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UL Washington, Royals great known for playing with toothpick in mouth, dead at 70

U.L. Washington, a former MLB infielder who was known for playing with a toothpick in his mouth, died after a battle with cancer. He was 70.

U.L. Washington, a former MLB shortstop who was known for playing with a toothpick in his mouth during his 11-year career, reportedly died on Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 70.

The Canadian Baseball Network first reported Washington’s passing, and his former teammates expressed their condolences on social media. George Brett was among them.


"So sorry to hear my friend my team mate UL Washington has died of cancer he was a great player I will always be thankful of our time together with the Royals," Brett wrote on X.

Washington played for the Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos and Pittsburgh Pirates from 1977 to 1987. He hit .251 with 27 home runs and 255 RBI in 907 career games. He helped the Royals to an American League pennant in 1980 when he hit .364 with an RBI and a double against the New York Yankees.

Kansas City lost the World Series in six games to the Philadelphia Phillies.


Washington was a fan favorite for what he had in his mouth as he played — a toothpick. He explained to The Kansas City Star he chose to keep the toothpick in his mouth because tobacco burned his mouth. The toothpick reached a fever pitch in 1980 sparking talk about potentially banning it in MLB. But it never came to fruition.

"I’d much rather be remembered as a pretty good player, but I realize most people will remember me as the guy with the toothpick," the told the Oklahoman in 1988.

"I feel I’ve had a pretty good career, especially looking back at how I got into professional baseball."

The Oklahoma native was a manager in several minor league systems after his playing career was over. He was also credited with helping Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts turn into a power hitter.

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