Fred Patek was at Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin on Thursday to coach first base for Blue Springs Post 499/FIKE in American Legion AA state tournament. The three-time All-Star played in the majors from 1968-81 and with the Kansas City Royals from 1971-79.
Patek took a few minutes after Blue Spring' win over Joplin on Thursday afternoon to talk with me about baseball. Here are some of the leftovers from that interview that did not make it into The Joplin Globe print edition.
On being traded in December 1970 from the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates to the Kansas City Royals, who had just launched the franchise in 1969:
"I had no idea I was going to be traded. I was told by Pirate management that I was going to be their player, but they made a big three-for-three player swap and I was the main part of that trade. I was all right with it. Once I got to Kansas City and you get to settle in, it¹s easy to make the transition. You¹re doing the same thing that you love to do and that¹s being out on the field and playing every day. I got a chance to do that in Kansas City, so it worked out well for me."
On how good the Royals teams were in the 1970s:
"Our teams in the 70s were really good. I¹ve often thought that if we played the best four out of seven in the series against the Yankees, we might have won a couple (World Series). Our team in 1977, I think we won 102 ballgames.We were the best team in baseball that year, but the Yankees always seemed to come up with a base hit in the ninth inning and end up beating us. We had guys who really knew how to play. We played really well together as a team and everybody had their own roles. I think that¹s why we were so successful."
On whether the Royals should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline:
"You got to keep the core of your ball team together, and right now they have a pretty good core. So I don¹t see them making any moves unless they get enough good young prospects for (Ervin) Santana. Other than that, I don¹t think so."
On playing with Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente when Patek was:
"I think he was probably one of the class acts of baseball when I played with him. He was an outstanding player. Him and George (Brett) are probably the two best players I ever played with and watched. Watching him go about his business and the professional that he was, he was an extremely hard worker and that¹s why he was such a superstar."
On visiting Joplin:
"It¹s nice to be back in Joplin. I came here for years during the Mickey Mantle tournaments. So I¹m kind of familiar with the town and what it¹s gone through and all the changes. It¹s a nice place, and we¹re glad that we won our region so that we could come here."