Kansas City Royals great Paul Splittorff died today after a battle with oral cancer and melanoma.
He was an original Royal, drafted in 1968, and he played all 14 years in Kansas City. Even after he retired from playing, he stayed with the game and has served as one of the voices of the Royals on radio and TV broadcasts. Many might recall Split’s voice on college basketball games, but he was a major piece of the Royals for decades.
No matter which play-by-play guy called the games, Split provided deft analysis and was as critical of the Royals in their struggles as he was in his applause in their success — realistically, there hasn’t been much success in the franchise in many years, but you get the point.
I reflect on that because the Royals have been my baseball team since my childhood, and Paul Splittorff has been part of my life nearly all of my life. He was, and still is, an icon. Today I make my way to the northeastern Oklahoma hamlet of Claremore for the Will Rogers Stampede, just a 20-minute drive from the home of Clem McSpadden, the voice of ProRodeo.
My first trip to Rogers County came in July 2008, when my wife and I attended Clem’s funeral. The strongest supporter in rodeo had lost his battle with cancer, and I needed to say goodbye to my friend.
Today, though, I rejoice. I celebrate the men Paul Splittorff and Clem McSpadden were, and I thank them.