I have been overwhelmed the last few weeks as parts of my past have returned – not to haunt me – but to join in my current state of absolute amazement. Â I’ve tried to collect those thoughts into my first blog post in months, I’m sure it rambles but hey, it’s my blog, not the New York Times.
I was born in 1969 which is the same year the Kansas City Royals were founded. My neck of the woods is more or less half way between Denver and Kansas City. Football loyalties were, and still are, split acrimoiniously between the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs. Yet, come every April, the Royals were our baseball team. As the Colorado Rockies did not come into existence until 1993, Royals fandom spread far and wide during the 70’s and 80’s and Kansas City fans could be found throughout the Great Plains. For the first twenty years of existence the Royals were always competitve and at one time were considered the role model for expansion teams in the major leagues.
I grew up Royal. While watching Saturday TV games with my Grandpa at his gas station in Phillipsburg, including the infamous Pine Tar game, I learned quite a few new cuss words. I listened to Denny Matthews and Fred White call pitch by pitch on AM radio whether I was in the car, waiting in a wheat truck for the combines, or from the comfort of my bed waaaay past bedtime for those late west coast games. I cussed some of the greatest players in baseball such as Reggie Jackson simply because the had the gall to play against my Royals. I have always hated the country singer Tim McGraw because his dad Tug struck out Willie Wilson to end the 1980 World Series. Even though I grew up on a farm and it was extremely difficult to field a baseball ‘team’, my best friend and I alternated being George Brett, Frank White, Amos Otis, or Hal McRae in our one on one (‘Ghost on First!’) pickup games which happened no matter what the season, no matter what the weather. On October 26, 1985 I was at a friend’s birthday party when we were frantically hustled upstairs by his mother after the Royals began the rally that ultimately led to their one and only World Series victory. The summer after my senior year of high school I finally visited for the first time what is now affectionately known as ‘The K’ and was rewarded by watching Bo Jackson hit one of the many monster home runs of his too short career.
Life moved on. About the same time I met my first wife and moved to Kansas City, the Royals began the long and painful slide from being Yankee killers to becoming punchlines for late night television hosts. My ex wife’s step dad and I spent hours debating the merits of former hero and then manager Hal McRae losing his mind and throwing an ashtray at a reporter after a what was becomming a commonplace Royals loss. The thrill of 1985 became weaker with every passing year but I couldn’t quit this team. They were my Royals. They were the common thread thru all stages of my life. I began defending my fandom by telling anybody that ribbed me over my love of the Royals by explaining that there was nothing better than sitting at ‘The K’ on a warm summer evening and chillaxing. I sure as hell couldn’t defend the actual product on the field even during that very strange Tony Pena fueled run in 2003. In 1995 I tricked my kids into their first ballgame by telling them we were going to the park. It wasn’t a lie, we did go to the park, but for the first time in their lives they got to experience my definition of a park, Kaufmann Stadium. I know it took years for them to believe that winning baseball ever was played in that stadium.
I am still Royal. Even though I have moved away from Kansas City I have tried to catch at least one game a year at ‘The K’. My now grown son and I were there for the grand reopening of the newly renovated ballpark. The next September we arrived at the Truman Sports Complex at 11am and left about 2am the next day after attendeding the Royals / Chiefs Monday double header. Thanks to today’s technology I have watched every single opening day only to cancel my MLB TV subscription no later than June every year – even this year. But something magical started to stir this year and even though I didn’t want to jinx them, I reupped my subscription in August.
29 years is a long time. Almost two thirds of my life. Tom Hanks is full of shit, there is crying in baseball. Last night after the final out that propelled these Royals to the 2014 World Series I was unable to stop the stream of tears rolling down my face. These weren’t just tears for baseball or the Royals. These were tears for my kids who finally get to see first hand that Kansas City is a winner. Tears for my Grandpa who gave me my love of baseball and passed on shortly after the 1985 World Series victory. Tears for my kid’s Grandpa Larry who passed about ten years ago but let my son know his dad wasn’t crazy for loving the cellar dwelling Royals. Tears for my teacher and friend Mr. D. who passed away from cancer a few days ago but was able to take a rare break from his own battle this summer by watching these Royals with his family.
Even while in attendance at that crazy Wild Card game two weeks ago against Oakland I still didn’t think, even in my wildest dreams, that a World Series would ever be coming back to Kaufmann Stadium in my lifetime. Barring a sudden lottery win I don’t think tickets to the World Series are a possibility thanks to other success starved Royals fans pushing the price of standing room only tickets to more than what I spent on my first car. But, I will be in Kansas City next weekend for a baby shower celebrating the upcoming arrival of my son’s son. Plans have already been made for father, son, and future grandson to take in a World Series game on TV.
Bandwagon fans you are more than welcome join in our joy, but these Royals mean something more to those of us who have been here the whole time.22