Baseball can be so cruel to players and fans. In the seventh game of the 2014 World Series (last year), the Kansas City Royals left the tying run on third base in the bottom of the ninth. The game was being played in Kansas City. Royals’ fans around the world watched as the San Francisco Giants celebrated their world championship on our field and in our city.
Fast-forward one year and the Royals were back in the series and on a mission. Up three games to one on the New York Mets, the Mets were just about to win game five and send it back to Kansas City for games six and seven. Mets fans had to be feeling pretty cocky.
Mets pitcher Matt Harvey had pitched a jewel – his team was ahead 2-0 going into the ninth. Harvey wanted to finish off what he started and convinced his manager, Terry Collins, to let him pitch the ninth inning.
It seems the Royals had the Mets right where they wanted them. Earlier in the playoffs, the Houston Astros had the Royals on the ropes – just six outs from being eliminated, but the Royals prevailed.
Collins let Harvey pitch and the move may haunt the Mets forever. The final was Royals 7, Mets 2. It was a 12 inning game, and a classic in-your-face comeback that the country had come to expect from the Royals.
I am a native Missourian (I don’t know how many generations I am because we don’t make a big deal out of it). I root for the professional teams on the west side of the state: the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals. I have been a fan of the Royals as far back as I can remember, but my love for the team faded as the 1985 World Series championship became a distant memory. Several years ago I wrote about the Royals going from 1985 World Series Champions to loserville. I said that it was time to clean house. That column appeared on Yahoo but has since been scrubbed by Yahoo when they canned the Yahoo Contributor Network. Maybe that is a good thing.
The Royals were a pretty good team in the late seventies and went to the World Series in 1980.
I remember the Royals being beaten by the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series in 1976, 1977, and 1978. Those were heartbreaking losses.
In 1980, I was in Kansas City’s famed Kemper Arena watching an Elton John concert when Sir Elton announced that the Royals were heading to the World Series. The Royals were in New York that night for an American League Championship game against the Yankees. That is the game where George Brett pounded a Goose Gossage pitch into the upper deck for a three-run homer to seal the win for the Royals. After the concert, it seemed everyone headed to the Plaza area in Kansas City to celebrate. It was a party.
The Royals then lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-2.
Finally in 1985 the Royals made it to and won the World Series against their cross-state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. I was lucky enough to be in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Missouri at Whiteman Air Force Base, which is just about 65 miles away from Royals Stadium. The Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-0 to win game seven of the World Series. I still have game seven on a VHS tape – but I no longer have a VCR.
Fans celebrated, but I bet nobody ever figured that twenty-nine years would pass before the Royals would reappear in the postseason, or that it would be 30 years before they were World Series champions again.
We made it.
In 1985, I had been married to my high school sweetheart for three years and we were ready to take on the world. In 2015, my wife and I watched the Royals win the World Series with my 26-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter some 1,300 miles away from Kansas City in Montana. I told my kids to savor the moment because you never know if it will ever happen again. It was a sweet moment to have together. Yes, there were tears in my eyes.
Thank you Royals, thank you.