Amos Otis Day In Jackson County
Frank White describes how Amos Otis helped mentor him when he was a young Royal just breaking into the Major Leagues.
AUGUST 4, 2016 - jacksongov.org
Former Royal All-Star Honored
What stadium PA announcer did not enjoy introducing Amos Otis? A name that rhythmic, almost lyrical, demands to be embellished — pronounced with extra relish, perhaps an exaggerated hissss, especially when adding the famous “Famous” moniker.
“Now batting for the Kansas City Royals… No. 26… Center fielder… Famoussss… Amossss… Otissss!”
Amos Otis’ name will echo throughout Kauffman Stadium once again during Royals Legends Night this Friday evening. He’s the featured “legend.”
But Jackson County threw out the first pitch — metaphorically — in welcoming "AO" back to KC, holding a ceremony to honor Otis this afternoon at the Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence. County Executive Frank White, Jr. read a proclamation officially designating Friday, Aug. 5, 2016 “Amos Otis Day in Jackson County.”
He then gave his former Royals teammate a hug. With White at second base and Otis in center field, KC had a pair of perennial Gold Glovers up the middle as “The Boys In Blue” won three straight Western Division titles from 1976 through ’78, before claiming the American League pennant in 1980.
White made it clear how highly he thinks of Otis, saying, "When people ask me about the guys I played with, they will say, ‘George Brett is the greatest hitter in Kansas City history.’ And I agree with that. But as far as a player, if you judge him in every facet of the game, this guy here, he is the best player who ever played for the Kansas City Royals.”
'Grace & Eloquence'
State Representative Gail McCann Beatty and State Senator Kiki Curls presented resolutions the Missouri Legislature adopted honoring Otis. "I am a big baseball fan," said McCann Beatty. "I am thrilled to be up here with Amos Otis and Frank White. It doesn't get any better like this."
Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus presented the city's proclamation declaring Friday, Aug. 5, 2016 "Amos Otis Day in Kansas City." She described how "some of my earliest memories are my baseball memories," going to games at Royals Stadium in the 1970s and subjecting her parents to about three or four hours of relentlessly chanting "Aaaaaa... Oooooo... Aaaaaa... Oooooo..."
Also on hand to give Otis a standing "O" inside the Truman Courthouse were State Representatives Ira Anders and DaRon McGee; County Legislators Garry Baker, Scott Burnett and Theresa Galvin; and Independence Councilwoman Karen DeLuccie.
Otis, who now lives on the West Coast, repeatedly expressed gratitude for all the kind words. He noted that he received several awards throughout his career, but this proclamation from the county will be fondly remember.
"I want to say how special this is," he said, "because my partner Frank White gave it to me."
White introduced Otis as "a teammate and one of my best friends."
A 'Field General' In Center
After appearing in 48 games for the 1969 New York Mets—he didn’t play for the Amazin’ Mets in that year’s World Series — Otis was traded to the Royals prior to the 1970 season. He’d be a fixture in their line-up throughout the 1970s and into the early ’80s.
Otis played brilliantly in what proved to be his lone World Series appearance. In his first at-bat of the 1980 Fall Classic, he homered. He went on to post the kind of numbers that would have had him in contention to be the Series MVP — if the Royals hadn’t lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. He belted two more home runs and batted .478 while driving in seven of the 24 runs the Royals scored during the six-game series.
In the early 1970s, Otis helped mentor prospective players in the Royals Baseball Academy, among them a promising middle infielder named Frank White. White credits Otis with helping him adapt to life in the Major Leagues:
"He told me, 'When you learn to do something and when not to do something, you'll be a pretty good player.... [The veteran players] like Amos would tell me, 'Just go as hard as you can for as long as you can.... Make your mistakes, admit your mistakes and learn from your mistakes. The biggest thing for me is that they kept the game so simple. They basically said, 'You either do the job or you don't do the job.' They kept me out of the gray area, out of the excuse-making area.
"Amos made a lot of sense to me. He said, 'If you lose the ball in the sun, people will see it. You don't have to talk about it. If the ball goes through your legs, you don't have to say the ball hit a rock or something. It went through your legs.... You just deal with it. You don't make excuses."
White used a football term, "field general," to describe Otis' outstanding command of the game. He explained that Otis was a player who rarely had to dive for the ball or make other highlight-reel plays because he could read pitchers and batters so well that he was always in the best possible position to field the ball — able to anticipate where it would be hit before the pitch was delivered.
"When you see a guy who hasn't quite figure it out yet and he's kicking up a lot of dirt, diving for balls, you think he's putting out a lot of great effort," White said. "The thing I found out is the longer you play the less great plays you'll make because you get to be a better defender, a better anticipator of what's going on on the field.
"These are all things Amos could for our team."
Amos Otis By The Numbers
When Amos Otis was traded to the Kansas City Royals prior to the 1970 season both he and his new team were just getting started. The Royals were an expansion franchise having just finished their inaugural season 69-93. Otis, meanwhile, had played 67 games in the Majors as a New York Met.
Otis had 27 career hits the first time he put a Royals uniform. He’d have 2004 when he last wore KC blue-and-white. In between, he and the Royals made lots of great memories together. Here are just a few of the highlights.
• The Royals, still playing in old Municipal Stadium, played hosted to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 7, 1971, and Otis ran wild. He stole five bases during that game, while going 4-for-4 at the plate.
"Amos said before the game that he was going to steal five bases," recalled Jackson County Executive and Otis' longtime Royals teammate Frank White. "And Amos said, 'I'm going to steal of them standing up.' And he did."
• In a 1972 game versus the California Angels, Otis scored the only run in a 1-0 Royals win by stealing home. The pitcher on the mound for the Angels? Otis’ former Mets teammate — and baseball’s future all-time strikeout king — Nolan Ryan.
• He won three Gold Gloves patrolling center field for the Royals.
• And he made five All-Star Game appearances as a Royal.
• He posted MVP-caliber numbers for the Royals in their losing effort in the 1980 World Series: 3 HR… 7 RBI… .478 Avg.
“Winning the World Series is the ultimate goal,” Otis told the Baseball Almanac in 2006. “1980 was a heartbreaker because we led in each of the first five games, but the Phillies kept coming back on us.”
• He also played in four American League Championship Series for the Royals, batting .429 against the hated New York Yankees in the 1978 ALCS.
• He finished third in the voting for the 1973 American League MVP award, behind Reggie Jackson (then an Oakland A) and Baltimore Oriole pitcher Jim Palmer.
• He led the American League in doubles twice with 36 in 1970 and 40 in 1976. His 365 doubles as Royal ranks fourth on the team’s all-time career list, behind Frank White’s third place total of 407.
• He stole a league-leading 52 bases in 1971, and his 340 steals are a distant second to Willie Wilson’s Royals record of 612.
• Only George Brett scored more runs in a Royals uniform (1,583) than Otis (1,074).
• Otis’ 193 home runs as a Royal are only four behind Mike Sweeney second-place total on the team’s career list.
• Otis is truly Royals royalty when you consider he is also in the top three in these two categories:
The most games played as a Royal:
1) George Brett 2,707
2) Frank White 2,324
3) Amos Otis 1,891.
Most hits as a Royal:
1) George Brett 3,154
2) Frank White 2,006
3) Amos Otis 1,977
• All told, Otis collected 2020 hits as he wrapped up his career with the 1984 Pittsburgh Pirates.
• Otis was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1986.
County Executive Frank White presents the "Amos Otis Day" proclamation to his former Royals teammate.
'Smooth' & 'AO'
While White went on to earn a championship ring for the 1985 Royals, winners over the cross-state rival St. Louis Cardinals in the iconic I-70 Series, Otis left KC in 1983 and retired a year later with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In a 2009 interview, Otis reflected on his long Major League career and expressed no regrets. He considered himself blessed to have gotten traded to the Royals. (For the record, the player traded to the Mets in exchange for Otis was completely out of baseball by 1972.)
“One of my greatest thrills was getting traded to the Kansas City Royals and then getting the opportunity to play every day from day one with the team in 1970. I think I took advantage of it, sticking around there for 14 years,” Otis said in that 2009 interview. “The part I really miss about the game is the camaraderie, the laughing and joking around with the guys.”
Some of that old camaraderie was on display inside the Historic Courthouse today as Otis repeatedly referred to White's nickname as a Royals player.
"If I had known 'Smooth' was going to wear a suit, I would have worn one too," he said. Then he flashed a smile and added, "But I still look good."
He remembered his first impressions of White as player. Otis saw instantly the Gold Glove potential. Pointing at White today, Otis said, "I know people say I was smooth, but this is guy' that got the nickname 'Smooth.'"