The first half of the 2016 season was a bit of a roller coaster on the field for the Royals…and several injuries to key players made their job even tougher. Here are some things that caught my attention…
For the fourth straight season, the Glass family invited the players’ Dads to come on a road trip. This time it was an 11-day, 10-game journey through Cleveland, Baltimore and Chicago. In the previous three seasons the Dads’ collective mojo had helped their sons amass an impressive 15-6 record during the 2013-2015 trips. But one major sore point for the Royals in early 2016 was a rough road record. This year they went just 2-8, finishing with 2 wins in Chicago. While in the Windy City the Dads and their sons had a reception at Ditka’s Restaurant. The namesake of the place stopped by to visit the World Champs. My son John came up for the final series of the trip. (If you look back into the archives on this blog you’ll see him as a 3rd grader back in 2008…he’s going to be a SENIOR this year!). For the record the Dads still have a winning record…now 17-14.
I mentioned injuries. Among several all stars who missed time early was Mike Moustakas. His luck was particularly bad, as just days after coming off the DL, he was right back on it with a torn knee ligament. Here he visits with the media a few weeks after his season-ending surgery. Tough break for one of the key members of the club.
As the Royals move about Kansas City or travel around North America, many sport their 2015 World Series rings. Here at Yankee Stadium, Royals VP Mike Swanson (who also won one while with Arizona in 2001) shows off some of the rings many features.
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words. So…need I say more? This image portrays Rex Hudler’s energy better than I can describe it. He’s like this 24/7 folks. Amazing! Here longtime Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth visits with him for a pregame show.
The Royals made a triumphant return (or as the Mets might say, they “returned to the scene of the crime”). The Royals and Mets played the first two games of the season in KC, then played 2 in New York in June. Citi Field will forever be remembered by Royals fans as the place where the team finished off its second world championship.
Every Royals fan can remember where they were when the Royals won it all. This is where I was. This walkway to the third base side of the field was very congested as national media rights holders were all lined up (Fox, ESPN, MLB Network, SiriusXM and I) awaiting the final out. I couldn’t see the field. The only way I knew the Royals had won was when I saw 4 or 5 gloves all “floating” up in the air above the field after the players had thrown them in the air! A great moment. After Wade Davis struck out Wilmer Flores for the final out, all of us media types poured out onto the field…just as the Royals did. Then….lots of interviews and champagne!
Off the hallway in which we were all lined up there is a room for the grounds crew where there IS a TV but from where we were all standing it was an effort to get back to see what was happening…so we all had to wait to find out the final result….but occasionally we took a peak back in this room.
Another great event in the first half was the annual Diamond of Dreams event. The evening has become a great tradition for a great cause: Royals Charities. This years Diamond of Dreams event raised more than $350,000 for families of local military posts and bases in Kansas and Missouri, the USO and reStart Supportive Services for Veterans and Families.
Denny Matthews has spent 48 years telling you what the Royals are doing. One of his favorite people (and a favorite of all of ours) is Hall of Fame Cardinal player and manager Red Schoendienst. He’s 93 and amazingly sharp mentally and physically!
One “insider” view I get after a victory is Salvy preparing for his splash. On this particular day I was going to interview Salvador Perez on our radio postgame show. But I deferred until after he had doused Cheslor Cuthbert (who drove in 2 runs with 2 hits).
I’ve interviewed Salvy after games several times…and have seen his disappointment if OUR interview ran long and he wasn’t able to pour cold liquid over the player Joel Goldberg was interviewing on TV. So now if I want to get him for radio, I wait for the Salvy splash to be completed (on this day he doused Cheslor twice!)…and then proceed with our visit. He takes his responsibility seriously!
As 2016 was getting off to a nice start, the Glass family made sure that those of us who were fortunate enough to be part of the 2015 Royals will always have a remarkably beautiful memento to remember the Royals second World Series title!
This is the legendary Royals Hall of Fame scout Art Stewart (no relation, unfortunately). He’s been in baseball over 60 years. He’s got Yankee rings from his early days with that franchise, and now has 4 Royals rings (80 and 14 AL championships plus 1985 and 2015 World titles).
You can see championship rings have evolved in 30 years. Both beautiful keepsakes. I’m biased, but I’ll say the recent edition is more “spectacular.” Denny, Art, George Brett and John Wathan are among those who own both rings. An exclusive club!
Here’s the ring I received. As beautiful as the 2014 AL ring ((that I’ve worn until now) is, this one is definitely nicer. The diamonds really set it off. Royals President Dan Glass told me that (believe it or not) this is NOT the biggest ring Jostens makes. But it’s close! And you DID hear correctly, the Glass family purchased north of 700 rings.
Each ring has 2015 spelled out in diamonds, set above the World Series trophy with a blue sapphire stone on each side. Those symbolize the back-to-back AL titles. The five diamonds on the bottom of the trophy represent the 5 runs the Royals scored in the top of the 12th inning in Game 5 of the World Series! (also the Royals won in 5 games, so there’s that…)
On the other side, each recipient has their last name (just like last years AL ring), set above Kauffman Stadium (as viewed from I-70). Notice you can even see the upper deck of the stadium on the opposite side from the Crown Vision board and the outfield lights! At the bottom, where you see the MLB logo, each player has his number in that spot.
Perhaps the coolest touch on this ring is the crown that goes all the way around the top. 30 points on the crown…30 years since the last Championship…30 MLB teams. Very cool!
No space was wasted, including the inside. Here you see an inscription: Royals Crowned…Back to back AL Champs.
Also inscribed inside (beautifully) are the postseason results: including the logos of the 3 teams the Royals beat, Houston, Toronto and the New York Mets. How cool is that!
Once again the folks at Jostens delivered our rings in these beautiful boxes that light up the ring when opened. I wasn’t sure they could make a more beautiful ring for us than the 2014 AL edition, but they did! Royals Senior Vice President of Business Operations Kevin Uhlich and the Glass family worked closely with the Jostens people to create something truly stunning to commemorate a magical year.
I asked George Brett immediately after Game 5 last year which ring he’d wear, now that he’d have 2 World Series rings. He wasn’t sure, but knew this new one would be big! Obviously there’s nothing better than winning one as a player, but it’s hard to argue his 2015 ring is gorgeous!
Since we’re still celebrating 2015, check out this beautiful painting. Imagine my surprise (and the players’) when we found this amazing piece of art hanging in the hallway just outside the visitors clubhouse at Minute Maid Park in Houston, on the Royals’ first road trip. Terrance Gore was among those amazed by the detail of this composite painting of the World Series celebration at Citi Field. Opie Otterstad is the Austin-based artist. MLB commissions him to do these every year. Many of the players are planning to purchase a copy. It should be on his website soon: opieart.com.
It’s still a little surreal, isn’t it? But it happened! What an amazing ride. From the first day of Cactus League games in March…to Opening Day…spending the season as the reigning American League Champs…to an even MORE magical postseason run than 2014. What an amazing stream of memories we’ll all have for the rest of our lives. Here are just a few images I took away from October (and, thankfully, November!)…
Many of you waited 30 years for another parade. My son John and I had waited our whole lives for one, but after living here 8 years, we got the opportunity to enjoy walking the parade route. What an amazing weather day. What a patient and well-behaved crowd. Such joy. Hopefully the Royals win next year and the next as well. But no matter how much they win going forward we’ll never forget THIS parade.
These shots of the celebration at Union Station and the Liberty Memorial have amazed the world. This is one that went viral…as Lisa Simon, of the Lathrop and Gage law firm, snapped this shot from their office. She told the Kansas City Business Journal that thanks to retweets from ESPN among many others…she estimated 1 million impressions around the world. And there were many other iconic shots taken from aircraft flying overhead.
It was amazing to see the giant crowds all along the parade route. So great that school was cancelled so there were hundreds of thousands of youngsters making a lifetime memory. I high-fived with so many kids and parents. If there was one word to describe the day…it was joy.
On Sunday night/Monday morning after the champagne celebration at Citi Field, the Royals had a very nice, festive reception for the traveling party back at our hotel (the players were, I’m sure, having their own party at their own hotel). It was such a late night…8:15 start Eastern Time, 12 inning game, long celebration after. So the party didn’t even START until we got back about 2:00 am. About an hour later Royals VP Mike Swanson carried the Commissioner’s Trophy down the steps and made the night even sweeter. Incidentally, these trophies have been awarded only since 1967, and it wasn’t named for the Commissioner until 1985. You’ll notice that I missed most of the champagne spray this time (most of it was at the knees and below in my case).
The day after the parade, John and I got our picture taken with another Stewart, Royals legendary scout Art Stewart. He’s no relation, but one of my favorite people. The World Series logo was still fresh on the field and this giant replica of the Commissioner’s Trophy provided a nice back drop.
They had the trophy presentations in an auxiliary locker room at Citi Field. Here Commissioner Rob Manfred awards the World Series MVP to Salvador Perez. This was the Royals’ (and my) EIGHTH champagne celebration the past 2 seasons! The previous six had been at home, a chance to share it all with the fans and local media. This was the best one, obviously, and doing it on the road made it a bit more intimate.
This was my view as the Royals wrapped up the title. It’s a tunnel/walkway that heads out toward the third base area. This is how the broadcasters for the event (local radio, MLB Network, MLB Network Radio, ESPN, etc) enter the field as soon as the postseason games are over. I wish I had been quick enough with my camera to catch the image that let me know the Royals had won: above the stands I saw 4 or 5 of their fielding gloves that had been flung in the air as the celebration began. Just the gloves….they let me know it was time to celebrate (but first to conduct about 25 interviews over the next 90 minutes).
This was the penultimate celebration…the Royals winning their second consecutive American League championship. Again, I was in a tunnel so I didn’t see the final out, but another great memory. Winning never gets old…does it?
One story from Toronto that didn’t get much attention (fortunately) was a fire alarm that went off at about 12:30 am after the Royals lost Game 3 of the ALCS 11-8. Some members of the traveling party were staying at this hotel (but not the players fortunately). We first suspected that perhaps an overzealous Blue Jays fan might have pulled the alarm, hoping to wakeup the Royals (the team USED to stay at the hotel). So I was in the lobby from 12:30 until about 4:00 am. So at a different hotel the players slept great…and won that next game 14-2. By the way we finally learned it wasn’t a fire, it was a water leak on the 35th floor, and it dripped all they way down to the lobby…
As I mentioned…at the end of these victories I make my way onto the field. This one was especially sweet. The Royals had just staged their thrilling 8th inning comeback in Game 4 of the ALDS in Houston. I was in slight disbelief as I waited for Wade Davis to finish off the Astros in the 9th inning, setting the stage for Johnny Cueto’s 8.0-inning masterpiece two days later.
One of the great things about baseball is the way we share it with family and friends. Just before Game 2 of the ALDS I stopped by the seats that my family and friends enjoyed through 8 postseason home games. Back-to-back long runs through the postseason…here’s to making another LONG run next year!!
The Royals have had a winning record during each month of the 2015 season. But the best month so far was the one that is traditionally known as the toughest month of the baseball season…August-AKA The Dog Days. The Royals finished the month 19-9!
With August all wrapped up, September began with good news and bad news. The good news was the return of Alex Gordon from the disabled list and the acquisition of Jonny Gomes in a trade with Atlanta. The Royals also added several players from AAA Omaha. The bad news was learning that Alex Rios and Kelvin Herrera would miss time with chickenpox.
The OTHER big news during recent weeks was an under-the-radar acquisition by John and Andy in our press dining room. A soft-serve frozen yogurt machine! It’s been VERY popular, and as you can see Denny has enjoyed the new addition. He’s not only a Hall of Fame broadcaster, but a Hall of Fame eater too…and yet he never gains a pound!
Speaking of excellent acquisitions…one of the newest Royals, Ben Zobrist, was very warmly received on our trip to Tampa Bay. He was so good for them during his nine years in St. Petersburg, that he was named a member of the Rays’ “Franchise Four.” Also while we were there, the local chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America presented Ben with the team MVP award from 2014, his last year as a Ray. The award is now named for the late Don Zimmer. That same night, the Rays showed a video tribute featuring Ben’s time with TB, and Ben’s wife, Christian singer Julianna Zobrist, sang the National Anthem before the game.
It was great to see now-retired longtime Kansas City sportscasting legend, Don Fortune, while we were in St. Pete. We had lunch with him, then got to see him at the game that evening. Don is living the good life in Florida, a couple hours south of the Tampa Bay area. But he still watches and/or listens to every Royals game.
August also included the Royals annual visit to historic Fenway Park. The Royals lost the first two, but rebounded to win the next two and gain a split. It’s always great to go down on the field and soak in the history of the place. Rex Hudler has Danny Duffy’s attention here. Hud’s passion is always contagious and he loves to pass along his knowledge and energy to the current generation of ballplayers.
In mid-August, MLB Network selected a Royals-Tigers game for their Tuesday Night Showcase. The announcers were Bob Costas and the guy standing next to Denny here…former pitcher Jim Kaat. Kaat lives in the Northeast in the summer, and mostly announces games in that part of the country, but he made it a point to come do a game in KC. He pitched here many times in a stellar career that included 283 victories, beginning in 1959…and winding up in 1983.
The Royals were on a season-long 11 day road trip when August began, as they visited Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit. With a day off in Detroit, JoAnn Erickson and I headed across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario, Canada for a day. Here you can see the Detroit skyline behind us. A lot of sports fans in the area either cross one of the bridges or take one of the tunnels to Detroit to cheer on the Tigers, Lions, Red Wings and Pistons. The Windsor area has more than 300,000 residents and helps add to what is already a large market of more than 4.2 million people who call the Detroit area home on the US side of the river.
Before heading for Detroit, the Royals were in Toronto. Our first day there the temperature rose to 82 degrees or so. Game time temperature that night was 80. In KC, that would be considered a pleasant summer day. For Torontonians, it was HOT!
The Royals will spend the rest of 2015 in the Central and Eastern time zones, now that Seattle and Oakland are behind them. They visited Anaheim on their first road trip. In all the Royals went 8-1 in the Pacific time zone. Not bad!
Safeco Field in Seattle is on everybody’s short list of favorite ballparks. Rain in the Northwest necessitates a roof, but on sunny days, like this one, it’s hard to beat this place. Opened in the middle of the 1999 season, it’s not really “new” anymore, but still feels new. They’ve brought in the fences in recent years, but it’s still difficult on most nights to hit home runs.
One treat for the club while in Seattle, a visit by Raul Ibanez, who received his 2014 American League Championship ring from his former teammates in the clubhouse. He lives in Seattle and was instantly the most popular guy in the room.
The Central Waterfront of Seattle is just a short walk down a steep hill from downtown. Piers that have been around for centuries now feature shops and restaurants. But there’s lots of areas nearby that look untouched. You’ll find lots of hiking, biking and running trails up and down the waterfront. Major road projects are underway nearby, after an earthquake several years ago exposed that the Alaskan Way Viaduct might not survive another.
The signature landmark of Seattle is the Space Needle. The very top, the antenna spire, is 605 feet off the ground, almost the height of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Of course it’s also on top of a hill. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, you can see a lot from its observation deck. Besides the Seattle skyline, you can view Mount Ranier, The Olympic and Cascade Mountains and Elliott Bay.
After Seattle, the Royals headed south for Oakland. The Royals stay in San Francisco and with a day off in the City by the Bay, many in the traveling party headed for the water. The Sea Lions are one of many tourist attractions at Pier 39. The number of these creatures at the docks has been increasing steadily since 1989, when these docks were renovated, and boats were removed from the area. They are mammals and said to be highly intelligent. The males are much bigger than the females. Males weigh up to 770 pounds, while the ladies max out at around 220 pounds. No evidence of giant flat screens causing the males to veg out while the females do all the work.
Thousands of tourists visit the pier every day. The weather was perfect while the Royals were in the Bay Area. While on the dock, I was able to convince JoAnn Erickson to have her picture taken with me. I bribed her with coffee. Great weekend for the Royals, who swept the A’s.
The Astros showed the Royals just how much they’ve improved, sweeping KC in a three game series. My cousin Jeff Nunn, a Houston resident, has come out of the woodwork to once again attend Astros games. And he’s not alone. After several losing seasons, the Astros have seen their attendance spike this summer as they’ve now got an exciting and talented young team to watch.
And, finally a word of thanks and best wishes to Colby Curry, leaving the Royals after 9 years to return to his alma mater as a sports broadcasting instructor. Colby came here as a marketing intern in 2006 and eventually joined media relations as coordinator of communications and broadcasting.
He’s worked tirelessly and always with a smile on his face. Colby has been here through the entire Dayton Moore era, experiencing the entire stadium renovation, the All-Star Game and the 2014 Postseason.
He’s also become my conduit to this blog. So I say a personal thanks for his great work and best of luck as a Fighting Leatherneck at Western Illinois!!
The Royals visited Wrigley Field for the first time in 14 years and it was quite the party…for Royals fans. It was great to go back and see the place (I hadn’t been there in nine year) and (thanks to the Saturday rainout) we get to go back for one more visit on Monday September 28th (Chiefs are at Green Bay the same night…the sports bars in Kansas City will be hopping!)
The old place (celebrated its centennial last season) has an updated look out front, with photos of current Cubs stars. It was rainy in mid-afternoon for the Friday opener but eventually cleared up….for one game anyway.
If only the weather could have stayed THIS way the entire weekend. Once the skies cleared it was beautiful…even hot and humid. Even steamy. The four-year renovation is well underway. When the season started none of the new bleachers were open. But by the time the Royals arrived left and centerfield were open for business and looked great. The right field bleachers were not ready quite yet, but they opened June 11th, so we’ll see the completed version the last week of the season.
One major change (actually two) are the two large video boards that have brought Wrigley into the modern era. One in left-center and one in right field. Some traditionalists may not like them but I thought they looked great and did nothing to take away from the charm of the place.
These dugouts will eventually be renovated too, and for now they are cramped but I love the fact that it’s basically the same dugout that Hank Aaron used, and Roberto Clemente, and Stan Musiel, etc etc… One modern amenity….on the freezing cold Saturday and Sunday….the dugout heaters worked great. What’s really interesting is how many tunnels it takes to GET to this dugout
After you leave the tiny clubhouse (about the size of the Fenway Park visitors’ clubhouse…and it will be renovated in the next couple of years)…you come down a long flight of stairs…then turn into this tunnel
Then you turn down this tunnel…
Then you turn down this tunnel…
Then you turn down this tunnel
Then you turn down this tunnel
Then…finally….you turn right…and there’s daylight! This final tunnel takes you to the visitors’ dugout, on the first base side.
As the bleachers are being completely rebuilt, so is the area behind the third base stands. This massive construction project will include the new massive home clubhouse as well as an underground parking area…and a giant fan plaza. When it’s all completed it will be very impressive. Eventually a new hotel will go up…new suites…new concourses….restrooms…you name it…it’s all being renovated.
The right field bleachers were not quite ready yet at the end of May, but opened soon thereafter. Underneath the bleachers they’ll eventually build new bullpens, so the relievers will no longer have to warm up in the field of play.
Across Waveland Avenue from the bleachers is a Northside landmark, a bar, Murphy’s Bleachers. Danny Parkins and Carrington Harrison took their show on 610 Sports Radio, The Drive, on the road for live broadcasts for all three (scheduled) days of the series. Of course Saturday and Sunday were much wetter/colder….but here you see evidence of the Royals fans “taking over” Wrigleyville. The Royals fan showing was impressive!
Another Wrigleyville staple is Mullen’s on Clark. On Saturday night, after our game was rained out, we had the chance to have dinner there. The Blackhawks hockey team was playing Game 7 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals. And Mullen’s was in full hockey mode, right down to flashing red lights that went crazy every time the Blackhawks scored. They also cranked up the song they play at the United Center whenever the team scores on home ice in Chicago. (“Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis)
And one more shout out to the huge Royals fan turnout at Wrigley. It’s a shame after Friday afternoons beautiful weather that the cold front was SO cold…and wet. It washed out Saturday….and made Sunday miserable too. But the Royals fans, most of whom were no doubt expecting spring (rather than winter) were Royal blue loud and proud. Here Chris Young signs some autographs down the right field line in the 30-something wind chill for lots of Royal fans.
The Royals got off to a fast start in 2015, winning their first seven games. Just before the Opener, the Royals awarded American League Championship rings to the players, coaches and baseball/clubhouse staff. Even the box was great…it lights up the ring when you open the lid!
The next day, the Royals hosted a luncheon for full time employees, many of whom also received rings (or in some cases pendants if that was their preference. The rings are big!) I was fortunate enough to be one of those to receive a ring. Royals President Dan Glass, Senior VP of Business Operations Kevin Uhlich and staff members did a great job designing these mementos. The iconic KC logo with the blue backing really stands out! The generosity shown by the Glass family as they share the memories of 2014 with those in the entire organization has been unbelievable.
On one side of the ring is the American League logo, with three diamonds, emblematic of the royals three American League titles (1980, 1985 and 2014).
On the other side everybody has their name emblazoned above the the crown logo (the KC is blue by the way). The banner above the crown reads “MLB Playoff Record 8-0.” Two more thoughts on that: 1) That’s the first time I’ve ever written or used the word “emblazoned,” as far as I can remember (and I spelled it correctly on the first try!). and 2) I’m thankful that Royals legend Art Stewart spells his name the same way I do (that way there was very little danger of it being misspelled. Ha.)
Opening Day, of course, meant Denny Matthews going back to work. The Royals 47th season opened with Denny broadcasting his 47th opener. Really amazing. Royals fans are lucky to have a guy who’s been there since Day 1. And Denny has signed on to keep on keeping on through at least the 50th season of Royals baseball in 2018!
The season-opening series sweep was punctuated by a Salvador Perez 2-run homer, his first long ball of the year. The next morning the press in Venezuela took note! Love this headline…
When Oakland came to town for the second homestand of 2015, it meant the return of Billy Butler. Billy will always be loved in KC for his great play on the field and all of his great charitable work off the field while he was here. Longtime teammate Alex Gordon was part of the pregame ceremony during which Billy received his 2014 ring. The crowd roared their approval as Alex playfully removed Billy’s Oakland cap and replaced it with Gordo’s Royals cap.
The first game of the Oakland series brought the Royals second sellout of 2015, as the crowd welcomed the club home from a winning road trip and welcomed Billy back to the K. Hopefully the crowds will be big all season long!
No Royals fan (above the age of 4) will ever forget October 2014. It was a month full of highs, a few lows, one big low, but the joy the Royals brought longtime fans, and those new to the party will be hard to ever duplicate. Even while falling one win (90 feet) short of the BIG prize, the Royals reawakened this city and finally showed the under-35 crowd what an incredibly supportive and passionate baseball community Kansas City is…
One of many great benefits of the 2014 Royals and the October run was the way it brought generations of Royals fans together. My son John connected with the Royals a long time ago, of course, but it was fun sharing the postseason run with him. As a 15-year-old, he’ll always be able to remember the 11-4 month, including a 6-2 home record. As a kid I never got to experience anything like this (the Cardinals made zero postseason appearances between 1968 and 1982, which spanned my entire childhood). Let’s hope there’s more postseason fun around here in the near future!
I took so many photos from late September through the World Series, but this may have been the most joyous moment. Although it’s hard to argue with clinching the pennant vs. Baltimore. But this was the beginning of the celebration after the Royals won one of the most wildly entertaining games anyone can remember. The Wild Card win, on a national stage, helped introduce the Royals to the American public. With this win in their pocket, the Royals were off and running.
This guy got a lot of attention, and for very understandable reasons. The fans were as much of a star as Cain, Hosmer and Ventura this postseason. The most loyal fan base in baseball, many of whom had stuck with the Royals though decades of waiting, made this such a wonderful story. In such a small market, in the only major professional league without a salary cap, the Royals went toe to toe with three teams with higher payrolls. And the Angels and Giants payrolls were WAY higher than the Royals. Only question for this guy was…what happened to all those dogs?
This was the first champagne celebration…in Chicago. It was historic, the first such celebration in 29 years. The Royals were still hoping to catch Detroit and win the AL Central, but they came up a game short. Thankfully the Orioles were able to slay the Detroit “dragon” that gave the Royals problems. But the joy on this night at US Cellular Field was special. It meant that most on the roster would play postseason baseball for the first time. It ended a playoff drought and launched one of the best baseball stories in a generation. I got soaked with champagne 4 times this postseason….I came up one celebration short. That 5th party, the World Series victory, will have to wait.
After the fourth (and unfortunately) final celebration, after Game 4 of the ALCS Fox 4’s John Holt got this photo of Joel Goldberg and me after we were doused. Joel and I arrived the same year, 2008, so we didn’t wait as long as many of you, but having immersed ourselves in all things Royals, we had a good sense of the joy this postseason meant to fans throughout this region.
These 2 guys were stars long before October, but they both reveled in the most memorable 15 games in more than a generation. Eric was at many of the the games. So was Paul Rudd. They’re among many A-listers who happen to have grown up as Royals fans. We all felt great for George, a franchise icon who was so anxious to share in the postseason heroics of Royals history. The Royals don’t have a bigger fan than George.
The Royals staff had their 81 game home season stretched by 8 big postseason affairs. The 2012 All Star Game helped prepare everybody to some degree. Every inch of space in the renovated ballpark was utilized to accommodate hundreds upon hundreds of media. This hallway is the tunnel that leads to the Royals clubhouse, and down to the field. To give you some idea of the media saturation, this hallway is normally virtually empty during a regular season game, even on Opening Day. Kansas City AND the Royals made a great impression on the media that spent so much time in our town in October.
My mother, Marilyn Stewart, made it to Game 1 of the World Series. So many parents, and children, and grandchildren enjoyed the magical October ride. We had to update my mom’s Royals wardrobe. She’s been to spring training several times, but now she’s got her World Series gear as well.
When I walked into Angel Stadium for Game 1 of the ALDS, it really hit me this was the playoffs. The Wildcard Game was incredible and unforgettable, but for a franchise that had been out of the postseason for so long, it was exciting to be involved in a playoff SERIES. The Angels, of course, finished with the best record in baseball (98 wins), but the Royals won a couple of extra inning games at the Big A, and went on to sweep the Angels…winning their first ever LDS.
Baltimore also had more victories than the Royals (96), and they were AL East champs. So they had home field advantage for the first ALCS for either franchise in many years. Because of the large traveling parties and the last-minute nature of the postseason, we often stayed in different hotels than we had during the regular season. In Baltimore that meant I had a room that overlooked center and right field of Camden Yards. Having worked in Baltimore for several years, and having broadcast Oriole games, it was a fun and yet at times awkward series for me. The Orioles had a great season and should be good for years to come. The champagne celebration after that one was pretty special, as it signaled the Royals would host the World Series 6 days later.
This was the final victory celebration of 2014 for the Royals. After their Game 6 win (10-0) over the Giants, the stage was set for baseball’s biggest stage, Game 7. How incredible was Yordano in this game? Rest up Yordano! We’ll see you back here soon (perhaps on Opening Day)!
On the eve of the World Series, the Royals and Major League Baseball threw a big party at the ballpark for staff, sponsors, media and special guests. Somehow I got invited. The guy on the left is Rob Butcher, longtime media relations director for the Cincinnati Reds, a guy I worked with for several years. Like Royals VP Mike Swanson, Rob works in media relations for a lot of big events for MLB, including All Star Games and the World Series. Rob and I had to pay JoAnn Erickson a lot of money to be in our picture (not really). Rob’s wife Dana (not pictured) works for MLB.com. She’s a big reason I have this blog with the Royals (you can give her credit or blame).
Every time the Royals travel to a stadium for the first time, I like to do a blog post showing off the venue. Before the World Series the Royals hadn’t been to AT&T Park since 2005, when it was still called SBC Park (and before that, Pacific Bell Park). It is truly one of the jewels of Major League Baseball. Opened in 2000, it is built right on San Francisco Bay and it occupies a relatively tiny footprint, just 12 and a half acres. I highly recommend you go see a game there.
Of course the most famous feature of the park is McCovey Cove, just over the right field wall. So many boats, and even more with the World Series in town. The right field wall is 24 feet high, in tribute to number 24, Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid was recognized prior to Game 3 along with fellow Giants Hall of Famers Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey and Gaylord Perry.
The Royals penultimate (I don’t get to use that word much…second-to-last) road trip of the season took them to New York and Detroit. Tough games…offense struggling to score runs…but the Royals finished 3-3 as they bid farewell to Derek Jeter and managed to salvage a win in the finale against the Tigers.
Every once in awhile the Royals get to be what I call “accidental tourists” while on the road. September 7th at Yankee Stadium was one of those days. By “accidental” I mean they’re the opposition in another team’s ballpark when something special takes place. The Royals felt lucky to be part of “Derek Jeter Day” at Yankee Stadium.
After receiving various gifts, and after many friends and relatives were introduced (parents, Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera, Michael Jordan, just to name a few), Jeter took to the microphone. He was very gracious as baseball fans have come to expect, thanking his parents, coaches, teammates, opponents and especially the fans. With all the other single-digit numbers now retired (most recently Joe Torre’s number 6), Jeter’s 2 is the last one in that category. And, of course, it’s only a matter of time until it’s retired as well.
Most of the Royals players grew up watching Jeter play. Many idolized him. A lot of the players and staff had their cell phone cameras out. You can see first base coach Rusty Kuntz at the bottom left in this photo as he tried to get a better/closer angle of the proceedings. It was a special day..but the best part was the fact that the Royals won! And they took 2 out of 3 from the Yankees.
The Royals then headed for Detroit for three big games with the Tigers. The Royals have an EXTRA large roster THIS September, with 36 players suiting up each night. Three of those fresh faces (facing away from us in this case) are lightning-fast Terrance Gore, 2014 first round draft pick Brandon Finnegan (who had a memorable MLB debut, retiring all six batters, including a strike out of Derek Jeter) and outfielder Lane Adams, who had an all-star season at AA Northwest Arkansas this season.
After two days of “under the weather” play by the Royals resulted in two losses to Detroit, there was much angst in both clubhouses before the final game as rain fell much of the day and early evening. The forecast did NOT look good. But after just a 42 minute delay, the Royals and Tigers got going and (despite rain off and on throughout the night) they played nine uninterrupted innings. Big Game James Shields came through with a Big Game…7 scoreless innings. The Royals won 3-0, moving back into sole possession of first place. The three Royals victories on the 3-3 trip were by the scores (in order) of 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0.
As the Royals rolled through early August they were doing a lot of things right. They finished July with a 5-2 home stand and then headed west and began August with a 5-1 run though Oakland and Arizona.
As the Arizona series began, the 100-plus temperatures dictated closing the roof at Chase Field. Opened in 1998, the first year the Diamondbacks played, Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark) offers fans an air conditioned oasis on summer days and nights. The ’98 expansion Dbacks weren’t very competitive (65-97), so some days the opening and closing of the new roof provided the most entertainment. Royals VP Mike Swanson helped get the Diamondbacks up and running, spending nine years with the franchise, before coming home to the Royals in 2007.
The Diamondbacks may be a relatively young franchise, and one of their franchise icons was already a baseball and TV icons long before they were born: Joe Garagiola Sr. Garagiola was of course a catcher, and later became a beloved broadcaster. His announcing career started with the Cardinals, as he’s shown here with Jack Buck and Harry Caray. He would go on to national broadcast fame with NBC in sports but also as a host on the Today Show, game show host. So versatile.
Joe Sr. was a TV analyst for many years with the Dbacks. It was a family event for him, as his son, Joe Garagiola Jr., served as the teams general manager for many years. Joe Sr. is the greatest story teller I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing. On the broadcast level there’s a mural commemorating his great career.
The Royals swept of Diamondbacks, and in so doing they finished their western trip with a 5-1 record. It pushed their record away from home to 33-26, one of the best road marks in the American League.
When it’s 100-plus outside every day, there is ONE place that isn’t so bad. Just make sure you’ve got flip-flops to wear so you don’t have to walk barefoot on the pavement.
In the Bay Area it was much cooler. The Royals took 2 of 3 from the team with the best record i baseball. Here former Royal Chili Davis, the outstanding hitting coach for the A’s, with former Royal Coco Crisp. Coco was not on the disabled list, but was unavailable in the series with a neck injury. Coco is a major cog in the Oakland offense.
One improvement evident on our trip to the Bay Area was getting to travel on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland (and back). The Bay Bridge carries approximately 240,000 vehicles per day. The new eastern span cost over $6 billion dollars and took 11 years to complete. It is the widest bridge in the world. The old bridge (on the right), part of which collapsed in the 1989 earthquake, is being dismantled.
Near our hotel in San Francisco sits beautiful Union Square. It’s a 2.6 acre public plaza, surrounded by a major shopping, restaurant and hotel area. The name comes from the square’s original function, as it was a place for rallying around the Union troops during the Civil War.