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By Rampart Stonebridge, updated on March 5, 2024

Former Kansas City Royals Star Dead At Age 70 From Cancer

The baseball community mourns the loss of U.L. Washington, who passed away at 70. Washington was renowned for his distinctive playing style and notable contributions to the sport.

Known for his distinctive habit of playing with a toothpick in his mouth, Washington's death from cancer brings a close to a storied career highlighted by his contributions to the Kansas City Royals' first AL pennant and their 1980 World Series run.

U.L. Washington's journey to Major League Baseball (MLB) commenced in 1977 when he joined the Kansas City Royals, marking the start of a remarkable career. His brother, James, a dedicated usher at Royals games, convinced then-general manager Lou Gorman to give Washington a chance to try out for the team. This opportunity set the stage for what would become an inspiring MLB career.

Washington's early days with the Royals were not just about making the team but about making history. He became one of only three MLB players who emerged from the Royals Academy to play at the highest level, sharing this unique distinction with Ron Washington and Frank White.

This foundation laid the groundwork for what would be a memorable stint with the Kansas City Royals.

Washington's Crowning Achievements

In 1982, U.L. Washington had an exceptional year, hitting career bests with a .286 average, 10 home runs, and 60 RBIs. These statistics highlight his skill and crucial position in the Royals' batting order.

One of his most memorable moments came in 1983, when he was at first base as George Brett hit the famous 'pine tar' home run, a significant event in baseball history.

Throughout his eight seasons with the Royals, Washington proved his worth, contributing .254 with 26 home runs and 228 RBIs. His performance during four postseason series with the team further solidified his reputation, boasting a .279 batting average across games, including the 1980 ALCS and World Series, the 1981 ALDS, and the 1984 ALCS.

However, Washington's career trajectory took a new turn in 1985 when he was traded to the Montreal Expos in exchange for pitcher Mike Kinunnen and outfielder Ken Baker. Despite serving as a utility infielder for 68 games, his tenure with the Expos was brief, becoming a free agent in the fall of that year.

Transition and Legacy

The Pittsburgh Pirates became Washington's new home in April 1986, where he continued to demonstrate his versatility in the field. Over two seasons, he appeared in 82 games, though his batting average dipped to .207. By October 1987, his time with the Pirates—and in major league baseball—came to an end.

Despite retiring from playing, Washington's love for baseball never waned. He spent subsequent years lending his experience and wisdom to minor league organizations across several MLB teams, including his former club, the Royals, the LA Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and Boston Red Sox.

Notably, while with the Greenville Drive, a Red Sox minor league team, in 2013, he played a crucial role in refining Mookie Betts' batting form.

Reflecting on his career early in 1988, Washington shared:

I won't go back to the minors, but I haven't said I've officially retired. If someone called and said they wanted me to play in the majors, I'd go. I spent nine straight years in the majors, so going back to the minors was the toughest thing for me the past two years.

At my age, it got to where every time out, I was fighting pain off here or there anyway. I admire the guys who play until they're 40.

Lessons to Learn

The passing of U.L. Washington serves as a poignant reminder of the transient nature of sports glory and the harsh realities faced by athletes off the field.

1. Cherish Every Moment: Washington's journey from a hopeful tryout participant to a major league contributor illustrates the importance of seizing every opportunity, no matter how slim the chances may seem.

2. Adaptability Is Key: Transitioning from a player to a mentor, Washington demonstrated the value of adaptability, showing that one's impact on the game can extend far beyond the field.

3. Legacy Lives On: Through his mentoring of younger players like Mookie Betts, Washington's legacy persists, reminding us that contributions to the sport are not merely measured in statistics but in the knowledge and passion shared with the next generation.

It's crucial to acknowledge that while we can take steps to safeguard our health and well-being, illness can affect anyone, and it's essential to support one another through such challenges.

Why This Story Matters

U.L. Washington's story transcends the realm of baseball, offering lessons on resilience, mentorship, and the pursuit of excellence. His passing is not just a loss for the baseball community but a reminder of the impact one individual can have on the lives of many. As we reflect on his life and career, let us remember the joy he brought to the game and the lasting legacy he leaves behind.

In conclusion, U.L. Washington's passing marks the end of an era for those who revered him as a player and a mentor. From his memorable moments on the field with the Kansas City Royals to his impactful post-playing career, Washington's legacy in baseball will undoubtedly continue to inspire future generations.

As the baseball community mourns, we also celebrate the life of a man who played with a toothpick in his mouth but left an indelible mark on the hearts of many.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.

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