RHP ∙ 1977—78
Jim Colborn was not a Royal for long, but he made a significant impact in his one full season with the club. After eight seasons in the bigs, highlighted by an All-Star season in 1973, Colborn and catcher Darrell Porter were sent from Milwaukee to KC in the winter of ’76-’77 in exchange for Jamie Quirk, Jim Wohlford, and Bob McClure. The Brewers were disappointed with both Colborn and Porter’s recent play, but the Royals perhaps saw that Colborn had been much better than his losing record in ’76 indicated, and that the Brewers were selling low on Porter after a down year. The trade turned into a steal for KC GM Joe Burke. Porter became a star for the Royals for four years and Colborn anchored the ’77 rotation with Dennis Leonard and Paul Splittorff.
Colborn’s stint with KC got off to a good start with six shutout innings in his first game of the year. He cruised to a 2.61 ERA through his first seven starts before putting together his signature game on May 14 at Royals Stadium when he no-hit the Texas Rangers while facing just 28 batters. Two Rangers reached base: Jim Sundberg walked but was doubled off, and Toby Harrah was hit by a pitch (one of Colborn’s MLB-leading 13 hit batters in ’77). Colborn recorded six strikeouts, and his game score of 92 is tied for fourth best in Royals history (see table below). He was modest after the game, saying, “Something like this takes a lot of luck—luck and good fielding.”[i] Al Cowens in centerfield and Tom Poquette in right made several spectacular catches in the big Royals Stadium gaps, but Colborn of course deserved plenty of the credit too.Porter, who caught Colborn more than anyone else, said after the game, “He had a good fastball, a strong fastball, best he’s had for awhile.”[ii]
Colborn got shelled next time out, but then settled back into a nice rhythm for the rest of the year, ending up with a tidy 3.62 ERA (88 ERA-) in 239 innings. He is an under-appreciated member of that tremendous 1977 team that was the best regular season club KC has ever seen. So it’s a little curious that Colborn never saw the mound in the five game ALCS. Manager Whitey Herzog no doubt felt more comfortable starting lefties against the lefty-heavy Yankees line-up, but Colborn never even got the call in relief. Colborn had not faced the Yankees during the season either, so something about the match-up may have really scared Herzog.
The Sporting News reported that KC attempted to sign Colborn to a three-year contract to hold on to him through ’80, but a deal was never reached, meaning he would become a free agent after ’78. He ended up being demoted to the bullpen and spot starts at the beginning of ’78, and after three starts and five relief appearances that did not go great, Colborn was traded to the Mariners for Steve Braun. Colborn retired after the ’78 season, but has stayed in the game in various capacities. He has been with the Texas Rangers since 2008 and currently holds the title of Senior Advisor, Pacific Rim Operations.
|1||Dick Drago||1972-05-24||MIN||L 0-1||CG 12 ,L||12.0||6||1||1||1||13||0||98|
|2||Kevin Appier||1995-09-15||CAL||W 5-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||3||0||0||1||13||0||93|
|3||Roger Nelson||1972-08-23||BOS||W 3-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||1||0||0||1||9||0||93|
|4||Bret Saberhagen||1987-05-09||CLE||W 4-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||2||0||0||0||9||0||92|
|5||Jim Colborn||1977-05-14||TEX||W 6-0||SHO9 ,W||9.0||0||0||0||1||6||0||92|
[i] Bordman, Sid. “Glove Gems Help Colborn Pitch Royal Masterpiece.”The Sporting News (May 28, 1977): p. 30.