Legends of the Game: Eight Kansas City Greats
KC’s rich baseball history includes some of the game’s most recognizable names. Here’s a look back at eight greats who helped put Kansas City on the map when it comes to America’s pastime.
Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1971, Brett is widely considered one of the greatest third basemen in Major League Baseball history. A 13-time All-Star, Brett was the first player in history to win batting titles in three different decades (1976, 1980 and 1990). He had eleven .300 seasons and led the Royals to a World Series title in 1985. After retiring in 1993, Brett was elected to the Hall of Fame in what was then the fourth-highest voting percentage in baseball history. The Royals retired Brett’s no. 5 in 1994.
An American MLB shortstop, coach and manager, Howser managed the Kansas City Royals from 1981 to 1986. During that time, Howser guided the club to three division titles and a World Series Championship in 1985. Howser’s managerial career was tragically cut short when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1986 and passed away shortly after. In July 1987, Howser’s no. 10 became the first number retired by the Kansas City Royals.
A multi-sport professional, Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson joined the Kansas City Royals club in 1986, one year after they won the World Series. In 1987, Jackson had 22 home runs, 53 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as an outfielder and designated hitter for the Royals, and in 1989, he was named MVP of the MLB All-Star Game for his offensive and defensive play. His joint success in baseball and football led to a starring role in Nike’s popular ad campaign called, “Bo Knows.”
Ewing Marion Kauffman
This famous Kansas Citian built a successful pharmaceutical company and used his millions to bring Major League Baseball back to KC by purchasing the Royals in 1968. Kauffman went against the trend when he built Royals Stadium, a rare baseball-only facility that has since been renamed in his honor. In addition to a rich baseball legacy, he also established the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, an organization that follows his innovative vision by advancing entrepreneurship through grants and education.
This baseball star spent most of his life in KC, where he played and managed for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. Buck is credited as the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball and played an integral role in the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, where visitors can learn about the League’s history and stars. In 2007, he was posthumously awarded America's highest honor for a civilian—the Presidential Medal of Freedom
This legendary Negro Leagues pitcher played for the Kansas City Monarchs and pitched in two Negro World Series and five East-West All-Star games. To experience the lives of Paige and other Negro League players, visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which recreates the look, sounds and feel of the game’s storied past through video presentations and displays of memorabilia. Paige is buried in Kansas City's Forest Hill Cemetery.
This Georgia native was the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. After incredible athletic success at UCLA and a two-year stint in the United States Army during World War II, Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Baseball League. In 1947, a Brooklyn Dodgers executive approached Robinson about joining the MLB team. He courageously accepted and became the face of racial integration in professional sports. Robinson’s no. 42 has been retired among all teams, never to be worn again in Major League Baseball.
A career-long Royal, White played for Kansas City from 1973 through his retirement in 1990. His record-setting career included eight American League Gold Gloves, five All-Star Game appearances, a streak of 62 consecutive errorless games and a 22-home run season the year the Royals won the World Series. White’s no. 20 was retired in 1995 and he remains in the Royals’ top five for all-time leaders in games, at-bats, hits, runs, doubles, home runs, stolen bases, total bases and extra-base hits.