After managing the Kansas City Royals to some of the club’s greatest glories and long stretches as one of the worst teams in baseball, Ned Yost has announced he’ll retire at the end of the 2019 season.
When the Royals finish their latest 100-loss season at home against Atlanta and Minnesota this week, Yost will leave behind more than a few memorable moments.
Here’s 10 of them:
- Hoisting the Trophy
As the 2015 World Series parade made a right turn on Pershing Road for the final leg of the celebratory route before the team re-assembled at Union Station, Yost raised the championship trophy above his head to the wild cheers from tens of thousands who flanked his vehicle on the north and south sides of the street.
Yost had experienced the 1995 World Series championship as a bullpen coach with the Atlanta Braves, but this was his moment. His team. He nurtured the talented-but-raw farm system prospects like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas into a championship team. The parade marked his chance to see first-hand what Kansas City fans had hungered for and adored.
- Wild Card Redemption
In the 2014 one-game wild card contest at Kauffman Stadium against Oakland, it could have been disastrous. Yost made the uncharacteristic move of inserting Yordano Ventura into the game as a relief pitcher, an unfamiliar role for the fireballing young righthander. But when the team rallied from behind against Oakland’s ace left-hander, Jon Lester, it not only got Yost off the hook but ignited the team to make a run all the way to Game Seven of the World Series before the San Francisco Giants eventually won. At that point of Yost’s managerial career, he allowed the personalities of those Royals players to come out. Along with their grit.
- Cardiac comeback
The Royals lost Game Seven of the 2014 World Series with Alex Gordon representing the tying run and left stranded on third base. The core of that Royals team reported to Surprise, Arizona, the following spring training with something to prove. The season came down to a critical moment in Houston. The Astros had the Royals down and were ready to celebrate. But the Moustakas rallying cry, “Keep the line moving!” fueled a comeback that carved a path to a World Series championship.
In each of the Royals’ three wins over the Astros in the American League Division Series, Kansas City came from behind.
After the series, Yost told Astros manager A.J. Hinch: “You’ve got a good team that’s going to be good for years to come.” In fact, the Astros won the World Series in 2017.
- Fly Me to the Moon
When told in 2011, his first full season as the Royals manager, that designated hitter Billy Butler would like to play first base once in awhile, Yost said, “I’d like to be an astronaut.”
Truth is, Yost really did want to be an astronaut at one time. That came out in detail this year when the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approached in July. Yost went into a detailed description of P-63, a program used during an Apollo mission moon landing. Yost implored to the media before a game, “You need to study some of this!”
- Belt him?
In May 2013, the Royals’ first winning season under Yost, the team found itself in an eight-game losing streak.
Alcides Escobar went 0-for-4 at the plate. Asked what he could do about the shortstop’s hitting problems, Yost responded: “What are you asking me to do? Take my belt off and spank them?” Yost didn’t believe in yanking the young developing players with great potential and it ultimately paid off.
6. Gut Feelings
Entering an era in which analytics were taking over the game, Yost had no answer for the reason he stuck Escobar into the leadoff spot during the 2015 postseason.
The free-swinging Escobar didn’t fit the mold of a typical leadoff hitter — players who rely on the ability to reach base somehow with a hit, walk or getting struck by a pitch. Then he won Most Valuable Player in the A.L. Championship Series against Toronto. And as the lead-off hitter in the World Series, he hit the first inside-the-park home run to start a Series since 1903.
7. A Retail Outburst
In another phase of rebuilding en route to another 100-loss season, Yost was asked before a game in early September about his player moves. Exasperated by a reporter’s question, Yost shouted out, ”Is there like in the Dollar Store a book of manager’s questions?”
8. Royals Blue and Big Red
Yost was in his sixth season as Royals manager, but had never been over to Arrowhead Stadium until a Chiefs game against the Steelers two days before Game One of the 2015 World Series.
“I walked over and told (Chiefs coach Andy Reid) we were going to bring him a little luck and it worked.” The Chiefs won, 23-13.
This week, Reid said, “He and I have texted each other back and forth (on) game days and wish each other the best of luck. We’ve had some nice talks and visits. He’s a good man.”
9. Mid-Summer NIghts Dream
With the 2016 Royals racked by injuries, the season after the World Series turned into a disappointment. But in Yost’s last opportunity on the national stage, he directed the American League All-Star team to a 4-2 victory over the National League in San Diego. One of his players, Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, was the game’s Most Valuable Player.
10. Yost in Stengelese
Though articulate in his answers, Yost would occasionally come up with his own phrases, much like New York Yankees Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel.
In early September 2015, talking about pitcher Danny Duffy’s outing, Yost meant to say “leeway” when referring to a count that favored the left-hander that day. But Yost created his own word, “He had a 1-2 count, all kinds of leeroom to execute a pitch.”
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.