By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY — A look back at the 1985 American League Championship Series from the Toronto Blue Jays angle …
And from the KC angle …
Buddy Black thought it was a fly ball off the bat.
Frank White was hoping that the ball would be off the wall.
Buddy Biancalana knew the ball was not crushed, but was hoping it would be trouble.
The Kansas City Royals led the Blue Jays 2-1 with two out in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 1985 American League World Series.
Royals catcher Jim Sundberg lifted a 1-0 pitch from Dave Stieb off the right field fence.
Hal McRae scored.
Pat Sheridan scored.
And Steve Balboni scored.
Or in other words, everyone but reliever Charlie Leibrandt, scored for a five-run lead, assuring K.C. of a berth in its first World Series.
“Any time you get insurance like that it’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air,” said Biancalana from San Francisco. The former shortstop now runs PMPM Sports zone training in Scottsdale, Az.
He represented lefty Aaron Laffey, who pitched for the Jays in 2013.
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“When Jim hit it, we thought ‘oh no, it’s going to be caught,’” said Black, the San Diego Padres manager. “The wind was really howling hard into the right field corner … then we thought it could be trouble.
“It kept carrying and carrying and carrying, we thought it had a chance to go out, we were watching Jesse Barfield and then we worried it was might go foul.”
Black was in three games against the Blue Jays. He started Game 2 pitching seven allowing three runs — two earned — on five hits and a walk, worked in relief facing four hitters in Game 3 and pitched 3 1/3 scoreless in Game 6, falling an out short of the save. Lloyd Moseby singled Tony Fernandez to second. Dan Quisenberry came in to strike out Garth Iorg to force Game 7.
“Whenever you win a Game 6, it really creates some momentum,” said Biancalana, who the 1985 Jays had a solid, balanced team. And after Game 6, the two were on even footing.
“It’s a real powerful momentum shift for us,” Bianaclana said. “They were probably over there saying ‘we’ve still got one more chance.’
“We used that shift going into Game 7.”
The Jays may have been favored but they rolled to a 67-35 record (.657) against right-handed pitchers (102 homers, .272 average, .765 OPS). They were 32-27 (.542) facing lefties (56 homers, .263, .742 OPS).
The Royals featured three lefty starters in Danny Jackson, Leibrandt and Black. Manager Dick Howser used Leibrandt three times (two starts) while Black and Jackson pitched twice each (one start apiece) as the trio combined to pitch 36 of the Royals 62 2/3 innings (57.4%) and a 2.75 ERA.
“Charlie and I were similar,” said Black, “we were good at keeping it down and away from George Bell and Barfield. We could neutralize their left-handed hitters (Ernie Whitt, Willie Upshaw and Moseby) most of the time.”
Black’s father, also named Harry, was born in Calgary and raised in Edmonton, before gaining a USC hockey scholarship and playing for the Los Angeles Monarchs in the Pacific Coast League.
“Buddy and Charlie made it tough for their right-handed hitters,” said Biancalana.
Garth Iorg batted .125 (1-for-8), Bell hit .231 (3-for-13), Garcia batted .285 (4-for-14), while Barfield batted .400 (4-for-10) against Leibrandt and Black. Cliff Johnson hit .500 (6-for-12).
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“Right field wasn’t very far, we thought it was going off the wall,” said White. “The thing I remember about Game 7, about the eighth or ninth — after the triple — was an intoxicated guy falling out of the stands onto the field and it took security a while to get him off the field.
“It took so long we were worried it would break our momentum.”
With one out in the ninth, Barfield singled and Fernandez doubled to chase Leibrandt.
On came Quisenberry to get Garcia on a grounder knocking in a run and then Moseby bounced to White at second and off the Royals went to St. Louis and the World Series.
“Both teams were quick, we were turf teams,” said White. “Back then you had no idea the type of power Toronto had. What a hitter Bell was — one the best right-handed hitters in the game. The Jays were built the right way: pitching, defence and speed. Any time you go up against a Bobby Cox team you know it’s going to be a tough series.”
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After Al Oliver’s second late pinch hit drove in a run to win Game 4, the Jays led the ALCS 3-1.
“If you remember that was the first year it wasn’t 3-of-5,” said White from Lee’s Summitt, Mo. “if it’s the old rules, we would have been done real quick.
“Once we got down 3-1, it was one game at a time. Toronto was favored — they had to be favored. We knew Stieb was always tough, we felt it was going to be a knock-down drag out series. They had more power, speed was close.
“The only advantage we had was that it was seven games.”
Down 3-1, but the Royals weren’t down.
“Melancholy would have been a better word,” said Biancalana, “but we weren’t thriving either. That’s the interesting thing about sports: a state of melancholy vs. a state of excitement. Sometimes there is an advantage when you’re not expected to do anything. The Jays were up. They were expected to win.”
Stieb started Games 1, 4 and 7, while Jimmy Key and Doyle Alexander started two games each.
“We really thought we’d see Jim Clancy but he didn’t start,” said White. “He had a real good sinker and slider. He helped get them to get where they were.”
Clancy missed August, 43 days in all, and then went 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in six September starts.
“We didn’t think we were done, at no time did we think we had it wrapped up,” said Black. “We weren’t confident but we were in a good frame of mind.”
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Biancalana’s favorite memory was in Game 3 when Brett came up with a man on base. He’d already homered and doubled in his first two at-bats against Doyle Alexander. K.C. trailed 5-3.
“I was in the dugout after he hit the first homer and looking out to the left field bleachers all the fans stood,” said Biancalana, almost like hit it here.
“George looked out and it was like he said ‘Ok I got you covered.’ It gave me goose bumps when it homered again … to see an athlete respond to 40,000 people cheering.”
* * *
Bouncing back from a 3-1 deficit against the Jays, the Royals did it again to win the World Series against St. Louis.
“What happened in the ALCS was fresh in our minds,” said Black from San Diego, “but it was entirely different. We had to win Game 5 at home and then go to Toronto, while in the World Series, if we won Game 5 in St. Louis, we were going home.”
Cards lefty John Tudor pitched 6 2/3 innings allowing one run to win Game 1, pitched a complete-game shut out in Game 4 and after the Royals evened the series at 3-3, the Royals knew they’d face Tudor in Game 7.
“Some of our guys were chanting Tudor’s name, we had a groundswell of optimism,” said White.
Were players hooting Stieb’s name? “No way?” said White.
It’s very difficult for a starter to win three straight against another team. Three times in 12 days? On short rest.
Tudor lasted 2 1/3 innings allowing five runs on three hits and four walks.
The press box announced shortly after his departure that Tudor had “cut his hand on a fan.”
A few minutes later came another announcement “correction, he cut his hand on an electric fan, not a fan.”
“It was so hot that they had installed three electric fans in each dugout, one at each end, one in the middle,” said White. “He must have hit one when he headed to the clubhouse.”
After the second announcement our row in the auxiliary press box — Mike Lupica from New York, Randy Youngmans of the Orange County Register and myself — seated amongst the paying customers burst out laughing. Loudly.
Except unbeknownst to us, the wife of a Cardinals player was across the aisle.
A woman we’d never seen came over screaming: “you guys have always against us since spring training!”
Game by game snyopsis
Jays 6, Royals 1
Dave Stieb pitched eight scoreless — allowing doubles to George Brett and Dane Iorg — and a single to Brett. This despite a second-inning visit from Juanita Smith, stage name Chrissie, a Mississauga ballet dancer. Smith was on the mound almost as long as Charlie Leibrandt, who last two innings.
Already up 2-0, Cliff Johnson doubled, Jesse Barfield walked and Willie Upshaw singled to chase Leibrandt. Rance Mulliniks singled in a run, Ernie Whitt walk in a run and Tony Fernandez hit a run-scoring fly ball.
George Bell, Whitt and Fernandez had two hits apiece while Barfield knocked in a pair.
Jays 6, Royals 5
Having given up the lone run in the ninth of Game 1, Tom Henke was touched for a run in the top of the 10th — his third inning of work — but he wound up the winner as Fernandez led off with an infield single against Dan Quisenberry, in his third inning. Fernandez moved to second on a grounder and scored on Lloyd Moseby’s single, a dropped pick-off throw at first put Moseby on second and Al Oliver plated him with a walk-off hit.
Lefty Jimmy Key worked 3 1/3 innings allowing three runs, but Dennis Lamp pitched three scoreless. Buddy Black pitched seven innings allowing three runs — two earned. Moseby and Johnson each had a pair of hits, while Barfield drove in a pair.
Royals 6, Jays 5
Brett was 3-for-8 in the first two games with a double and zero RBIs. Bobby Cox’s plan was to pitch around him. Doyle Alexander’s plan was to challenge him. Brett homered in the first (after Whitt threw out Willie Wilson attempting to steal) in the first, double and scored leading off the fourth and hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie the game 5-5. Brett singled off Jim Clancy in the eighth and scored on Steve Balboni’s two-out single. Brett finished 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBIs.
Down 2-0 to Bret Saberhagen in the fifth, the Jays scored five times on a Whitt single, Barfield homer, a one out double by Damo Garcia, a Moseby single and a Mulliniks homer.
Jays 3, Royals 1
This was not a series dominated by closers as the Royals took a 1-0 lead — Stieb walked Hal McRae with the bases loaded — into the ninth. Leibrandt walked Garcia and allowed an RBI double to Moseby. On came Quisenberry and gave up a single to Bell and Oliver hit a two-run double.
Henke then got the save with the 1-2-3-4-5 ninth, finishing off 2 1/3 scoreless. Cox went to Henke to face Willie Wilson with two on in the seventh as Stieb pitched 6 2/3 allowing one run.
Brett was held hitless, but walked twice.
Royals 2, Jays 0
Much like Curt Schilling would do in 1993, Danny Jackson shut down the Jays pitching a complete-game shutout, scattering eight hits to avoid elimination. Key worked 5 1/3 innings allowing a run when Brett bounced out in the first and Darryl Motley hit a fly ball in the second.
The Jays best chance came in the fourth when Bell singled and Johnson followed with a single to left. Bell attempted to go to third and was thrown out on a bang-bang play by Lonnie Smith. Bell argued the call by umpire Dale Ford and accused the umpires of being “anti-Canadian.” Oh Canada George Bell stands on guard for three.
Royals 5, Jays 3
Brett hit a solo homer off Alexander in the fifth for a 3-2 lead. Buddy Biancalana’s run-scoring double chased Alexander with one out in the sixth and Smith doubled for a 5-3 lead. Johnson singled in a run … but that was it.
Moseby had three hits for the Jays, while Brett was 1-for-3 with his third homer of the series off Alexander.
Royals 6, Jays 2
The Jays were down 2-0 on a Jim Sundberg single in the second and Pat Sheridan homer off Stieb in the fourth. Leibrandt took over for Saberhagen, but the reliever worked 5 1/3 innings. Willie Upshaw doubled in a cutting the lead to 2-1 in the fifth.
And then came the sixth … Stieb walked Brett on four pitches, hit McRae with a 1-2 pitch and then walked Balboni on a 3-2 pitch. Sundberg lifted a triple off the right field fence.
Best 3 from each team
Player AB R H RBI AVG OPS
George Brett 23 6 8 5 .348 1.326
Rance Mulliniks 11 1 4 3 .364 1.189
Cliff Johnson 19 1 7 2 .368 .874
Jesse Barfield 25 3 7 4 .280 .797
Willie Wilson 29 5 9 1 .310 .747
Hal McRae 23 1 6 3 .261 .668
Lloyd Moseby 31 5 7 4 .226 .531
Ernie Whitt 21 1 4 2 .190 .499
Frank White 25 1 5 3 .200 .422
Garth Iorg 15 1 2 0 .133 .321
Steve Balboni 25 1 3 1 .120 .305
Buddy Biancalana 18 2 4 1 .222
Dan Quisenberry 3.86 0-1 4.2 3
Tom Henke 4.26 2-0 6.1 4
Jimmy Key 5.19 0-1 8.2 5
Charlie Leibrandt 5.28 1-2 15.1 6
Bret Saberhagen 6.14 0-0 7.1 6
Doyle Alexander 8.71 0-1 10.1 9