Like so many people in Eastern Jackson County, I lost a good friend Wednesday.

Like so many people in Eastern Jackson County, I lost a good friend Wednesday.

Paul Splittorff, who looked more like a college professor than the winningest pitcher in the history of the Kansas City Royals, passed away Wednesday morning after a long battle with oral cancer and melanoma.

I was working with a small television station in St. Joseph, Mo., when I befriended Splittorff.

I had come down from St. Joseph and filmed an interview with Splittorff and Royals catcher John Wathan.

I returned a few weeks later and both Splittorff and Wathan greeted me by my first name. That was pretty heady stuff for a guy a year out of college, who had been a Royals fan since the team arrived in 1969.

While I will always remember Splittorff for his bulldog mentality on the mound, the thing I will most remember is his grace.

Like my buddy, Tim Crone, said, Paul Splittorff was a big deal.

But he never acted like a big deal.

He was a guest at my wedding. In fact, he arrived at the party late because he was pitching that night at Royals Stadium.

When he arrived with Wathan, Dan Quisenberry and bullpen coach Jim Schaefer, the attention turned from the bride and groom to the VIP guests.

He chatted baseball, signed autographs and told my wife, Stacy, she was the prettiest bride he’d ever seen.

Splitt, thanks for those brownie points.

He had a corner stall in the Royals locker room, and he, Quisenberry, Renie Martin and Amos Otis would trade barbs, insults, jokes and stories that kept everyone in attendance entertained for hours.

He never turned down an interview request and always seemed to go out of his way to say hello when he saw me on the field or in the locker room.

He won 166 games with the Royals, the most by any pitcher in the history of the organization. He was 2-0 in postseason action with a 2.70 ERA, winning two starts against the New York Yankees.

The first time I made a road trip with the team, Splittorff and Quisenberry were my unofficial hosts. They took me to lunch, let me ride to the game in their taxi or on the subway and made sure I knew my way around the stadium.

They’re both gone, but neither one will ever be forgotten.