Born: April 11, 1964
Enshrinement: Bret Saberhagen
The story goes that, not long after the Kansas City Royals added right-hander Bret Saberhagen to the roster ahead of the 1984 season, sports writers gathered around then-manager Dick Howser and asked, “Why now?”
After all, Saberhagen was at the ripe young age of 19 years old. And so Howser, who had made his big-league debut as a player in 1961 and managed the New York Yankees in the 1978 and 1980 seasons, had quite the reply.
Said Howser, “Talent.”
Yes. Talent. That was Saberhagen, who went on to become one of the best pitchers in Royals history. And that’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Saberhagen with the Class of 2023.
Mixing incredible skill and mound presence with precise command, Saberhagen became the Royals’ ultimate big-game pitcher during their first Golden Era.
The four-time Royals Pitcher of the Year won two American League Cy Young Awards: the first in 1985 after finishing 20-6 (2.87 earned run average) and again in 1989, when he posted a club record in wins (23) and led the league with a 2.16 ERA. That same year, Saberhagen also won a Gold Glove.
In 1985, his nearly perfect postseason performance helped the Royals capture their first World Championship. Named World Series MVP at age 21, Saberhagen went 2-0 (0.50 ERA) with two complete games, including an 11-0 Game 7 shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Additionally, he pitched only the fourth – and still the most recent – no-hitter in Royals history on Aug. 26, 1991 against the Chicago White Sox.
Overall, Saberhagen’s big-league career spanned 18 seasons, including 3 ½ seasons with the New York Mets, a half-season with the Colorado Rockies and finished his career in 2001, his fourth season with the Boston Red Sox. Overall, he was 167-117 with 3.34 ERA, struck out 1,715 batters, was a three-time All-Star and twice earned Comeback Player of the Year honors.
All this from a 19th-round draft pick in 1982 out of Grover Cleveland High School in Reseda, California. And to think that only two years later, he would break spring training on the Royals Opening Day roster.
The Royals had drafted Saberhagen as a skinny shortstop but knew he could pitch, considering Saberhagen had thrown a no-hitter in the Los Angeles City Championship at Dodger Stadium.
In 1984, the club featured starting pitchers Mark Gubicza (MSHOF 2010) and Danny Jackson, with the Royals’ lineup stout with George Brett (MSHOF 1994), Frank White (MSHOF 1994) and the core of what would win the 1985 World Series. They reached the 1984 American League Championship Series.
“The first time I ever laid eyes on Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza was in big-league camp,” Brett was once quoted as saying in the Topeka Capital-Journal. “And all of the sudden you watch these guys pitch in spring training in ’84 in Fort Myers, (Fla.) and you’re like, ‘Damn! These guys are pretty good.’”
In eight seasons with the Royals, Saberhagen went 110-78 with a 3.21 ERA.
After his Royals days, he was 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 1994 with the Mets, striking out 143 batters and walking only 13. That left him with a 11.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio, breaking Jim Whitney’s record.
“He was one of the most advanced young pitchers I can ever remember and cool as a cucumber,” longtime Royals scout Art Stewart (MSHOF 2016) once said.
Saberhagen, who lives in Colorado was elected to the Royals Hall of Fame in 2005 and voted to the Royals Franchise Four in 2015.
He married the love of his life, Kandace, in February 2019. His baseball legacy gave him the podium to broadcast his true passion, which shines throughout his philanthropic work he shares with his wife.
Kandace is a three-time breast cancer survivor, and together, she and Bret created SabesWings, a nonprofit dedicated to helping cancer patients suffering with Medical Financial Toxicity.
Bret uses his podium to advocate for those who need it most. “Medical Financial Toxicity or MFT forces a cancer patient to choose between paying for necessary medical treatments or paying for household expenses. We believe there shouldn’t be a choice. We are tackling MFT head on and giving reprieve to those who need it most,” says Saberhagen.
SabesWings has built a strong foundation of support for others dealing with insurmountable circumstances while educating and mentoring some of their young board members on the importance of community support, compassion and continuing to do the right thing – even when no one is looking.