25 years ago KC Royals fans were treated to an Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium after the end of the strike that began in 1994.
Much has changed in my life since 1995. Marriage, five kids, graduated from college and lived in eight different residences in the Wichita-area. One thing that is not different, though, is my love for KC Royals baseball.
That led me to a crazy round trip from Wichita to watch the Royals on a belated Opening Day in 1995. The prior season, baseball was cut short due to a strike with the Boys in Blue just three games removed from the wild card and four from the division lead. This robbed the team a chance at postseason play that would not come around again for 19 years.
The game started at 1:15 against the Baltimore Orioles. I left Wichita early that morning to first pick up a high school friend and his roommate from Kansas State University in Manhattan. We arrived in Kansas City in time enough before the game to go to a store and I picked up an unfortunate pair of Zubaz pants that were popular during that time.
Appier had established himself as the KC Royals’ ace for a few years now — it was no surprise he was named the Opening Day starter. Baltimore’s lineup that day included several potent bats including Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro, Harold Baines, Chris Hoiles, and of course, Cal Ripken Jr.
It was a damp, overcast day which may have led to the Orioles not getting off to a great start but mostly it was that Appier was amazing. He was not terribly efficient, taking 98 pitches to get through six and two-thirds innings. Seven strikeouts, two walks…and no hits.
However, due to a pitch count imposed by manager Bob Boone (in his managerial debut) because of the abbreviated spring, we were still stunned when the skipper came out to pull Appier with two out in the seventh. With that many pitches thrown so far, it was unlikely he would have made it the entire game. It was a chance at history though, only Bob Feller had previously thrown a complete game no-hitter on Opening Day.
“When I walked out and I heard all the boos from the fans, I wanted to go: Wait a minute. He’s got too many pitches and this is the first game out of spring training,” Bob Boone recalled Monday. “But they didn’t understand. So when I look back on it, I go, that was dumb. That kind of set the tone as to how dumb I was for the rest of my managerial career.”
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It still was a good day, as the KC Royals went on the win 5-1. I drove my friends back to Manhattan and then back to Wichita. I did not arrive home until close to midnight, making it about 18 hours since I left to begin that journey. To this day, it is still my only Opening Day game I have attended. I hope to do another soon with my family so they can a lifelong memory as I did.