The Royals had long been a contending team in the American League, with great regular season success but frustration in the playoffs. They won three consecutive American League West division titles from 1976 to 1978, only to be defeated in the ALCS all three years by the New York Yankees. The Royals did manage to defeat the Yankees and win the ALCS in 1980; however, they lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies four games to two. In 1984, K.C. again won the West Division, but were swept in the ALCS by the eventual World champion Detroit Tigers, who won 20 more games during the regular season than the Royals. 1985 saw the Royals post a record of 91–71 (.562) winning another West Division pennant, ahead of the California Angels by a game.
By contrast, the Blue Jays franchise was established in 1977, and the late 1970s and early 1980s for them were marked by the challenges faced by an expansion team. Beginning in 1982, however, they played increasingly solid seasons, achieving their first winning season in 1983 and finishing second in the American League East in 1984 behind Detroit. 1985 proved to be a breakout year for Toronto, as they rode strong offense and pitching to the second-best record in Major League Baseball, at 99–62 (.615), winning the AL East by two games over the Yankees.
Kansas City won the series, 4–3.
Tuesday, October 8, 1985, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto
The Toronto Blue Jays entered the series as the favorite to win the series. The first game featured Toronto pitcher Dave Stieb and Kansas City pitcher Charlie Leibrandt at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. Neither team was able to score runs in the first inning; however, in the second inning the Blue Jays offense became productive. Jesse Barfield singled and advanced to second base when Willie Upshaw was hit by a pitch. Garth Iorg forced Barfield out at third, but with Iorg on first and Upshaw on second, Ernie Whitt singled to score Upshaw with the first run of the series. Tony Fernández singled to shortstop allowing Iorg to score, and a single by Damaso Garcia loaded the bases with one out. Leibrandt induced a pop fly out by Lloyd Moseby and a ground ball out by George Bell.
After nearly breaking the game open in the second inning, the Blue Jays increased their lead in the third inning and Leibrandt was removed form the game. A double by Cliff Johnson was followed by a base on balls to Barfield. The game was forced into a rain delay. Whether the rain ended Leibrandt's effectiveness or the Jays simply figured him out, Upshaw's single loaded the bases with no outs and led to relief pitcher Steve Farr entering the game. Rance Mulliniks singled to score Johnson and keep the bases loaded. A walk to Whitt scored Barfield to increase the score to 4–0. A sacrifice fly from Fernandez made it 5–0. Farr finally settled down and proceeded to get next two batters out; however, the Royals were down 5–0 en route to a 6–1 loss. The final Jays' run was scored when George Bell singled and scored on a throwing error by Steve Balboni on a fielder's choice to the next batter, Cliff Johnson.
Willie Wilson scored the Royals' only run in the ninth inning when he singled, moved to third on a George Brett single, and scored on a fielders choice ground out by Pat Sheridan. The Blue Jays scored six runs and left nine runners on base. Leibrandt was credited with the loss while Stieb pitched eight innings for the win and Tom Henke pitched the ninth inning.
The victory gave the Jays a one-game to none lead in the ALCS.
Wednesday, October 9, 1985, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario
Game 2 produced excitement and controversy with the Blue Jays winning, 6–5, in ten innings. This game featured Royals' pitcher Bud Black against Toronto left-hander Jimmy Key. The Royals scored in the third inning when Buddy Biancalana singled and scored on an unexpected home run by the light-hitting Willie Wilson to make the score 2–0. They increased their lead in the fourth inning when Darryl Motley singled and scored on a double by Jim Sundberg. The Jays, trailing the game 3–0, got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth inning when George Bell reached base on an error by George Brett and scored a run on Cliff Johnson's double to decrease the gap 3–1.
As in Game 1, rain interrupted the game with the Blue Jays at bat. In the sixth inning, with two outs and the Royals leading the game 3–1, Black hit Bell with a pitch, then Cliff Johnson singled to left field to put runners at first and second. Black threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance. Blue Jays manager Bobby Cox pulled Johnson and sent in pinch-runner Lou Thornton. This change was successful when Barfield singled up the middle to score both runners and tie the game at three runs apiece. Black retired Upshaw to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Royals manager Dick Howser went to closer Dan Quisenberry. With one out, Lloyd Moseby singled, stole second base, and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Jim Sundberg. When Moseby then scored on George Bell's sacrifice fly, the Blue Jays were only three outs from a 2–0 series lead. Kansas City, however, would not go quietly. Leading off the ninth inning, reserve outfielder Pat Sheridan pinch-hit for Motley and drilled a game-tying home run off Tom Henke. Neither team scored over the rest of the ninth, and the game went into extra innings.
In the top of the tenth, Willie Wilson hit a low line drive on which center fielder Lloyd Moseby seemed to make a shoe-string catch. Replays showed that he may have made the play, but both Kubek and Costas agreed that it was very difficult to decide, even after watching it numerous times in slow motion. The play was ruled no catch, and Wilson was credited with a single. Wilson stole second with two outs and scored on a single by Frank White. The Blue Jays then came to bat with a controversial one-run Kansas City lead.
The Blue Jays responded in their half of the tenth inning with a single by Tony Fernández. Fernandez moved to second on Damaso Garcia's fielder's choice and scored on Moseby's single, with Fernández running through third base coach Jimy Williams' stop sign. Quisenberry then tried to pick off Moseby. The pick-off was initially successful, but Steve Balboni missed the throw to first base and Moseby was safe at second. Al Oliver drove Moseby home with the winning run and the Blue Jays headed for Kansas City with a two games to none series lead. Each closer was involved in the decision as Henke was credited the win and Quisenberry assigned the loss.
Friday, October 11, 1985, at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
In past years, a 2–0 hole would mean a must-win game, but the Royals entered Game 3 not having to win to keep playing but only to keep the series close. Game 3 saw the Royals send the 1985 Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen to the mound against Doyle Alexander for the Blue Jays. And George Brett's one-man show put the Royals back into the series. Entering the game, Dick Howser had an all-time postseason managerial record of 0–11.
With two outs in the first, Brett unloaded a home run to give the Royals a 1–0 lead. The Blue Jays threatened in the third when Garcia doubled and reached third on Lonnie Smith's throwing error. Moseby grounded to Brett at third, who stunned everybody by gunning the ball home and getting Garcia to preserve the 1–0 Kansas City lead. In the fourth, Brett opened with a double, went to third on McRae's fly out to right, and scored on White's sacrifice fly to give the Royals a 2–0 lead.
But the Blue Jays fought back. In the fifth, Whitt singled and Barfield homered to tie the game at two. Garcia then doubled and Moseby singled off of Saberhagen's leg to put two on. Rance Mulliniks then drilled a three-run homer and the Blue Jays were suddenly ahead 5–2 and were 15 defensive outs from taking a 3–0 series lead. Bud Black succeeded Saberhagen and promptly loaded the bases on singles by Johnson and Bell and a walk to Whitt. With Barfield, who had already homered, at the plate, Howser sent for Steve Farr, who got the Royals out of the jam with a ground out.
The Royals fought back, getting a Jim Sundberg solo home run in the fifth to make it 5–3. In the sixth, Wilson singled and Brett hit his second homer of the night, tying the game at five. Dennis Lamp replaced Alexander and retired the Royals without any further damage. In the eighth, Brett singled, went to second on McRae's bunt, went to third on White's infield grounder, and scored on Balboni's bloop single—Balboni's first hit of the series—to give the Royals a 6–5 lead. Howser stuck with Farr who got through the ninth in order, with the last out coming on a foul pop by Lloyd Moseby, caught by Brett. With that, the Royals won, 6–5. Brett had arguably his best playoff performance ever, going 4 for 4 with a single, a double, two homers, three RBIs, four runs scored, and throwing out Garcia at the plate. The win narrowed the Blue Jays lead in the series to 2–1 entering Game 4 in Kansas City.
Saturday, October 12, 1985, at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
In Game 4, Toronto prevailed 3–1, making it the second game of the series in which the Blue Jays won after trailing going into their final at bat. This gave Toronto a 3–1 lead in the best-of-seven series, and put them one win away from becoming the first team outside the United States to represent their league in the World Series.
The fourth game was a rematch of the pitchers who had started Game 1, with Stieb taking on Leibrandt. Entering the bottom of the sixth, the Blue Jays had only two hits and the Royals only one. But a walk to Lonnie Smith and a single to Willie Wilson put runners at first and third with nobody out and the hot-hitting George Brett at the plate. Showing great respect for Brett's dominance in the series, Toronto manager Bobby Cox opted to intentionally walk him, loading the bases with nobody out. Initially, the play seemed to backfire, as Stieb walked Hal McRae to give the Royals a 1–0 lead. But Stieb got out of the inning by inducing a Sheridan pop out and a double play grounder from Frank White.
Entering the ninth, it appeared the bases-loaded walk to McRae was going to be the difference in the game. Leibrandt opened the ninth having surrendered only four hits. But a walk to Damaso Garcia and a double by Moseby tied the game. Quisenberry entered the game and gave up a single to George Bell and a double to Al Oliver that scored Moseby and Bell, giving the Jays a 3–1 lead. The Royals did get two on and two out in the ninth, but Henke got out of the jam and emerged as the winning pitcher for the second time in three games.
Sunday, October 13, 1985, at Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
A well-rested Danny Jackson pitched for Kansas City trying to stave off elimination in the ALCS. The Blue Jays sent in their own well-rested starter, Jimmy Key, to pitch with the goal of playing in the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
In the bottom of the first inning, Lonnie Smith doubled, stole third, and scored on a ground out by George Brett. In the second inning, Frank White reached first on a bunt, advanced to third on a Balboni single, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Darryl Motley.
Given an early 2–0 lead, Danny Jackson pitched well enough to earn the victory. The Blue Jays scattered eight hits but couldn't score a run. In the fourth inning, the Jays led off with back to back singles but were unable to score. In the fifth inning, the Blue Jays had runners on second and third with no outs and were again unable to do anything. In the sixth inning, they loaded the bases with two outs and again failed to score. Through the final three innings, no Toronto hitter was able to reach base. Jackson pitched a complete game shutout to cut the Blue Jays lead to three games to two, sending the series back to Toronto.
Tuesday, October 15, 1985, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario
A win for the Royals in the first ever LCS Game 6 would force the first ever Game 7 while a win for the Blue Jays would earn the franchise its first appearance in the World Series. Game 6 was the first series appearance for pitcher Mark Gubicza, who started for the Royals against Blue Jays pitcher Doyle Alexander, the Game 3 starter for Toronto.
In the top of the first inning, walks to Wilson and Brett allowed the Royals' Willie Wilson to score a run when Hal McRae singled. The Blue Jays tied the score in the bottom of the first inning when Garcia doubled, Moseby singled, and Garcia scored when Mulliniks grounded into a double play. In the top of the third inning, George Brett reached on a fielder's choice and scored on a double by Hal McRae. The Blue Jays responded when Fernandez doubled to left field and moved up to third base on a wild pitch by Gubicza. Fernandez then scored on Moseby's ground out to tie the score at 2–2.
In the fifth inning, Brett hit his third home run of the series—all of them against Blue Jays' pitcher Doyle Alexander—and the Royals led the game 3–2. In the sixth inning, Sundberg reached on a base on balls and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. Sundberg subsequently scored on a double by Buddy Biancalana. Biancalana advanced to third on a throwing error and scored on Lonnie Smith's double. The Blue Jays scored one run when Moseby singled, advanced to second base with a base on balls to Upshaw. Moseby scored on Cliff Johnson's single to make the score 5–3, but the Royals held on and tied the series at three wins apiece.
Wednesday, October 16, 1985, at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Ontario
Earlier in the day, Jack Clark put the St. Louis Cardinals into the World Series with a three-run home run off the Dodgers' reliever Tom Niedenfuer. The American League opponent would be the winner of this ALCS Game 7, promising an intriguing match-up for the World Championship: either an I-70 Series between Missouri's two major league teams, or the first appearance of a franchise from outside the United States. The Blue Jays sent Dave Stieb to the mound for the third time in the series, as he had won both his previous starts. The Royals countered with Bret Saberhagen, who was pitching for the first time since his injury in Game 3.
Up to this point, the Royals had scored the first run in every game except Game 1. This trend continued when Pat Sheridan reached on a bunt, advanced to second base on a fielder's choice by Balboni, and scored on a single by Jim Sundberg. In the bottom of the third inning, the Blue Jays hit Saberhagen with a batted ball for the second time in the series, with Mulliniks winding up at second base. After Saberhagen retired the side, Leibrandt came on to pitch for the Royals.
In the fourth inning, Sheridan homered, giving the Royals a 2–0 lead. In the bottom of the fifth, the Blue Jays reduced the lead to one when Garcia singled and scored on Upshaw's double. With the score 2–1, the Royals came to bat in the sixth inning against a tiring Stieb. Wilson hit a fly ball out, Brett walked and McRae was hit by a pitch. Sheridan subsequently hit into a fielder's choice that forced Brett out at third base, putting runners at first and second with two outs. Stieb then walked Balboni to face the presumably lesser hitting threat, Jim Sundberg. Sundberg drilled a high drive toward right field that hit the top of the fence and bounced high in the air, landing in play next to Jesse Barfield. All three runners, running on contact with two outs, scored easily and Sundberg stood at third base with an unlikely three-run triple, giving the Royals a 5–1 lead. Blue Jays relief pitcher Jim Acker entered for Stieb and gave up a base hit single to Frank White that allowed Sundberg to score increasing the lead to 6–1.
Leibrandt was still on the mound to start the ninth inning. With one out, he gave up a single to Barfield and a double to Fernandez. Quisenberry made his third appearance of the series, and a chance to send the Royals to the World Series. He allowed one of the inherited runners to score on a ground out and closed out the game, giving the Royals a 6–2 win in Game 7. They became the first team to overcome a 3–1 deficit in the LCS. Kansas City Royals' George Brett was 8 for 23 with two doubles, three home runs, five RBIs, seven walks, and a .348 batting average. Brett was named the series MVP, having played a role in 11 of Kansas City's 26 runs, scoring six and driving in five.
This would be the last postseason game played at Exhibition Stadium; the next postseason appearance for the Blue Jays would come in 1989, their first season in the then-new SkyDome.
1985 ALCS (4–3): Kansas City Royals over Toronto Blue Jays
The seventh game of the series marked Blue Jays' manager Bobby Cox's last with the team, as he left the organization to become the general manager of the Atlanta Braves.
Amazingly, the Royals went on to win the 1985 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals by again coming back from a 3–1 series deficit to take the title in seven games.
Ironically, both Danny Jackson and Charlie Leibrandt, heroes of Game 5 and 7 respectively, would become goats for their teams in future postseasons against the Blue Jays. In Game 6 of the 1992 World Series, Leibrandt (playing for the Atlanta Braves) gave up the game-winning double to Dave Winfield in the eleventh inning, becoming the losing pitcher in the series-clincher for the Blue Jays. Jackson would start once again against the Blue Jays in Game 3 of the 1993 World Series for the Philadelphia Phillies, getting shelled for three runs in the first inning and eventually taking the loss.
The two teams met again in the 2015 ALCS, with the Royals holding home-field advantage that time. In a reverse of the 1985 series, as of Game 5, the Royals held a 3-2 lead, winning games 1, 2, and 4. The similarities ended there, as the Royals won the decisive sixth game.