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'He was a warrior'

For Gubicza, 'the most special night of my life'

KANSAS CITY -- Mark Gubicza was given a choice: Play the Aerosmith guitar or throw out the first pitch.

Gubicza did what he always did best. He pitched.

That was why he was back at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night -- to become the 22nd member of the Royals Hall of Fame.

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"This is," he told the crowd, "the most special night of my life."

It was a while in coming -- 10 years after Gubicza threw his last competitive pitch for the Royals in 1996. It took a decade even though he still ranks third in Royals victories (132), second in strikeouts (1,366) and third in shutouts (16).

In 1988, he had a 20-8 record and a 2.70 ERA. His career included a 14-strikeout game, a one-hitter and two two-hitters.

But he waited. OK, he lost three more games than he won. He battled through injuries and subpar years later on. His buddies, Bret Saberhagen and Jeff Montgomery, were inducted.

"It shouldn't be just numbers, it should go by what you meant to the team," Gubicza said after his induction.

Gubicza meant plenty. He was a young gun with Saberhagen and Danny Jackson in the glorious mid-1980s. He was an intense, fierce competitor and a team leader. He wielded a hard slider and a heavy sinker that buckled batters.

"If I could sum him up in one sentence," Montgomery told the crowd, "he was a warrior."

As the heat wave eased in K.C., Gubicza was surrounded by Royals alumni, the current team, Royal Lancers boosters and club officials including owner David Glass, president Dan Glass and board member Herk Robinson.

Royals manager Buddy Bell recalled facing Gubicza.

"I don't ever remember anything good happening when I faced him. When you came in here and you had to face the kind of staff that they had, you didn't have a lot of good memories anyway, especially when you've got to deal with [Dan] Quisenberry at the end," Bell said.

"I just remember his toughness more than anything. Of course he was a big guy that just kept coming after you, coming after you. With that kind of stuff it's easy to do. He just wouldn't give into you."

Gubicza, known as "Goobie," didn't quite how he'd react on his big night.

"I always hoped the fans were not saying 'Boooo,' " he said, "I hoped they were saying 'Gooooob!' "

But when he entered the field atop a seat in a Dodge Viper, he got a tremendous reception. Then he knew.

"Oh, oh," he thought. "It's really going to be something."

After the speeches and video clips and the induction were over, Royals team captain Mike Sweeney presented Gubiciza with a framed guitar autographed by the members of his favorite group, Aerosmith.

That led master of ceremonies Denny Matthews to give Goobie his choice of weapons: guitar or baseball.

He took the baseball and fired a strike to his son, Chad. After a decade, Gubicza was a winner again.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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