After a great Spring, the Royals got the season off to a good start, with a 3-3 trip to Chicago and Philadelphia, followed by a 4-2 homestand. The early returns on the rebuilt starting rotation look promising, keeping the Royals in just about every game. Some early images from 2013:
One sad story occured during the first Friday home game, as Toronto superstar Jose Reyes suffered a severely sprained ankle, on an awkward slide at second base. Former Royals coach John Gibbons, now back for his second tour as the Blue Jays skipper, says Reyes is already the face of the franchise. Not having him until around the All-Star Break will be tough on the Jays. It was great seeing our old friend Gibby again.
The injury created an eerie flashback to early 2012, when Yankee closer Mariano Rivera tore a knee ligament on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium. That injury ended Rivera’s season. And, like New York’s Brian Cashman last season, this year it’s Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos who has to piece things together for basically half the season without a major piece, his star shortstop. Anthopoulos met the Toronto media to talk about the injury the day after Reyes was injured.
The first homestand, of course, began with a fun home opener. Always much better with a victory, as Ervin Santana held the Twins to just 1 run over 8 outstanding innings. The weather was nice, 73 at game time. The Royals won 3-1, and wound up sweeping the Twins.
Before the Royals got home, they finished the road trip taking 2 out of 3 at Citizens Bank Park, facing a tough team and tough Philly crowds. This is year 10 for CBP, a beautiful ballpark that replaced the Vet back in 04. It’s about 2 miles south of downtown Philly. The skyline is visible over the wall in left center.
Across the street from our hotel is historic city hall in downtown Philadelphia. It remains the largest, the tallest and the most expensive of all city halls in the United States. The central tower reaches a height of 511 feet. It’s topped by a massive statue of William Penn, 37 feet tall. It has more than 700 rooms and is larger than the US Capitol (it’s the nation’s largest municipal building).
Of course Broad Street is perhaps the most famous street when it comes to Philly sports. The Flyers hockey teams in the 1970’s were known as the Broad Street Bullies. The street runs from downtown right to their sports complex, which includes not just Citizens Bank Park and the Eagles home, Lincoln Financial Field, but the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers and the 76ers.
The first stop after we left spring training was Chicago, where we spent 6 days (and only played 3 games). Denny treated some of us to a Blackhawks hockey game at the United Center. The game was the evening of Opening Day…so we went right from one stadium to another.
It’s a big arena, the Blackhawks draw better than 21,000 per game. Of course the building is most famous for Michael Jordan’s exploits. Most of his Bulls exploits happened in this building, which replaced the old Chicago Stadium. On this night the Blackhawks and Nashville Predators were tied after regulation and it took not only an overtime period, but a shootout for the home team to come away victorious. Great night at “The Madhouse on Madison.”
While in Chicago we had to have some Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Don Free, Denny and I made a very cold walk about 6 blocks to the original Pizzeria Due. Former University of Texas football star Ike Sewell opened Pizzeria Uno being Italian for one) and one block away Pizzeria Due (Italian for two). He started his pizza empire in the 1940’s Sewell and his business partner franchised the deep dish idea nationwide and made lots of money…and lots of pizzas.