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Posted on: May 14, 2011 10:12 am
 

Thanks Harmon!

This isn't an easy blog for me to write or even title this week.  One of the not so good things about getting older is the bad news we get about many of our childhood heroes and those we watched play, jealous they weren't on our hometown team.  Harmon Killebrew was a player that falls into that category for me.  The news that he was entering hospice with a cancer that was no longer treatable brought sadness to my heart.  That news also made me thing of all the great accomplishments of his on the baseball field.  He was a favorite of mine back in the 60's and early 70's.  Even though he played for the Twins and I was an A's and Royals fan, I always admired his power and ability to drive in key runs in a game.  Plus, Harmon looked like a everyday fan and not a well chiseled athlete, and that made me root for him even more (him and Mickey Lolich who often looked like he had downed a whole pizza or two before taking the mound, kind of like me at times in my life).  

Then in 1975, my Royals signed him to a one year deal.  He hit a few homers for us that year, but those were not the highlights I remember.  What I remember is the warm summer night when Harmon stole not one but two bases.  He stole second twice on what we all supposed were missed hit and runs.  Pitchers had little concern about him stealing so keeping Killebrew close to the bag was not a priority.  Whatever the reasons involved, it was truly a remarkable event to witness.


Fast forward a few years now.  My family was visiting the Mall of America in the Twin Cities (Bloomington).  As we were looking around I notices a stadium seat hanging on the wall out in the Camp Snoopy area.  "Oh yeah," says the operator of the log ride, "That's where Harmon Killebrew's 500th homer landed and they kept the seat in the same location when they tore down Metropolitan Stadium and built this place."  I thought that was really cool to see.  I mean even if they missed by a few feet, it's still a great tribute to a superb hitter and hero in Minnesota.

It is always sad that eventually our heroes have to show they're mortal and fight the same diseases we do and show they are just like all of us.  We know that in our minds, but our hearts want not to believe that fact.  All I wish for now is that Harmon finds peace and solace in his final days.  In his rememberances as he sleeps, may all his homers be long three run blasts and may every pitcher ignore him at first allowing him to steal bases at will.  He'll always one of my all time favorites.
  
Posted on: February 22, 2011 11:53 pm
 

Youth Was Served

On Sunday, February 20th, Trevor Bayne became the youngest driver to ever win the Daytona 500.  At 20 years and one day, Trevor raced himself into immortality by winning NASCAR's biggest and richest race or the season.  It was remarkable to see the undiluted joy in that young man's face in the after race video from Victory Lane and in the interviews that came afterward.  He drove like a seasoned, mature, veteran who just happened to be wrapped up in a young package. 

While all of that was going on, another group of hard working young people were doing something remarkable 1800 miles away on a balmy Sunday in the Midwest.  118 kids from 8 to18 were finishing up a musical they had poured their hearts and souls into since late fall.  The Wizard of Oz isn't the easiest production to perform.  It is a legendary musical that is truly an American icon, burned deeply into the minds of every generation since 1939.  Yet the kids brought the house down, generating loud applause and cheers while setting their school's all time attendence record.  The last weekend was a total sellout of 850 for each performance.  Extra chairs were added to Sunday's show and those who ahd bough tickets and had someone not show up gladly let the theater dept. use the tickets and accomdate everyone who wanted in.

And me, I was helping with the silent auction, watching my son (for all 6 performances and a dress rehersal) and others on the big screen TV's in the lobby while using my cell phone to follow the race.  To see the passion for what they were doing from young Mr. Bayne and those school performers struck me as a rare moment in life.  Youth was served on Sunday and it made one 54 year old feel. well, not older but a bit younger.  Younger and soulfully fulfilled for at least one very fine February day.
Posted on: September 21, 2010 1:46 am
Edited on: September 21, 2010 1:47 am
 

A Good Weekend For My Teams

Sometimes, life just treats you right.  Now I know that sports are not supposed to be the end all of our existences, and many of us know that for a fact.  Yet sports provide us some spice, some variety to the everyday business of living.  This weekend was one of those weekends where things just seemed to go right for once.

First, my alma mater, the NW Missouri State Bearcats bounced back form the Championship hangover with a very convincing win in Omaha against the always tough Mavericks of Neb. Omaha (UNO).  The 58-23 win was a good way to bounce back.  Also helps for future reference that Josh Baker, a D-1 transfer from Delaware (due to medical problems)  had 3 TD catches.  He'll be important in a drive for another berth in the D2 playoffs.

My Royals avoided the cellar in the Central with a win Sunday over the Indians.  Okay, it's not Earth shattering but hey, you take all the positives one can get in a forgettable 2010 season for them.  Still, it's a good sign if your team isn't last in their division.

The Chiefs went to 2-0 with a squeaker over the Browns.  WHOOHOO.  A 2-0 start is just fine and dandy with this fan.  Beats 0-2 for sure and at least for a second week, we lead the AFC West.  Defense looks way better than last years and special teams are very good too.  Hopefully the offense gets untracked soon.  For now though, the Sunday win is a needed balm to the souls of beleagered and bewildered Chiefs fans who have had little to cheer about since mid 2007.

And to top off the weekend, Clint Bowyer from Emporia, Kansas.....90 miles down I-35 from KC, won the opening race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase by going by an out of gas Tony Stewart and winning the Sylvania 300 in New Hampshire.  For years there were no local drivers to root for in NASCAR.  Now with Clint, Jamie McMurray (who finished well too) and Carl Edwards all from the area (area in the Mid-West meaning if it is within 3 hours) to cheer for, it is fun to follow them and actually see them win races.  His victory moved him all the way from 12th to 2nd in the standings.  It will be fun to see all of them race here at home in 2 weeks.

So overall, not a bad weekend.  Add Mizzou's victory and it was a sports weekend that was indeed, a very good one for my teams.
Posted on: September 6, 2010 11:31 pm
 

On The Lighter Side........

Well folks, I just guaranteed that for the next 5 years, the central portion of the Midwest (KC) will recieve exactly no measurable snowfalls.  Not over a 1/4 inch of snow will fall in any one snow event as the weather folks now like to call them.  And just exactly how can a simple nonmeterologist like myself make such a bold prediction.  It is easy.  See, I just bought a snow blower for the first time in my life.  Yes sir, exactly one year too late, instead of shoveling 70 feet of driveway free of 20 inche of snow, I could have been zipping along, blowing snow into my neighbors yard, building a barrier to prevent his large dogs from yellowing my pristine snow. 

But no. I had no foresight last year to make such a purchase.  Then again, a 15% off sale at Lowes plus a 50 dollar coupon and a 50 dollar gift card made yielding to temptation all too easy.  It isn't the biggest Troy-Built they make, but it isn't the smallest either.  It was the one right below the one that was DOT rated for clearing Interstates.   Yes sir, I am ready now for that wet white stuff to fall from the skies.  Just one problem though.  The last time I bought a sled for my son, it didn't snow enough for two years.  So, I figure it may be five years before I'll get to use this baby.  Just about the time it will no longer start, even though I will lovingly go crank 'er up once a month in the winter, we'll get another 20+ inch blizzard.  Then the trusty plastic snow shovel in the corner once more will make a grand exit from the garage, scooping snow one heavy shovelful at a time.

Yes sir, this may be the best investment in climate control I have ever made.  Sorry kids, you really didn't want those snow days.
Posted on: August 17, 2010 1:40 am
 

Lightning In A Bottle

When Bryan Bullington won his first victory as a major league pitcher Sunday against the Yankees, it was an event long, long overdue.  The former overall 2002 first round pick of the Pirates had pitched okay in the minors, but injuries and a lack of opportunity to start in the majors had finally put Bryan on the mound starting for my all of a sudden starting pitching starved Royals.  The 8 innings of shoutout ball preserved by Joakim Soria could have been lightning in a bottle, a once in a lifetime performance by a journeyman given one last chance in the majors by the team of last chances, the Royals.  At 29, it was nice to see BB finals realize his potential, if even for one memorable start in front of a home crowd that seemed to be half Yankees fans. Also, the last time KC had beaten the Yanks 1-0, 1972.  It was a performance long overdue by a Royals pitcher. 

On closer inspection, this start may not have been a total fluke or anomaly however.  29 year old pitchers are in the prime of their careers most of the time.  He hasn't been overused by any means (reference one Gil Meche) and had a very good start the time before, plus decent stats in AAA with the Omaha Royals.  Maybe all he ever needed was an organization to hand him the ball every fifth day and have some confidence he'd do the job.  Now two excellent starts may be putting delusions of grandeur in the minds of KC fans, desparately searching for positives in yet another season that somehow unraveled all too quickly and unmercifully.  All Bryan deserves is an opportunity to show his stuff the rest of the season.  With Kyle Davies being a big tease as a starter, Luke Hochevar and Gil Meche battling the injury bug, Brian Bannister overthinking every pitch instead of relying on instinct and movement, and Zack Greinke just having one of those years, we need a success story in the rotation.  We also need someone to just outright pitch well consistently. 

Maybe Bryan can become all of that.  All us KC fans know is he'll get a chance to earn a rotation spot in 2011 if he pitches well the rest of the season.  Good luck Bryan.  May that lightning in a bottle from Sunday last you a few seasons. 
Posted on: July 13, 2010 11:56 pm
 

Remembering Steinbrenner from the Heartland

Finding a unique view of George Steinbrenner on the day of his death is like trying to squeeze a 13" ball through a 10" hoop.  You can try but it tends to be an exercise in frustration.  Well, I'm a bit on the stubborn side so the attempt is going to be made here.  Kansas City's involvement with George and the Yankees goes back a long way.  Back to 1975 when it was apparent that both teams were very close to challenging for their divisions in the AL.  As a Royals fan you could see George was going to do all he could to get NY back to a champion.  As both teams battled each other through 4 ALCS, we in the Midwest viewed George as a fun to dislike villian, but a worthy opponent though a bit eccentric in his ways.  The Bronx Zoo was entertaining to view yet frustrating to play.  It was so sweet to finally get the monkey off our backs in 1980 and after our ALCS win, see George fire Dick Howser who we picked up the next year.

The 80's were good to the Yankees in the wins department, yet no playoffs came after the 1981 WS loss to the Dodgers.  George was a madman.  He was always trying to get back to the Series but something would always go wrong in the end, or the Tigers, Orioles, Red Sox, or Blue Jays would be too much in a given year for the Yanks.  Then George got his second suspension of his career over the Dave Winfield incident (the first was over illegal campaign contributions to the '72 Nixon/Agnew ticket).  Stepping away was the best thing to happen to NY.  His front offices were able to draft well, make good trades, and sign free agents that made sense.  Under Bob Watson the Yanks finally made it back to the postseason and won four WS in 6 years.  As George takes over more control of the the team, they go through a drought of sorts (for them anyway) and the WS Championship eludes them until hank takes over the team and allows Brian Cashman to show why he's a very good GM w/o tons of interferrence from ownership.

After the strike of 1994, George did a great job of maximizing his revenues under the new agreement.  Until that point, even teams like the Royals could match pace with the Yankees in players salaries.  George's tremedous business accumen allowed NY to outspend smaller markets by a wide margin.  He was only doing what seemed best for his team.  Unfortunately for many smaller markets, ownership chose to play the poor us game rather than adapt and respond to the challenge.  Was this selfish on George's part and maybe not the best thing overall for baseball, probably.  I never looked at Steinbrenner with the same fun villian view after that.  However, he did what he needed to do for his team and that had to be respected.  I wish he would have offered the limited revenue sharing option a bit earlier or offered up some other concessions in other areas in the owners control to help ease the transition to the big money era in baseball.  Hindsight is 20/20 though, and what happened is past now.

In the end, George was well, George.  His lazer focus was wanting his team to be the best in baseball and through good or bad you knew his decisions were based on achieving that.  We didn't always like the results out here in the Midwest.  It was more fun when we were equals and George failed to realize that the whole sport would have been better off with his team having more than just Boston as a big rival.  The big picture was never George's strength.  Making the Yankees #1 any way possible was where Geprge's heart was and the NY fans will always be grateful for that.  In the Heartland, we'll always see GS with respect but much differently.
Posted on: May 24, 2010 2:17 am
Edited on: May 24, 2010 3:59 am
 

What Time Was It? It Was Always Lima Time!

Finally, after weeks of hard work I get a Sunday off for some fun.  Take my son and a friend of his to St. Louis to see the Cardinals and Angels.  We're sitting there in the infamous heat and humidity of Busch Stadium, enjoying the game when something comes across the scoreboard that made me look twice, and then a third time.  Jose Lima dies of heart attack at age of 37.  Lima, gone?  My mind instantly started thinking about several things involving Jose.

The first was his 1999 radio appearances on the Jim Rome Show.  Back then I did listen to Jim whenever possible because I thought the show was humorous.  I finally quit listening when his show yielded to Entercom corporate pressure and switched stations here in KC, going from the hometown owned one to the new, large corporate owned one.  Never listened to the show ever again, but that's getting off the subject.  Lima Time was funny.  Of course it is easy to be outgoing when you're going 16-8 and 21-10 in successive years.  He was a favorite of the listeners and you could tell by the way he went about the segments with Jim that life was good in Jose's world, and a very fun place to be.

After his career cooled off some, he found himself in KC as a Royal to start the 2003 season. The Royals got off to a tremendous start that year, and Jose Lima had seemed to reinvent himself as a pitcher, getting off to a very hot start.  Even when he was injured, later in the year, he was a good clubhouse presence and somehow, I still believe if he would have stayed healthy, his 8-3 record might have been 17-7 and that might have been the difference to avoid the late season swoon that cost them a 7 game division lead at the All-Star break.  He was on the local sports news all the time.  You would see video of him at charity golf events, a loud shirt, straw style Caribbean hat, and a big old stogie being his trademark look.  Many of us in KC would have loved to see Allard Baird keep Jose, but somehow he slipped away to the Dodgers for 2004.  Helped them to the playoffs and, ouch, pitched a masterpiece against the Cardinals in the playoffs to get them a long awaited playoff victory (Cards still won the series though).

Jose came back to KC for 2005.  5-16 with a near 7 ERA didn't keep him from being exuberant, at least to the fans.  It was obvious that he just had lost something out on the mound though.  He did eat up some innings and kept going out to the mound and kept attempting to find the stuff that used to baffle so many batters.  It never came for the most part.  He kind of slipped away form the mind of many Royals fans after that, until today.

Many things will be written about Jose.  Some good and some will expound on his faults.  Jose I'm sure had his faults and no doubt there are those who will bring those out.  But this blog isn't written to do that.  I write to remember happier moments.  The fans screaming Lima...Lima when he brought home a victory for the home team.  Thanks Jose for reminding us all that Baseball is a game, and even players should have fun.  Thank you for Lima Time.
Posted on: May 21, 2010 4:04 am
Edited on: May 21, 2010 11:17 pm
 

Why David Glass Can't Sell the Royals

As we travel the rocky road that us mortals call life, often we run into situations where something doesn't appear to be what it seems to be.  A friend who turns out not ot be a friend.  Tiger Woods appearing to be be dedicated husband when he obviously was not.  Those sort of items.  Then, there is the ownership of the Kansas City Royals.  David Glass is an owner reviled by many large market and hometown fans as what's wrong with small markets.  Greedy ownership that pockets cash and doesn't spend money on his team.  Won't go out and spend money and buy players to make the team good.  True, the Royals have not been successful on the field for 15 years now, save for the 2003 season.  But as Paul Harvey always said, now for the rest of the story, for the rest of this tale is one that few fans in baseball understand.

When David Glass purchased the Royals from the trust that Ewing Kauffman had set up, he agreed to forsake any profits from selling the team in the future.  In short, no matter how well he ran the team, he could never really profit from it's growth in value.  Keep in mind that he was on the original board Mr K set up and Glass bought the team in the end anyway because no matter how hard the committee tried, no suitable owner or group of owners ever seriously bid on the team.  There was a bid from a Miles Prentice but just because you can hand over 120 million for a baseball team, MLB still requires a substantial net worth and Miles didn't have it.  He would have not been able to withstand losses.  David Glass was the only person who was interested in leaving the Royals in KC who had the money, MLB financial approval, and interest, mainly as a favor to his friend, Ewing Kauffman.  A recent article in the KC Star points out the lack of interest in sports ownership the money families in KC have.   Here is the article.

 

Lack of local investors would make it difficult for KC to get an NBA or NHL team

By SAM MELLINGER

The Kansas City Star

George Brett has the kind of life where he sometimes chooses between 18 holes in Hawaii or swimming with the dolphins. He usually takes the golf because he’s already done the dolphins and, you know, that can get a little old.

He has a friend who sometimes e-mails pictures from Lakers games with friendly taunts attached, like, just thought you’d like to see where I am, except this is not a game you win against Brett. He’s in Italy now and sent that friend a picture from Florence, Michelangelo’s statue of David up close. Touché.

This is all a way of reminding you that it’s good to be George Brett, because his world is like that On Demand button on your cable remote — save his desire for Kansas City to land an NHL or NBA team.

“No one stepped up in the past,” he says. “So for someone to step forward in the future, that means there’s gotta be someone new in town. And I don’t know anybody new in town with the deep pockets to do that.”

Brett is more than an observer here. He’s a potential participant, saying publicly for the first time that his family was contacted about joining a potential ownership group for an NHL team in Kansas City.

But he tried this once before, and a failed attempt at buying the Royals means he’s appropriately skeptical of a local group ever surfacing. He knows better than anybody why these little talks never produce anything substantial.

This all comes up during another week filled with reports about one team being in trouble, another team looking to move, and the natural progression to, Hey look! There’s the new team for the Sprint Center!

The future of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes continues to swish back and forth in a negotiation that could move the team to Canada or keep it in Arizona if the city of Glendale can help meet payroll. The NBA’s Pacers are asking Indianapolis to help with operating expenses, or else all options are on the table.

In all, more than a half-dozen NHL or NBA franchises may be up for sale or looking to move, and these are the times that bring to mind the burning confidence of AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke’s in landing a team for the Sprint Center.

Except the same major obstacle exists now that did when Leiweke and others campaigned for public funding: no local owner.

Kansas City is bigger and has a better arena than Oklahoma City, for instance, but the Thunder plays five hours south of here because Clay Bennett is a rich Oklahoman who bought an NBA team and moved it.

Who’s our Clay Bennett?

“No, just not interested,” says Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation. “We have never looked at sports teams.”

This is how it is with all of Kansas City’s super-rich families. This is how it’s always been, part of why the Chiefs and Royals operate under out-of-town ownership.

Hall says the foundation’s interests are in “the overall health of Kansas City” and that the family “doesn’t see sports franchises as part of that strategy or vision.”

The Blochs, Stowers and Wards have traditionally operated in much the same way. Julia Irene Kauffman serves on the Royals’ board of directors, but has never indicated a desire to get into ownership.

None of this is meant as criticism. These families give to Kansas City in many other ways. The most obvious is the nearing completion of the $400 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, funded generously by the Kauffman family.

That’s great for the local arts scene, but a zero for Kansas City’s chances at an NHL or NBA team.

What it means is that any movement will need to come from an existing or purchasing owner wanting to relocate. The NHL’s Los Angeles Kings could be an emerging possibility, and are owned by AEG.

But even then, our hopes are reliant on something like an out-of-town savior, with presumably no vested interest in Kansas City.

Brett says he and his family will continue to listen to potential investors, but there’s a reason nothing’s come of it yet.

“To get a franchise here,” Brett says, “really, that would be extremely difficult.”

He talks for a few more minutes before excusing himself to get back to his vacation. He’s in Italy, you remember, waiting on the dinner being prepared for him. Yes, George Brett can make many things happen in this world.

But he needs help with this one.

So, the article very nicely points out that KC is indeed an unusual place when it comes to people rich enough to be sports owners.  There are many in town who have done very well.  Lot of folks arond KC with 50-100M in assets.  We just lack the super rich, thats all.   Without one of them, there is no NHL, no NBA, and no one local, with area ties and interest, to purchase the team from Mr. Glass and keep the royals in town.

Baseball is still in KC thanks to the Glass family.  Without him our fair city is the AAA affiliate for the Cardinals or Rockies.  They don't just pocket the cash from team profits.  That money goes back into the team and some of it, about 25 million plus, went into the Royals portion of the remodeling costs to the stadium here.  The arguments that this group is greedy isn't so.  Yet, the last 15 years of baseball frustrate the baseball soul of even die hards like me.  Maybe we can rack up the losses more to ineptitude rather than callousness.  Maybe David glass is finally learning that you really do not want to 100% run your baseball team the same way you run the world's most successful retailer.

So now you the reader have a hopefully better idea of the situation here in KC.  For all the pluses and minuses with the Glass family, at least we still have a major league team here.  Somehow the idea of the Charlotte or Carolina Royals tuns my stomach in ways a tummy should not bend.  Bad baseball beats no baseball.

And for those who still want Glass to sell the Royals, just remember, be careful what you ask for.  You may end up with the full brunt of the law of unintended consequences being applied to your request.  Once he sells, there are no guarantees they stay here.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com