Last night’s game against the visiting White Sox was postponed until today, causing a late season double header. It only seems appropriate that I should recount one of my fonder memories from out at the old ball yard.
Some of you readers may be of the age where you can remember when teams actually scheduled double headers. I am not of that age. Double headers are a far rarer phenomenon for fans of my generation when you have to count on Mother Nature to create such a scheduling nightmare causing the powers that be to have no other choice than to schedule an impromptu double header. Schedule makers hate it. Managers hate it. Players hate it. But the FANS love it. Two games for the price of one? Sounds good to me!
So let’s go back to 1994, you know, the good ol’ days! It was the middle of July and the strike was looming, but we had a FIVE game series with Detroit due to an April rainout. I’m 18 years old and a month away from college when I see we have a doubleheader coming up. I call up my buddy Bob, and we make hasty plans to enjoy Kansas City for a weekend. Lots of baseball, bbq, malls, the Nelson Atkins and zero responsibility. If your name isn’t Richard Branson, this is about as good as it gets for a couple of teenage dorks growing up in the middle of Kansas.
Friday’s double header arrives and Bob and I pay our five bucks to sit in the old RF general admission section. Five bucks for two games people. We’re sitting three rows up and our stake is claimed for the next seven hours. I’ll never forget Queen’s “Flash Gordon” being played over the PA as Tom Gordon warms up for game one. Sadly, outside of his warmup and Bob Hamelin charging the mound late in the game instigating a bench clearing brawl, that was as good as it got as Flash and the rest of the team got lit up like Charlie Sheen on New Year’s. Royals were never in it and lost 14-2.
So after a brief reprieve as the teams freshen up and change into new unis, game two is under way. Mark Gubicza and Mike Moore are on the hill for the Royals and Tigers respectively. Wally Joyner gives us an early lead with a first inning homer just inside the foul pole into the RF seats. Detroit takes the lead in the 4th on a string of hits off of Goobie. Brent Mayne brings us closer in the bottom of the inning as he plates Felix Jose on a double deep in the RF corner making the score Detroit: 3, Royals: 2.
It’s the 5th inning, and at this point, I’m in need of a stretch and reprieve from the action as I walk up the aisle, take aim at the stainless steel trough and grab another round of sodas, nachos and hot dogs for Bob and I. I’m leaning on the railing beyond the RF general admission seats, as the Royals get something working when Dave Henderson singles and Joyner walks with one out in the inning, bringing up “The Hammer” Bob Hamelin. Hambone doesn’t disappoint as he parks one deep into the RF seats, not terribly far from where Bob and I had been sitting all day! Fireworks commence and joy is had by all, until… a “noisemaker” unexpectedly belatedly explodes in the RF general admission seats, a few rows up from where Bob and I had been sitting all day.
I stand in awe, barely believing everything that has just happened. My thoughts race as I go from the high of a go ahead 3 run scoring homer, to watching Royals’ personnel and EMT’s barrel down the aisle. I watch as a hand full of people are helped up the aisle, staggering, with burns and abrasions on their legs, some with blood running from their ears. My heart sinks.
The game resumes as if nothing ever happened and after several moments, fans are allowed to walk up and down the aisle. I walk back down the aisle, sidling up with my friend as we exchange wild excited banter about what had just transpired. Jeff Montgomery closes out the game 1-2-3 and the Royals split the double header in what is ultimately, a fairly ordinary game.
But there was nothing ordinary about any of this. I was 18 and taking my first steps into adulthood, and baseball would come to a screeching halt three weeks later. This was the end of the Royals and baseball as most of us knew it. The Royals would go on to become virtually irrelevant for the better part of two decades and I would head off to KU and try to figure out what on earth it was that I was supposed to do.
Weeks later, I would go off to the University of Kansas and get ready for KU Marching Band and drumline. I met a guy named Tony on my first day. I was painfully shy and he was cooler than I could ever be, but after a few weeks, I would call him my first KU friend. After another several weeks, we would swap stories and eventually my “doubleheader story” would come up. After a great deal of debate, we would deduce together that HE was at the same game, sitting a few rows of me! We are still friends to this day.
So what’s the strangest thing you’ve encountered at “the K”? Were you there for the gunshots from a few years ago? The Ken Harvey “Willem Dafoe” game? Tell me all about it…