When the Kansas City Royals drafted Bret Saberhagen in 1982, he never would have imagined it would lead to a career fans would still be celebrating four decades later.

He had already established his backup plan, should the whole baseball thing not work out.

“If I wasn’t really close to jumping into the big leagues after four years, I was going to look to go back and possibly be a firefighter,” Saberhagen said.

Of course, Saberhagen not only reached the majors within that four-year window, he’d also won Cy Young and World Series most valuable player awards after leading the Royals to the 1985 title.

The Royals legend was one of five athletes, coaches and programs with Kansas City-area connections formally inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame during a Sunday afternoon ceremony at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Saberhagen joined former Sumner basketball standout Daryel Garrison, the Blue Springs girls swimming and diving teams of 1985-96 and 2004-09, longtime University of Central Missouri volleyball coach Peggy Martin and the UCM volleyball program in the class of 2023.

Saberhagen said traveling back to Missouri for the induction ceremony felt like a homecoming, as he considers his time in Kansas City the “best playing days” of his career.

Saberhagen spent eight of his 16 major-league seasons with the Royals, going 110-78. He also won a Gold Glove and Cy Young in 1989, and tossed a no-hitter in his final season with the team in 1991.

“We had a great group of guys that really all gelled together,” Saberhagen said. “Now you hear some stories where you have 25 teammates and 25 taxis. We had up towards 16 guys that would take golf trips in the wintertime together. We were a tight-knit group, which I think really helped us.” Saberhagen’s arrival certainly benefited the Royals, too. He originally planned to play shortstop during his pro career but threw a no-hitter in the Los Angeles city championship game as a high school senior. That prompted the Royals to make him a full-time pitcher — and he graduated to the majors at the age of 19.

The rest is history. “When I got the call-up, my goal was to play for four years,” Saberhagen said. “I thought the average major-league player that gets to the big leagues plays for about four years. I was like ‘If I could do that, that would be amazing.’ And so I put the uniform on one day longer than I ever expected to. Kind of a dream come true.” Apart from the World Series victory, Saberhagen listed his Gold Glove as a favorite accomplishment in a career filled with them. “Don’t get me wrong, Cy Youngs are pretty damn awesome,” Saberhagen said. “But the Gold Glove was something that I took a lot of pride in.”

The Kansas City Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 1985 World Series. Having conquered the baseball world, Royals slugger George Brett and pitcher Bret Saberhagen hugged after the final out of the Series.

Saberhagen retired from baseball in 2001 and currently resides in Colorado, where he and his wife Kandace — who has been diagnosed with breast cancer three times — have established a nonprofit organization called SabesWings that helps cancer patients pay off medical debts. “Baseball has given me that platform to make a difference and I’m using it to the best of my ability,” Saberhagen said. “I really appreciate everything that baseball has given to me, but there’s more to life than just the baseball player that was on the field. I feel like I have a newfound passion and something that really drives me and motivates me.” Saberhagen headlined a class of inductees that included former Poplar Bluff and North Carolina basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, former Mizzou linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and 15 other people or teams, including the ones with Kansas City-area ties. Garrison led Sumner to an undefeated season and state championship in 1969, then went on to become the all-time leading scorer at the school now known as Missouri State. The Blue Springs girls claimed a staggering 54 state championships during the 18 seasons recognized on Sunday, with 33 individuals, 14 relays and seven teams winning titles.

Front row, from left: Jan Stahle, ACE Award recipient Brent Dunn, Mike McClure, Cayla Timberlake (representing the Mizzou Golden Girls), Bret Saberhagen, Chairman Kris Conley, President’s Award recipients Bill & Joe Turner, Emily Scott Githens, Bob Kinloch, Dr. Peggy Martin, Caitlin Peterson (representing UCM Volleyball), and Mike Machholz (representing Missouri Valley College Wrestling 1996-2005). Back row: President Emeritus Jerald Andrews, Don Knapp, Tom Rackers, Greg Garton, Sean Weatherspoon, Tyler Hansbrough, Daryel Garrison, Bill Shelley (representing Blue Springs Swimming Eras of 195-1996 & 2004-2009), Doug Middleton, Mike Spruill of KOLR 10 TV, and CEO & Executive Director Byron Shive. Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Martin is the winningest volleyball coach in NCAA history and built the Jennies into one of the top Division II programs in the nation. They won 1,064 times in her 33 years at the helm, including a run to the 1987 national title game. “It’s a special group and I’m blessed to be a part of that,” Saberhagen said. “We all have lives. We all have different things going on. We all live in different parts of the country. We all share that same passion for sports and we have achieved some pretty cool things over the years.”