Whether or not you’re a baseball fan, or even a Royals fan, doesn’t matter. If you’re a fan of the Kansas City sports community, the name Paul Splittorff means something.
By now, most everyone has heard the sad news that the Splittorff family announced Monday afternoon. The winningest pitcher in Royals history, and a familiar face in Kansas City’s sporting landscape, has entered an area hospital for treatment of oral cancer and melanoma.
“Splitt” had been battling speech problems since 2009.
“I love working with him and I’m crushed,” Voice of the Chiefs Mitch Holthus said on this week’s Chiefs LIVE! “It shows the mortality in all of us and that, eventually, the shot clock is going to go off for everyone.”
Holthus and Splittorff routinely found themselves in the same working circles over the last decade. Both work for the Big 12 Conference as basketball commentators – Splittorff as an analyst and Holthus as a play-by-play voice. The last time that the two paired together on-air was for a Big 12 telecast two years ago.
Holthus learned of Splittorff’s condition Monday afternoon at the 2011 Joe McGuff ALS Golf Classic. Originally driven by Royals great George Brett, the ALC Associations golf tournament is an annual fundraiser attended by Kansas City community leaders and sports celebrities. Most of the participants had heard the news by the time they reach the turn.
Speaking with Brett upon hearing the news of Splitt’s condition reminded Holthus of the tight bond that many former teammates share, regardless of sport.
“Those guys that played in that era for the Royals are much like the Bobby Bell, Lenny Dawson, Otis Taylor and Willie Lanier types of players for those Chiefs teams,” said Holthus. “They were three-dimensional in their lives and were not only great players, but also close knit.
“The Royals family and the Kansas City sports family are crushed by this. Splitt was a great, great, GREAT guy, great player and a great broadcaster.”
The 2011 season was Splittorff’s 24th as an analyst since retiring from professional baseball. He was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 1987 and owns records for the most wins (166), starts (392) and innings pitched (2,554.2) in Royals history.
Through Splittorff spent the majority of his time across the parking lot at the Truman Sports Complex, his impact on Kansas City’s sports scene has also been felt at Arrowhead Stadium.
“For him to come out of Morningside College, an NAIA school, and play 15 years in the big leagues – he was the kind of guy that didn’t have the greatest stuff, but would always give you a quality start,” Holthus said. “He would fight like crazy. He was a great, great competitor and he carried that over into the broadcast booth.
“What Scott Pioli is doing with the Chiefs, Paul Splittorff could play for the Chiefs. He fits what the Chiefs are trying to do from a standpoint of the total person and being a good player.”
The Chiefs send their best wishes to the entire Splittorff family.