Quirk, Hurdle look back in return to KC
Rockies bench coach and manager reflect on playing days, city
KANSAS CITY -- Sometimes, past memories of powder blue and crowns come to Jamie Quirk and Clint Hurdle during games.
One flashback happened earlier this year. Colorado was up, 11-0, early in a game. Quirk, the Rockies' bench coach, and Hurdle, the manager, started talking about a time in their playing careers with the Royals when they were trailing, 11-0, to Milwaukee on a Saturday night. Their then-manager, Whitey Herzog, took out as many of the regulars as he could, and put in the reserves.
"Those guys didn't even realize we'd won until the next day," Quirk said.
All kinds of memories started to float back for Quirk and Hurdle as the Rockies are in the middle of a three-game series at Kansas City. The pair, each first-round Draft picks of the Royals, won division titles and played in a World Series, Quirk as a catcher, Hurdle as an outfielder.
Although some of their thoughts about the past are the same, like that game in Milwaukee, the city has a different feel for each.
For Quirk, Kansas City is his home. It has been full-time since 1978. Baseball took him to several other locations, but he raised his family in Kansas City, and always remembered it fondly.
Hurdle was traded from the Royals in 1981 and has not been back until his Rockies team got into Kansas City on Sunday night. When he visited the Plaza on Sunday, he got lost.
A 17-year-old Quirk was drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 1972 Draft. The Royals had been in existence since 1969. By the time Quirk got his first significant playing time with the club in 1976, the Royals were a power.
They won the American League West that season. Quirk was back again in 1978 after spending a season with the Twins, and Kansas City won the division that year, too. The '80s were even better.
Quirk played in the World Series in 1980 when the Royals lost to the Phillies and again in 1985, when they won against the Cardinals.
"I don't have one bad memory," Quirk said. "My whole 25 years in the organization, not one."
Life outside of baseball was sweet, too. Quirk grew up in Southern California. The change of scenery and actual cold temperatures and snow in the winter deepened his fondness for the city. The people were nice and recognized him around town. Soon he met his wife, Anna, who was from the area.
All of it made him want to stay. Quirk played for several other teams, but always found his way back to the Royals. After his career ended, he got a job on the Royals coaching staff and stayed there from 1994 until 2001.
When Quirk found out that Colorado would visit Kansas City this season, he started looking forward to it right away. The last two days he's met with several friends. None of the staff or players from his stint as coach are with the Royals anymore, but he talked to clubhouse employees, ushers and equipment managers.
Quirk's also had a reunion with former teammates. He's spoken with Frank White and Paul Splittorff, and went out with George Brett the last two nights. And of course, Quirk's gotten to spend time with his family and sleep in his own bed -- the two best parts of the trip.
"I've always loved the community," Quirk said about Kansas City. "It's just home now."
Kansas City fans will always remember Hurdle for the cover. Sports Illustrated gave Hurdle top billing in a 1977 issue with the caption, "This Year's Phenom."
Hurdle had been in the visitors' dugout for no less than 30 minutes Monday before he saw that old cover. A fan handed it to him, and Hurdle signed it.
"Oh, I've got it already, I don't need it," Hurdle joked.
Hurdle never quite lived up to the expectations promised on that cover. He appeared in just nine games in '77, and got regular playing duty only in '78 and '80. The Royals traded him in the winter of '81, and that was it.
Hurdle wouldn't step foot in the city again until Sunday night, and even then, he didn't get the best reaction.
A driver suggested Plaza III, a steakhouse, as a good place to dine for Hurdle and his wife, Karla. Hurdle had been there before, back in his playing days. This time, they walked in, and Hurdle told the man working there they'd like to have dinner. The worker said the restaurant was closed.
Hurdle and his wife went up the street to Brio Tuscan Grille and happened to cross by Plaza III again after their meal. About 10 of Hurdle's players were sitting at a table having dinner.
Did they remember him at the Plaza III?
"Obviously," Hurdle said.
Return to Kansas City
There they were in the outfield at Kauffman Stadium, Nos. 13 and 9. Hurdle wears 13 as manager and Quirk wears No. 9 as bench coach, and some of the Rockies players put the numbers out there before early batting practice, giving Hurdle and Quirk some recognition for their Kansas City playing days.
They both got a kick out of it. This series has been all about remembering the past and Hurdle and Quirk's time during the Royals' Golden Age.
Quirk is in Kansas City as often as he can, and can never get enough of it.
Hurdle says he hasn't had any fuzzy feelings or any of alienation. He'll never feel the same about the city as Quirk, but Hurdle still has enough of the good memories.
"This place was in the diamond lane at that time," Hurdle said. "We were drawing people from all over the Midwest. We had a good team. It was exciting, and we could beat you a number of ways. It was fun."
Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.