This is the second article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Kansas City Royals. In this installment are first and third basemen and designated hitters.
Like many teams, the Kansas City Royals found success thanks to their corner infielders and designated hitters. The team made two World Series appearances and reached the playoffs seven times in a 10-year stretch in the late 1970s and early ’80s. After going nearly three decades without reaching the playoffs, the Royals went to the World Series two straight years during the past decade, winning their second title in 2015.
Kansas City’s list of first basemen include three who started during the team’s early success, one who was a star in the two recent World Series appearances and a four-time All-Star from the era in between. At third base, the careers of the top two players encompass the entirety of the team’s playoff history, and the starter is the unquestionably the club’s greatest player. The designated hitter ranks high on the franchise list in many statistical categories and has quite a few awards on his mantle as well.
The Best First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters in Kansas City Royals History
Honorable Mentions – Steve Balboni was an all-or-nothing hitter who played nearly 40 years ago (long before it became popular over the past few years). His best year was the 1985 championship season, when he set career highs with 74 runs, 146 hits, 36 home runs and 88 runs batted in, but also led the league with 166 strikeouts. “Bye Bye” only batted .230 but had 459 hits, 119 homers and 318 RBIs in 566 games over five seasons (1984-88). In the playoffs, he had 12 hits, three runs scored and four RBIs in 17 games. He had his best performance in the 1985 World Series, hitting .320 (8-for-25) with two runs score and three RBIs.
Wally Joyner had a successful stint with the Angels that included winning the Home Run Derby at the 1986 All-Star Game. During his four-year run with Kansas City (1992-95), he won the fielding title in his final season. “Wally World” (nicknamed after the amusement park in the National Lampoon Vacation movie) is tied for sixth in franchise history with a .293 average, and he totaled 270 runs, 556 hits, 120 doubles, 44 home runs and 271 RBIs in 518 games.
5. Willie Aikens – He was a solid run producer during his four-year stint with the Royals (1980-83). Aikens batted .278 with 20 home runs and a career-high 98 runs batted in during the 1980 World Series season and set career bests with a .302 average and 23 homers (as well as 72 RBIs) three years later. Aikens batted .282 with 214 runs, 499 hits, 77 home runs and 297 RBIs in 511 games.
He added five runs, 15 hits, four home runs and 10 RBIs in 12 postseason games. Although Kansas City lost the 1980 World Series, Aikens put together an MVP-type performance, batting .400 (8-for-20) with five runs scored, four homers (becoming the first player in Major League history to have two multi-homer games in the Fall Classic) and eight RBIs.
However, drugs ruled Aikens’ life for a long time. He served 14 years of a 20-year sentence starting in 1994 after he was arrested and charged with selling crack cocaine four times to an undercover officer. He changed his life after his release, reuniting with his wife and children, working on a road construction crew and, with the help of his former teammate George Brett, getting a job as a minor league coach with the Royals. In 2022, he even had a movie made about his life called The Royal.
4. George Brett – He moved across the diamond in his mid-30s and played at first base for four seasons (1987-90), earning two All-Star selections. Brett earned a silver slugger after hitting .306 with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs in 1988. Two years later, he became the only player to win a batting title in three different decades when he batted .329 and led the American League with 45 doubles. Brett had a .303 average with 310 runs, 612 hits, 131 doubles, 72 homers and 348 RBIs in 583 games at the position.
3. John Mayberry – He spent almost his entire career playing for three teams in their first decades of existence, starting with for years with the Astros, then six seasons with the Royals (1972-77) and finally four-plus years with the Blue Jays. In Kansas City, Mayberry was a two-time All-Star, won two fielding titles, hit 20 or more home runs five times, drove in at least 100 runs three times, set a team record and led the league in walks twice, including a team record 122 in 1973.
His best season was 1975, when he finished as the runner-up in the MVP voting after batting .291 and setting career highs with 95 runs, 161 hits, 34 homers and 106 runs batted in. Mayberry ranks fifth in franchise history with 561 walks and is tenth with 552 RBIs. He batted .261 with 459 runs, 816 hits, 139 doubles and 143 home runs in 897 games. Mayberry appeared in nine postseason games, totaling five runs, six hits, two homers and six RBIs.
2. Eric Hosmer – He appeared in the 2010 MLB Futures Game and then spent seven seasons with the Royals (2011-17), winning four gold gloves. Hosmer finished third in the 2011 Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .293-19-78 stat line. He batted .266 and set career highs with 25 home runs and 104 RBIs in 2016 to earn his only All-Star selection, then homered and drove in a pair of runs to win the game’s MVP Award.
Hosmer won the silver slugger the following year after posting career bests with a .318 average, 98 runs, 192 hits and 300 total bases to go with 25 homers and 94 runs batted in. He ranks seventh in franchise history in strikeouts (714), ninth in RBIs (566), tenth in runs scored (547) and total bases (1,751) and tied for tenth in home runs (127). “Hoz” batted .284 with 1,132 hits and 206 doubles in 1,048 games.
In 31 playoff games, Hosmer totaled 18 runs, 34 hits, three home runs and 29 RBIs. He made back-to-back World Series appearances in 2014-15, amassing six runs, eight hits, one homer and 11 RBIs in 12 games.
1. Mike Sweeney – Although he never appeared in a playoff game for the Royals, he is one of the most prolific hitters in team history. Sweeney spent 13 seasons with Kansas City (1995-2007), with his first four primarily as a backup catcher, followed by six at first base. During his time at the corner infield position, he was selected to four All-Star games, hit at least 20 or more home runs five times, hit better than .300 four times and drove in 100 runs twice.
Sweeney’s best season was 2000, when he earned his first All-Star nod and almost cracked the top 10 in MVP voting. That year, he batted .333, set a team record with 144 RBIs and posted career highs with 105 runs, 206 hits, 29 home runs and 323 total bases. Two years later, Sweeney batted .340 (which is the second-best single season mark in team history) and led all American League first basemen with 102 assists.
Sweeney ranks third in franchise history in batting average (.299) and home runs (197), fifth in RBIs (837), sixth in walks (484), seventh in runs (700) and doubles (297) and eighth in games (1,282), hits (1,398) and total bases (2,296). He spent his final three seasons with the Royals as a designated hitter before moving on in 2008.
Honorable Mention – Paul Schaal was with the team during its expansion year and spent six seasons in a Royals uniform (1969-74). His best offensive year was 1971, when he hit .274 and set career highs with 80 runs, 150 hits, 31 doubles, 11 home runs and 63 runs batted in. Overall, Schaal batted .263 with 525 hits, 32 homers and 198 RBIs in 606 games with Kansas City. During his final season, he was traded back to California, where he spent his first five seasons, and retired at the end of the year.
5. Mark Teahen – He was one of many Royals players who produced good numbers despite toiling for bad teams. Teahen set career highs with a .290 average, 18 home runs and 69 runs batted in. The 2009 Hutch Award winner batted .269 with 343 runs scored, 667 hits, 146 doubles 59 homers and 293 RBIs in 676 games over five seasons (2005-09) with Kansas City.
4. Kevin Seitzer – He spent six seasons with the Royals (1986-91), but he had his best production in his first full season. Seitzer took over for Brett in 1987, then earned an All-Star selection and was the Rookie of the Year runner-up after batting .323, setting career highs with 105 runs, 15 home runs, 83 runs batted in and 301 total bases and leading the league with 207 hits.
Seitzer ranks fifth in franchise history with a .294 average and tenth with 369 walks to go with 408 runs, 809 hits, 128 doubles, 33 homers and 265 RBIs in 741 games. He spent the next six seasons with the Athletics, Brewers and Indians, winning the fielding title in 1992 and getting selected to another All-Star team three years later, both times with Milwaukee.
3. Joe Randa – After playing for the Royals in his first two seasons, he spent a year each with the Pirates and Tigers before returning to the “City of Fountains.” In all, Randa played eight seasons with Kansas City (1995-96 and 99-2004), winning the 2003 fielding title and leading all A. L. third basemen in putouts three times.
Randa had his best season in 2000, when he drove in 84 runs and set career bests with a .314 average, 92 runs, 197 hits, 16 home runs and 297 total bases. The following year, he batted .304 with 88 runs, 186 hits and a career-high 106 runs batted in. “The Joker” ranks tenth in franchise history with 223 doubles, and he batted .288 with 489 runs, 1,084 hits, 86 home runs and 533 RBIs in 1,019 games.
2.Mike Moustakas – One of the many homegrown players the Royals relied on over the past decade, he appeared in the 2010 MLB Futures Game and spent the next eight seasons in Kansas City (2011-18). Moustakas missed most of the 2016 season after suffering a torn ACL, then won the Comeback Player of the Year Award and earned his second All-Star selection the following year. He batted .272 with 85 runs batted in and 38 home runs, which is a career-high and ranks third in team history.
“Moose” ranks ninth in franchise history with 139 home runs, and he also has 388 runs, 858 hits, 184 doubles and 441 RBIs in 934 games. He appeared in 31 postseason games with the Royals, totaling 14 runs, 26 hits, six homers and 15 RBIs. His best series was the 2015 ALCS, when he had three runs, five hits, one home run and five RBIs in the six-game win over the Blue Jays.
Moustakas has played more second and first base since being traded to the Brewers in 2018, and he made the All-Star team with Milwaukee the following year. He spent three seasons with the Reds and split 2023 between the Rockies and Angels.
1. George Brett – He is the unquestioned star, anchor and statistical leader of the franchise, and he seemed to be among the league leaders throughout his 21-year career (1973-93), and he spent 14 of those seasons at third base with Kansas City. Brett finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1974 and was in the top 10 of MVP vote-getters five times.
Brett led the league in hits three times, including 215 in 1976 (which ranks second in team history) and 212 three years later (fourth). He topped the league in triples three times, including 20 in 1980 (which ranks second in team history), doubles twice and total bases with 298 in 1976.
The third baseman was the MVP runner-up that year, winning the batting title with a .333 average and adding 14 triples to his league-high hit and total base marks. Thanks to 23 home runs, 107 runs batted in, and a team record 363 total bases, plus the 212 hits and 20 triples, he finished third in the MVP voting in 1979. The following year, Brett won the award, flirting with becoming the first batter in nearly four decades to bat .400 before finishing at .390 to go with 24 homers and 118 RBIs (in 117 games). In addition to the batting average, his .454 on-base percentage and .664 slugging percentage were team records.
Perhaps Brett’s most long-lasting memory for fans was the “Pine Tar Game,” which happened at Yankee Stadium on July 24, 1983. The Yankees were beating the Royals 4-3 in the top of the ninth inning and closer Goose Gossage came in to pitch with a runner on first. Brett smashed an offering into the right field stands to give the Royals the lead, but Yankees coach Don Zimmer told the umpires to check Brett’s bat.
Baseball rules state that pine tar can be no further than 18 inches from the knob of the bat. The umpires didn’t have any rulers to measure, so they laid the bat across home plate, which measures 17 inches across, and determined Brett had broken the rule and called him out, securing New York’s victory. Brett charged out of the dugout in anger and Kansas City immediately appealed the ruling.
American League President Lee MacPhail reversed the decision and forced the team to finish the game with the Royals leading. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner tried to stall for time so the makeup date passed, even getting an injunction from a New York Supreme Court judge. However, the decision was overturned on the day of the rescheduled game and the Royals took the field minus Brett, manager Dick Howser and coach Rocky Colavito due to their being ejected during the melee after the original incident.
The Yankees tried one last tactic to avoid the situation. New pitcher George Frazier threw to each base to appeal the home run. Since there was a different umpire crew from the original game, the Yankees thought no one would be able to rebut that both Brett and baserunner U.L. Washington had touched all the bases during the home run. However, American League Executive Vice President Bob Fishel came prepared with an affidavit signed by all the original umpires stating that the runners touched all the bases. Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry retired New York in order in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the Royals win.
Brett finished second on the MVP voting in 1985 after batting .335 with 108 runs, 184 hits, 112 runs batted in and a career-high 30 home runs. His production is nearly unmatched, regardless of franchise. Brett hit .300 and had at least 150 hits 11 times each, smacked 20 or more homers eight times and both scored and drove in more than 100 runs four times apiece. He was a 13-time All-Star, won three silver sluggers and was selected as a gold glover in 1985.
The king of the Royals is the all-time franchise leader in games (2,707), runs (1,583), hits (3,154), doubles (665), triples (137), home runs (317), RBIs (1,596), total bases (5,044) and walks (1,096). He also ranks second in batting average (.305) and sixth in strikeouts (908). Brett joined the 3,000-hit club on September 30, 1992, smacking four hits against the Angels with his brother, former Major League pitcher Ken Brett, working as a broadcaster for the opponents. After singling in the seventh inning, he was picked off first base.
Brett appeared in 43 career playoff games with Kansas City, batting .337 and totaling 30 runs, 56 hits, eight doubles, five triples, 10 home runs and 23 RBIs. He was the MVP of the 1985 ALCS, amassing six runs, eight hits, three homers and five RBIs. Former Royals manager Whitey Herzog was leading the Cardinals when the two teams squared off in the 1985 World Series, and the manager warned his pitchers not to let Brett beat them. The star third baseman had only one RBI in the series but tallied 10 hits and five runs scored in his team’s seven-game victory.
After his retirement, Brett worked for the Royals in just about every capacity, from hitting coach to vice president (except for manager). He and his brother, Bobby, bought several minor league teams, and he also has spent plenty of time raising money to fight Lou Gehrig’s disease, which claimed the life of his friend, Ken Worthington, in 1984. Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1999.
Honorable Mentions – Bob Hamelin won the Rookie of the Year Award over Manny Ramirez in 1994 after batting .282 with 25 home runs and 65 runs batted in. However, he struggled against left-handers and never played more than 110 games in a season. “The Hammer” totaled 195 hits, 42 homers and 135 RBIs in just 278 games over four seasons with the Royals (1993-96). He has been a Red Sox scout since 2012.
Mike Sweeney was a star at first base but spent his final three seasons with the Royals as designated hitter (2005-07). He earned his fifth and final All-Star selection in 2005, batting .300 with 21 home runs and 83 runs batted in. Two years later, he finished off his Kansas City career by winning the Hutch Award. Sweeney played with Athletics, Mariners and Phillies before retiring in 2010.
5. Kendrys Morales – Although he was better known for his time with the Angels, he earned a silver slugger and won the Edgar Martinez Award as the league’s best designated hitter during the Royals’ 2015 championship season. Morales batted .290 with 22 home runs and 106 RBIs that year and followed that with a .263-30-93 stat line in 2016. In the playoffs, he had five runs, 13 hits, four home runs and 10 RBIs in 16 games, with most of the damage coming in the first two rounds (he went 2-for-10 in the World Series win over the Mets).
4. Raul Ibañez – Like Morales, he spent most of his career with another team (in his case, the Mariners). Ibañez spent four years with the Royals (2001-03 and ’14), with his best season coming in 2002, when he hit .294 with 24 home runs and 103 runs batted in. Overall, he batted .286 with 418 hits, 57 homers and 252 RBIs in 431 games.
Ibañez had two more stints with the Mariners and spent time with the Phillies (where he earned his only All-Star selection in 2009), Yankees and Angels before finishing his career by playing 33 games with the Royals in 2014. He, along with several others, were named Major League Baseball senior vice presidents for on-field operations in 2021.
3. George Brett – Although his career was on the decline by the early 1990s, he still was able to put together some solid seasons. He had his 3,000th hit late in the 1992 season and finished his career the following year by batting .266 with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs as a 40-year-old. In his final three seasons (1991-93), Brett batted .270 with 201 runs, 447 hits, 36 homers and 197 RBIs in 428 games.
2. Billy Butler – He played in the 2006 MLB Futures Game and went on to spend the next eight seasons with the Royals (2007-14), six at designated hitter. As a first baseman in 2009, Butler drilled 51 doubles, which is tied for the second-best single season mark in team history. In 2012, he was an All-Star, a silver slugger and the Edgar Martinez Award winner after hitting .313 and set career highs with 192 hits, 29 home runs and 107 runs batted in.
The 2011 Hutch Award winner ranks fourth in franchise history in batting average (.295), seventh in doubles (276) and walks (427), eighth in RBIs (628), tied for eighth in strikeouts (697), ninth in hits (1,273) and total bases (1,938) and tied for tenth in home runs (127) along with 502 runs in 1,166 games. He had three runs scored, 11 hits and eight RBIs in 13 postseason games and hit .333 (5-for-15) with three runs batted in during the 2014 World Series.
1. Hal McRae – He started his career with four seasons in Cincinnati, where he learned the art of being a hard-nosed player from one of the best, Pete Rose. McRae suffered a “multiple leg fracture” during the 1968 winter ball season and lost the mobility that had made him a good outfielder. With the designated hitter coming into play in 1973, Cincinnati traded him to Kansas City, where he spent the final 15 years of his career (1973-87). During his time with the Royals, he was a three-time All-Star and won the Designated Hitter of the Year Award three times.
McRae led the league with a .407 on-base percentage in 1976 and finished second to Brett for the batting title. The pair went into the final day in a deadlock, but Twins left fielder Steve Brye “misplayed” a Brett fly ball, which turned into an inside-the-park home run. Some players and reporters said it was in retaliation for McRae’s tough (some would say dirty) style of play. McRae himself said that Brye was racist. Either way, Brett ended the season with a .333 average to McRae’s .332.
The following year, McRae hit .298 with 21 home runs and 92 runs batted in and set career highs with 104 runs, 191 hits, 11 triples and 54 doubles, which also set a team record and led the league. He won a silver slugger in 1982, when he topped the A. L. in doubles once again, this time with 46, batted .308 with 91 runs and 189 hits and posted career bests with 27 homers and 133 RBIs, which is the second-best single season mark in team history.
McRae ranks second in franchise history in doubles (449) and RBIs (1,012), fourth in games (1,837), triples (63), walks (616) and total bases (3,006), fifth in runs (873) and hits (1,924), sixth in home runs (169), tied for sixth in average (.293) and tied for eighth in strikeouts (697). He had six seasons each topping the .300 mark and amassing at least 150 hits, and he drove in at least 80 runs five times.
McRae retired as a player in 1987 and took over as manager of the Royals four years later. He had a 286-277 record in parts of four seasons (1991-94). McRae took over as Devil Rays manager early in the 2001 season and posted a 113-196 mark before being fired in 2002.
Kansas City Royals Catchers and Managers
Kansas City Royals First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Kansas City Royals Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Kansas City Royals Outfielders – coming soon
Kansas City Royals Pitchers – coming soon
A look back at the Houston Astros
A look back at the Detroit Tigers
A look back at the Colorado Rockies
A look back at the Cleveland Guardians
Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers