The hall inducted Howser and longtime Royals broadcaster Fred White in a special ceremony, and took the extra step of inducting the 1985 team into its Honor Roll of World Champions.
How fitting, Nancy Howser said.
“That’s so appropriate because everyone had a hand in it,” Howser said. “It took the entire team. It wasn’t any one person.”
But her husband, as Wilson, Wathan and White pointed out, proved to be the wise shepherd who guided Kansas City through one of the more improbable championship runs in baseball the past 30 years.
The Royals won the American League West on the next-to-last day of the season after trailing the California Angels by 7 1/2 games at the All-Star break.
They also erased 3-games-to-1 deficits in both the League Championship Series and World Series, including a controversial Game 6 win in the World Series that still generates debate in the Midwest.
Howser died in June 1987, at age 51, after a battle against cancer.
“Dick never panicked,” said Wilson, the team’s electric leadoff man, whose three-week absence that August would have torpedoed other teams, but the Royals got by with emergency fill-in Omar Moreno.
“He was calm through the whole thing,” Wilson said. “I think we played off him through the whole series. He was smart enough to stay out of the way to let us take care of all the stuff in the locker room. But he knew how to do all the right things on the field.”
Other members of that team on hand
“The great managers,” Pryor said, “you don’t know they’re around that much.”
Howser, who had played shortstop for the Kansas City Athletics from 1961-63 and coached and later managed the New York Yankees in 1980, never seemed to forget that the game was supposed to be fun.
In his time managing Kansas City from mid-1981 through 1986, he sometimes would joke with young fans before games, even briefly halting interviews with sports writers.
And that was while he also managed a number of personalities and egos.
“The thing I remember most about him after the World Series, I asked him, ‘How do you feel?'” said White, a close friend of Howser’s. “He said, ‘I looked at these players and they had fighter-pilot eyes.”
The 1985 World Series title remains Kansas City’s only one. In fact, the Royals have not returned to the playoffs since.
Wilson has gone on to open a foundation called Willie Wilson Baseball. It not only teaches baseball to boys and girls ages 7 to 14, it also has placed an emphasis on providing dental care to underserved populations, according to its website.
The team’s stars
Wathan managed the team from 1987-92 and works for the team’s scouting department.
“Dick Howser led a pretty full life in too short of a time,” Wathan said. “We all believed in him. We believed he was the man who could lead us to the World Series and win a World Series. And he did.
“He loved being the manager of the Kansas City Royals.”