The 1977 Kansas City Royals were a powerhouse outfit who looked great in their powder blue uniforms. The Milwaukee Brewers, on the other hand, spent the season spinning out of control, leading to the team’s glorious ball and glove logo and pinstripe uniforms debuting in 1978. For one day – June 12 – both teams wore Brewers uniforms. And for once, the real Brewers prevailed with an unlikely win over a tougher team. It was just one of two wins the Brewers would muster over the Royals in ten games that season.
Visiting clubhouse manager Jim Ksicinski discovered a break-in and massive theft when he arrived at the locker room that morning. “I put my key in the lock and it wouldn’t turn,” he said. “Then I pushed the door and it was open, and I saw right away there were no jerseys. It was a very neat job. Every chair was in front of every locker, the same as we left them yesterday.”
Ksicinski discovered pitcher Jim Colborn’s jersey was slightly hidden, so it was passed over by the thief of thieves. Ksicinski had taken home six jerseys to wash them, so just a total of seven were available for the game. A total of 53 uniform tops, 20 gloves, 10 pairs of shoes, and 15 jackets were all taken.
The Royals had traveled with two uniform tops per player and coach, but with those mostly cleaned out, they cobbled together uniforms loaned from the Brewers. A major league rule states “no players whose uniform does not conform to that of his teammates shall be permitted to take the field.” For the game, MLB waived the rule, which led to Colborn cracking jokes like “I’ve heard some funny stories, like you can’t tell the players without a scorecard – or with one.”
The Brewers wore their white uniforms and let the Royals pick through their blue jersey tops, which all had Brewers player names on the back. Due to Ksicinski’s late-night jersey laundering, some of the Royals players could take the field in their usual uniform. Infielders John Mayberry, Fred Patek, George Brett, and Pete LaCock, outfielder Tom Poquette, catcher Darrell Porter and Colburn wore a complete uniform.
Colburn and Porter were in their first season in Kansas City after being traded from Milwaukee the previous December. The Brewers received Jamie Quirk, Jim Wohlford, and a player to be named later, who turned out to be Bob McClure.
At the time of the trade, Royals manager Whitey Herzog said he hoped the change of scenery would do Porter, once a top catching prospect, some good.
“Two years ago, you couldn’t acquire him,” Herzog said.
Despite having a complete uniform, Porter didn’t play that day. His teammates scrambled to find a jersey that fit, and some like outfielder Amos Otis also hoped to find some hitting mojo.
When Otis pulled the No. 2 jersey over his head, he asked who wore that uniform for Milwaukee. When told it was manager Alex Grammas, Otis in turn asked if Grammas had been a decent hitter as a player. Grammas had a career average of .247 over ten seasons. Otis said, “Well, I’ll get some hits today and make him look good.”
Otis changed his mind when he realized one of the greatest all-time hitters had a jersey nearby. “No, on second thought, I want No. 44, Hank Aaron’s uniform that’s on display in the window outside.”
While he may have joked around about the jersey top, Otis was sorry to lose just the second glove he had used in his 13-year career. Royals pitching coach Galen Cisco gave him the glove in 1973. “If they have to steal it, they can have it, but it did have sentimental value,” Otis said.
As for the game, the Brewers knocked out Colborn in the fifth inning by scoring three runs. Robin Yount singled, Von Joshua doubled off the right field wall to bring him home, and Cecil Cooper singled and moved to second when the Royals tried to throw Joshua out at the plate. After a walk to Sixto Lezcano, Don Money singled in Cooper.
Milwaukee tacked on their final run in the eighth inning off former Brewer Marty Pattin when Don Money walked and later scored on a Tim Johnson double. The final was 4-0 and Jerry Augustine tossed a complete game to pick up his seventh win. He became the first Brewers starter in nearly three weeks to go the distance. He didn’t last more than two innings in his previous two starts.
Augustine wore No. 46, and gave up a single in the seventh inning to outfielder Al Cowens wearing the blue version of Augustine’s jersey. In another case of numbering confusion, George Brett wore his typical No. 5 uniform, but teammate Hal McRae wore Jamie Quirk’s blue Brewers No. 5. Since the Royals had their helmets and caps, they could bat and play in the field with the familiar “KC” logo on their heads.
“I guess there’s no way the Brewers can’t win today,” Colburn joked. He admitted that playing against friends on his former team had an impact on his concentration and intensity. Colburn had predicted a second career no-hitter when the series started on Friday, but it was quickly broken up in the first inning when Joshua singled as the second batter in the game. In another comedic moment, Colburn slammed his glove to the ground and pretended to be disgusted by Joshua’s hit.
“It didn’t take long to break up that no-hitter, did it?” Grammas quipped.
The Brewers ended the weekend with two wins in three games and a 29-31 record. The Royals were scuffling at 27-29, but exploded for a 75-31 record the rest of the way to end with a 102-60 mark.
My book Building the Brewers: Bud Selig and the Return of Major League Baseball to Milwaukee is available to be ordered on the McFarland website.
(The story you just read is not part of the book)