Top 100 Teams
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
The city of Waterloo, located in the northeastern quadrant of Iowa, placed their first pro team in the 1904 Class D Iowa State League. Here, a club with the unusual name “Microbes” finished second with a record of 64-36. Over the next five years, as the league changed its name to the Central Association, the club won a pair of flags in 1907 and 1908.
In 1910, the team moved up a couple of notches to the Class B Three-I League. In their two-year stay, a team called the Boosters finished well out of the money before dropping out of the loop following the 1911 season. After a one-year hiatus, Waterloo rejoined the Central Association. During a five-year stint (1913-17) the club won a sole pennant in 1914. The league closed up shop in August, 1917, not to be revived for 30 years.
Five years later, in 1922, a Waterloo club known as the Hawks became a charter member of the Class D Mississippi Valley League. In 1924, the team captured its first flag, winning with a 84-40, .678 record. Three years later, the club won a league-best 75 games, but finished second behind Dubuque, .617 to .615, although the Dubs had played in 15 fewer games because they used an ineligible player. During their last five years in the league (1928-32) the Hawks won one more flag in 1928. Following a seventh place finish in 1932, the team dropped out of the circuit. The only other pro ball witnessed by the city before World War II came four years later when Waterloo hosted a Class A Western League team for two years (1936-37).
After the war, following a gap of 35 years, Waterloo placed another team in the Three-I League, still a Class B operation. In 1947, as a farm team of the White Sox, the fourth place Hawks won the playoffs to claim the championship. In the ensuing eight years, the team finished in the playoffs five times but failed to win another prize. After a second place showing in 1956, the team dropped out of the league.
After a year off, the Waterloo Hawks joined the circuit that would remain their home for the next 35 years--the Midwest League. Newly affiliated with the Red Sox, the club won the second half title in 1958 before edging Michigan City in the playoffs, three games to two. More success followed quickly as the club won pennants in 1959 and 1960 as well. In 1969, the team changed affiliations to become the farm team of the expansion Kansas City Royals, changing their nickname to match their mentors the following year. Five years later, the relationship blossomed.
The 1975 Waterloo Royals started the season red-hot as they won 41 of their first 50 games. Included in the stretch was a 13-game winning streak, and after one loss, a 14-game skein. The team won the first half with an impressive 49-13, .790 record, 18-½ games ahead of Dubuque. In the second half, the club was harder pressed but still prevailed by a slim half-game over the Wisconsin Rapids. In the playoffs, the Royals bested Quad Cities, two games to none to capture the pennant.
The Royals were led by 34-year-old John Sullivan who caught for the Tigers, Mets and Phillies from 1963-68. His first major league hit, for Detroit in 1965, was a home run. He began managing in 1973 with Kansas City’s Kingsport team in the Appalachian League and piloted Royals’ farm clubs for six seasons, winning five championships. Kingsport finished first with a 53-17 record. Sullivan moved up to Waterloo in 1974, his only non-title season although his club had a respectable 68-56 record. After the championship year of 1975, his Waterloo Royals repeated in 1976, although not with such a gaudy record. Kansas City promoted Sullivan to AAA Omaha in 1977 and they won the American Association Eastern Division title before losing the playoff to Denver. In 1978 he led Omaha to the league championship. Sullivan was a major league coach for the next 15 seasons with Kansas City (1979), Atlanta (1980-81) and Toronto (1982-93).
In the modest hitting lineup (.247), only two regulars cracked the .300 barrier, first baseman Charlie Beamon, Jr. (.305) and outfielder Darrell Parker (.304). Second baseman Joe Gates (.270) also contributed, scoring a league-high 115 runs and stealing 55 bases. Beamon played for the Mariners in 1978-79 and the Blue Jays in 1981, compiling a .196 average. His father, Charlie Beamon, Sr., pitched for Baltimore in 1955-56-57 with a 3-3, 3.91 record. Gates served the White Sox for 24 games in 1978-79, batting .175.
Beating Gates in the stolen base race was probably the best known ’75 Waterloo player, outfielder Willie Wilson. After leading the league in thefts (76), Wilson went on to a 19-year major league career for the Royals, A’s and White Sox. Highlights included a 230-hit season in 1980 and a batting title (.332) two years later. The fleet Wilson retired following the 1994 season with 2,207 hits and 668 stolen bases. He also led the American League in triples five times.
The Waterloo Royals had the best pitching staff in the league, finishing with a league-low 2.61 team ERA. The biggest contributor to the total was Gary Williams (12-2, 2.17) who finished with the best percentage (.857).
Also pitching in 20 games, all but one in relief, was a 22-year-old rookie with a unique style. Dan Quisenberry was a sidearm-throwing right-hander who became a submarine pitcher. In 1975, he had pitched LaVerne College to third place in the NAIA World Series with a 19-7 record, at one point winning 13 games in a row. In the regionals, Quiz pitched and won a complete double-header. In a 1984 interview with Tracy Ringolsby, he credited LaVerne coach Ben Hines with turning him into a submarine hurler.
“He used me so much (194 innings) I couldn’t get my arm above my waist. It was the best thing. I think it is my natural delivery, ” said Quisenberry.
His style didn’t impress scouts despite his gaudy record and he was not selected in the free agent draft. A couple of nights later, Quiz was having dinner at Hines’ home and his coach decided to try selling some scout on giving Dan a chance. After being turned down twice, on his third try he reached Kansas City’s Rosey Gilhousen who said he’d been instructed to find a college pitcher for Waterloo, but Quisenberry had better hurry over because he was getting ready for bed. Within an hour, Quiz was at Gilhousen’s house, signed a contract and received a $500 bonus. The rest is history. Quisenberry reached the majors in 1979 and during his 12-year big league career racked up 244 saves with a 56-46, 2.76 record. He led the American League in saves four consecutive years (1982-85), with a high of 45 in 1983 for what was then the major league record. He led the league in games pitched on three separate occasions. Quisenberry also was named to three All-Star teams. Tragically, he died at the age of 45 in 1998, the victim of a brain tumor.
In addition, Luis Silverio (.115) played 8 games for Kansas City in 1978 and batted .545 (6-for-11). Roy Branch (6-1) pitched two games for Seattle (0-1, 7.94) in 1979. Mark Souza (3-1) pitched for Oakland in 1980 (0-0, 7.71 in 5 games). Finally, German Barranca (.226) played 67 games, batting .290 in parts of four seasons (1979-82) for Kansas City and Cincinnati.
The 1975 champions defended their title the next year with a 78-52 club. Two more championship teams followed in 1980 and 1986 before the team left the league after the 1993 campaign. To this date, pro ball has yet to return to the Iowa city.
The Waterloo Royals, utilizing pitching and speed, set a league record that will be difficult to top. The team’s .727 winning percentage set a benchmark of excellence for the Midwest League that has not been approached. Not only that, Waterloo’s winning percentage is the best the minor leagues have seen in the past 40 years.
|1975 Midwest League Standings|
|1975 Waterloo Royals batting statistics|
|Charlie Beamon, Jr.||1B,OF||109||370||57||113||63||16||4||1||44||45||14||.305|
|Karel De Leeuw||DH,1B||74||171||33||48||42||4||2||11||33||48||1||.281|
|1975 Waterloo Royals pitching statistics|