This past weekend series between the Royals and Mariners in Seattle brought out a lot of mixed emotions, nostalgia, etc. from yours truly.
It was great to see a bunch of KU Alumni at our local chapter’s event on Saturday night at Safeco Field.
Then on Sunday Nick Collison (R.I.P. Seattle Supersonics) threw out the first pitch. Tough day for hitters on both sides. The Royals’ starter, Brad Keller, pitched great…he threw a complete game and only gave up one run. Trouble is, he was pitching against the Mariners ace James Paxton, who threw an 11-K shutout. (Appropriately, the British Columbia native won on Canada Day.)
In a few weeks, it’ll be 40 years since I moved from KC to Seattle. The night before that move, as I packed my worldly possessions into my lime green ’71 Chevy Vega hatchback, I took an occasional glance at the game of the week on ABC Monday Night Baseball with, as luck would have it, the Royals playing the Yankees.
Even Howard Cosell’s endless droning couldln’t keep me from following the game. (Dennis Leonard outpitched Dick Tidrow and the Royals won 5-2).
Once I got to Seattle I tried to follow the Royals as best I could, but in those pre-Interweb, pre-ESPN days, about the only way I could get any news about them was to troop down to a newsstand downtown once a week to get a copy of the Sunday KC Star.
A couple of months later, the Royals came to town and I went down to the gray dismal Kingdome to root them on. Maybe it was the sterile atmosphere, the paltry crowd of 6,000, or perhaps it was Frank White giving me an ugly look when I yelled some encouragement his way.
By the time they finished that season with yet another playoff loss to the Yankees, I kind of soured on baseball for a time. It was all well and good that they made it to the World Series a couple of years later, but my heart wasn’t really in it anymore.
Gradually I started to cast my lot with the Mariners. What the hell, they were the local team, and I tend to root for the underdog anyway.
Those early expansion M’s were pretty bad. But it wasn’t like I’d never rooted for bad teams before. (After all, as a kid I put up with 13 straight losing seasons by the A’s before Charlie Finley hauled them off to Oakland just as they were getting good.)
After a time, the Mariners became my main team. Of course I rejoiced when the Royals beat the Cardinals in ’85, but that was almost as much of an anti-St. Louis thing as anything else. ( I can remember going on childnood vacations with my folks and trying to pick up a Kansas City A’s broadcast, but as we drove through those small towns in Kansas and Missouri, the only thing we could get on the radio was that damn Harry Caray calling Cardinal games. But I digress…)
Anyway, by the time the ‘90s rolled around most of my Royals heroes had retired. Meanwhile, the M’s were building a team around guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson, and managed by Lou Piniella.
(Another KC connection…on the Royals’ first Opening Day I skipped school, walked about a mile to old Municipal Stadium, and watched a rookie Piniella go 4-for-5. They won in 12 innings, but I missed the ending ‘cause I had to catch the last bus to my neighborhood! Years later I ran into Lou at an M’s Fan Fair. He got a kick out of finding a Mariners fan who was there at his first MLB game.)
So while I still hold a warm spot in my heart for the Royals, I’m still waiting for that first Mariners World Series game. Maybe this year?
If not, well, Cubs fans waited twice as long.
I ain’t getting any younger, though…