Pitcher who began career with Kansas City A’s and finished with Royals dies at age 86

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Right-hander Dave Wickersham pitched for 10 years in Major League Baseball, and half of that time was spent in Kansas City — with two different franchises.

Wickersham pitched four years with the A’s, then left Kansas City. But he returned to joined the inaugural Royals team in 1969. Wickersham, who was one of only four players to appear in a game with both MLB franchises in Kansas City, died over the weekend, the Royals announced.

The A’s selected Wickersham in the minor league draft following the 1959 season, and he appeared in five games for Kansas City the following year, picking up two saves.

Wickersham pitched in relief in 1961, then had a starter/reliever role in 1962 and won 11 games despite missing 2 1/2 months because of broken ribs, according to the Once Upon A Knight blog.

The following year, Wickersham started 34 games for the A’s and had a 12-15 record with 4.09 ERA and one shutout. He was traded to the Tigers as part of a five-player deal after the season.

Wickersham had his best season in the majors with the Tigers in 1964, going 19-12 with a 3.44 ERA. He missed out on a 20-win season in agonizing fashion in his final start.

The Tigers were tied 1-1 in the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium, but New York had runners on first and second with two outs. Phil Linz bunted toward Detroit first baseman Norm Cash, who bobbled the ball but secured it as he stood on the bag, as Vintage Detroit recalled.

First base umpire Bill Valentine called Linz safe, and Cash followed Valentine down the right-field line, arguing the decision. The runner on second scored, and Wickersham pleaded for play to stop, only to have Valentine eject him.

As The Star reported in 2004, Valentine realized days later that Wickersham was chasing a milestone that day.

“I didn’t know he was going for his 20th win until later on,” Valentine told The Star. “Once I heard it, that’s the one decision that had always been in my mind. That’s the only thing I’ve regretted from my career.

“He was a good pitcher and one of the nicest guys in baseball.”

In 2004, Wickersham wrote a letter to Valentine saying he’d gotten the call right.

“I wanted to make sure that he knew that I didn’t blame him (for not getting 20 wins),” Wickersham said at the time. “I wanted him to know that I forgave him, if he felt he needed it.”

Wickersham pitched for the Tigers three more seasons before being traded to the Pirates before the 1968 season. The Royals purchased his contract in October of that year and he was on the opening day roster for their inaugural 1969 season.

The Royals beat the Twins 4-3 in 12 innings in their very first game and Wickersham threw five innings of shutout relief. He appeared in 34 games for the Royals in 1969, which was his final year in Major League Baseball.

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