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Tag Archive: Kansas City Royals

Oct 19

A look back at my columns about the Kansas City Royals: Part 1 — Baseball fever happens every spring. First published April 14, 2007, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

 

Baseball fever happens every spring

More than flowers or sunshine or April showers, it is baseball that is our true April love. It has been that way as long as most of us can remember.

 

After all, baseball is America’s game. Granted it may have gone global, but we invented it, and we love it.  In fact, we love it so much, that when opening day of baseball season finally arrives, folks take off work often braving bitter temperatures and cold rain just to watch. You know the drill. Some of us just have to be there. Period.

 

Others of us prefer the coziness of our homes or offices on opening day, but make no mistake we are paying attention just the same.

 

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.

 

If they can be all things, then so can we. At least that is our hope each and every spring.

 

To be on the safe side, we throw up a silent prayer along with our hopes, “Please do not break our hearts this season!” How well we remember last year when our home team had an indescribably miserable and embarrassing record.

 

Let’s face it. Some years, it is nearly impossible to be a fan. We pray it will not be such a year.  We pray hard.

 

“No more 3 to 2 losses in the ninth, please,” we beg.

 

“No more pitchers losing their groove.”

 

“No more batting slumps by our star hitter.”

 

Ernest Lawrence Thayer understood our baseball psyche, our worries, and desperate baseball prayers such as these as long ago as 1888. That is when he wrote “Casey at the Bat”, the single most famous baseball poem ever written. “Casey at the Bat” was first published June 3, 1888, in the San Francisco Examiner.

 

Another writer Albert Spalding once wrote of it, “Love has its sonnets galore. War has its epics in heroic verse. Tragedy its somber story in measured lines. Baseball has Casey at the Bat.”

 

In his legendary poem, Thayer describes a baseball hero, the mighty Casey who is advancing to the bat just in time to save the day for Mudville’s home team.

 

It is fun to remember some of the poem’s perfectly written verses. Here are some excerpts:

 

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day.

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play…

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.

The rest clung to the hope that springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that,

We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat…

Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped,

‘That ain’t my style,’ said Casey. ‘Strike one,’ the umpire said…

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;

But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, ‘Strike two’…”

 

So the legendary story goes, but let us pretend we do not know how the game ended.

After all it is April. Baseball season has just begun. It happens every spring.

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?

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