Paul Splittorff, the winningest pitcher in Royals history–he won one more game in his career than Sandy Koufax–died yesterday at age 64.
The great Joe Posnanski wrote a tribute. I can’t top that.
I’m not old enough to remember his glory days. The Paul Splittorff I remember is the veteran pitcher whose fastball wasn’t fast anymore, who relied on experience and grit and probably some luck to retire opposing hitters. He pitched opening day for the Royals in 1984, buying time for the team’s high-flying pitching prospects. He wasn’t very effective, and he faded away, going to the bullpen, then retiring that summer. By that time the young pitchers were ready. Improbably, they won their division and went to the playoffs that year. I never read or heard about him complaining. He contributed what he could, and when the best thing he could contribute was standing aside to make way for the new generation to take over, that’s what he did.
When I teach my sons about playing team sports, or being a teammate in general, I’ll tell them about Paul Splittorff.