John Schuerholz, the Kansas City Royals general manager when they won the 1985 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame Sunday in Cooperstown, New York, but he finds himself in the peculiar position of not receiving the Royals’ highest honor.
Inside the Royals Hall of Fame at Kauffman Stadium, plaques hang on the wall signifying the greatest in Royals history from George Brett to groundskeeper George Toma to scout Art Stewart. But Schuerholz is not among them.
Current Royals GM Dayton Moore says he’s surprised, “That’s something that, I think, needs to be taken care of. But that time will come.”
The question is: Why is it taking so long? It’s up to the Royals Hall of Fame executive board to put Schuerholz’s name on a ballot. The board chose not to last year when it had the opportunity.
“Time does not necessarily make the heart grow fonder in some cases. Time makes the heart forget about what happened,” says Curt Nelson, director of the Royals Hall of Fame and a board member.
Nelson says he’s a Schuerholz advocate. As a historian, he reminds the other board members about the important figures in the early days of the Royals franchise. But he’s apparently been met by deaf ears, which leaves Nelson puzzled. “I don’t know what the arguments against it are,” he says. “Some of it’s just time.”
Schuerholz’s work in baseball spans more than 50 years. As a first-year junior executive with his hometown Baltimore Orioles in 1966, the team swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Two years later, the Royals’ first general manager, Cedric Tallis, hired Schuerholz for the purpose of building the team from scratch. He wanted to use the same formula that worked successfully in Baltimore, developing their own players through a sound farm system.
“We built what people in the industry referred to, the baseball industry, as the IBM of the American League. We were regarded as the blue chip stock,” says Schuerholz. “Reliable, consistent, high-end, the way we handled the organization, the way we succeeded in the organization.”
Cedric Tallis, another Royals Hall of Fame snub, made trades for players like Amos Otis, Hal McRae and John Mayberry. Those players are in the Royals Hall of Fame. At the same time, Schuerholz supervised a farm system that developed Hall of Famer George Brett and Royals Hall of Famers like Willie Wilson and Dennis Leonard.
The combined efforts of Tallis and Schuerholz made baseball history as Schuerholz recalls, “Becoming the most successful expansion franchise in the history of the game until that moment, we got into the playoffs more quickly than any prior expansion team had ever done.”
But, except for former GM Joe Burke, the architects of the Royals’ early playoff appearances starting in 1976 go unrecognized. And that has not gone unnoticed on the national level.
Joe Posnanski, formerly of The Kansas City Star and now an executive columnist for mlb.com, believes both Schuerholz and Tallis should both be admitted.
“We all know what an extraordinary owner Ewing Kauffman was. He was the brains behind so much of it, but he hired good people and those good people deserve a little bit of credit for themselves,” says Posnanski.
In his Hall of Fame speech, Schuerholz also cited Ewing Kauffman, “He provided me with support, taught me so much about leadership and was very instrumental about my being named Royals general manager in 1981 at 41 years of age, then the youngest general manager in baseball history.”
Schuerholz made several key moves to complete the final pieces of a championship ball club in Kansas City.
However, it was Schuerholz’s accomplishments with Atlanta that put him over the top as a Baseball Hall of Famer.
Schuerholz started a streak of 14 straight division championships with the Braves, including the 1995 World Series championship. That made Schuerholz the first GM to win a World Series title in the American and National Leagues. At the same time Schuerholz made quite an impression on a protégé, Dayton Moore.
“John (Schuerholz) is certainly is somebody that I’ve tried to model my career, back especially early on in our time here in Kansas City,” says Moore. “I would find myself asking, ‘What would John do in this situation?’ It’s really how we built our leadership team here.”
Moore attended his first Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday. Maybe someday soon Schuerholz and Tallis will receive their long overdue recognition in Kansas City.