I was going to write about Joakim Soria today. I was going to spit a whole bunch of stats at you and write how despite all of those stats, he will turn it around eventually. Even after last night’s debacle against the Orioles, he’s 27; the ship will be righted soon. But as I checked the Royals website for the box score this morning, I saw that that column would have to wait another day. Tribute to “Split” is indeed deserved.
He began his career humbly, having been taken in the 25th round of the 1967 draft. But, in three short years, he made it to the majors, and never looked back. He placed 5th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1971, and won 20 games in 1973. He pitched in four playoffs, including the 1980 World Series against the Phillies. He retired in 1984, one year short of being able to partake in the ’85 crown; as a player anyway. I am a part of the generation that never saw him play, but the stat that impressed me the most was that he never lost to the Yankees in the playoffs. In four appearances against them, he posted a 2-0 record and a 2.68 ERA. Anyone who doesn’t live in Kansas City or New York will probably not know this, but he pitched during a time when the Royals and Yankees was one of the biggest rivalries in baseball. Almost every time they played each other, there was a brawl between the players. They absolutely hated each other, and for Splittorff to have never lost to them when it counted was truly remarkable.
After his playing days, he moved on to broadcasting, and that is where I remember him. My memories are vague of his humble beginnings as a high school basketball commentator, but I remember him well in the Royals booth. His knowledge of the game poured forth during every broadcast, and he always knew his facts and did his research. He approached commentating with as much hard work and dedication as he did pitching, and he is one of the few athletes to have gone on to a long and respectable career in the booth.
He may have not been the best at what he did, but he worked harder than just about every one else. He will be sorely missed by the Kansas City faithful. Thank you for the memories Split, may there be baseball in heaven.