Paul Splittorff, pitcher and announcer for K.C. Royals, dies at 64

May 25, 2011

Paul Splittorff, 64, the left-hander who became the winningest pitcher in Kansas City Royals history and a popular broadcaster for the team, died May 25 of complications from skin cancer at his home in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo.

Drafted by the expansion Royals in the 25th round in 1968, Mr. Splittorff spent his entire 15-year career in Kansas City. A tall, bespectacled lefty with a high leg kick, he often appeared to squint into the catcher’s mitt as though he was having trouble seeing the sign. This sometimes proved disconcerting to hitters who wondered whether they should be ready to bail out if the ball came flying toward their head.

He retired during the 1984 season with a club-record 166 victories.

Paul William Splittorff Jr. was born Oct. 8, 1946, in Evansville, Ind., and raised in Arlington Heights, Ill. A two-sport star in baseball and basketball at Morningside College in Iowa, he made his major-league debut on Sept. 23, 1970, and soon became a mainstay in the Kansas City rotation.

His best year was 1973 when he went 20-11, becoming the Royals’ first 20-game winner. In 15 seasons, he was 166-143 with a 3.81 ERA.

Mr. Splittorff was particularly effective in the Royals’ memorable playoff battles with the New York Yankees in the 1970s and ’80s. In seven postseason games, he was 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA.

Even before he retired, Mr. Splittorff was preparing for a broadcasting career, covering high school football and basketball games for a local radio station.

He appeared on Royals broadcasts for 24 years. Fans noticed on opening day in 2009 that his speech had become slurred, and Mr. Splittorff promptly gave up play-by-play announcing.

Though he continued to do pre- and post-game shows, he was never able to regain the clear, distinct voice fans had known for more than two decades.

But he never quit trying.

Survivors include his wife, Lynn; and two children.

— Associated Press