Happy Birthday Jerry Terrell, Man Of God

by Kevin Burton

   I remember former Kansas City Royals infielder Jerry Terrell for a pregame interview more than anything he did on the field.  

   Next Tuesday, July 13 is Terrell’s 75th birthday.  This is a shoutout to this little-known player for being true to his Christian faith and keeping everything in perspective.

   Terrell played eight seasons with Minnesota and Kansas City, mostly coming off the bench.  He is a .253 career hitter known more for speed than power. He had 50 career stolen bases but only four home runs. 

   It was his May departure from the 1980 Royals that is memorable to me.

    It wasn’t hard to see that the 80 Royals were something special. The team would make the World Series, losing to Philadelphia four games to two.   

    The Royals wanted to send Terrell to triple-A Omaha.  This would have been an unusual demotion for a player who had been in the big leagues since 1973.   

   My recollection is that Terrell didn’t have options, meaning the team would have to ask his permission to send him to the minors.

  Terrell gave that permission, playing in Omaha until September.

   The day he was sent down Terrell appeared on the Royals radio pregame show. Former Royals announcer, the late Fred White did the interview.

   White kept returning to the “It’s gotta be tough” line of questioning. Terrell did say at one point that the toughest part was that he saw the 80 Royals as a team that could win it all. 

   But mostly Terrell talked about serving God, wherever God sent him.  He talked about Omaha being a good place to work and said “People have souls in Omaha.” He ended the interview by saying “I love you Fred.”

   “Terrell, true to his character, saw the demotion as an opportunity. He initially saw the move to Omaha as a ‘little vacation for me and my family,’ wrote Scot Johnson on the website of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

   “At Omaha, Terrell got the chance to play every day and thrived, saying that he felt ‘like a kid again.’ His return to the Royals came after the September deadline, so he was not eligible for postseason play,” Johnson wrote.

   “Still, he was considered a valuable enough member of the team that he was in the dugout in uniform for every postseason game the Royals participated in, all the way through the 1980 World Series.”

   “Despite the fact that Terrell spent much of the 1980 season in the minor leagues, he was presented with the 1980 Danny Thompson Award, an award given annually for “exemplary Christian spirit” in baseball,” Johnson wrote.

   Terrell twice pitched for the Royals. He pitched one scoreless inning each time. He was released at the end of spring training in 1981, ending his playing career.

   Terrell is also known as the only major league player to vote no on a player’s strike in 1980 making the vote 967-1, according to

www.80sbaseball.com.

   “Terrell, who objected on religious grounds, was the Royals player representative and addressed his teammates before the vote. He told them he would vote against a strike and he told them why. He also offered to step aside as player rep. His teammates turned him down,” the website reported.

  “I’m just 1-39th of a team’s opinion and the majority feels the other way,” Terrell said. “It is not hard to cast the vote. The players know my views and there is mutual respect.”

    A strike was averted in 1980, but players would walk out in 1981 cancelling about a third of the season.  By that time Terrell was finished as a player. 

   After his playing days, Terrell spent years as a scout and minor league manager for various organizations, Johnson wrote “He was one of the advance scouts credited with bringing information to the Royals prior to their 1985 World Series win.”

   “Never well known for his contributions on the field, Terrell remains one of the most respected men in the game,” Johnson wrote.

   “In 1981 Peter Gammons, in a piece on the Hall of Fame credentials of Ferguson Jenkins, wrote that morality was not a prerequisite for induction into Cooperstown. If it were, Gammons wrote, “Babe Ruth (and many others) would have to be dropped to make room for Jerry Terrell.”

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