(This is part of a series on retired numbers, with somewhat of a focus on Retired Number Bandits — players who wore a number that was later retired at any point after the person for whom it was retired first wore it. See the introduction for more information and explanation on Bandits.)
The Kansas City Royals are one of seven teams that have retired at least one number and never had a Retired Number Bandit, although they do have Bandits among their unofficially retired numbers. Like most of the other Bandit-less teams, this is mostly due to not retiring very many numbers.[table “” not found /]
George Brett, 5
While there are seven Hall of Famers with ties to the Royals, Brett is the only one with a Royals hat on his plaque. He played his entire 21-year career with the Royals, amassing 3,154 hits and a .305 batting average with 317 home runs and 1,596 RBIs. He is widely regarded as one of the best third basemen in baseball history, and he is the only player in history to win a batting title in three different decades.
Brett was inducted to the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot in 1999, five years after the Royals had retired his number 5. He is still affiliated with the team today and was a very visible presence last season as the Royals won their first World Series since Brett’s heyday.
Brett also has one of the most memorable video highlights in baseball history:
Frank White, 20
White was Brett’s teammate for White’s entire 18-year career, and they won the World Series under manager Howser in 1985. That year, White became only the first second baseman to bat cleanup in a World Series since Jackie Robinson.
White was a five-time All-Star and an eight-time Gold Glove winner, and he recorded 2,006 hits in his career. He got 3.8 percent of the vote in his only year on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Dick Howser, 10
Howser had an eight-year playing career with the Kansas City Athletics, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees that ended in 1968. He later had two brief stints as Yankees manager before being hired by the Royals in 1981.
Howser led Kansas City to its first World Series title in 1985, and as the reigning American League champion manager he managed the AL in the 1986 All-Star Game. Little did he know that it would be the last game he would manage, as he felt sick before and during the game and was diagnosed shortly thereafter with a brain tumor. He attempted a comeback in spring training in 1987, but he did not have the strength to manage, and he died three months later of the same form of brain cancer that would kill fellow manager Johnny Oates 17 years later.
Unofficial: Dan Quisenberry and Mike Sweeney, both 29
The same rare form of brain cancer that killed Howser also killed former Royals closer Quisenberry, whose number 29 was later worn by star first baseman Sweeney.
Quisenberry had a 2.55 ERA and 238 saves in ten seasons with the Royals, finishing in the top five in the Cy Young voting five times. He finished his career with two seasons in St. Louis and a few games for the Giants, retiring in 1990 at age 37. He fell off the Hall of Fame ballot with 3.8 percent in 1996, and he died in 1998 at the age of 45.
Sweeney spent the bulk of his career with the Royals, hitting 197 home runs and batting .299/.369/.492 in 13 seasons in Kansas City. He played like a Hall of Famer for about seven seasons, hitting .313/.383/.521 from 1995-2001, but he never played in even 100 games in any other season. He was on the ballot this year for the first time and received three votes.
No one has worn 29 for the Royals since Sweeney in 2007, and it appears to be unofficially retired, presumably in honor of both Quisenberry and Sweeney, both of whom are in the Royals Hall of Fame. Between Quisenberry and Sweeney, the number was worn by Rey Palacios, Chris Gwynn, Billy Brewer, Vince Coleman, and Jon Nunnally.
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