La What Now?

Since the 1960s, baseball teams and players have been publishing cookbooks. I collect them and try out some of the recipes that major leaguers have shared with their fans over the years. Photos, recipes and comments included.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Bookshelf - "Royals Recipes" (1969) by the Kansas City Royals

96 pp. paperback with cerlox ring binding

82 recipes from players, coaches and staff

Nineteen sixty-nine was an exciting year for baseball in Kansas City. Following the departure of Charlie O. Finley's gaudily garbed Athletics at the end of the 1967 season, the city was quickly awarded an expansion franchise and the Royals arrived just two seasons later.

Lou Ann Carmean conceived the idea of this cookbook when she was an editor at the Bonner Springs Chieftan. During the '69 season, she compiled recipes from the Royals organization and wrote a recipe-of-the-week column for the paper. At the end of the season, she pulled everything together and published the first edition of Royals Recipes. Some proceeds from sales went to the local Multiple Sclerosis society.

Over the years the book would be updated and expanded, with editions following in 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976 and 1980.

This is where it all began, and there are a lot of familiar names to be found in here. Ewing Kauffman, John Schuerholz, Jack McKeon, Paul Splittorff, Buck Martinez, and 1969 American League Rookie of the Year Lou Piniella.

This is the oldest cookbook in my collection (as of early 2017).

This is one of those "honest" cookbooks with lots of genuine recipes offered up by spouses, girlfriends and even moms of players. Most of the recipes' names have been personalized to give it that extra down-home midwestern touch. I've prepared the following ones so far:

Harder's Hardy German Chow Mein by Mel Harder, pitching coach

Piniella Pleasing Cornish Hens by Lou Piniella, outfielder

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake by George Toma, groundskeeper

Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake by George Toma - from "Royals Recipes" (1969)


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup water
3 eggs
1/2 cup sauerkraut, drained and chopped

Sift flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda together.  Set aside.

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla, water, and flour mixture.  Mix well.  Fold in sauerkraut.

Bake in greased and floured tube pan for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  While still warm, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Sauerkraut and chocolate. Two things you would not imagine using together in the kitchen -- not unless you are some kind of dangerous maniac.

But if you google the two words together, up pops a slew of mid-20th century recipes for "German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake". So this was a thing back in the day. It still makes the online rounds in the present, although more as a novelty.

There seem to be two general responses to the inevitable question: "why use sauerkraut"?

First, it functions as a stand-in for shredded coconut, an ingredient that may have been harder to find back in the day.

Second, it supposedly helps keep the cake moist inside, which doesn't seem necessary since I think the cake would have been moist enough without it.

Whatever the history of this recipe, longtime groundskeeper George Toma served it up for Royals Recipes.

While mixing everything together, I noticed that it was definitely the most "liquidy" cake batter I have ever made. The resulting cake was amazingly soft and moist, with just enough outer crust to handle the powdered sugar. Winner!

Harder's Hardy German Chow Mein by Sandy Harder - from "Royals Recipes" (1969)


3 cups lean pork, diced
4 tbsp. Crisco
2 cups water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 can cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste

Cook cabbage and celery in two cups of water 15 minutes only.  DO NOT GET LIMP.  Drain and save water.

Brown pork in Crisco.  Add the two cups of reserved flavored water.  Cook until tender -- about 50 minutes.  Add green pepper and onion last 15 minutes of cooking.  Stir in celery and cabbage, mixing thoroughly.

Add soup and serve over Chinese noodles or rice.

Pitcher Mel Harder spent his entire 20-year career hurling for the Cleveland Indians. He was an All Star four times and briefly managed the club in two separate stints in the 60s. He later coached for the Mets, Cubs, Reds and finally the Royals for one season -- 1969. His number 18 was retired by the Cleveland organization in 1990. 

I couldn't resist the curious name of this recipe and had to give it a try. "German chow mein" sounded like serious fusion food.

According to the entry in Royals Recipes, Harder's spouse Sandy invented this economical dish "once when water chestnuts and bean sprouts weren't available for making chow mein". Her call to the pen brought out some cabbage and celery, which may or may not have been part of the original recipe.

The end result was not as weird as I thought it would be, even though it featured two of the staples of 60s home cooking: Crisco and canned cream of chicken soup. The soup, which is added right at the end, is what forms the "sauce" of the dish. It slots in well, supporting the other main characters in this dish.

Sixties fusion! Sautéed pork and cabbage with Chinese noodles. An unusual grouping, but it all ended up going great together. 

Piniella Pleasing Cornish Hens by Anita Piniella - from "Royals Recipes" (1969)


2 Cornish hens
1 cup Pepperidge Farm stuffing
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 envelope brown gravy mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1 dash of ground cloves

Combine stuffing mix, 1/4 cup water, and melted butter.  Stuff hens.

Combine gravy mix, 1/2 cup water, apricots and cloves in small pan.  Bring to boil.  Pour over stuffed hens in baking dish.  Place in oven and roast at 350 degrees approximately 1 hour, basting several times while cooking.

When served individually, with a salad on the side, this delightful dish is sure to please. 

According to the write up in Royals Recipes, "female fans from nine to 90 all seem to agree that Lou Piniella, the Royals slugging outfielder, is grr-eat!" Look at that photo. Even as a youngster, Piniella had the kind of hot stare that could roast a bird.  

This one was prepared in the oven.

Piniella's spouse Anita added that he "especially enjoys the following dish, invented by Anita's sister.  It is easy to prepare, lovely to serve, and delicious to taste... a real 'Piniella pleaser.'"

Throwing back to 1969, I tried to be as faithful as possible to the original recipe. The only thing I couldn't find locally was Pepperidge Farm stuffing, so I swapped in a different local brand. The rest of the ingredients were easy to find.

And yes, these cute little birds were easy to prepare. They looked great covered in their sweet apricot glaze and were damn tasty. There is no polite way to dismantle an entire bird at the dinner table, just don't go at it with your hands I guess.