Archive for Thursday, October 21, 2010

Smith: Making a comeback

October 21, 2010

It seems impossible that it has been 25 years — a quarter of a century — since that magical night when everything was really up to date in Kansas City. Yes, our beloved Kansas City Royals were the best in baseball: World Series champions. After years of frustration and losing, Kansas City had its championship and a sea of blue engulfed the entire metro area.

It suddenly occurred to me that a whole generation has been born and grown to adulthood never knowing the thrill of a championship. My two oldest grandsons are very big Royals fans and they weren’t even born yet at the time of the championship season.

If you really were to visualize the length of time it has been you merely have to look at the pictures in the Chieftain and Sentinel of those attending the game. Yes, it has been a long time since the Royals ruled the world of baseball.

I certainly had no idea that the seventh and deciding game would be the last post-season game played in Kansas City. Since that golden night Royals fans have known very few highs and a lot of last place finishes. While most of the years have been very frustrating, we are very lucky that we still have major league baseball in Kansas City. Win or lose, they still are our team, and they make the summer months more fun.

In all the years I’ve lived in the Kansas City metro area I have never seen so much community pride. Everybody loved the Royals in those days following the championship. There was blue everywhere! The fountains throughout the metro area were dyed blue. The Chieftain had photos of signs on houses and businesses were decorated in blue. Even folks who weren’t baseball fans were glued to their TV sets during the divisional play-off and the seven-game series.

Of course, the Royals came close before 1985. The hated Yankees had defeated us in the play-offs. The Royals had lost the 1980 World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. While we had our dreams dashed before, this time was different. The Royals had come back in the regular season and didn’t move into first place until August. In the divisional play-offs we were almost eliminated by the Toronto Blue Jays. We trailed the hated St. Louis Cardinals until the fateful seventh game. Actually, I admit that I really didn’t think the Royals would pull it out.

I was fortunate to have press credentials for both the play-offs and the World Series. The top rows of the sections behind home plate were turned into an auxiliary press box. Tables were installed between the rows and it was a good facility. The weather was warm and the final game was very pleasant. A young KU student from Basehor, Jackie Kelly, was an intern in the press area. Certainly it was a night I will never forget. The atmosphere was electric on both Saturday and Sunday nights. I am sure that many fans did not think the Royals could come back on Saturday night and tie the series at 3-3, but they did on a disputed call. That set the stage for the Sunday seventh game, which was in some ways anti-climactic since the Royals jumped off to an early lead and won, 11-0. The fans were just waiting for the final out in the ninth inning to explode and send a blue tidal wave of enthusiasm across the area.

Maybe the most important thing about the Royals win was the great community pride that came along with the championship. Like it or not a winning sports team makes communities and, indeed, the entire area very proud. It gives residents a good feeling about where they live and work and it is unfortunate that the feeling soon fades.

Right now, I hope that the Royals or Chiefs have a championship season in the very near future and bring back that same feeling of pride and excitement.

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