I-70 Turf War


The Royals and Cardinals rekindle their battle for Missouri on the diamond tonight, and like many Royals fans, I want to see a series win to shut them up and send them east on I-70 grumbling about the loss.

Vindictive?  Petty?  Human? Sure.

Hey, what’s wrong with seeing a group of fans (not ALL but the most obnoxious) get a nice serving of humble pie?  When they’re the cross-state rivals, it’s even better.

Also, in my opinion, it’s warranted.

"Little squibber to the right side.  Worrell races over to cover. The throw — doesn’t get him! And here comes Herzog.-Al Michaels, October 26, 1985"

About this time eleven years ago, I was in my final week of classes during my freshman year at the University of Kansas.  I don’t remember the day of the week, but I knew that I was going to bed early to get enough sleep so I could get up and take a final at 7:30 a.m. Other students, apparently (and not surprisingly) decided to go out and, upon getting back to the dorms, felt it was a great time to bring up the above play.

At 3:30 in the morning.

You’ll never guess who brought it up, either.

This is a particularly annoying trait of some Cardinals fans.  They’ll simultaneously mock Royals fans for the team never “being any good since 1985” yet cling to the past in the same way, always bringing up the Jorge Orta play and crying foul.

After reviewing the play, I’ll concede one thing.

Orta was out.  Orta was way out.  The Cardinals have every right to have been upset at the time, because Worrell beat him to the bag and had his foot in the middle of first base as he caught the throw from Jack Clark.  Orta was still in stride.  Cardinals fans, likewise, had every right to complain.

The statute of limitations, though, seems to be infinite in the sports world, and while they can complain about that one play, they can’t – as many will try – blame the loss of Game 6 on Don Denkinger.

That’s what the Cardinals fan outside my dorm room at Ellsworth Hall wanted to do, though.  His friend, though well-meaning and clearly on the Royals side of the fence, tried to argue back, he wasn’t getting through to the guy.  Someone across the hall opened their door and yelled “It was 15 years ago, now shut the hell up!”

And there ended the discussion.

Well, THAT discussion at least.

I know a guy who swears by everything good and great in this world, that had the Cardinals retired Orta, it would have been the last out of the World Series. I’ve gone so far as to show him the Baseball-Reference.com boxscore with play by play to disprove his thinking.  He still doesn’t get it.

Again, I can’t blame anyone for being upset about the Don Denkinger call, but let’s reconstruct the inning.  While that one play was a bad call, the Cardinals can’t blame anyone but themselves for the loss.

Darryl Motley was announced as a pinch-hitter for Pat Sheridan (with an eight man pitching staff, the Royals had a ton of bench players, and Sheridan/Motley was a season-long platoon).  Whitey Herzog brought in Todd Worrell as soon as the right-handed hitting Motley was in the box, so Dick Howser pinch-hit Orta in Motley’s place.  After fouling off two pitches, Orta hit the infamous squibber.

And that’s where the Cards fans case goes to pieces.  Jack Clark, usually in the outfield, played first base in the World Series.  He didn’t get a great break on Orta’s chopper and seemed to throw it late.  It was enough to make the play close and obviously, close counted enough for Orta.

Maybe a regular first baseman makes a better play, a better throw and it’s not close.

Steve Balboni came up behind Orta and popped up a ball into foul territory.  Clark and Darrell Porter went after it, but Clark looked down and lost the ball and it fell as a astrike instead of an out.  Again, maybe a true first baseman makes the play.  They gave the Royals an out.

Balboni singled to left, Orta moved to second.  Onix Concepcion pinch-ran for Balboni.  Jim Sundberg attempted a sacrifice bunt but Worrell threw out Orta at third.

With runners on first and second and one out and pinch-hitter Hal McRae at the plate, Worrell threw a passed ball.  Not Don Denkinger, Todd Worrell.  Concepcion moved up to third, Sundberg went to second.  The Cardinals intentionally walked McRae to load the bases.

"Looper into right field for a base hit. Concepcion scores.  Here comes Sundberg – here’s the throw. He scores! We go to a seventh!-Al Michaels, October 26, 1985 (again)"

That last line is key.

The Royals won Game 6, but Game 7 was still to be decided.

Remember 1986?  Same thing.  Everyone remembers the Mets coming from behind on the Bill Buckner play (another situation where he should have been substituted for someone better at defense in the position).  Still, that was Game 6.  You hardly ever see highlights of Game 7 when the Mets won the Series.

The Royals won 11-0 in Game 7 and claimed their sole World Series crown.

To a Cardinals fan, though, all they’ll mention is Denkinger.

It’s why I take joy when the Royals beat them.

Fun story: In 2007, I went to the June 14 game and, as you’d expect, the Cardinals fans were out in full force.  I can’t disparage their passion because they travel as well as any other teams’ fans, but they didn’t leave a very good impression on me.

Thankfully, the Royals won. 17-8. It started out with the Cardinals taking a quick 1-0 lead that the Royals matched in the bottom of the first. In the second, Chris Duncan hit a three run homer and the chatter started up. One fan, near my age and a row behind me, was proclaiming how St. Louis was so much better because the 10 dollar seats we were in would cost $50 at Busch. Why that’s a statement of quality fandom, I don’t know.

When Duncan homered, he was insufferable, yapping about how they were going to do that all night.

The Royals responded by sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring eight runs.

Then in the fourth inning, they scored six more runs. I made sure that when I turned to the guy beside me (a Royals fan) and said “if we keep batting around like this, I’m gonna have to get another scorecard” it was loud enough for Mr. Cardinal to hear.

In the seventh inning a female Cardinals fan, without provocation, dumped a beer onto a female Royals fan in the next section.

Just classy.

To be fair, those aren’t representative of all Cardinals fans, but it’s kind of like getting a bad sunflower seed. The bad taste doesn’t go away.  But as our own Ethan Evans can attest, some of them just love baseball.

Over the weekend, spirits will be high and both fanbases will be on edge. I’m hoping the Royals can keep the Cards quiet every time out.

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