When we party like it’s 1985, let’s not forget about my birthday.
Thrilling with the Kansas City Royals in their heart-stopping dance into the World Series this year has been so much fun. Talking with a young co-worker, she lamented how the Royals have been miserable for her whole life.
She is not exaggerating – she was born several years after their historic championship and last appearance in post-season.
“I remember when they won in 1985,” I said. “It was pretty awesome.” She sighed with envy and I couldn’t help but adding, “In fact, the biggest win in Royals history was on my birthday.”
This crazy World Series has sparked many nostalgic feelings. My niece sent me a sweet note on Facebook, sometime when the Royals were playing the Angels in an unexpected playoff round that turned into a rout. She said she’d been thinking of me as she watched the games and said, “Thanks for being the first and best Royals fan I ever met.”
My family had always been Royals fans – clear back to 1969 when they were born. My sister Paula said the caravan came to her school that first year and all the kids got stickers that said, “I’m a loyal Royals fan.”
My dad listened to Royals games on the radio after putting up hay. We’d sit on the patio, a square of yellow light shining out the kitchen window, the long summer night peppered with the sound of June bugs hitting the screen door and George Brett batting home runs.
Paula was the first Royals fan I knew and so I wanted to be a Royals fan, too. She took us to a game, the first major league game me or my dad or my mom had ever been to. That was when I got hooked. Listening on the radio was one thing; seeing it in person was a whole new level.
In 1985, the whole state of Missouri was ecstatic to host both teams in the World Series. In typical Royals fashion, they were behind for most of the series. The Cardinals came into fateful Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead.
The game was played in Kansas City on October 26. My birthday. I don’t remember anything else about that year I turned 12. But I remember staying up late with my mom to watch the game. Thank goodness it was broadcast on ABC, because that was the only channel we got on antenna. The Royals entered the bottom of the 9th behind, but refused to give up. With my own eyes, I saw Don Denkinger make the call that kept the Royals alive.
Game 7 was on a Sunday night. Dad and I went to church, but Mom stayed home to watch the game. When we got home, she said, “You won’t believe this.” The Royals – our Royals! – were pummeling the Cardinals. They won 11-0.
I became a devoted fan. I listened to every game on the radio. I made my own schedule to track wins and losses. I even wrote up my own game stories – my first experience at journalism.
Then I started high school and got busy with other things. I still loved the Royals, but it was like my first high school crush – unrequited. As much as I cheered them on, the boys in blue just kept getting worse.
As a reporter at the St. Joseph News-Press, I covered agriculture and business – not baseball. I sat next to the sports desk and sometimes got to watch games on TV while at work which was a nice perk.
When Dayton Moore was hired as Royals General Manager, the St. Joseph Chamber hosted him for an event. I covered it for the newspaper and remember that Moore, a dedicated Christian, said working for the Kansas City Royals was the best job in baseball because it was the biggest challenge and, in effect, the team was so bad that even a small step to get better would make a big difference. I’ve thought of that perspective often.
When I visited Dad last weekend, I went to the Northwest Missouri State homecoming where Bobby Bearcat led the parade waving a Royals flag. Dad had some boxes of pictures out. I found this one from 1987 when I went on a trip with Mom, Paula and my sister-in-law Cindy and we visited the Louisville Slugger plant.
A lot has changed since 1985. Last week, I rushed out to buy a Royals T-shirt. I’m happy for the new generation, including my young co-worker, who get to cheer on a good Royals team for a change.
If the World Series makes it past four games, they’ll play Game 5 on October 26. My birthday. And we’ll party like it’s 2014.