The Royals Hall of Fame opened after the All-Star break…and the reviews are in. Everybody who’s been through it that I’ve talked to has given it two thumbs up. If they had 3 or 4 thumbs…they’d give it 3 or 4 thumbs up.
I will attempt to give you a taste of it…but to truly appreciate it you need to check it out for yourself. And allow yourself some time. It’s free with your game ticket by the way. And it is open year-round.
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Located in left field…the first thing you see when you walk in is a giant wall that salutes Kansas City baseball history. On display are lockers with uniforms of the three Royals retired numbers: George Brett, Dick Howser and Frank White.
The first thing many rave about is the film you view before seeing the Hall. It’s in the “Dugout Theater,” an exact replica of the actual Royals dugout except that there are two rows of benches and not one (to accommodate more people). The film gives you the history of baseball in Kansas City, going back to the 19th century…right up to today.
And a wonderful touch, down at the end of the dugout, in the theater, sits a statue of Kansas City treasure, the late Buck O’Neil. The smile and twinkle in his eye will never fade.
Among the many displays: the “Pine Tar Bat” that George Brett made famous 26 years ago. George actually owns the bat, but it’s normally on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It is currently on loan to the Royals Hall of Fame until the end of this calendar year.
Here is a great salute to Brett: a giant number “5,” made up of 3,154 baseballs, one for every hit in his great career. Within the “5″ is the bat he used when he recorded his 3000th hit. Upon seeing that bat, George noted that his 3000th hit bat actually has more pine tar on it than his “Pine Tar Bat!”
Another cool feature is the Royals Radio Network booth, with a large window looking out on the field at New Kauffman Stadium. Fans can record their own play-by-play. Sorry, Don Free is not included. He’s the one that makes us look good. Seriously, it’s a fun feature of the new Royals Hall of Fame.
This display is a salute to the “Royals Academy,” a revolutionary concept in the early years of the franchise. The idea was to take athletes and turn them into baseball players. Frank White is one of many Academy graduates. In this display case, you can actually read the scouting report on Frank before he became a Royal.
The man who led the Royals Academy was the late Syd Thrift, a longtime baseball executive. Here’s a photo of Syd’s son, Jim, (on the right) with the Director of the Royals Hall of Fame, a guy who did a super job in putting it together, Curt Nelson. Jim Thrift is currently a scout for the Baltimore Orioles. He and his mother have donated several items to the Hall.
On the day the Hall opened, the Royals played in the Willie Wilson Hall of Fame game. Among those who played was George Brett, here talking with former Royal Willie Aikens. The Royals Hall of Famers were decked out in powder blue from head to toe.
While our radio booth is not a hall of fame, we now have chairs that are “hall worthy.” Here Don Free wheels in one of the new chairs in our radio booth. Pretty nice, eh? They were provided by John A. Marshall Company. It’s the Aeron Chair. We all got chairs that are just the right size for our frames.
Here are the gentlemen who brought them over: Barry Scogin and Stephen Marshall, who’s the great grandson of company founder John A. Marshall. We’ve now test-driven our personalized chairs…and it’s unanimous….like the new Hall of Fame…two thumbs up!
As the Royals began the mathematical halfway point in the 2009 season, they visited a couple of first-place teams…Detroit and Boston. After returning from that trip, my 10-year-old son John and I headed to another city whose team was in first place…St. Louis. I saw my first State Farm Home Run Derby and my first MLB All-Star Game! (and, yes, I had to pay for my tickets…)
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Here’s John with St. Louis native and Cardinal fan Cedric the Entertainer. He wasn’t the only celebrity at the game…but he was the only one who stopped by our section in the right field corner. Actually Craig Sager of TNT Sports wandered by too…but Cedric is bigger…both literally and figuratively. Cedric was incredibly nice and patient-signing tons of autographs and taking pictures with lots of fans. We actually missed Carl Crawford’s great catch in left field to take this picture…but it was worth it (nice catch, Carl!!)
This was from our seats at Busch Stadium. Both nights were great. I think that’s Zack pitching…took lots of pics with camera phone…but it doesn’t zoom in. What a great job by Zack!!
OK…confession time…this is the rest stop at Exit 167 on I-70. I…uh…locked my keys in my car at this rest stop on our way to St. Louis for the Home Run Derby. Thanks to Bud’s Towing Service for allowing us to get into the car, and allowing us to make it to the Derby on time. “Bud’s Towing Service, the official towing service of the Royals Radio Network”…has a nice ring to it… At least it was a nice day.
Fenway Park may give the Red Sox the best home-field advantage in baseball. It’s a great place to visit. I recommend it if you haven’t been. Before one of the games, a giant American Flag was draped across the Green Monster for pregame ceremonies. They were honoring those participating in the annual Pan-Mass Challenge, a bike-a-thon that benefits the Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox charity that fights children’s cancer as well as funding cancer care.
These are the Rileys…Kelly and Ron…from Ponca City OK. Ron’s a life-long Royals fan and for a combined Father’s Day/birthday present, Kelly got him a new Royals cap and a trip to Boston to see a Royals game at Fenway. Ron is holding an autographed ball from the 1970 Royals, signed by, among others, Manager Bob Lemon and Lou Piniella. They emailed us in the radio booth (feelthepower.com) and told us they were coming to the game, and bringing a nice piece of Royals history with them.
When the Royals visit the Tigers, the travelling party stays in beautiful, tree-lined Birmingham, Michigan. It’s about 30 minutes north of Comerica Park. It’s a clean, bustling great little town in Detroit’s northern suburbs. Detroit has obviously taken many economic hits the past few years, but this town seems very vibrant. Great shopping, dining, parks. Hard to truly capture its charm with a few photos.
The Royals final six games of interleague play took them to Houston and Pittsburgh. That meant a couple of unique modern ballparks…as well as the chance for me to visit (re-visit) the Johnson Space Center in Houston…the home of NASA (with apologies to Washington DC….Kennedy Space Center in FL…etc)
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PNC Park in Pittsburgh opened in 2001. It offers a great vew of the Alleghany River…the Roberto Clemente Bridge that many fans cross for ballgames…and of course the Pittsburgh skyline.
Before the gates open you get an idea of the impressive total view of downtown. The broadcast booths are very high up…so it takes some getting-used-to when broadcasting a game…but you can’t beat this perspective on the city.
A Saturday stroll through downtown with Don Free and Bob Davis meant bumping into Royal fans in town to cheer on the visitors. They made the trek from Overland Park and loved seeing a new ballpark. Royals coordinator of communications and broadcasting, Colby Curry, also made the trip to see PNC for the first time.
Bob and Denny on the air inside air conditioned (thank goodness) Minute Maid Park in Houston. When it’s closing in on 100 with Texas-sized humidity readings, the roof and AC come in mighty handy.
My cousin (and Houston resident) Jeff Nunn, with me and another Jeff: Jeff Lovell. He was a Sigma Chi fraternity brother. His father is Jim Lovell, a Gemini and Apollo astronaut, and before that a Naval Aviator…an American hero. Tom Hanks played the part of Jim Lovell in Apollo 13.
There’s Jeff Lovell’s dad, Jim, on the left. He flew on that ill-fated mission with Jack Swigert and Fred Haise. Kevin Bacon played Swigert in the movie, Apollo 13. Bill Paxton played the part of Fred Haise.
This is the room formerly used as “Mission Control.” NASA used it on missions from the mid-60′s to the mid-90′s, the “glory days” of NASA. They’ve replaced this room with a new modern Mission Control. They’ve restored this room to look exactly as it did during the Apollo days.
My cousin, Jeff, standing in front of a Saturn V rocket, that would have gone to the Moon if not for budget cuts in the early 1970′s. It now lies indoors in a climate-controlled building. It’s amazing how big it is…and how powerful these rocket ships were.
In the museum at the Johnson Space Center, there are several Moon rocks on display, including this one that the public can touch. This was a piece of a rock brought back on Apollo 17.
This is NASA’s Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. This is where the astronauts train for missions to the International Space Station. It’s in a massive, warehouse-sized building. These “pods” are linked up in space, providing living and working quarters, and this facility allows astronauts to train in an exact replica, minus the zero-gravity of space.
This is a “pretend” space shuttle. Astronauts use this and other shuttle simulators to practice, practice, practice. Here, the payload bay is open. Crews deliver and retrieve satellites, among other things, in this compartment. The Shuttle fleet is due to be retired next year after almost 30 years of use. Ares 1 is due to start carrying Americans into space in 2015.
They say men are from Mars. My cousin and I may never make it to Mars. I hope I live long enought to see people travel there.