The KC Royals-New York Yankees rivalry: A primer
The basic concept is foreign to baseball fans in the present, at a time when the Royals and, frankly, most midwestern sports teams are regularly overlooked by the media and world-at-large, but there was a time in the late 1970s and early 80s when the Royals and Yankees made up the fiercest rivalry in baseball.
The teams were American League Championship Series opponents four times between 1976 and 1980. Unfortunately, the Yankees came out on top more often than not, winning three straight pennants against the Royals. Chris Chambliss started the fireworks, breaking the Royals' hearts with one of the most chaotic walk-off home runs in major league history to win Game 5 of the '76 ALCS.
Between that and George Brett's iconic home run off Goose Gossage in the '80 ALCS, which finally got the Royals over the hump and allowed all of Kansas City to take a deep breath, the two clubs went back and forth like wrestlers in a cage match.
So many moments etched themselves into baseball history. Hal McRae tried to slide through Willie Randolph. Brett hopped up from a slide and punched Graig Nettles in the mouth, clearing the benches. Three years after the rivalry reached its high-water mark, Brett went ballistic during the Pine Tar Game. The ghost of that animosity could even be sensed by a generation that never experienced any of it when Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano snubbed Billy Butler during the 2012 Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium.
By contrast, 1979 was a down year for the rivalry. It was the only time the two teams did not meet in the ALCS between 1976-80. Not that either team was bad: Kansas City finished 85-77, good for second place in the AL West, and the Yankees were 89-71 and finished fourth in the AL East. Neither team knew they wouldn't be seeing each other in the playoffs again when they got together in KC that June, however, but they treated a national television audience to yet another thrilling chapter in their saga.