our newspaper had the very best coverage. For the games in St. Louis, Bock and I constructed a lab in the bathroom of our hotel just two blocks from Busch Stadium. While Bock processed, I edited and transmitted to Topeka at a lightning pace.
In Kansas City, while Bock and I shot from the field, Richardson shot overheads not far from a lab used by the Star and our paper. Associated Press lab personnel processed the film and made prints as Richardson edited and sent images back to Topeka.
Again, the pictures selected here for display are tightly compressed to the true essence of the Series as detailed – Saberhagen and the ninth inning of game six along with a few overall celebratory photographs. However, it was a post-game-six question that encapsulates all of the pride I have in the job Bock, Richardson and myself did that historic night, and in that one epic inning, that you see now.
The lab after that game was a zoo. Packed with photographers all scrambling in the tight confines to view film and make decisions, the din was only worsened by the constant two-way radio chatter between the Star’s editor on site and their overall editor back at their office in downtown Kansas City. We moved very quickly and had images ready in record time. We could listen as the Star’s editor downtown would ask whether they had anything from such-and-such play? When their stadium editor said no, the reply was whether anyone else had the play. Three times the response was, “The Capital-Journal does.”
Finally after that third reply, the editor in their office yelled, “Do you have any F—-ING photographs that the F—-ING Capital-Journal doesn’t?”
Game off! Our World Series victory. Game seven was just a joyful procession to the celebration just as it was for Saberhagen and the Royals.