They released Frank (White) and me right after the 1990 season. They actually released Frank over the phone. Frank called me, and I knew right then they were gonna call me. The next day, I get a call from Herk Robinson. He wants to come out to my house. There was so much flak about just calling Frank and releasing him on the phone that he called me to come to my house. I said, No, just tell me on the phone like you told Frank. He said no, he wanted to come to the house. I said, All you’re going to do is come to my house and tell me I’m released. But he wanted to make himself look better and the Royals look better because of what happened with Frank. I think I had four more years on my contract that were the team’s option. They could renew the contract for four years at a salary that already was negotiated. I thought they would just hit the option. I hit .290 as a utility guy. After the season, I just thought they would pick up the option. But when Frank was released, I knew what was coming.
Herk comes all the way over to my house and tells me that I’m released. It was a short conversation. I didn’t really know Herk all that well. I didn’t know anybody in the front office all that well except John Schuerholz. I really respected him. He was there when I signed my first contract. I have had this relationship with him through all my minor league and major league career. He had just left to go to the Atlanta Braves. Herk always had been around, but I didn’t really know him. There wasn’t really any conversation after he told me. I mean, why? What am I going to do, beg for them to keep me? I’m not begging, I’m betting. I’m betting that I’m going to get on with somebody else. I did ask him why, and he said that the team didn’t think I had five more years in me to play. Well, he was right about that. I only played four more years (laughter). I think they just didn’t want to give me the money. I think the option year went up to like $1.5 million or something. Then, he told me they wanted a leader. It was really weird the way he put it. They wanted a different kind of leader … basically, I was too controversial. There are some things that people in the organization just won’t let go of. You know that old saying, Sometimes you are a prospect, sometimes you are a suspect? I felt the Kansas City Royals looked at me a completely different way after 1983 and 1984. I don’t think Mr. K looked at me any different. I wasn’t treated like a prospect. I was getting treated like a suspect. You know, after 1984, I never wore sunglasses when I wasn’t in the outfield. I always thought that people were looking at me a little different, and I didn’t want any of them to think I was hiding anything. When I would talk with John Schuerholz or somebody else with the team, I would look right at them so they could see my eyes and know I wasn’t on anything.
I never really had a conversation with Mr. K. I wasn’t the kind of guy who would go talk to him. He was a great man, and I’m thankful for the way he treated me after 1984. Afer he allowed me to stay with the team and signed me to a new contract, I didn’t ever want to leave him. If the boss said he didn’t want you, I wasn’t going to fight it. I wasn’t mad at Mr. K. I was mad at the whole organization, but never at Mr. K – and he might have been the one who made the final decision. I don’t think so, but he might have. After what he did for me, I would never be mad at him What I’m disappointed about is that even now, people think I wanted to leave the Royals. Now if a guy leaves a team, he has a press conference and all that. I still run into people who come up to me and say, Why did you choose to go to Oakland? I didn’t choose to go to Oakland. The Royals released me. So, after Herk tells me that they released me, I sort of say, OK, you can go now. I know you only came here to make you look good. I don’t care how you look. I know Herk told Frank that the decision was made by Schuerholz before he left for Atlanta. I don’t believe that. I feel like if Schuerholz had done that he would have called us himself. I just think it was Herk’s first job as a general manager to release us, and it was probably a real tough thing for him He becomes GM and the first thing he has to do is get rid of me and Frank, as his first priority? That’s just my version of how it happened.
Willie James: MY WALKING PAPERS Photo Gallery
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