Posts Tagged ‘sports’
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.
My Uncle Joe Wilson – no, not the husband of Valerie Plame and, no, not the South Carolina Congressman who yelled, “You Lie,” just Uncle Mac – and his wife Marty are planning a trip to Colorado in October. We don’t get to see Uncle Mac as often as we’d like. He’s always lived on the coast East and Left. But, we’ve had some memorable times together.
We spent the most time together when we were both students at Harvard’s Kennedy School. Mac was in the mid-career program. I was in the more rigorous two year Master of Public Policy program. We MPP students liked to think of the mid-career program as the reason our tuition was only outrageous rather than extremely outrageous. The “cash cow” program subsidized the next generation of leaders.
Our shared experience that Uncle Mac remembers best is not our time in Cambridge. It was the 1976 Rose Bowl between UCLA and Ohio State. Dad, Alec, Uncle Mac and I scalped tickets the day of the game right after the Rose Bowl parade. Dad and Alec took one pair of tickets. Uncle Mac and I took another in the opposite side of the stadium. For an eleven sports fanatic – me – it was a thrill to attend such a big game. It was, for my uncle, life threatening.
The Woody Hayes/Archie Griffin led Ohio State Buckeyes needed only to defeat the Bruins, who they had manhandled earlier in the year 42-20, to complete a perfect season and claim a national title. The Buckeye fans were confident. The Ohio State band marched into the stadium chanting 42-20.
I didn’t know much about UCLA. I had never heard of their coach Dick Vermeil. But, I did know I was going to cheer for UCLA and cheer my heart out. I loved an underdog!
No one took much notice of my proclamation that I would be cheering for the Bruins on that day. That is until Uncle Mac and I found our seats – right in the middle of the Ohio State cheering section. Still, there wasn’t too much to worry about. The Buckeyes were heavy favorites – 15 ½ points. Bruins fans wouldn’t cheer much that day.
It was one of those games that breathes life in the old cliché, “That’s why they play the games.” The Buckeyes got off to an early 3-0 lead in a defensive first half. But, in the second half, the Bruins reeled off 16 straight points – a field goal and two touchdowns. I cheered louder each time UCLA drove down the field. When they tied the score 3-3, I was just annoying to the Buckeye fans. When they built up a 13 point lead, my cheering was beyond the pale. A big fan in a plaid shirt who had been soothing his anxiety with alcohol turned around to my Uncle and said, “If you don’t shut that kid up, you’re going to get it.”
The Bruins matched the Buckeye’s only touchdown of the day with another of their own. The final score, Bruins 23, Buckeye’s 10. Oklahoma beat Michigan later that night to win the National Championship.
I left the stadium happy that day. My Uncle left a little pale but happy to escape alive. I don’t know if he’s completely forgiven me yet or not. I’ll have to ask him in October.
The Kansas City Royals were my first true love. I fell in love in the summer of 1975. The next year was the Royal’s break out season. I can still name the everyday nine (DH not pitcher) from that team. The late 70s and early 80s were a glorious time to be a Royals fan.
Nineteen Seventy Five was also about the time I began to read the newspaper. Like a lot of 10 year-old boys, I only read the sports section. That’s when I developed a habit that continues today. The first thing I do when I open a paper during baseball season is turn to the page of box scores in the sports section and see how the Royals fared the previous night – even if I already know. It’s not as fun as it used to be.
This season, the Royals are on pace to lose 100 games for the fifth time this decade. Let me put this in perspective. If they made the movie Major League, it would be about the Royals not the Cleveland Indians. The Royals have become the new team “most likely to lose.”
If the Royals do lose 100 games this year they will arguably have had the worst decade of any franchise in the history of baseball. The Royals will become the first non-expansion team to lose 100 games five times in one decade. Only the expansion Mets of the 1960s has equaled this dubious feat.
There are only two other non-expansion franchises that have lost 100 games four times in a decade – the Boston Braves in the 1920s and the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20s, 30s, and 40s (man, tough to be a Phillies fan in those decades). Even the lowly Philadelphia-Kansas City-Oakland Athletics with a major league high sixteen 100 loss seasons only managed to be this bad a maximum of three times in one decade.
Since 1960, only three other teams have lost 100 games three consecutive seasons as the Royals did earlier this decade: The expansion Mets, the expansion Washington Senators (now Texas Rangers) in the 1960s, and the expansion Toronto Blue Jays in the 1970s.
I will always be a Royal Rooter (I was a charter member of the club). But, I am wondering. At what point does an organization lose its franchise rights to be a Major League Baseball team. Or, at least, perhaps the ownership should be forced to sell. The economics of baseball, as dismal as they are, are no longer sufficient to justify the Royals’ demise.
My heart breaks for the legacy of Ewing Kauffman. I can’t imagine he would have tolerated the Royals becoming the worst franchise in the game. It’s certainly not the way to celebrate a 40th anniversary.
I had a great time as always at the 2009 Atwood Jamboree. Michael Terry and too many others to name put on a great tournament. Thank you!
I was sorry to hear that Ol’ Crow had back surgery this year so Worthy and Ol’ Crow weren’t with us. This year we golfed with the Brad and Chad Bowles, as usual, and Brian and Brandon Sabatka. We had a good time.
Paul and I finished in the money again this year – but not because of our effort on the golf course. We were wise investors in the Calcutta.
Brad and Chad Bowles had more bad luck than you can shake a stick at on Saturday. We new that wouldn’t carry over on Sunday. So, we tried to buy them in the Calcutta. Only problem is Paul and I got confused. We won the bid for a wildcard team but in the wrong flight. We went out on a limb and selected Chuck Focke and his partner Mark Frame of Kinsley, Kansas. Later in the auction we succeeded at our original goal and won the right to choose the Bowles team. Feeling optimistic we bought ourselves, too.
I would like to thank Brad, Chad, Chuck and Mark – because of your Sunday efforts we came out ahead. Paul and I finished out of the money but we broke 70 for the second time in our long and storied careers.
The highlight of the weekend tookplace on the shooting range, I mean hole number 2. The tournament organizers added a twist. They launched two clay pigeons at once – hit one, earn a birdie; hit two, earn an eagle and win a hat.
After years of shooting at air, I am now the proud owner of an orange Beaver Creek Hunting hat – thanks Brad Leitner. I may just to take that hunter’s safety course and come back in November to show folks how it’s done.
All-in-all, A good time was had by all.
The Atwood Jamboree golf tournament is one of my favorite weekends of the year.
It is the weekend each year I spend time with old friends. We tell the same jokes and laugh like it’s the first time we heard them. That’s part of what makes the Jamboree and the weekend special. It’s familiar. Old friends, old jokes, old routines. It is a weekend that I truly relax.
My friend Karl Spiecker, formerly of Longmont and now Colorado Springs, is a regular at the tournament, too. A few years back Karl had a magical weekend a la Tom Watson in this year’s British Open. On Saturday, Karl shot the best round of golf he’s ever played. Saturday night, his ticket was drawn for the putting contest. On Sunday, he made the first putt to qualify for the big money shot. He rimmed out the putt for $2,500 to the groan of the crowd. He didn’t make a putt the rest of the day.
The title of this post comes from one of the familiar jokes we tell each year.
On Sundays, on hole number two, teams are given the option of shooting a clay pigeon or playing the hole. Most of the golfers in Atwood are better shots with a gun than a club. As we approach the tee off box, my playing partner of the past 20 years, Paul Hayden, shouts, “Nothing like alcohol and firearms to make a good golf tournament.” We all laugh.
Paul and my sixsome of the past few years – the Bowles brothers, Worthy and Ol’ Crow – laugh a lot over the course of the weekend. Paul reminds everyone about the pecking order, “Bowles… you’re the second best putter here.” Or calls out to groups passing on another hole, “Sandbaggers!”
The Bowles brothers play the best golf in our group usually contending for the Championship Flight title. But, Paul and I are no slouches ourselves. We have all the qualities of the great golfers.
We’re dedicated. We both play 45 holes a year counting the 36 holes we play in the Jamboree. Sometimes we only play 40 if we exit the Friday night shootout on an early hole. I used to play a practice round in Longmont before the Jamboree. But I’ve learned not to over prepare.
We’re competitive. We scratch our way into the fourth flight every year. We finish ahead of at least eight or nine teams of the 50 entered every year. The big drivers they make these days have helped us stay at the top of the bottom flight.
We’re consistent. We shoot between 72 and 75 every round we play – Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes our effort is a little unorthodox. Last year, for instance, we completed the first nine holes on Saturday in 32 strokes – we don’t quite have the sandbagging thing down. The second nine we had to use two tosses of the ball and two mulligan’s (legal in this tournament) to scratch out a 42. But there we were with our normal 74.
We’re poised under pressure. One year Paul and I won the Friday night shootout – a process of elimination game in which the low score on each hole is forced to retire. It was a nail biter. We tied with our competition on the final hole. We both shot 10 on the par five number three. We we’re the only team to get it on the green in the chip off.
We’re resourceful. We’re more than willing to shell out a few dollars to save a stroke. It costs five dollars for two shots at the clay pigeon on Sunday. If we hit the pigeon, and earn a birdie on the hole, it is guaranteed to save us at least one stroke, maybe two. Last year it took us three tries and 15 dollars but we saved the stroke. I thought Paul was a much better shot.
And, most important of all, we’re a good bet. On Saturday nights, the teams are auctioned off in a Calcutta. The teams in each Calcutta group that improve the most on the second day win money. Paul and I finish in the money about one out of every three years. I don’t want to drive our price up but I’m just saying, better odds than Vegas.
As an aside for those of you who might be curious. I once asked my Dad if the Calcutta is a legal activity. Here’s what he had to say, “When I was county attorney I was at the Calcutta. George Beims (the police chief) was there, too. No one said anything so it must be legal.” Good enough for me.
The Atwood Jamboree, along with my kids’ birthdays, is one of the few things on my calendar that I will not negotiate. The first weekend of August each year (except when the Olympics are held in the United States) I’ll be in Atwood.
I can’t wait.
Amy (Bondurant) Milton, her husband Steve and their kids spent some time at our house this week. The kids are staying with us while Amy and Steve get settled at their new house in Yuma, Arizona. Steve will be stationed with the Army at a base near Yuma for the next three years.
Conversations about Yuma, Arizona reminded me of a story told by my brother’s classmate Bill Beamgard. We were sitting in the stands in Yuma, Colorado; there to cheer on the Atwood Buffalos in a game against the Yuma Indians. Someone in our area of the cheering section asked how Yuma, Colorado got its name. Bill knew the answer…
“Back in the late 1800s the folks who settled this area were having trouble agreeing on a name for the town. There were many suggestions to name it after this family or that, after this civil war general or that, but no one could agree.
In an effort to calm folks down, it was suggested that the honor of naming the town be given to the next person who rides into town. The settlers agreed that the first words uttered by the next traveler would be the name of their fledgling village.
Later that afternoon, a stranger arrived by horseback. The settlers were eager to hear what the man had to say. They ran out of their stores and homes and gathered around the stranger as he tied up his horse near the saloon. They called out greetings to the stranger but he just tipped his hat without saying a word.
Each morning, the stranger would go the cafe for breakfast. Settlers would attempt to entice hime to talk. But, he’d just cordially nod his head. In the evenings, he’d take a drink at the saloon. Again, a nod or tip of the hat was his only method of communication.
The settlers were getting angry. They needed the stranger to talk so they could at last have a name for their young town. One settler became so angry that he confronted the stranger in the saloon. He demanded that the stranger say something. But, the stranger just shrugged his shoulders and turned back toward his drink.
The angry settler had had enough. He drew out his pistol and shot the stranger in a rage. Realizing the horrible deed he’d just done, the settler rushed to the stranger’s side. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘But don’t you have anything to say.’
With his last gasps of life, the dieing stranger choked out, ‘You mo…’”
The settlers adapted the new name of their town just a little.
My heart aches for Tom Watson. I can imagine nothing quite as painful for a professional golfer as coming up a few inches short from a major championship. At 59, the pain might be worse. Opportunities like putting for a championship aren’t supposed to present themselves to people of that age. You hate to see the dream slip through the fingers.
On the other hand, I tip my hat to Mr. Watson. He rekindled in all of us for a moment that dreams are possible – at every age.
I was pulling hard for Mr. Watson to win the Open Championship (aka the British Open) like many across the nation and globe. But, my motives may be a little different than most.
Yes, I was caught up in the feel good story of a person well past their prime competing with people thirty years junior. I’ve reached the age that such stories hold more meaning.
I was cheering, too, because Mr. Watson’s been a favorite of mine for thirty years. He’s a Kansas City boy. And, when it comes to professional sports, I’m a fan of all things Kansas City.
But, my enthusiasm for a potential Watson victory was fueled by a different source of energy. I was hoping for personal redemption – my own! For 22 years, I’ve wondered if I played a role in Mr. Watson falling short of claiming his sixth Claret Jug.
I spent the summer of 1987 in the United Kingdom. I attended summer school classes at the University of Manchester four days a week. I was a student of pubs on evenings and weekends.
Two classmates and I headed for the British Open at Muirfield near Edinburg the moment class let out on Thursday afternoon. We traveled all night by train, celebrated our arrival in Edinburg most of the day Friday and scored tickets for the third round of the Open on Saturday.
My two favorite golfers – Tom Watson and Payne Stewart – were paired together. We followed them through the rain and mud most of the day. My kids still use the umbrella I bought at the Open to stay dry.
Mr. Watson and Mr. Stewart were both in the hunt for the championship – just a shot or two off the lead. It was my first time in a gallery at a golf tournament. I was ignorant of proper etiquette. Without thinking about it I snapped a picture – in the middle of Mr. Watson’s back swing.
Golfers don’t like noises such as camera clicks when they’re swinging a club, especially when the stakes are high. I know this is true because as soon as Mr. Watson struck the ball he took a few steps forward – glaring with anger – and searched the crowd for the jerk who broke his concentration.
I hid behind the man with the cigar, a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Mr. Watson shanked his ball into the high weeds – not unlike he did on number 17 in the playoff this year. He bogeyed the hole – perhaps he did worse. He was out of the chase. Visions of his sixth Open Championship blurred. At least, that’s how I remember it.
Watson finished seventh that year. Payne Steward finished fourth. They had more than 18 holes left to play when I exited their gallery. Surely, more than one hole and one errant photograph did Mr. Watson in. But, I always wondered how he remembered that hole and that Open of 1987.
As for dreams almost coming true, Mr. Watson should hold his head high. He kept many of us on the edge of our seats, watching him chase a dream, and thinking about our own dreams, too.
Thank you Mr. Watson. And, sorry about ’87.
Pickup theater season kicked off this weekend.
I played pickup basketball and baseball when I was young. We played basketball in friend’s driveways and at the tennis courts by the Court House. Our baseball fields were vacant lots behind the Christian Church, the corner of 8th Street and Highway 36 and the southeast corner of the Court House block.
Our games had little organization. Whoever showed up, no matter what age, was in the game. Sometimes we put together loose organization that lasted for a few weeks. We had a three-on-three baseball league at least one, maybe two summers – The Holaday Twins and Rod Briggs (sometimes Greg Green) were the northern team; Doug Trail, Tim Yount and Matt Cunningham represented the south side of town (Tim’s roots were in the south), and Paul Hayden, Mark Buhler and I, along with substitutes who we could recruit were the Central Atwood team.
We even went so far as to make homemade uniforms. Kids of every generation seem to love uniforms and costumes. You can make out a few jerseys on Gene Currier’s video clip.
Our kids’ interests are different than mine were as a boy. Somewhere along the line, our kids got a theater bug – especially Joe. When the kids were very young they became infatuated with a movie version of CATS. It’s a love affair that has lasted almost seven or eight years.
Last summer the kids organized an acting troupe they call the Pratt Street Players (we live on Pratt Street) and did a performance of CATS for parents and all the neighbors the kids could recruit.
The practiced every day, three to four hours, for nearly a month in our garage. My office is located in a loft just above the garage. If you would like me to sing you a CATS song, I’m capable.
Our kids have long put on after dinner performances when we have friends or family over to our house. A typical performance included more time figuring out who is going to do what and competition between “directors” than actual acting.
We told the kids (okay I told the kids) if you’re going to invite people to a performance you need to be a bit more polished. I was blown away by their production. It included a buffet of food to be a “dinner theater”; a stage crew who operated everything from background to strobe lights and ticketed seating.
The song and dance numbers were more than a bit polished. Kids from age six to eleven danced in (almost) perfect sync. Best of all, they had a blast.
They have decided to do a reprise of CATS. Rather than a one night only performance, they’re planning a three night run sometime in late June. They’ve already enlisted their grandma Mickey in making costumes. They’ve put together a practice schedule. And, they’re recruiting a larger cast.
Just like the pickup games of my youth it’s a “no cost camp” that keeps the kids entertained for hours on end. And, I’ll get to bone up on my CATS songs since my office still sits above the theater.
I began wrestling at age six during an era of dominance. Wrestling was THE sport in Northwest Kansas when I was in grade school. In fact, the Northwest Kansas League (NWKL) was Kansas wrestling.
Between 1951 and 1970, the NWKL won 17 out of a possible 20 state champions. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the small schools from the northwest had to take on all comers including the Wichita and Kansas City area schools. There were no classifications. NWKL teams won 12 of 15 titles during that period.
In the late sixties, the tournament was divided between very big schools and all the rest. NWKL won all five tournaments under this format. In the 1970s, the modern classification system was developed. For the first time, some NWKL teams would wrestle in the 1-2 A tournament while others competed in the 3 A tournament (later 1-2-3 A and 4 A tournaments). That meant even more titles for the NWKL. During the 10 year span, the league claimed 15 of 20 possible state crowns.
Any NWKL team that won the league championship was the odds on favorite to win the state tournament, too. All eight NWKL teams won at least one state championship. Atwood’s year was 1973 (Atwood won a second title in 1989). St. Francis, the smallest school in the league, was the most dominate team winning ten titles in the thirty year span.
I remember the surprise, perhaps even disappointment, of the died-in-the-wool wrestling fans when the Atwood’s basketball team won a state title (1972) before the wrestlers reached that goal.
This was an exciting time for a young boy. Success breeds interest in a sport. The dominance of the NWKL and Atwood being competitive cultivated in me a lifelong interest in wrestling – even though I didn’t wrestle beyond the eighth grade.
I remember making my way through crowded hallways outside the Atwood gym. The pictures of former state champions lined the walls. Reinerts, Rudas, Lorimers, Higleys, I don’t remember them all, were larger than life figures to the young fan.
The gymnasium was always full even for dual meets. Kid wrestlers were the warm-up act. I usually wrestled Wayne Lanning. We were the two smallest. I’m sure the picture of me on my back is not indicative of the outcome of the match.
For a six year old boy, the crowds were awe-inspiring. I could hardly concentrate on my match because I was focused on all the people in the stands. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).
I traveled along with my Atwood classmates to Kid Wrestling tournaments all over northwest Kansas and a state meet in Manhattan. I took home lots of medals, even a few gold. But I was always more of a fan than a competitor.
I loved the dual meets. The National Anthem. The band. The cheerleaders. The rituals of 12 grapplers shaking hands then taking chairs on either side of the map. One or two wrestlers warming up in back waiting their turn. The evening beginning with wispy boys of less than 100 pounds and eleven matches later men of more than 200 pounds. Each teams’ coach perched on a corner of the mat yelling inaudible instructions.
Tournaments were even better. Wrestling tournaments have a unique energy that is hard to describe. Three or four rings of competition. Non-stop for an entire day – sometimes two. Everywhere you look: effort, determination, strain, victory, disappointment. A human drama before your eyes.
The early 70s match I remember most took place in Colby. Dave Brown was matched up against a wrestler from the Kansas School of the Blind. It might have been for the state championship. Dave was our heavyweight. The blind wrestler appeared to be twice his size. He just sat on Dave. “He’s got to move. That’s stalling.” These were the calls I heard from the frantic Atwood crowd.
I lost interest in wrestling at the time I had to worry about making weight. But, there was always a nagging voice saying you should be on the mat.
The NWKL lost its wrestling dominance about the time I entered high school. Other parts of the state had caught up. They had developed kid wrestling programs, too. Between 1981 and 2009, the NWKL is still competitive but they’ve only won 16 of a possible 56 state titles. Not quite the glory years.
I’m glad I was able to witness those years of dominance.
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For those interested in looking up past Kansas state wrestling champions. You can find information here.