Monday, March 22, 2010

Royals in Monarchs Duds: August 3, 1994

The first Salute to the Negro Leagues at Kauffman Stadium, on August 3, 1994, came during heady times for Negro Leagues appreciation. The grand opening of the Negro Leagues Museum's current location was held just two days later. Ken Burns' Baseball documentary, which thrust Buck O'Neil and the Negro Leagues into a new level of notoriety, would debut in September.

Buck O'Neil discusses the night in his autobiography:
In 1994, when the Kansas City Royals held a special Negro Leagues Night at Kauffman Stadium, they asked me what uniform the Royals should wear that night. I could have chosen the one worn by the '42 Monarchs, the best team I ever played on, or by the '55 Monarchs, the last Monarchs team I managed. But I selected the 1924 Monarchs' uniform. When I looked at Tom Gordon and Brian McRae and Jose Lind in those beautiful white pinstripes—just like the Yankees' uniforms—I saw Joe Rogan and Newt Allen and Jose Mendez. That's one of the great things about baseball, if you think about it. Yesterday comes so easy.
The Royals hosted the Oakland A's, who did not wear special uniforms. It's the only Salute to the Negro Leagues in which the Royals wore Monarchs unis but the visiting team did not wear Negro Leagues throwbacks. The 1994 Royals were actually a pretty good team, and entered the game on an 11 game winning streak. Pitcher Jeff Montgomery was feeling a little superstitious and unsure about wearing different uniforms in the middle of a hot streak, but Montgomery didn't need to worry - the Royals prevailed 9-5. From an August 4th column in the Kansas City Star:
The blue and white pin-stripe uniforms, provided by Ebbets Field Flannel of Seattle, looked baggy on the players. They weren't totally comfortable, either

"It didn't take me long to get loose in the pen and work up a sweat," reliever Billy Brewer said. "I felt a little restricted in them." Center fielder Brian McRae said: "The socks were a little bit heaver, but it was alright." He said the superstition idea was ridiculous.

"We've been winning because we're playing good baseball," McRae said.

The bulk of the uniforms will be donated to the Negro Leagues Museum and will be auctioned for fund raising.
Also from the August 4th Star:
(Bob) Hamelin's appearance in the baggy Monarchs uniforms naturally drew comparisons to that of Babe Ruth, though there is an uncanny resemblance even without the uniform.

"I heard a few people call that Babe stuff out," Hamelin said.

"But actually more people were saying I looked better in this uniform than I do in the normal one. I guess you know what that tells you." And that is "It tells you I'm not that good-looking." Hamelin, like most of the Royals, didn't mind the uniform switch.

"Mine was a little tight," said Hamelin, 6 feet and 235 pounds. "But I guess that was to be expected."
Jose de Jesus got the win for Kansas City. Hamelin, in his Rookie of the Year season, hit his 23rd homer, and Wally Joyner had a perfect day at the plate with two hits and three walks. The Royals good play in 1994 was all for naught - the season was canceled a week after the Salute thanks to the players strike.

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