A couple of weeks ago, we announced a contest to win a set of 1985 World Series DVDs. I was pretty vague, but asked for some kind of story. I was inundated with Royals stories. A sampling of some of the themes: 1985 World Series, dads, wives, fans from outside of the KC Metro and two stories of people hitting their heads. I had a blast reading all of the entries and I was disappointed that I didn’t have more prizes to give away. However I did find three winners and their stories are below for your pleasure.
Remember, these are not Royals Authority contributors but rather fellow readers. We have a great set of commenters on this site, but Craig, Clark and I put our writing out there for people to comment positively and negatively on. So be kind in the comments, if you don’t have something nice to say, keep it to yourself this time. Next Tuesday you can feel free to rip into me when I post another article.
There is a holiday that is much more sacred to me than the one America uses to buy ties for the people they disappoint. On this day each spring there is a solstice inside my soul that summons forth the summer. That highest of holy days is none other than Royals Opening Day.
As a nerdy non-athlete who made excel spreadsheets containing the batting averages of others, I had very little time to devout to actually playing baseball. Even watching baseball was rare because cable was for rich people and we were off brand cereal folk. I was a preteen anachronism, a kid growing up in the early nineties thinking that Baseball was only to be listened to. My secret lullaby each night was Denny Mathews and Fred White (along with producer/engineer Don Free), but beyond my imagination I hardly ever saw the game.
This all began to change my last year of middle school when my Grandpa called with an offer to play hooky and go to Opening Day at Royals Stadium. The smells were so much better than my bedroom. We were among the first to arrive and the sun was shining off of the absurdly orange seats. The perfectly green grass and strangely pleasant baseball-dirt brown were so much more real than on RBI Baseball. I was soaking it all in. As the capacity crowd began to arrive I realized that this was a special day. After the game I swore to myself, in front of the ghost of George Brett and all the other Royal Gods, that I would never miss an Opening Day again.
The next year I started high school and met a few other nerds who liked to talk, and not to play, “the sports”. My new best friend was a confident stat geek. We traded baseball cards, box scores, and the lunch money that we gambled on Monday Night Football. After starting together an impressive, $5 a bracket, March Madness pool I shared with him my solemn Opening Day vow. Being equally poor and without transportation we felt doomed to being in school on this future Federal Holiday. (Yes Banks should close for Baseball. My fearless nerd friend was too resourceful to let me break my promise to George, so we skipped school and took the Metro. We sat in GA as far down to the front as we could, right behind a man who we would later refer to lovingly as Oxygen Tank Man. It was as perfect a day as any there ever was.
It now was our bond together. Each year it became easier to convince our parents to let us go. My mother joined the Rotary Club and we began selling papers in the morning with her to earn an Opening Day ticket in the afternoon. This worked perfectly for the next few years and became a part of the ritual. Rain or shine we would stand on the corner selling newspapers to help send under privileged kids to summer camp. We served with impure hearts knowing that the privilege of a free ticket was far better than any crappy camp. Before we knew it we had witnessed six straight years together.
2003 found us far from home. College had taken my friend and I both to Chicago but we knew we had to find a way back to KC for our tradition to live on. It was not enough to wait and see them at US Cellular (read sell-out) Field. That was where we had witnessed a Royal stabbing the year before, not a place fit for Royal worship. To miss out on Opening Day would be like abstaining from Christmas. We had no choice but to exploit the still cheap post 9-11 airfares on Southwest and keep the streak alive.
Married and returned to the city of our youth, our annual hajj at over a decade, we were desperate to find a ticket in 2009. A renovated Kauffman had the city buzzing and no one selling for a reasonable price on Craigslist. We decided to show up early and try and buy from scalpers. Being a natural overachiever I suggested we get there at 7:00 A.M. to make sure we were the first to get ripped off, and to make a day of it. We parked at the hotel across the street, as is our custom and walked down the grass. Moving through the construction vehicles we saw the most beautiful stadium in baseball made even more spectacular. The News trucks were out in full force covering the wasting of Jackson County tax dollars and the Right Field gate stood wide open. We looked at each other coyly and decided to walk in and take a look around. His casual confidence was contrasted by my non nonchalance and I thought we’d be kicked out it no time. I pulled him into a new Family restroom and tried to convince him to hide with me until first pitch. He wanted to take a lap, see all the new amenities, and then find a un-toilet-filled place to secret ourselves. So he led the way and I followed. It turns out that if you walk around like you are supposed to be there no one will stop you. Soon we saw that other fans had been invited to help clean and shine the new blue seats for the big day. They all had spray bottles but other than that we were indistinguishable. After about an hour our honesty got the best of us and we decided to go looking for an upstanding scalper. In the end, we got in.
For the last 14 of my 28 years on this earth I have made the pilgrimage to watch Royalty play the game I never could. It has kept my best friend and I connected despite all odds. Royals Opening Day may not have a section in the greeting card aisle but it will always be the highlight of my year. That is until the year the Royals play to a victory on Baseball’s Closing Day. 2013?
My most memorable Royals memory is short but sweet.
I was 9 years old in October of 1985, just barely old enough to retain the memory and appreciation for what the Royals had done during the regular season and playoffs against Toronto. For Game 6 of the World Series against the Cardinals, a large group of my family had met to watch the game at my Aunt’s house in Kansas City, KS.
he was just sure the 1985 season would end in the same disappointment as the ’84, ’80, ’78, ’77, and ’76 seasons. By the time the Cardinals
were up 1-0 late in the game, most of us were resigned to another lost postseason and were emotionally bracing for the loss. When the 9th
inning rolled around, however, our spirits were quickly lifted when we realized we were given a break with Orta’s infield “single”. As the inning progressed, we realized we were observing something special – too many good things were suddenly happening. When Iorg came up with the bases loaded we knew we were about to win. As he blooped the second pitch into right field we were screaming, anticipating the throw home. When Sundberg executed that perfect headfirst slide and scored, all of the tension in the room was suddenly released. My uncle, who less than an hour earlier was in a state of lament, leapt three feet off of the ground in a state of pure joy.
Unfortunately, the rec room we were watching the game in had only two feet of clearance.
granted him psychic powers as we soon learned he was correct.
We still give him a hard time about that game to this day.
It was the summer of 1999. We had “old GA” seats at the K. A mad storm was brewing right around game-time, but no delay had been announced, so everyone was still seated. Once the PA released the rain delay information, everyone scurried for cover, with my family ending up on the edge of a large mob of fans in the walkway, just barely under the left field pier. My father left to use the restroom (my brother and I were nearly adults at this time) and soon after he left it began to savagely pour down rain. My brother and I started to get soaked by the sideways rain, so we had to make a rash decision: run for it. We ran for the bathroom. With a little luck we ended up on the edge of a large mob of fans again, but this time on the dry side of Mother Nature. Dad was nowhere to be found; but, we were dry, so we stayed put.
This group of fans had realized that the guy manning the beer cart across the way had ran for cover himself, leaving the immaculate beer cart: a)full of beer and b)vacant as Tropicana field. One by one, a fan would run 50 feet to the beer cart, grab a cup, fill it up, and race back to the arid restroom. It was like watching those cup stacking competitions, except with an element of actual excitement. When each fan would make it to the cart, we would all cheer loudly as they filled their beer. The cart sat next to a fence, hidden from the concession attendants. After about 20 people raided the cart, the cups were gone and the soaked raiders continued. Without cups, they would arrive at the unattended cart, open mouth, let the golden hops flow down their throats for several seconds, and then race back to dry freedom. There was a feeling that this game of beer tag was of more significance than whether the real game would be played or not. It was rather “Pine Tar Game”-esque.
As the commotion got louder and louder, the Royals ushers that were in the building behind the fence began to understand what was happening. When a fleet-footed beer raider would race to the cart, like George Brett from the dugout on that fateful day in 1983, an usher would emerge from the building into the throws of the squall, rush to the fence, and try to scare the thief off, with absolutely no success. This was obscenely humorous.