History of the Royals Minor Leagues (1968 Corning Royals)
CORNING MEMORIAL STADIUM
*If you have any other info on these players or have photos we would love to update this article
1968 was the first season that Kansas City Royals players appeared as professional ball players. The Royals had their first ever draft pick in 1968 selecting SS Kenneth O’Donnell from Neptune HS with pick #84 (4th round) They had 3 teams participate in various leagues for the 1968 season. Because the Royals did not have the ability to put together full squads for all 3 teams ¬†so they sent 3 groups of players to 3 different teams. The only team made up completely with Royals staff and players was the Cornish Royals of the New York-Pennsylvania League. The Royals shared the other two teams with other professional organizations as they prepared for having their own affiliates in 1969. These “Co-Op” teams played in the Midwest League (Dubuque Royals), and Carolina League (High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms). The Midwest league and Carolina league were two separate A ball teams with the team in High Point considered the more advanced league.
1968 Corning Royals: New York-Pennsylvania League
The first completely owned and staffed team for the expansion Royals.
Manager- Bo Osborne
The Spokesman-Review wrote in their May 18, 1968 newspaper that ‚ÄúLarry ‚ÄúBo‚ÄĚ Osborne was named field manager for the Corning Royals.‚ÄĚ Osborne was 32 at the time and this was to be his first year as a manager. He played 15 years as a professional ball player finishing his career with Denver in the Pacific Coast League. He was a 1B/OF and played from 1957-59 and 1961-62 with the Tigers and 1963 with the Washington Senators. He played in 359 big league games batting .206/.304/.317/.621 and 17 HR, 86 RBI, and 93 RS. His son Tim Osborne told the Atlanta Journal-Consitution ‚ÄúHe was a power hitter who liked to pull the ball, but he could hit it the other way, too- He was a big fella, but he could move and he could run. He was a consummate baseball player who could play anywhere and do a lot of things well.‚ÄĚ
He spent the last 19 years of his life as a scout for the San Francisco Giants serving as a national cross-checker before becoming an advanced scout for 16 years and finding a home at all of the Atlanta Braves games where he would watch players and send reports to the Giants. He spent 58 years overall in the game of baseball. Amazingly from my research I found that his story seemed to relate to the character played by Clint Eastwood in ‚ÄúTrouble with the Curve‚ÄĚ as Osborne often took his then high school daughter, Kim tag along to games. Even some of the interviews with Osborne seemed to be similar to the character of Gus. The Chattahoochee, GA born Osborne played his high school baseball at West Fulton High School. He passed away on April 15th, 2011 in Woodstock, GA at the age of 75 from complications from diabetes and related illnesses. In 2003, Mr. Osborne sized up a baseball career that spanned nearly 60 years to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
‚ÄúI just thank the good Lord every day for giving me the ability to play. … I couldn‚Äôt have asked for a better life.‚ÄĚ
Additional survivors include Sandra Osborne, his wife of 55 years, and five grandchildren.
Pitching Coach Hal White
Hal White pitched 12 years in the big leagues from 1941 thru 1954. He was originally a member of the Cleveland organization where he played in their minors from 1937-1939. He was purchased by the Detroit Tigers prior to the 1940 season. ¬†His rookie season was the finest year of his career when he became just one of 5 MLB pitchers to throw shutouts in each of their first 2 starts before finishing 12-12 for the 1942 Tigers with a 2.91 E.R.A in 217 IP. He was one of many active major leaguers who served during World War II when he served in the United States Navy in 1944 in the Pacific Theatre Operations.¬†He pitched primarily for the ¬†Tigers but also pitched for the St Louis Browns when he was traded to them in a 6 player deal in December of 1952. (Johnny Groth and Virgil Trucks with him to the Browns for Owen Friend, Bob Nieman, and Jay Porter) ¬† He pitched in just 10 games for the Browns in 1953 before he was released. He was signed by the Cardinals less than a week later and pitched in 49 games for them out of the pen where he was 6-5 with a 2.98 E.R.A. saving 7 games in 85 IP. He pitched in just 4 games for the 1954 Cardinals before he got his released on May 12th. He never performed in the post season and closed his MLB career with 336 G, 67 GS, 46-54, 25 SV, 3.78, 349/450 K/BB ratio in 920 IP. He also hit .145 in 255 AB with 7 RBI. He was named the pitching coach for Corning at the age of 59 years old. He remained in baseball for many years as a minor league coach, manager, and scout. He died in Venice, Florida in 2001 at the age of 82.
Stadium: Corning Memorial Stadium
According to Digitalballparks.com this was not a typical baseball field. While the Red Sox and Athletics had used this yard in prior years the stadium was built for football. This gave the stadium and odd look as the website states ‚Äúthe football grandstand doesn‚Äôt lend itself well to the bucolic game.‚ÄĚ
*Historical note: (Source: Warsaw-Times-Union- 37 year old Mrs. Bernice Gera, a Long Island Housewife from Jackson Heights, became the first woman umpire in organized baseball when she was the arbiter for a game in Auburn, NY on August 8th, 1969. The visiting Cornish Royals played the Auburn Twins. Gera had been in a 3-year battle to become an umpire and she said in preparation for the game ‚ÄúI am thrilled to death. Now, I just have to go out there and prove myself. I am sure someday we will have women umpires in the big leagues and I hope to be the first.‚ÄĚ
Future Major Leaguers: LHP Paul Splittorff, LHP Lance Clemons
C Russ Meyer-¬†The 6‚Äô3 catcher spent 2 years as a pro and both with the Royals organization after a stellar career for Emporia State. He was a Hornet from 1965-1968. In 1968 he played in 38 games for Corning hitting .285, which was second on the team to Harry Wright. He played for Waterloo in the Midwest league for the 1970 season hitting .163 in 172 at bats with 3 HR and 16 RBI. He is a member of the Emporia State Hall of Fame and owns Meyer Laboratories, which he created in 1978; it is one of the most successful developers and producers of water-based cleaning chemicals. The business was originally located in Richmond, Missouri but he moved to a much larger space in Blue Springs in 1983. His business also now has a large presence in Canada where Meyer of Canada was established in 2006. He also co-founded Sluggers baseball in Kansas City, a youth program that has produced 30 MLB draft picks including Albert Pujols.
1B/OF/LHP Lance Clemons (above)- He¬†was the Royals 7th¬†round selection in the June draft out of West Chester University in Pennsylvania. His career with the Royals began in 1968 when he was a position player batting .282 with 7 HR in 259 AB. ¬†He pitched in 1 game for Corning. In 1969 he played mostly at Waterloo batting .274 with 5 HR in 186 AB while pitching in a pair of games. He began the transition to a pitcher in 1970 when he pitched in 34 games ¬†reaching AA ball. He made his big league debut on 8/12/71 vs the Washington Senators as he got the start and went 2 innings allowing no runs and one hit. He pitched in 7 more games that season and was traded to the Astros after the year with Jim York for John Mayberry and a minor leaguer. The Astros then traded him to St. Louis in April along with Scipio Spinks for Jerry Reuss. He pitched in just 3 games for the Cardinals in 1972 and eventually was traded to Boston, getting into 6 games in 1974. He finished his major league career with a 2-1 mark and a 6.06 E.R.A in 19 games. He finished his pro career with Pawtucket in 1975 and was 31-30 in his minor league career with a 3.77 E.R.A in 234 games. He moved to Florida in 1975 and became a teacher and coach at Springstead High School, before becoming a dedicated employee of UPS for 20 years, until his retirement. He died of cancer at the age of 60 (2008) in Brooksville, Florida. He left a wife, 2 daughters, and 4 grand children.
2B/SS Kenneth O‚ÄôDonnell-¬†The Royals took the 5‚Äô9 middle infielder in the 4th¬†round of the 1968 draft out of Neptune HS in New Jersey. He hit .276 for the Corning club in 254 at bats with a pair of home runs. He remained in the organization thru 1972 closing out his pro career at AA Jacksonville playing mostly 2B and hiiting.194 with a 31/37 K/BB ratio in 222 at bats
SS/OF Johnnie Nelson-¬†The switch-hitting OF was the team‚Äôs 5th¬†round pick out of Duarte HS, which is in Los Angeles County, but more inland near the San Gabriel Mountains and the city of Azusa. Nelson played in 64 games for Corning batting .278 in 223 at bats. He played 2 more seasons for the organization hitting .235 on the career in 1117 at bats.
3B Gregory Wirth- He¬†was the Royals 24th¬†round pick out of the University of New Mexico. The 6‚Äô1 3B played in 69 games for Corning batting .264 with 11 2B, 1 3B, and 4 HR in 261 AB. He spent the 1969 season between the Royals Arizona League Affiliate and High Point-Thomasville batting .243 in 321 AB with 4 HR at the 2 stops. He was out of pro baseball after that season.
OF Thomas Crichton- He¬†was the Royals 14th¬†round selection out of Santa Cruz High School. The 18 year old hit .281 for Corning with 5 HR in 221 at bats. He played with the Royals thru 1972 when he finished his pro career with Louisville in AA ball. He hit .252/.342 in 538 pro games with 48 HR and 47 SB.
OF Cornelius Drew- (above)¬†The 18-year-old Drew was drafted by the Royals in the 12th¬†round out of Dendron HS in Dendron, Virginia.¬† He hit .283 with 9 extra base hits (inc. 1 HR) in 205 AB to start his pro career. He played in the Royals system thru 1971 where he closed his pro career with San Jose, the Royals A team in the Cal League. He did play 36 games for the Royals AA team (Elmira) in 1970. His final career line shows a .274 .Avg and 11 HR in 1363 AB. Post career he is shown to be the principal owner of Dendron Hunt Properties in his hometown of Dendron. It is a real estate property management company.
OF Harry Wright-¬†Wright was a fine ball player at Penn before the Yankees; in the 1967 draft took him 20th overall. He was also drafted by the Yankees out of High School (Cheshire Academy in Great Neck, NY) in the 27th¬†round. He has no record of every playing professionally for the Yankees as he spent the 1967 season with the Phillies organization batting .282 in 308 AB for their Batavia club. He played in 50 games for the 1968 Corning team batting .300 in 170 AB. He played just 2 more games as a pro.
LHP Paul Splittorff- He is certainly the most accomplished member of the 1968 Corning Royals (as far as baseball career) Paul was the Royals 25th¬†round pick out of Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa. He was 8-5 in 1968 with a 3.45 e.r.a in 120 IP. ‚ÄúSplitt‚ÄĚ was a basketball and baseball star at Morningside after spending his freshman year at Quincy College. He has the distinction of throwing the first ever-professional pitch for the Royals organization.
RHP Rex Hein-¬†The 5‚Äô11 righty was a local product out of Rockhurst High School and The University of Missouri. The former Kansas City ball club, the Athletics, took him in 1966 in the 25th¬†round. The Royals selected him in the 4th¬†round and he pitched in 33 games for the organization finishing his career with just one game in 1970 for Waterloo walking away from baseball due to an arm injury. He was 2-10 with a 4.56 e.r.a for Corning and his final numbers included a 5-16 mark and a 4.44 e.r.a. Hein lettered 4 years in baseball at Rockhurst and also lettered 2 years in football, serving as captain as a senior. He finished his education degree at MU after pro baseball and moved his family to Mexico, Missouri serving as the world history teacher for sophomores. (Last record of Hein)
RHP Rich Long-¬†The 6‚Äô5 righty was a product of Kansas State when the Royals selected him in the 29th¬†round of the draft. He went 5-4 with a 5.43 e.r.a in 14 games and had no record as a ball player after that season in Corning.
RHP Willie Sanders-¬†(above) He pitched well for the 1968 Corning club as he was 2-7 and had an E.R.A of 3.34 in 11 games. He pitched 2 more seasons for the Royals going 3-4 in 1969 with a 4.81 e.r.a and 5-8 in 1970 with a 2.97 e.r.a. He finished his pro career (just those 3 seasons with a 10-19 mark and a 3.62 e.r.a in 246 IP.
RHP Joe Karp-¬†Karp was a 6‚Äô4 righty that played in the Royals organization from 1968 thru 1970. He was 5-1 with a 1.88 e.r.a for Corning and finished his pro career with a 16-14 record and a 3.44 e.r.a in 48 games. He played college ball at Washington State and served as a full time scout for the Chicago White Sox until 1998. His son, Josh, was an 8th¬†round draft pick of the Braves out of high school before attending UCLA and becoming the 6th¬†overall pick of the Expos in 2001. Josh pitched 4 years for the Expos/Nationals organization but never made the big leagues.
RHP Frank Ward-¬†He pitched for the Royals in 1968 and 1969 going 2-3 with a 3.98 e.r.a for Corning in 43 IP. He returned to the Royals going 1-2 with a 9.00 e.r.a in 14 IP for the 1969 Waterloo club. Post baseball career has allowed Ward an accomplished life as he graduated from Brown University in 1970, Boston University school of management in 1973, Boston University School of Education in 1976 and #7 in his class from the Suffolk University Law School in 1984. He currently works as an Account Engineer at FM Global in Boston.
RHP Steven Myers-¬†Myers came to the Royals after starting the season with the Phillies (7 games at Huron) he finished out the 1968 campaign with 6 games for Corning going 0-2 with a 7.50 e.r.a. He stayed with the Royals thru the 1971 season finishing out his career with a 13-20 record and a 3.25 e.r.a in 271 IP.
C-George Balak-¬†George was a Catcher who signed with the Royals after spending 2 seasons with the Orioles. He played 23 games for the Royals going 15-69 for a .217 .Avg. He was a well-known athlete at Weir HS in West Virginia where in 1959 he lead his team to a state baseball title. He was also the starting center in football earning all-state honors and helping his team to a state title in 1960. He told the Weirton Daily Times “We were a close-knit unit,” said Balak, who was the catcher on the 1959 Weir High baseball team that won the state championship. “I remember, too, that we wanted for nothing in those days. Weirton Steel took care of our fields and we all could have jobs in the summer at Marland Heights pool. I started out cleaning up the grounds there and taking out the garbage, but my senior year I was a lifeguard. That was really something at the time.‚ÄĚ
In 1959 he lead his team to a state baseball title. He went to Marshall on a football scholarship but left after 2 years to sign with the Orioles. He is now retired and living in Grayson, Georgia.
C Thomas Gear-¬†Gear spent 2 seasons with the Royals. The 6‚Äô2/200 pound catcher played 13 games for Corning going 4 for 30 and 6 more games for Kingsport in 1969 going 2-14.
C Bruce Pomeroy-¬†Bruce was the Royals 28th¬†round selection in 1968 out of James Madison HS in Vienna, Virginia. He played in just 9 games for Corning going 5-20. He returned to Corning playing in 10 games in 1969 going 4-27 with a home run. He was out of professional baseball after that.
1B Doug Pautz-¬†Pautz came to the Corning Royals after playing in the Phillies organization. He had been in the Phillies system since 1964 batting a high of .312 in 1966 at Eugene with 12 Home runs and 53 RBI. Pautz had a near brush with death in 1967: from the¬†Herald-Journal¬†after having a blood clot removed after collapsing at the ballpark. ‚ÄúI was dizzy for about two months before they found out what was wrong with me‚ÄĚ the then 23 year old said. ‚ÄúThey thought, at first I was having sinus trouble. It was plenty painful. Finally I went to a neurosurgeon and he found I had a blood clot. It was serious.‚ÄĚ
He hit .227 for Corning in 88 at bats with 2 HR. The 6‚Äô4 RH hitter was from Minneapolis and played collegiately at Augsburg College where he was an All-Conference player in baseball and basketball.
3B Roland Panepinto-¬†The Royals took the 18-year-old Panepinto in the 33rd¬†round out of Fork Union Military High School in Fork Union, Virginia. He played in 18 games for Corning going 9-51 with a pair of home runs. He played 2 more games for Dubuque in the Midwest league in 1968 going 1-7. He returned to the Royals in 1969 and was assigned to Corning again going just 8-59 with no home runs and 5 RBI. It was the last record of Panepinto as a professional ball player.
3B Allen Flanagan-¬†Flanagan had a very brief professional career as he batted 5 times for Corning and was hitless. He was gone from pro baseball after those 5 AB. The Royals signed him as their 50th¬†round pick out of London Valley HS in Leesburg, Virginia.
3B Robert Harvey-¬†Harvey was the Dodgers 26th¬†round pick in 1965 out of John Marshall HS in Oklahoma City. He played in 132 games for the Dodgers organization before joining the Corning club for just 5 games in 1968. He was 1-5.
3B John Marshall-¬†The Royals took the Arkansas Razorback in the 47th¬†round. He hit .200 in 100 at bats with a HR for Corning and Dubuque in 1968 (2-23 at Corning) He played one more season going 10-54 in 1969 playing for Waterloo.
OF Larry Hall-By the time Hall was signed by the Royals the 21 year old had already played in 2 other organizations. He was drafted by the Astros in the 9th¬†round of the 1965 draft and had also been a member of the Braves organization. He played in 27 games for Corning going 22-78 before moving onto the Red Sox org. to close out the season. He was out of baseball after that.
OF Ralph Wells-¬†The right handed hitting Wells played in 38 games for the Royals organization. In 1968 he played in 22 games for Corning hitting .323. He played for the Waterloo club in 1969 batting .208 in 48 at bats.
OF John McCowan-¬†John played in 3 games for an affiliate of the Giants in 1967 before joining the Royals organization. The Venice, California product played in 31 games for Corning hitting .192. He left the Royals after 1968 but was quickly added to the Angels organization where he remained thru 1972. He finished his career at AA in Shreveport batting .271 with 10 RBI.
Batter Steven Conklin-¬†Conklin was a 26-year-old position player who played in one pro game getting 2 AB for Corning
Batter Richard Lelo-¬†Lelo played in just 3 games as a pro player going 0-8 for Corning. Lelo actually signed with the Twins in 1967 but did not appear to play in a game. He also was a member of the Cardinals organization in 1968 and also did not seem to play in a game. He played collegiately at Cal State San Mateo and has worked as a real estate agent and barbecue master near San Francisco.
Batter-Benjamin Grove-The Royals signed Grove after being a 32nd¬†round pick of the Pirates in 1966. He had played in 58 games for the Pirates team at Clinton in 1966 but was out of baseball in 1967. He played in 24 games for Corning and was 13-50. He was out of baseball after the 1968 season.
Bat Walt Tobler- (above)¬†The Royals, in the 45th round, took Tobler round out of Woodrow Wilson HS in Portsmouth, Virginia. He was 18-69 for the Corning club with a home run.
Batter Mark Pistillo-¬†Mark was a 5‚Äô9 hitter who went 3-8 in 4 games for the Corning club.
Batter Charles Metro-¬†Metro is much better known for being the son of longtime baseball executive and the manager of the 1970 Royals. He got one at bat for the Corning Royals.
RHP Larry Largent-¬†Largent was the Royals 53rd¬†round pick out of Kansas State. He pitched in 20 games for Corning going 1-3 with a 2.86 e.r.a. He pitched in just 5 more games as a pro.
LHP Dennis Dunleavy-¬†Dunleavy was a 6‚Äô2 lefty who was signed by the Royals as a 19 year old in 1968. He pitched in 17 games for the Corning club with 6 starts going 0-7 with a 3.48 e.r.a in 62 innings. 1968 was his only season in pro ball.
RHP-Dick Balderson -He pitched in 11 games in relief going 1-0 with a 1.06 E.R.A for Corning. Balderson is known more for being a baseball executive than a player. Although he pitched for the Royals organization from 1968-1975 finishing with a career mark of 32-21 in 234 games with 23 starts and a 2.98 e.r.a. The 6‚Äô4 righty finished his career with Jacksonville a AA team in the Southern League in 1975. *Update on Balderson in comments section
After that season he got married and was working in the insurance business in Jacksonville, Florida when he got a call from John Schuerholz about a job. He joined the Royals front office in 1977 serving as their assistant farm director thru 1980. He took over as the farm director in 1981 and scouting director from 1982 thru 1985. He then became the General Manager of the Mariners from 1986 tom 1988 where he signed Ken Griffey Jr. and Tino Martinez. But, just a few days after pulling off what would eventually be one of the best trades in team history (acquiring Jay Buhner from the Yankees) he was fired. Perhaps the ownership was angry that he traded Danny Tartabull to the Royals and was developing into a star while his return was less than satisfactory.
He became the Cubs scouting director from 1989-90 and director of player development in 1991-92. He served as the Rockies director of player development from 1993-97 and had the same job for the Braves from 2000-02. He currently serves as a special assistant to the GM of the Braves, a role he has had since 2008 and lives outside of Denver, Colorado.
¬†RHP Jackson Chandler Jr.-His real name is Andrew Jackson Chandler. The 23rd round choice of the Royals out of Prince Edward High School in Farmville, Virginia was 0-2 for the 1968 club in 10 games (1 start) with a 7.71 E.R.A. He went on to pitch 2 more seasons ending his career with a 1-5 mark and a 7.84 E.R.A in 17 games. Chandler passed in June of 2006 at the age of 55. He left behind a wife, son, and two daughters.
RHP Norman Taylor-¬†Taylor was the Royals 42nd¬†round pick in 1968 out of Greene Central HS in Snow Hill, North Carolina. He pitched in just 10 games for the Royals organization and all were at Corning where he was 0-1 with a 3.00 e.r.a in 21 IP.
RHP Bob Lawson-¬†The 6‚Äô7 RHP was the Royals 10th¬†round pick in 1968 out of Cox HS in Virginia Beach. He pitched in 9 games with 3 starts for Corning and was 0-2 with a 8.55 e.r.a. He pitched in just one more season for the Royals going 8-9 with a 4.21 e.r.a in 32 G with 2 different affiliates in 1969. He finished 1969 with a 90/91 K/BB ratio in 135 IP.
Greg Chlan from Florida Times-Union gets the ball from future Royals MGR ¬†Billy Gardner as C John Sullivan looks on
RHP Greg Chlan-Greg was drafted by the Royals in the 46th round of the 1968 MLB June draft out of Rider University. He was the second member of the Rider ball club selected after they had taken fellow pitcher Tom Moore in the 32nd round. He was also one of 4 players taken out of Rider in the 1968 draft (the other 2 were taken by the Cubs and Reds) He had previously been drafted by the Pirates in the 29th round out of high school in the 1965 June draft. He pitched in 9 games for Corning going 1-1 w/ a 3.86 E.R.A. In high school Greg was someone of a local legend finishing his high school career at Westfield (New Jersey) with a 20-5 record and 240 K in 185 IP. Also, he pitched in the Greater Newark Challenge (GNT), which is the oldest, and arguably most prestigious tournament in New Jersey. His game is still discussed to this day as he threw a 12 inning complete game to beat future Cardinals righty Al Santorini, who was 20-0 prior to that game. He played for the Royals organization thru 1975 spending his last 3 seasons at Omaha. He finished his career w/ a 50-43 record in 216 games (73 starts) and a 3.13 E.R.A. After his playing career Chlan worked for the JC Penney district office in Pittsburgh where he was the district merchandiser.
RHP Richard Schlesinger-¬†¬†¬†He was the Tigers 22nd round pick out of Kansas State as a catcher but was a pitcher for the Royals and he pitched in 6 games for the 1968 Corning club going 3 innings and allowing 5 ER on 5 hits while walking 12.
RHP Verbon Walker- He was selected by the Royals in the 17th round out of Colorado School of Mines. He pitched in just 3 pro games going 7 IP with 6 hits allowed and 6 walks. He was 0-1 with a 6.43 E.R.A.
RHP Tom Moore¬†The 6‚Äô1 Rider University product was the Royals 32nd round selection in their first draft and he spent just one season in pro ball. He pitched in 28 games for Corning going 1-4 with a 3.10 e.r.a in 49.1 IP.
RHP Steve Sharp- Sharp was the Phillies 7th round pick out of Washington HS (KS) in 1965. He was selected again by the Yankees in the 11th round of the 1967 MLB secondary phase out of the University of Missouri. He ended up in the Royals organization where he pitched one game for the 1968 Corning club. He lasted in pro ball one more season starting 18 games for the 1969 Waterloo team going 4-11 with a 5.50 E.R.A.
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