Double Headers and Blown Eardrums

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…

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bob Hamelin Jeff Montgomery Kansas City Royals KC MLB Royals Tom Gordon Wally Joyner

  • Michael Engel

    I’m kind of sad I missed out on the fight out at the Little K (okay, not really).

    My first double header (and only so far) was another one of those deals where you end up going on a whim. The Royals had been rained out the night before against Cleveland and I was off the following day. Having never been to a double header and recognizing their scarcity, I just showed up at my friend’s and asked if he wanted to go.

    The first game lasted forever and the Royals lost like 12-7. It took about 3 hours and 45 minutes. The second game started half an hour later, and in that period, we moved from our field seats to directly behind home. Nobody bothered to ask for the tickets or anything, we just moved and sat down. Awesome view.

    The second game was Brian Bannister against Cliff Lee and both pitchers were on their game (and the umps probably wanted to speed it up too) and nobody had scored until the 8th inning I believe…until someone on the Indians hit a sharp grounder off Bannister’s shin, he walked the next person and they got two runs out of it. Lee was brutal and ended up pitching a complete game one run gem but the second game ended after about an hour and fifty minutes. Muuuch better.

    There was a bridal shower party about four rows from us once we’d moved behind and they were all hammered on Royal ‘Ritas while some pair of dopes behind us tried to use the tips they’d learned on how to pick up chicks, so they were doing these magic tricks and trying to tell jokes and failing miserably.

    It was sad.

    I wish I had a bizarre story to share. The only thing somewhat close was during the Cardinals series that year – the Cards put up four in the first inning and from my seat in the left field corner, all I was hearing was this guy (already drunk) rambling about how he was the best fan in the world because a) he’d traveled from St. Louis and b) he’d paid 175 bucks for his ticket.

    Small thing – I had a nine game ticket package, so mine was discounted, but even at regular price (and premium since it was the Cardinals series) I think it was 14 bucks. The Royals fans around him made sure to tell him how he was just stupid for paying that much. The Royals batted around the next inning and took a 7-4 lead and eventually won. (Okay I don’t remember if that was the score but that was the pattern of events) After they’d batted around, I made a show of having to start a new column in my scorebook.

    “Gee, they got too many batters up that inning, gotta start a new line…filling in these runs is hurting my hand!”

    Take that Cardinals.

  • Tom Barkwell

    I was at the gunshot game. We noticed security buzzing around with concerned looks on their faces, but figured it was just another drunk starting trouble. Didn’t realize what had happened until reading news the following day.