A KC Royals Opening Day scrapbook

The most memorable Opening Days in a writer's baseball life.
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
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2004: One last magical moment

The 2003 Royals were an anomaly. Of the aforementioned 18 seasons of misery, they were the lone winning team, finishing 83-79. That was good for third in the AL Central, but that doesn't do the team justice.

Led by young sensation Carlos Beltrán and a ragtag roster behind him (their best pitcher was Darrell May, co-holder of the club record for most losses in a season), the Royals got off to a hot start and didn't relinquish first place in their division until the last day of August. The team eventually ran out of steam, but for the first time in at least a decade, it captured positive attention and imagination and made fans care about KC baseball again.

So the club went into 2004 with high hopes, but the season dashed them. The Royals lost 104 games to kickstart an awful era in team history. But before the season went off the rails, the Royals gave fans one last dose of their 2003 magic on Opening Day.

The game against the White Sox didn't get off to a great start. Facing noted Royal-killer Mark Buehrle before a packed house, Royals starter Brian Anderson was tagged for four runs in the top of the second. And Kansas City trailed 7-3 entering the bottom of the ninth.

But the Royals came to life. Joe Randa led off with a walk and Ken Harvey followed suit. With two on, Benito Santiago doubled, scoring Randa and moving Harvey to third. After an Aaron Guiel strikeout, Mendy López came to the plate.

López promptly hit the last of his six career homers; the improbable blow tied the game, brought the crowd to life, and set the stage for even more heroics — Ángel Berroa singled, and Beltrán thrilled the fans with a two-run home run for an Opening Day walk-off.