"They really gave me my first big league opportunity," Black said. "I made the team coming out of Spring Training in '82 and they put their arms around me. After that first year, I felt like a Royal. I sensed early on that my future was there."
As it turns out, Black was right -- sort of.
The Padres manager, who just completed his eighth season, had a future in several places, not just with the Royals. Aside from a seven-year stint with the Royals (1982-88), which included a World Series title in '85, Black also pitched for four seasons with the Giants (1991-94).
As you might guess, this particular World Series holds plenty of interest for Black, 57.
Not willing to offer a prediction, Black anticipates a closely contested series. And if it goes seven games, he won't be surprised at all.
"I think it's important for the Royals to win one of the first two games," Black said. "But you talk about the Royals' momentum, but I think the Giants have just as much momentum. Remember, they had to go through Washington, lost once, and then lost once to the Cardinals.
"The Giants are swinging the bats well. Most of these games have been determined by how the bullpen performs and how the offense performs against the bullpens. No one has penetrated that Royals' pen. There's strong pitching on both sides. I foresee low-scoring games … tight from the sixth inning on."
Black's connection to the Royals runs deeper for several reasons. It was the Royals who gave him a shot in 1982 after he was traded from Seattle. He won 17 games in 1984 and 10 games in 1985, the last time the Royals advanced to the World Series.
In fact, Black is actually the last Royals starter to lose a postgame contest -- Game 4 of the World Series against the Cardinals. But the Royals won the whole thing in seven games.
"I became the pitcher that I would become there," Black said. "My first couple of years, it was mostly a veteran group. Then in '84, it sort of shifted. They switched some things out on the pitching side, going from guys like Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff, Larry Gura and Vida Blue.
"In came guys like Charlie Leibrandt, Mark Gubicza and Bret Saberhagen. On the position player side … they went young, bringing in guys like Steve Balboni, and in 1985 they traded for Lonnie Smith, which solidified our lineup."
Black hasn't just kept contact with many of his former Royals' teammates over the years, but has done so during this postseason, talking with George Brett on the phone and texting with several others.
While Black's time with the Royals came at the outset of his big league career, his time in San Francisco came toward the end. He signed a four-year deal with the team before the 1991 season, turning down similar deals for the chance to play for a team that was near and dear to him.
"Growing up in Washington, my Mariners weren't there yet and the Giants were the closest team. I could faintly get them on the radio as a young boy," said Black, who listened to games from his home in Southwest Washington, hanging on the every word of Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, no matter how faint the signal.
Black was actually born in San Mateo, Calif., which is about 13 miles south of Candlestick Park. His father was a Giants fan, so Black grew up "gravitating toward the National League." In 1991, he first got the chance to pitch at Candlestick Park, and all those stories he'd heard from teammates were all true.
"There was no Interleague play back then, so I had never pitched there before," Black said. "It turns out it was just as you expected it; it was blustery and you would see hot dog wrappers blowing around the field. You know what? Day games were great there. But from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Candlestick Point, it was windy and you'd see a drop in temperature."
Even though he was at the tail end of his career -- Black's last season in the big leagues was 1995 with the Indians -- he learned a lot from his two Giants managers, and they couldn't have been more different: Roger Craig and then Dusty Baker.
"All the managers you play for have a profound impact on you," Black said. "Dusty's first two years as manager were my last two as a player. We were relatively close in age and he was a young, energetic manager, almost like a teammate. With Roger, one of the things I really liked and respected was how well he treated everyone in the organization, from the owner to the clubbies."