FOX has been replaying Jim Sundberg’s famous game-winning slide for the Royals from the 1985 World Series practically non-stop. I caught up with Jim and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me about the series.
This year’s Royals team is looked on as a Cinderella that came out of nowhere. Was your ’85 team looked on the same way?
Similar in several ways in that we didn’t win our division until one day remaining in regular season. We had strong pitching, good defense and timing hitting. I believe we had a better rotation and the current KC Club had a better back end bullpen. We hardly used our bullpen outside of Quisenbury in WS, whereas, the ’14 KC team will hope they use their last three guys out of the pen. If they have a 6th or 7th inning lead, KC will win the series.
What do you think made your 1985 World Series team so special?
Our starting rotation ended up being the best in baseball the last three weeks of regular season and all of the post season play. I believe both Toronto and St. Louis hit around .150 – .160 as a team. Good defense and grinding out guys with key hits.
Catchers are often called the quarterback of the baseball diamond, especially with a younger team. What do you feel made you a good leader?
KC manager Dick Howser said that I was a missing ingredient that would help the Royals win a WS because of KC’s young staff. Our young pitchers, Brett Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubizah along with veterans Bud Black and Charlie Leibrant were great to work with and very talented. A great roation to a catcher is like a great bullpen to a manager, they make us looks smart. We had great chemistry, good communication and they respected what I brought to the table, experience! A good leader knows his staff, what makes them click, how to get the best out of them and they know that he cares about their success and is respected for those characteristics.
What lessons have you carried over from the experience into being a successful baseball executive?
I have learned that the characteristics mentioned above about a good leader is true: knows his staff, what makes them click, how to get the best out of them and they know that you care about their success and is respected for those characteristics. An executive has to be ab le to “show the way” (walk the talk), communicate the way on a regular basis (sale it internally to staff) and willingness to adjust vision details (adapt to cultural changes).
When you speak to audiences about leadership and teamwork, what can they learn from that special 1985 World Series team?
Baseball is a great example of how people need to except and appreciate what the others around them can do. Every player on the field has a role and supported by those playing around them. A group of people need to decide to come together, excepting each ones’ skill set and appreciate what others bring to the table and there is a buy-in because the gain far outweighs the pain. From this point, momentum will come from consistent successes and will chemistry will add to coming together and the cycle starts again.
Jim is currently with the Texas Rangers organization and is a sought after motivational speaker that you can check out here.
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