Family and friends are mourning Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer Paul Splittorff, who died early Wednesday morning at his Blue Springs home.

Family and friends are mourning Kansas City Royals Hall of Famer Paul Splittorff, who died early Wednesday morning at his Blue Springs home.

The longtime Blue Springs resident, who still holds the team record for most victories, lost his long battle with oral cancer and melanoma.

Splittorff, 64, was a scholarly looking left-hander who won 166 games during a career that lasted from 1970 to 1984. He then went on to enjoy a highly successful career in the broadcast booth, with the Royals and in college basketball.

While many Royals fans will recall the Hall of Famer’s exploits on the baseball field, he also made a lasting impact on people in his community.

“I lost one of my best friends in the world,” said Tim Crone, a former softball coach, football coach and activities director at Blue Springs High School. “We knew Paul was in bad shape the last few weeks and (wife) Helen and I visited him and (wife) Lynn at KU Medical Center a few weeks ago. You just don’t know how to react when something like this happens.

“We all knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

When Splittorff’s daughter Jennifer played softball for Crone, Splittorff took care of the infield.

“How about that?” Crone said. “Paul Splittorff was my groundskeeper. Not bad, huh? He was just the best. You know, I’ve been around a lot of pro athletes who thought they were a big deal when they really weren’t.

“Paul was a big deal – but he never acted like a big deal. He would come to our football games and sit with (my) mom and dad. When dad died a while back, Splitt cooked a pork roast and brought it over to mom – and he made sure that she knew that he cooked it.

“For years – and I mean years – he was a part of the Blue Springs family. Jenny played softball for me, (his son) Jamie played basketball for Gil (Hanlin), and Paul and Lynn would attend every game.

“Paul was a big deal in the Booster Club and Lynn was the secretary/treasurer. They were good people, good friends. They meant a lot to me and my family and this high school.”

For years, every time Crone spotted Splittorff, he would raise his left arm – in much the same manner a manager will when he called a left-hander out of the bullpen – and say, “Call for Lefty!”

“Paul got a kick out of that,” Crone said. “Oh, the stories I could tell you over the years. He was one of a kind. Gosh, I’m going to miss him. He was a Kansas City icon, and he was also one of those friends who would do anything for you.”

When Crone retired from his activities director position, Splittorff arranged for him and his wife to spend a weekend with the Royals in New York.

“I had full access to Yankee Stadium, and it was all because of Splitt,” Crone said. “That was one of the highlights of my life.”

Brian McRae, who played football at Blue Springs High School and later spent time in the broadcasting booth with Splittorff, has similar memories.

“Splitt was so giving,” said McRae, who worked in the Royals broadcasting booth when WHB held the broadcasting rights. “It’s funny, today’s generation probably thinks more of Splitt as an announcer than a player. I know when he played with my dad (Hal), he was the ultimate professional, a real competitor. And he was the ultimate professional as a broadcaster.

“I learned more from Splitt than anyone else. He worked at his craft. He wasn’t some ex-jock who went to the booth.

“He did high school games, and UMKC basketball games and then he got the job with the Royals and was in the booth almost 25 years. We all knew something wasn’t right two years ago when he had that Opening Day broadcast and his voice gave out on him.

“Then you heard the rumors that he’d really gotten sick lately and the news of his passing is just so hard to take. He was pure class – on and off the field.”

Splittorff was a frequent customer of Tim’s Pizza in Independence.

“He and Lynn would come in, order the house special with no green peppers and sit in the second booth over there,” owner Tim Pace said Wednesday. “He was so quiet, and such a gentleman. You’d have never known he played for the Royals, let alone that he was the team’s all-time winningest pitcher.

“Other customers would come in, and they wouldn’t even notice him. And that’s the way Paul liked it. He was just so unassuming, such a great guy. Today’s news is going to hit a lot of people hard.”

Including Blue Springs South boys basketball coach Jimmy Cain, whose best friend growing up was Jamie Splittorff.

“We’d go to Royals games, and Paul would pitch, and he’d come back home after the game and be like any dad coming home after work,” Cain said. “He was just the best. I remember watching him work on the softball and baseball fields at the high school, and he’d be the only one out there working.

“Jamie was probably my best friend since we played tee-ball together, so I was around the Splittorff family a lot. And you’d never find a better family or mom and dad than Lynn and Paul.

“I know a lot of people appreciated Paul while he was alive. And now that he’s gone, I think we will appreciate him ever more. He was a great athlete and broadcaster, and an even better guy.”