May 2012

The Merry Month of May

As the Royals wrapped up their successful trip to Chicago and Texas, the road record improved to 11-7.  The good times started with a 3-3 trip to LA and Oakland to start the year, then a 4-3 trek through Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit (including defeating the Tigers with Verlander starting to conclude that 9-day excursion) and then came the White Sox and Rangers.  It went very well.  And the New York trip started well, with a win that raised the road record to 12-7.  Now we gotta work on getting more wins at home sweet home…
My hotel room in New York was so high-up, the people looked like ants.  (Bringing to mind the old joke in which two people are waiting for their plane to take off.  One guy says “Wow, we’re way up there, the people look like ants.”  The other guy says “those ARE ants, we haven’t taken off yet!”  But I digress.  A rainy first day of the road trip finished with an impressive 6-0 win over the Yankees.  If you can make out the fine detail in this photo, you’re seeing lots of umbrellas.





Danny Duffy’s season is over.  Tommy John surgery ending his year in May.  As sad as we are for Danny, he couldn’t be more upbeat.  He knows the success rate of this now-common ligament-transplant procedure.  He told me his goal is to be back pitching for the Royals next June.  Before heading to California for his operation, he signed authographs for fans at Kauffman Stadium.



This is my friend Gary Cantwell, who I’ve known since my freshman year in college.  He was the program director of KSMU, the campus radio station at my alma mater, Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  As I showed him around Kauffman Stadium he freely admitted to people that HE was the one who gave me my start in radio.  Let’s just say he didn’t receive many “thank you’s!”  Of course when I was at SMU, our football team was making more in salary than the Dallas Cowboys, with whom we shared Texas Stadium at the time.  Alas, there was no money left over to pay those of us who worked at KSMU.  


The week before we went to Arlington, Texas, Josh Hamilton had the best week anyone can remember a ballplayer having.  It included a 4-homer game.  He hit 9 home runs, drove in 18, and hit 467.  The night before we arrived, the bat he used broke in a game against the Angels.  Before the bat was shipped to Cooperstown, Ranger fans had the chance to get their photo taken with the bat that “died a hero.”



Our hotel in Texas is connected to the golf course where the Byron Nelson Championship Classic is played.  It’s a regular stop on the PGA Tour.  Jason Dufner was the 2012 winner.  The namesake of the tournament was one of the greatest of all time.  In 1945 he won an amazing 11 consecutive tour events, and 18 tournaments that year.  Overall he won 52 tour events and 5 majors.





I did not golf during our two-day stay in the Lone Star state, but I did check out the pool.  After so many cooooold days on the road throughout April (and even May), it was nice to soak up a little warmth.







The Royals took 2 of 3 in Chicago, a city that is certainly somewhere on everyones’ list of their favorite road cities.  This is the Trump International Hotel and Tower aka the Trump Tower.  It was completed in 2009.  You see it here right on the Chicago River.  It houses condos as well as a hotel.  Restaurants and retail space are also part of what is now the 11th tallest building in the world.  It’s taller than the John Hancock Building, but does not stretch as high as Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower).  I took this shot on the team bus as it was taking us to US Cellular Field.


As the Royals made their long, cold trek through Cleveland, Minnesota and Detroit, the rough opening homestand moved into the rear-view mirror.  April weather in the Upper Midwest can be a little dicey, but the Royals made the most of it with a winning trip.  They went 4-3 (two games got rained out…)
The losing streak ended in Cleveland…with an 8-2 victory…and 12 hours later the Royals beat the Tribe again.  So a 12-game losing streak turned into a series win and a win streak in less than 24 hours.   Oh yeah, it was cold….and foggy.  Much of downtown Cleveland disappeared (let’s see David Copperfield do that!)
On to Minneapolis, and (as we saw in Cleveland and Detroit as well) out came the tarp.  Cold, lots of rain…but (because of a Saturday rainout) a 1-1 split in what became a 2-game series.  Dinner at Murray’s, a great steakhouse, helped warm us up (and fill us up…)
Detroit also featured a first-day rainout.  But with if the Royals could at least split the two remaining games in the Motor City, they could achieve a winning road trip.  They made their job tougher by losing the first game, knowing they were going to face Justin Verlander the next day.  This statue btw, honors the late, great Ernie Harwell, a wonderful man who broadcast Tiger baseball from 1960 until 2002. 
As we know from the renovated Kauffman Stadium and all the wonderful features in the Outfield Experience, the modern ballparks have many, many creature comforts that they didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago.  Comerica Park not only features a merry-go-round, as we have at the K (theirs of course features only Tigers to ride…does MU have one of those?).  They’ve also got a baseball-themed ferris wheel.
On the final day of the road tip we FINALLY  felt warmth!  It was around 80 (every day prior had been 40’s or 50s)….And guess who was on the mound that day?  And guess which game the Royals won in Detroit?  No they didn’t beat Verlander (technically)….but they beat the Tigers on the day he pitched…and a 4-3 trip was in the books.
The Tigers have a long, storied history.  The most famous Tiger of all was this guy.  From what we read and hear, he didn’t have many friends, on or off the field.  Not sure how much he smiled, or even what made him smile.  But Tyrus Raymond Cobb, who dominated the game (especially in the pre-Babe Ruth home run era), had a 367 lifetime batting average. That’s the highest in Major League History.  The Georgia Peach.
After a winning road trip the Royals were happy to get home.  Upon our arrival for the Yankee series, we met Reggie Deal (as did several players, including Jeff Francoeur) , a Texas native who’s been blind since birth, and a huge baseball fan.  Kauffman Stadium was his fifth stop in an amazing 30-ballparks-in-30-days tour around North America.  Even more amazing, Reggie travels alone (getting special assistance in airports).  He gets you pumped up about baseball just by listening to him talk about his love of the game.  His advice to us “sighted” fans:  when you’re in your seat next time you attend a game, close your eyes for 30 seconds or a minute….and enjoy the sounds, the smells, atmosphere you can gather using your other senses.  That’s how Reggie sees the game.
Maybe Reggie brought good luck.  The Royals won for the first time at home that night, thanks in large part to Mike Moustakas, who had a huge game, with a homer, 3 rbi’s and a game-saving barehand play at third to record the 27th out and secure the victory.  Joel Goldberg (who celebrated birthday number 40 a few days later)  interviewed Moose on TV right before I got him on radio.
The sad news from the homestand was Mariano Rivera’s knee injury, suffered before the first game.  By the next day it seemed like every media outlet in the country was at Kauffman Stadium to cover the news that the Yankee closer was lost for the season.  Mariano vows to come back as a 43 year old next year.  No one doubts he can do it.