It was 1985. I was 13 years old. It was autumn. Since my earliest memories, I was a Royals fan. I mean, why wouldn’t you have been? Brett. White. Saberhagen. Otis. Patek. Mayberry. These were my guys. They filled the images of my youth. Willie Wilson signed a glove for me when I was seven and I played with that glove through the sad, bitter end of my baseball career when I was 14. (I peaked too early.) The names are now filling the history books of Royals history – right next to the black hole that was the late 90’s and 2000’s.
And what a void it was. Decades of poor play, comically inept decision making and monetary decisions to tight, they could vice a phone book into a single sheet of paper. Even through the first seven years of Dayton Moore’s five-year “process,” the Royals were laughed at plenty and cheered rarely. And then 2014 happened.
Regardless of where this final week of the season goes, and many signs point to it ending a 29 year playoff drought, it makes me recall the first ten years I spent as a Royals fan. In that span, the Royals won five division titles, two American League titles and a World Series. My Septembers and Octobers were filled with transistor radios tucked into backpacks, watching the Royals on the NBC Game of the Week and going out and buying something called a VCR just before the 1985 World Series.
This was obviously before the Internet; before Twitter; before Fox Sports Kansas City. You saw your teachers tailoring their lessons to account for George Brett’s .390 run in 1980. You saw cab drivers wearing Royals hats downtown. You saw baseball practices and choir practices being rescheduled around key games and playoff baseball. This town was on fire.
And then Dick Howser died. Then Mr. and Mrs. K died. And then the charitable trust ownership years sucked the life out of this team and this town. The Chiefs and Martyball took over as the Royals lay dormant under a blanket of nuclear winter for 29 years.
The signs of a thaw are upon us in Kansas City, however, even as the calendar tells us it is Autumn. Fans are making plans for road trips to Cleveland and Chicago to catch the final games of the season. the last Kauffman homestand drew over 110,000 fans. Television and radio ratings are off the charts. Every pitch and play the fans are living and dying on – even through it’s through Twitter and Facebook.
This has always been a baseball town – dating back to the Athletics and the Monarchs. The shame of the 29 year black hole is that this town forgot how to act. They forgot to wear blue on Fridays and they forgot to make sure to check the out of town scores to see where Seattle and Oakland are in the standings. But it’s all coming back to us now – like riding a bike or kissing an old girlfriend. The feeling rush back in such an emotional fury. Baseball is the lifeblood of this town and if this improbable team can somehow make it back. If they can defy the prognosticators and the experts and even their own fans to make the playoffs, you’ll see it. You’ll see how crazy this town can become.
And if you’re between the ages of five and fifteen, pay close attention – you never know when this might happen again.