COMMENTARY | For the first time in their history, the Atlanta Braves will visit Kansas City on June 25. The two storied franchises have met in three previous series, but all have come in Atlanta. Although they may have played only a handful of times, the Braves and Royals are two teams connected by past players and coaches, and a fateful decision in the early-1960s that affected the futures of two cities.
In the recent (and excellent) Atlanta Magazine article "The Other 284 Days," Rebecca Burns describes then-Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen and legendary Atlanta sportswriter Furman Bisher giving a tour of southeast Atlanta to a major-league owner in 1963. Allen's desire to bring big-time baseball to Atlanta was well-known, and would soon come to fruition in the form of the Milwaukee Braves.
But on this particular day, the man to whom he described the future location of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium as "the finest site in America for a municipal stadium" was Charlie Finley, owner of the Kansas City Athletics. Finley had become disenchanted with the government of Kansas City and was looking for a new home for his A's. He agreed with Mayor Allen's assessment of the area just south of downtown, promising to move the Athletics to Atlanta if the stadium was built.
That deal, for better or for worse, was never made. The Milwaukee Braves moved to town following the 1965 season, with the Athletics moving to Oakland not too long after, but for at least a little while it was possible that Atlanta would be home to an American League team dressed in green and gold. Kansas City was not without a team for long, as the city was awarded an expansion franchise called the Royals, starting play in 1969.
Since that time, the two teams have shared players, coaches, and front office personnel, more so, it seems, than usual. Jack McKeon, who managed the Royals from 1973-1975, previously served as the manager of the Atlanta Crackers, among other teams. After his firing by Kansas City, he would go on to manage the Braves' AAA affiliate in Richmond. Jim Frey, who led the Royals to their first AL crown in 1980, played a large portion of his career in the Braves' farm system.
Legendary Braves GM and current team president John Schuerholz spent 22 years in the Royals organization, as farm director, scouting director, assistant GM and general manager. Current Royals GM Dayton Moore spent over 20 years of his career with the Braves, serving under Schuerholz as a scouting supervisor; an assistant in the baseball operations department; assistant director of scouting and assistant director of player development; director of international scouting; director of player personnel; and, finally, assistant general manager in 2005 before taking the GM job in Kansas City the following year. The Royals' current manager, Ned Yost, was the Braves' bullpen and third-base coach for much of their success through the '90s and into the 2000s.
The Braves and Royals have made a number of trades, including the Royals acquiring Gene Garber, second on the Braves' all-time saves list, from Atlanta in 1987; Atlanta sending Gerald Perry to Kansas City in exchange for Charlie Leibrandt in 1988; and, more recently, deals that brought Kyle Farnsworth and Rick Ankiel to Atlanta in 2010. The Royals currently have three former Braves on their active roster: Jeff Francoeur, Bruce Chen, and Tim Collins, who played in the Braves' farm system.
The connections between Atlanta and Kansas City are more than just shared personnel. Both teams have enjoyed periods of extended dominance and suffered through long droughts of losing seasons. Both have been home to legendary players -- George Brett and Hank Aaron, Dale Murphy and Frank White. This series in Kansas City may be the Braves' first, but the two teams and the two cities have been tied together for a long, long time.Joe Thomas was raised and lives within shouting distance of Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves. He is the sports editor for The Sting, the student newspaper of Southern Polytechnic State University.
- Sports & Recreation
- Atlanta Braves