Even though I was too young to remember it, I can still brag that the Royals have been good within my lifetime, though the older I get the less impressive that claim becomes.
But they weren't just good; they were World Series champs with an all-star lineup including hall-of-famer George Brett, eight-time Golden Glove winner Frank White, pitcher-poet Dan Quisenberry, two-time Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen, and speedy outfielder Willie Wilson.
And now I have videographic evidence to back up my claim that KC's perennially cellar-dwelling team used to be a force of bat-swinging, balll-hurling fury. Because over-the-top free giveaways are the only way to ensure attendance, at the game a few weeks ago they handed out DVDs of game 5 of the 1985 World Series, which is now available as a box set in its entirety (hint hint Christmas gift hint).
"So this is basically like Royals porn," my boyfriend said when I put the game on one Sunday morning.
"Yes," I said, excitedly smashing my fork into my strawberry pancakes. "And it's awesome."
From the get-go, the game is pretty much classic: bad haircuts abound, the kind that according to my friend Chris were only acceptable in that era and at any other time would have been the subject of ridicule; third baseman Brett, second baseman White, shortstop Buddy Biancalana, and first baseman Steve Balboni create a nearly impenetrable infield forcefield composed of 72 percent chest hair; and Wilson steals bases as easily as if they were giving them away for free. Basically everyone kind of resembles someone who might try to lure your kid into his van with Tootsie Rolls, as apparently was fashionable for the era, but man can they play some fucking ball.
The most memorable moment comes when Brett chases a foul ball past the left field line and slides airborne into the dugout, missing the catch and being poked in the eye by teammate Lee May. Immediately afterward the announcer says, "I think you've seen all you need to see about George Brett. Forget the numbers and statistics and remember that play." Later post-game interviewer Reggie Jackson says the attempt made him "proud to be a major league baseball player." Damn straight.
Another era during which Kansas City was the center of the baseball world was when the Athletics were still in town in the 60s and batshit crazy, narcissistic, possibly sociopathic owner Charlie Finley ran the show.
He's the subject of a new book, Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman, which chronicles milestones such as the time Finley smuggled A's mascot the Missouri Mule into the White Sox stadium in a large box marked "baseball equipment;" the time he started 59-year-old pitcher Satchel Paige, who went on to throw three shutout innings; the time he had Bert Campenaris play all nine positions in a single game; and finally, the time he moved the A's to Oakland after repeatedly promising to keep them in Kansas City, a decision he later came to regret. Co-author and baseball historian G. Michael Green shared these and other Finley stories at the Kansas City Public Library last Thursday.
For all of his flaws, Finley, like the 1985 Royals, makes me nostalgic for a time when baseball in Kansas City actually meant something. Hopefully, with promising young players like Billy Butler and Cy Young winner (and my future husband) Zack Greinke, they're moving in that direction again. That is, however, something we long-suffering Royals fans say every year.