|1971 Topps Rookie Card, 1974 Topps, and 1976 Topps|
Today, one of my favorite Royals, Paul Splittorff, passed away at the age of 64 from complications with oral cancer and melanoma. Splitt, as he was known by Royal faithful, worked on the Royals television network up until a couple weeks ago. Although he had been hampered by vocal issues over the last few years, he was a joy to listen to whether he was doing color on tv or co-hosting the post-game show.
Splittorff was drafted by the Royals in the 25th round of the 1968 draft. He would spend less then two seasons in the Royals minor leagues before being called up during the 1969 season. In his "rookie" season of 1970, Splitt would go 8-12 with a 3.83 E.R.A. He would go on to become the main lefty in the Royals rotation for over 10 seasons. During the 1973 season, he would become the first Royals to win 20 games with a 20-11 record and a 3.98 E.R.A. From 1972-1980, he would average 15 wins and 220 innings pitched. Over the course of 15 seasons, Splittorff would go 166-143 with 1057 strikeouts. He stills holds Royals records for wins, starts, and innings pitched, and was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1987.
"He wasn't blessed with a 100-mph fastball, he wasn't blessed with a Bert Blyleven curve, he wasn't blessed with a tremendous changeup, but he was blessed a good brain. He knew how to pitch," said teammate and Royal Hall of Famer George Brett. "He was blessed with a big heart and put it all on the line. He was always prepared; he was always in good shape."
Another Royal Hall of Famer and broadcast partner remebered his this way. "Paul [was] probably one of the more underrated guys on our team," White said. "He not only played for 15 years but he won some huge games for us. I have memories of him beating the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1980 playoffs to get us to our first World Series."
Throughout my 38 years Splittorff was with the Royals in some capacity each year. Upon retirement in 1984 he moved straight into broadcasting working Royals games along with Big 8 and Big 12 basketball. Whether it was mowing down the Yankees in the late 70s or telling us about the game from the booth, Splitt was a thrill to watch and listen to. Today, baseball lost a great man. Kansas City and Royals fans lost a great ambasssador. Splitt, you will be missed.