Many '85 Royals will be at FanFest
Anniversary celebrated as KC gears up for 2010
KANSAS CITY -- All the 1985 World Series memories surely will come flooding back: umpire Don Denkinger's missed call, Dane Iorg's game-winning pinch-hit and Jim Sundberg's artful slide, the Bret Saberhagen baby watch, Buddy Biancalana getting teased by David Letterman. And Saberhagen and George Brett hugging on the infield as the Royals' only World Series championship became a reality.
"It was an exciting moment," Saberhagen said.
Many of the 1985 Royals, conquerors of the Cardinals in that epic World Series, will hold a reunion with themselves and the fans during the Royals FanFest this weekend. The event runs from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT on Friday and from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center.
The primary events for the '85ers will come on Friday in an autograph session from 5:30-6:30 p.m. and a roundtable discussion at 7:35 p.m. on the main stage. Some of the ex-players will be in other events as well.
With the addition of David Cone to the FanFest schedule, the Royals' three Cy Young Award winners will hold a unique autograph session from 3:30-4:30 p.m. CT on Friday. Cone, the 1994 winner, will join Zack Greinke (2009) and Bret Saberhagen (1985 and 1989). But only 250 persons, selected at random, will get in the autograph line.
Here's how that will work: Each of the first 4,000 fans entering the FanFest both days will receive a commemorative backpack. Prior to 3:30 p.m. CT on Friday, 250 of the backpacks will contain winning tickets that will allow the holder to enter the Cy Young autograph line. Tickets must be presented to get in the line, which will begin to form at 2:30. Kids under 14 may be accompanied by an adult, no photos will be allowed and just one item will be signed by each player.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Royals' only World Series victory, and when the returning champions reflect on the accomplishment, they'll probably point proudly at their tenacity. After all, they came back from 3-to-1-game deficits in both the American League Championship Series against Toronto and in the World Series against St. Louis.
That negated the disappointment of losing their first World Series, in 1980, to Philadelphia.
"In the 1980 Series, so many negative things happened and guys were able to come back and really produce. And it wasn't talked about a lot," second baseman Frank White said.
"When Willie [Wilson] struck out 12 times in the '80 World Series, it was talked about a lot. And he came back in '85 and led the Series in hits. I only had two hits in the '80 Series and I was able to come back and not only bat fourth in all seven games, but lead the Series in RBIs. It was one of those second-chance kind of things."
White batted fourth with Hal McRae relegated to the bench because, under the Series rules at the time, there was no designated hitter. White hit one of Kansas City's two homers and knocked in six runs.
"Just being able to persevere through the playoffs and the World Series when you're down 3-1 in both and be able to come back and win [is something]," White said. "Just the overall character of the team would be the No. 1 thing I would point to because we could just as easily been sent home in both the playoffs and the World Series. We just didn't give up, we kept fighting."
Saberhagen seconded that notion.
"That's the biggest thing. It was funny because we just never cared what we were facing, we always thought we could come back and win," Saberhagen said. "We thought there was more pressure on them to close us out than for us to go ahead and win. I think we played -- I don't know what the right word would be -- but we played carefree without the pressure being on top of us."
Saberhagen, Brett and White will be among the 18 former '85 players slated to be on hand. McRae, Sundberg, Wilson and Biancalana are on board along with Jamie Quirk, Greg Pryor, Jorge Orta, Darryl Motley, Dennis Leonard, Charlie Leibrandt, Danny Jackson, Steve Farr, Buddy Black, Joe Beckwith and Steve Balboni. A knee injury kept Leonard out of the postseason in '85.
Dan Quisenberry and manager Dick Howser have passed away. Those not attending for various reasons: Iorg, Lonnie Smith, Mark Gubicza, John Wathan, Onix Concepcion, Pat Sheridan and Lynn Jones.
That's just part of the FanFest, of course. Greinke and Royals Player of the Year Billy Butler head up a large contingent of current Royals who'll be on hand.
Others scheduled include Mike Aviles, Brian Bannister, Yuniesky Betancourt, Willie Bloomquist, Kyle Davies, David DeJesus, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Anthony Lerew, Mitch Maier, Gil Meche, Brayan Pena, Robinson Tejeda and newcomers Brian Anderson, Josh Fields and Chris Getz.
There will be autograph and photo sessions throughout the two-day event as well as interactive games, main-stage programs and souvenir shops. Click here for complete information and to buy tickets online.
Other Royals alumni scheduled to appear in addition to Cone include Mike Boddicker, Jim Eisenreich, Mike Macfarlane, John Mayberry, Brian McRae, Marty Pattin and Jim Rooker.
But the '85 guys will rule the roost, like they did the Cardinals.
"I'm sure we'll run into a lot of faces that we recognize from those days -- the fans and stuff," Saberhagen said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.