SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been 33 years since Dane Iorg made his star turn in the World Series — since he stepped up and delivered a game-winning, ninth-inning, broken-bat single against his good friend and former teammates — and yet every day the baseball cards still arrive in his mailbox, along with the coupons and bills. They’re from fans and collectors who request an autograph, which he dutifully signs and returns.
Aside from those reminders, Iorg rarely thinks about the game even though he played baseball about half his life. He has watched very little of the ongoing World Series. For that matter he rarely watches any sports on TV anymore. His dad will ask him, ‘Did you see the game last night?’ What game?
Iorg, who is 68, is almost apologetic about his lack of interest in his past. “I don’t think much about baseball,” he says. “I’m just not as interested as I used to be, I guess. I don’t watch sports much anymore. I don’t know, I’m not sure what my problem is.”
You could visit his home in Highland and not even know that the owner of the house played 10 years in the major leagues and had a starring role in not one but two World Series. In his office there are a couple of photos of two World Series championship teams — the Cardinals in 1982 and the Royals in 1985 — but you’d have to study the photos closely to realize he’s actually pictured — that’s him wearing No. 9. In the basement there’s a photo of Iorg with his brother Garth in their major league uniforms. But that’s it.
Well, except for this: There is one more obvious memento. His wife framed an 8-by-11 photo of the most famous at-bat of his career and one of the great moments in World Series history. It hangs on a basement wall.
It was the moment every athlete dreams of, and Iorg, an unfailingly polite and affable man, will indulge those who ask him to recount the story just as he indulges the fans who send him baseball cards. It was Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, the Royals down three games to two, trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth, one out, bases loaded. The Royals sent a pinch hitter to the plate — Iorg, a 35-year-old part-time outfielder, first baseman and designated hitter who was having one of his worst seasons as a pro. He had had only one at-bat in the Series and this second trip to the plate would be his last in the Series.
Notwithstanding all that, Iorg did not flinch; he relished the challenge. “I could always hit in pressure situations,” he says. “I enjoyed that. I liked being up there with the game on the line.” A career .276 hitter, Iorg batted .522 in postseason play during his career. In the 1982 World Series he batted .529, with nine hits in 17 at-bats, including four doubles and one triple as the Cardinals beat the Brewers four games to three.
Iorg came to the plate with a hometown crowd roaring at his back and a national TV audience looking on. “I’d done it so many times,” he recalls. “I hadn’t done it in that exact situation (with the World Series on the line), but I had experienced it and I knew what it took.”
Iorg was familiar with his opponents. He had played for the Cardinals for eight years until they sold him to the Royals the previous season. Todd Worrell, the pitcher he now faced, was one of his best friends in the league.
Iorg saw third-base coach Hal Lanier hold up two fingers, signaling to his infield to go for a double play, which was set up after the Cardinals intentionally walked the previous batter to load the bases.
“I thought to myself, I can’t hit into a double play,” says Iorg. “If I did that it would have haunted me to this day. This was the biggest stage I’d ever been on. I thought, I can’t think negative thoughts like that. I went up there to be aggressive. I was a pinch hitter, not a pitch taker. I have to go up there ready to swing.”
Worrell’s first pitch was a slider that was low — ball one. Iorg knew that meant the next pitch would be a fastball down the middle because no pitcher would want to run the count to 2-0 in that situation. If Worrell had thrown the slider over the plate with the first pitch, Iorg would’ve been in a tight spot, but now he knew what was coming.
“I shortened up my swing because I hadn’t hit much and I just wanted to get the bat on the ball,” he says.”
Worrell threw the next pitch — a fastball down the middle. Iorg jumped on it and hit a looping liner into right field, the bat breaking on contact. The hit drove in two runs. Iorg, who was mobbed by teammates, had forced a Game 7, which the Royals ultimately won.
Worrell later told Iorg, “I hated to give up that hit, but if I had to do it I’m glad it was you.” The next day, before Game 7, the Cardinals’ Darrell Porter had a present for Iorg — the ball that he had hit to win Game 6, on which he had written “Game-winning hit, Game 6, World Series.”
Ask Iorg if he still has the ball, he says, “Yes, it’s around here somewhere. I think I know where it is.”
Iorg played one more season and retired in 1987. Besides the two memorable performances en route to two World Series championships, Iorg retired with 455 hits. He was at his best from 1977 to 1982 when his batting averages were, in order, .313, .271, .291, .303, a team-leading .327 and .294. He was a pure line-drive hitter (he had only 14 homers).
“I liked to do two things: hit and hit with men on base,” he says, laughing.
Iorg says he probably should’ve retired a year sooner than he did, “but I needed the money.” He had begun to lose his passion for the game late in the ’85 season. He no longer enjoyed the practices and he dreaded the road swings that took him away from his family for days and even weeks and forced him to live in endless hotel rooms and airports. Not even offers from other teams could convince him to return in 1987.
“I wasn’t very good by 1985,” he says. “I had lost my zeal. I thought I could get it back.” He continues, “It was my whole life for so long, but I haven’t looked back. I’ve enjoyed life better after baseball than during it. I like to be home with my family. I didn’t like the travel and being scheduled. I just didn’t like it that well. I’m not sure I’d do it again.”
After he retired, he was uncertain what to do professionally. Baseball salaries were nothing like those in today’s game; Iorg made a healthy $240,000 one season, but it wasn’t nearly enough to set him up for retirement at the age of 37. Eventually, he became a wholesale lumber salesman with Capital Lumber in Salt Lake City. He also is in the nutrition business with a company called Synergy.
By the time Iorg retired, the oldest of his eight children was a junior in high school. He made it a point never to miss any of their ballgames and dance recitals. Two of his sons, Seth and Court, played baseball for BYU, continuing the family baseball legacy. Iorg’s brother Garth played nine seasons in the major leagues, all for Toronto, and retired a year after Dane (they played against each other in the 1985 American League Championship Series). Three of Garth’s sons played professional baseball and a daughter played college softball (Dane’s grandson, Keyan Norman, started at guard for the BYU football team).
The next generation is really Iorg’s only connection to sports these days. His baseball days are forgotten. “I don’t talk about it and it’s not a discussion point in our family,” he says. “It was my dream to play baseball, and I’ve been very fortunate. But I don’t like to look back. I’m always looking forward.”