Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2011

Smith: Always a Royals fan

March 24, 2011

There is no doubt that this is one of the best times of the year for a sports fan. We all love the NCAA tournament, and this year it will be more fun since KU made it to the “Sweet Sixteen” and will play Richmond.

Uh, yes, that’s the same team that upset KU in 2004. However, I’m disappointed that Kansas State didn’t make it to the next round. I am always a fan of both Kansas teams.

No, the reason that I enjoy this time of year is that major league baseball is just around the corner. No matter how bad the weather is, when I hear the first radio broadcast of a spring training game, I know spring is just around the corner. As an ardent Royals fan, I am always hopeful that this is the year the Royals will contend. I know they have had only one winning season in the past 15 years, but just maybe this is the turnaround year. While I like winning, I am just happy we have a major league baseball team. The Royals are a tremendous asset to the entire metro area.

If you remember, major league baseball came to Kansas City in 1955, when the lowly Athletics moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City. Prior to that, baseball in Kansas City was dominated by the AAA Blues, a Yankee farm club, and the Monarchs. The teams played at an old ball park on Brooklyn Avenue. It was enlarged during the winter of 1954-55 to accommodate major league baseball. Over the years, I attended many games at the stadium and because of the support pillars, there were very few good seats in the house.

The A’s team, a perennial bottom feeder in the American League, was owned by the family of the late Connie Mack. In decades past, the A’s had been a major baseball dynasty in the 1930’s. However, the death of Mr. Mack and financial troubles resulted in the sale of the team to Arnold Johnson and the move to Kansas City. While the A’s were given a hero’s welcome to the city, they were never able to come anywhere near being a winning team. After Johnson’s death, the team was sold to Charlie Finley, who was always at war with the fans, the media, city officials and about everyone else.

While professing his devotion to Kansas City, almost from the beginning he was trying to move the team elsewhere. Probably the most bizarre suggestion was building a stadium at Peculiar, Mo. He also tried a variety of other cities. After years and many battles, he got permission to move to Oakland, Calif. Despite some great teams, the A’s haven’t done that well at the box office.

While here, he gave the city such attractions as “Charlie O. the Mule,” goats grazing on the hill between the fences, a mechanical rabbit giving baseballs to the umpire, colored uniforms and a variety of unusual promotions.

The Royals brought a new era to Kansas City baseball. They were a classy, highly professional organization. Soon there was a new stadium and best of all, the Royals were winning. People closely followed the team. For example, if you went to the shopping mall, the game was on the radio in most stores. Kansas City fans embraced the Royals. The love affair was culminated on a warm October night in 1985, when the Royals became world champs by beating the Cardinals. I had the privilege to be there that magical night, and I would have never guessed that would be the last play-off game in Kansas City for more than a quarter of a century.

Yes, the Royals have fallen on hard times, yet I really believe they will turn the corner this season and start winning again. If that happens, it won’t take long for fans to again embrace the team. I think the Royals are on the right track, and I’m glad David Glass has had the faith in the metro area to keep the Royals in Kansas City.

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