Archive for November 2009
I will be cheering for the Philadelphia Phillies tonight in Game 6 of the World Series. Truth be told I won’t see much, if any, of the game because I will be at a school board meeting. But, I’ll still be cheering for the Phillies.
I’m not a Phillies fan. It still sticks in my craw the way Pete Rose interfered with a double play ball swinging momentum from the Kansas City Royals to the Phillies in game five of the 1980 World Series. The Phillies won in six.
I have been an avowed Yankees hater ever since first baseman Chris Chambliss hit a Mark Littell fastball over the right field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning of the decisive game 5 of the 1976 American League Champion Series. The Royals scored three runs in the eighth inning to tie the score. I felt confident that the Royals’ reliever, Littell, could take the game to extra innings. I sat on my mom’s lap and cried for at least thirty minutes when the Chambliss fly ball cleared the fence.
The Royals were at the center of my universe from 1976 to 1980. Those were the Royals’ glory years and I was eleven to fifteen years old. A perfect combination. I listened on the radio to at least part of all 162 Royals games for five straight seasons. My neighbor Mamo Hayden is the only other person I know who can make that claim.
We have cheering rules in our house. For college sports, the rules are to cheer for the Kansas Jayhawks first, the Big 12 second and never for Mizzou. The rules for baseball are similar. Cheer for the Kansas City Royals first, then the Orioles, Red Sox and Rockies (places we’ve lived) and never, ever, ever for the Yankees (I don’t care how nice a guy Joe Torre was when he was manager of the Yankees). The Royals losing to the Yankees three straight years in the play-offs etched that ethic in stone.
The Phillies can take heart. A three game to one World Series deficit can be overcome. I witnessed part of such a miracle when the Royals came back from a similar deficit against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series.
The Royals were lucky to be in the World Series that year. They lost three of the first four games of the 1985 American League Championship Series to the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first year the champion series was extended to seven games. Any previous year, the Royals would have been done.
George Brett kept the Royals alive with two home runs in game three. I attended game four of the playoffs with my dad, the night after my 21st birthday. It was a tough night. The Blue Jays scored three in the ninth to put the Royals on the edge of elimination. And, I had to break the news to my dad about some poor choices I made the night before (for another post). But, the Royals somehow managed to win the next three games and set up the I-70 Series against the Cardinals.
I had a soft spot in my heart for the Cardinals. Long time Royals manager Whitey Herzog and catcher Darrell Porter were part of the Cardinals organization by 1985. I loved those guys. But, this affection didn’t temper my passion to see the Royals win.
The Royals dropped the first three of four in the World Series just like they did in the play-offs. My friend Matt Cunningham and I had tickets for game six of the Series and we were just hoping that game would be played. Fortunately, the Royals won decisively in game five to bring the series back to Kansas City.
Matt was already in the television business by 1985 and scored us fantastic seats up the right field line just beyond first base. They were the best tickets I’d ever had up to that time.
Charlie Leibrandt pitched a brilliant game six for the Royals but gave up the games’ only run in the eighth inning. The Royals’ bats were cold. The Cardinals’ Danny Cox was brilliant, too. The feeling in the stands was somber. A Royals’ victory seemed impossible with the team trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth.
And, then, there was the call. A Royals batter was incorrectly called safe at first. Porter followed up the next few plays with a dropped pop foul and a missed tag on a bunt. The miscues set up the Royals for a ninth inning rally for the ages – for Royals fans at least. I will always consider this the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed.
Matt and I, along with thousands of other Royals fans, stood in the stadium and cheered for nearly an hour. We cheered even longer in the parking lot because we could not remember where we parked the car. We had to wait for the lots to clear out to find it. While we were waiting, Paul Hayden jumped out of a passing vehicle and gave us both a bear hug. It was that kind of night.
Game seven was not nearly so exciting. The Royals pounded the Cardinals 11-0. I was watching with about thirty members of my fraternity in the dining hall of our house. The outcome became clear early so we all piled into cars to drive to Westport in Kansas City to join the celebration.
It was a good time to be a Royals fan.