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Tag Archive: Kansas City Royals

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 2 — Ode to Opening Day when any team can win the Pennant (Go Royal Sox!) First published April 9, 2009, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Ode to Opening Day when any team can win the Pennant (Go Royal Sox!) 

“You always get a special kick on Opening day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” – Joe DiMaggio.

Brimming with optimism as I drove along the interstate, I tuned the dial to sports radio hoping to find a pleasurable experience listening to the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day 2009.

And truthfully, I found one, even though the “boys in blue” lost their season opener away at the Chicago White Sox.

Yes, each spring, baseball makes us believe all over again that all things are possible, for a few weeks at least.

Any team can win the Pennant on opening day, maybe even the World Series.

The worst team in the league can be at 500 in mere days. The coaches have winning records, and the pitchers have great stats. Every batter can be Babe Ruth, every fielder Jackie Robinson, on opening day.

“There is no sports event like Opening Day of baseball, the sense of beating back the forces of darkness,” author George Vecsey writes in A Year in the Sun (1989).

Thus, beating back my own disappointing memories, I decided to believe, really believe, in the home team despite its heart-breaking precedent and its past mediocrity.

The ghosts of failure would not haunt me this season, I vowed.

After all, it was Opening Day. They might win!

They did not.

However, these guys are pretty good, or so they say in Chicago.

The son who moved to the Chicago area called to say the local media there were highly respectful of the Royals and that they have some real talent on board this year. “The Sox won,” he reported.

The son who moved to Boston sent an iPhone photo from Opening Day at Fenway where the Boston Red Sox were playing Tampa Bay. “The Sox won,” the lucky duck texted.

So, should we rename our team Sox, I pondered? How about the Kansas City Royal Sox? Has a nice ring to it.

Not discouraged yet, I called the son who lives in Kansas City to tell him how great the Royals were in defeat. He quickly reminded me that I say this every Opening Day.

Baseball-almanac.com agrees, “Regardless of the outcome, Opening Day still remains as the number one date in the hearts, minds (and on the calendars) of baseball fans everywhere. The official countdown begins after the last pitch of the World Series when we can’t wait to hear those two magic words again, Play Ball!”

And if you will, those magic words, “We won!”

The late Jack Buck, St. Louis Cardinals sportscaster, summed up best our Opening Day dreams with his original on-air radio poem, titled “365”:

“When someone asks you your favorite sport
And you answer Baseball in a blink
There are certain qualities you must possess
And you’re more attached than you think.

In the frozen grip of winter
I’m sure you’ll agree with me
Not a day goes by without someone
Talking baseball to some degree. ?
The calendar flips on New Year’s Day
The Super Bowl comes and it goes
Get the other sports out of the way
The green grass and the fever grows. ?
It’s time to pack a bag and take a trip
To Arizona or the Sunshine State
Perhaps you can’t go, but there’s the radio
So you listen-you root-you wait.

They start the campaign, pomp and pageantry reign
You claim the Pennant on Opening Day.”

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 3 — Baseball—it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it? First published May 13, 2010, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Baseball–it’s a game; it’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

“Baseball? It’s just a game—as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It’s a sport, a business, and sometimes even a religion.” –Ernie Harwell, The Game for All America, 1955.

There is something certain and steady about the game of baseball. It’s not Quantum physics, or is it?

Poet and author Sharon Olds wrote in “This Sporting Life” in 1987, “Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up”.

I know what she means. Baseball helps us forget our troubles, but why is that?

Maybe it is the reassurance of the stats that make us love it so much, and as we know, diehard fans love baseball stats, good or bad.

Stats are a sure thing. We can rely on them.

Baseball, according to baseball owner and mastermind Bill Veeck, is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world, and yes, indeed, it could be the stats.

Veeck explains, “If you get three strikes, think about it, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”

Or when the numbers in your own life are not adding up so well, we would do well to remember the old adage, “Things could be worse. What if your errors were counted and published every day like those of a baseball player.”

Now, that puts life in perspective.

There is an opposite to bad baseball stats, however, as Ted Williams once quipped, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

I like those odds.

In 1970, Mickey Mantle said this about baseball stats: “During my 18 years I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball.”

And Norm Cash, legendary Detroit Tiger power hitter and first baseman after his 1,081st strikeout, noted the same thing happened to him: “Pro-rated at 500 at-bats a year, that means that for two years out of the fourteen I played, I never even touched the ball.”

Perhaps it is, in fact, the rhythm of baseball. The repetition, steadiness and the absolute sureness it provides during the summer months that make us love it so much.

After all, it is our national summer pastime, and we watch game after game after game, never tiring of it.

Baseball is always there, and so are its stats.

I am wondering. Is baseball indeed a mystery, something that we cannot comprehend, unlike the stat sheet in front of us?

Even though stats are the lifeblood of baseball, could baseball really be more likely about relativity, or molecular attraction, or theory or timing?

Whatever baseball is, it has a lot to do with the fundamental nature of the universe, the grand scheme of things; or if you will, the idea that things are much different than the world we see.

“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood,” –Thomas Boswell, Inside Sports.

Quantum physics?

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 4 — A lone Royals fan at Fenway Park. First published June 3, 2010, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

A lone Royals fan at Fenway Park

“This is the place to be. Baseball town. The intimacy of Fenway, the toughness of it…I like the edge.”—David Cone, former Kansas City Royals ace pitcher.

The Boston Red Sox played the Kansas City Royals last week at Fenway Park, and I was there. I guess you could say, I count my self–lucky.

And as a result, I know why David Cone loved it.

It’s that first moment as Jason Stark, ESPN sports analyst, commented: “That moment, when you first lay eyes on that field—The Monster, the triangle, the scoreboard, the light tower Big Mac bashed, the left-field grass where Ted Williams once roamed—it all defines to me why baseball is such a magical game.”

And why Fenway Park is such a revered ballpark.

It is the fact that you feel as though you are playing the game itself, not just watching. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn once said, “As Commissioner, you’re supposed to be objective. It wasn’t much of a secret, though, that I loved Fenway—especially how it made you a participant not a spectator.”

That’s it. The field is close and no seat is far from Big Papi warming up before the game on the green grass. At Fenway, it’s the history, the players who once played there, the hallowed ground, the Green Giant, and, not to go without saying, the aromatic Fenway franks and the free-flowing Dunkin Donuts coffee.

But of course, there is the energy of the fans at Fenway. My goodness, the fans cheer, no erupt is more like it, when an outfielder catches a meaningless short fly ball. At Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, you might hear golf claps.

In Kansas City, fans excuse themselves to the hip, new outfield entertainment area when the game gets boring. At Fenway, no one ever leaves one’s seat except to stand and cheer, which they do constantly. Fans would never leave, they might miss a called strike.

Although we have a brand-new remodeled and up-to-date ballpark in Kansas City (“everything is up-to-date in Kansas City), we don’t have anything akin to the magic that happens at Fenway.

Perhaps, no other ball park does.

Forgive me Royals fans, I’ll quit waxing poetic about Fenway. Back to my experience at the game.

Admittingly, I was worried at first, to be one of a handful of Royals fans, attired in powder blue and lost in a sea of red-shirted Boston fans.

I spotted one man in a bright blue Royals shirt just inside the park gates but never saw another Royals fan after that, although I am told there were two behind the Red Sox bullpen.

Texting from Fenway, I posted on my Facebook page, “At Fenway and may be the only Royals fan in New England ! Sure to be a good story to follow. For self-preservation, buying a Red Sox hat to wear with my Royals jersey!

I did, in fact, purchase one immediately upon entry into the park, a Red Sox hat, one that stood out noticeably, a hat with bling sporting glittery bright red socks. I wasted no time donning it in an attempt to make my Royals light-blue jersey less noticeable.

Honestly though, the fans were great to me with very little heckling and only a few puzzled questions.

The fan in front me appeared slightly incredulous, “So, tell me again, why are you here? Seriously, are you really following the Royals to Boston? Who does that? I am serious.”

The comments continued and were always followed by raucous laughter, “You may be the only Royals fan here ya’ know; you may be the only Royals fan anywhere. Ha ha ha.”

“Did you see the movie ‘Fever Pitch’? There was this scene in it when the guy with the season tickets gave his buddies tickets to the Red Sox v. Royals games as punishment. Ha ha ha.”

And so the game went, until the eighth inning. Everyone there, and it doesn’t matter which team you cheer for, comes alive with joy and happiness that is difficult to describe.

You’ve seen it on television, but that does not do justice to the Fenway Park crowd singing loudly and by heart, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”.

It gives me goosebumps still, because at Fenway Park, everyone sings loudly in unison and by heart and sometimes without music. They are really singing a love song to Fenway, their beloved historic ballpark.

“Where it began. I can’t begin to knowin’, but then I know its growin’ strong. Was in the spring and spring became the summer…hands touchin’ hands, reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin you…Sweet Caroline, good times never seemed so good, so good, so good!”

Ah yes, Fenway, just might be the eighth wonder of the world. The magic of Fenway is a site to behold, and that is why people love it.

But did I mention my Kansas City Royals won the game? Ha, ha, ha.`

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