Hank Aaron spent all but two of his 23-year career playing in the National League, so he didn’t spend much time in Kansas City, but he indirectly had a huge impact on the Royals franchise.
Aaron played in the 1960 All-Star Game at Municipal Stadium for the Milwaukee Braves. In June 1972, the Atlanta Braves stopped at Municipal Stadium to play the Royals in an exhibition game (Aaron went 1-for-1 with a walk).
When Kauffman Stadium opened the following year (as Royals Stadium), Aaron was in the All-Star Game, and he played nine games with the Brewers in KC in 1975-76.
But Aaron, who died last Friday at the age of 86, gave a boost to the career of a man who had a profound influence on the Royals. It began with a phone call in the 1980s when Aaron was a Braves executive and Ned Yost’s playing career was winding down.
In an interview with the Braves radio network, Yost recalled how shortly after being released by the Expos, he wasn’t sure what the future held.
When Yost arrived home one day, his wife said Hank Aaron had called.
“I’m like, OK, who’s messing with me, right? Because I didn’t know Hank from Adam,” Yost said. “And I thought one of my friends was messing with me. So, next day, the phone rang again. And that was Hank. And Hank explained to me that they had some real strong pitching prospects in Double-A and they were looking for a veteran, experienced catcher to go be kind of a player-coach there and wanted to know if I’d be interested.”
Over the next two seasons, Yost worked with the likes of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, David Justice, Ron Gant and Mark Lemke, who all would be part of the Braves’ dynasty of the 1990s.
“So of course, I absolutely fell in love with it, enjoyed every second of it,” Yost said. “But I started to realize that I enjoy the coaching more than the playing. And I did it for two years, I bounced back and forth from Double-A to Triple-A. And, you know, after two years, I talked to Hank and I said, ‘Look, I really appreciate this opportunity. But I think I’m ready to just be a full time coach.’”
Aaron agreed and gave Yost a job as manager of the Braves’ Class A team in Sumter, South Carolina. After three seasons, Yost joined the Braves as a bullpen coach in 1991, then was the third-base coach.
Later, Yost got a job as the Brewers manager and then managed the Royals from 2010-19, winning a World Series and two American League pennants.
“It was all because Hank Aaron gave me a phone call,” Yost said. “So Hank started my career as a coach and I think that was the best part of my career (as a coach/manager). ... I can owe 100% of my career to Hank Aaron.”