July 10, 2012

HOVG Heroes: Kevin Appier


JEFF MONTGOMERY on KEVIN APPIER

One of the first players I remember meeting after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Kansas City Royals was a young pitcher from Lancaster, California, named Kevin Appier. 

It was in the spring of 1988 and I didn’t know much about the Royals organization as I grew up watching and idolizing the players on “The Big Red Machine” and later having the good fortune of being drafted by the Reds.

I didn’t remember “Ape” because of the number on the back of his Topps card, it was because he was a 20 year-old who had just been drafted in the first round by the Royals out of Antelope Valley (California) Junior College.  In fact, he had yet to complete his first full season in professional baseball and we were standing behind the protective screen behind second base on a minor league field collecting batting practice balls as they were throwing in to the “bucket”.

It was during my first conversation that day with Kevin Appier that I realized he was a little different that most baseball players.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that left me with the understanding that whatever accomplishments Appier would have, would be earned in a very different way.  To hear him discuss the physics involved in making a baseball do unusual things was very new to me.  He also went on to tell me later that he would love to build a hovercraft.

Those who had the chance to play on the same team with “Ape” also learned that he was a little “out there”.  They also learned that he was as fierce of a competitor as you will ever meet and that his analytical and scientific approach went deeper than just his pitching.  It was the way he lived his life and told a lot about his character.

During the decade of the 90’s, Appier established himself as one of the best starting pitchers in baseball and was able to become one of the all-time Royal greats.  He is ranked in the club’s top ten in most every career pitching category, including tops in strikeouts with 1458.

From 1990-1999, Appier had 113 wins against 85 losses with a 3.39 ERA.  In his 264 starts during the 90’s, Appier had 32 complete games (10 shutouts) and of those starts, 166 were quality starts (63%).

It was Appier’s live fastball, nasty slider, and diving forkball that helped Appier compile the numbers cited above, but it was his unorthodox delivery and moxy that set him apart from other starting pitchers. 

In the 90’s, it was common to hear hitters from other teams say that Appier was the most difficult pitcher in the American League to hit against.

In addition to Appier’s contribution to the Royals during the 90’s, which included an All-Star team selection in 1995, he also played for the Oakland A’s, New York Mets and Anaheim Angels.  His first year with the Angels yielded 14 wins and a 3.92 ERA which helped land the Angels not only a berth in the post-season, but a World Series ring.

I had the honor of inducting Kevin Appier into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame last summer at a pre-game ceremony at Kauffman Stadium.  It was great to see “Ape” back at the “K” to be honored by the organization which he provided so many thrilling moments for its fans during the prime of his career.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Montgomery is a three-time All-Star who played 13 years for the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds.  During his career, he collected 304 saves (good for 20th all-time)…36 of them were in games Kevin Appier started.



1 comment:

The OCP said...

Great piece! Kevin Appier is one of the more underrated pitchers of the 1990's. Thanks for sharing.