Lights, Camera…


Opening Day 2010.jpgHopefully Action…

The lights were on here at Kauffman Stadium at 4:30 am this morning for last minute work to prepare for the big day. Cameras from every Kansas City area television station were here providing live shots from a peaceful empty stadium ready to jump back to life this afternoon.

We did have a significant downpour here at the ballpark around 7:30am, but it seems to be slacking off and the forecast calls for a spectacular afternoon (knock on wood) – perhaps a bit windy come game time.

 

Opening Day Field.jpgKauffman Stadium is as beautiful as ever and everyone here with the Royals is excited to welcome back 40,000 of a closest friends for the start of season 42 of Kansas City Royals Baseball. Gates open at Noon – be sure to join us early and make your way to your seats for pre-game ceremonies featuring some very special guests. Then at 3:10 Zack Greinke – the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner – will take the mound to get the season underway.

There are few days of the year that compare to the anticipation and excitement of Opening Day. If you can’t join us be sure to listen to the Royals Radio Network or watch on FS Kansas City.

Happy Opening Day – Let’s get a win!

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Opening Day: T-minus Three

It has been a very good Good Friday here at the ballpark, though the morning was a bit rough. Around 10am a very brief yet strong storm came rubling through the area with wind gusts of at least 50 mph. We had some portsable concessions stands get pushed around along the trash cans and some loose suite furniture – but it looks as if we escaped any real damage.

Opening Day is a sellout, of course – so I hope you have your seats. Here in the Royals Hall of Fame we actually have two new (or should that be old) seats ourselves, though these have been retired from services since 1972. The two Municipal Stadium seats are one of the new addition to the Royals Hall of Fame Gallery this year. You can get a sneak peak in the picture above, as lead carpenter Rick Bobki started the installation this morning.

The following picture doesn’t need much explaination – suffice to say we are ready and excited to have a fourth Cy Young Award:

 

Opening Day 004.jpgBe sure to join us for a special on-field ceremony next Friday (April 9) when Zack will be persented with the 2009 Cy Young Award before the Royals take on the Red Sox at 7:10. The first 35,000 get this T-Shirt celebrating the Royals three Cy Young Award winners (presented by our hometown neighbors at H&R Block).

 

CyYoungHRB_WHITE_Tshirt0021.jpgBoth Bret Saberhagen and David Cone will be here to welcome Zack into their select club. Plus the first Hy-Vee/Pepsi Fireworks Friday spectacular to cap off a special night at the ballpark. Order your tickets now

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)  

Opening Day: T-minus Four

The hope every Opening Day is to get the new season off to a great start – which is roughly translated as win the game. Probably the best get the season started pitching performance in baseball history would go to National Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Feller.

On Opening Day 1940 (April 16), Feller took the mound for his Cleveland Indians at old Comiskey Park and proceded to no-hit the Chicago White Sox. No pitcher had every done that before and none has done so since. ‘Rapid’ Robert was a bit wild, posting five walks, but he did not allow a hit and got Cleveland off to a good start in fine fashion.

What was the best pitch performance on Opening Day in Royals history? It’s debatable, but it might have been a combined effort from Runelvys Hernandez, Jason Grimsley and Mike MacDougal in 2003. Those three joined together to shutout the Chicago White Sox (3-0) here at Kauffman Stadium on Monday, March 31. The good Opening Day would quickly turn into the best start in Royals history when the club rattled off eight more consecutive wins and stood tall at 9-0 – all alone in first place.

Let’s hope Zack has more of that 2009 magic working and the 2010 Royals get a good jump on the season on Monday! 

Did You Know?: The Royals have started the season in the month of March three times in their history:

1998 – March 31 (Camden Yards – Baltimore)

Royals

4

 

Orioles

1

Jeff King, Dean Palmer and Larry Sutton all have two hits games – Sutton drives in three of the Royals four runs. Tim Belcher started and threw seven shutout innings.
 

2003 – March 31 (Kauffman Stadium – Kansas City)

White Sox

0

 

Royals

3

Runelvys Hernandez, Jason Grimsley and Mike MacDougal combine for only Opening Day shutout in Royals history.
 
2008 – March 31 (Comerica Park – Detroit)
 

Royals

5

 

Tigers

4

11 Innings

Tony Pena Jr two-out single scores John Buck with the go-ahead run (which you already knew from yesterday’s entry) 
 
Undefeated!
 
(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame) 

Opening Day: T-minus Five

After a winter without baseball, we all look forward to having the game back. You want to take in as much baseball as you can and because there has not been a doubleheader on Opening Day since 1971 (White Sox at Oakland – swept by the visitors) your next best bet is extra innings.

And if you are a Kansas City fan you might want to hope for that because extra innings on Opening Day have been very good to the Royals. There have been four extra innings games in Royals history on Opening Day with the Royals winning 3 of the 4:

 

1969 – April 8 (Municipal Stadium – Kansas City)

Twins

3

 

Royals

4

12 Innings

Joe Keough one-out pinch-hit single scores Joe Foy with the game winner.
 

1972 – April 15 (Municipal Stadium – Kansas City)

White Sox

1

 

Royals

2

11 Innings

John Mayberry two-out single scores Paul Schaal with the game winner.

2008 – March 31 (Comerica Park – Detroit)

Royals

5

 

Tigers

4

11 Innings

Tony Pena Jr two-out single scores John Buck with the go-ahead run.

 

The only Opening Day extra inning loss came on April 9, 1990 at Royals Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles when Cal Ripken scored Joe Orsulak with a single against Mark Davis to give the O’s a 7-6 win in 11 innings.

Did You Know?: The Royals have been rained or snowed out on Opening Day four times – mostly recently last year on April 6, 2009 in Chicago. The only Opening Day game postponed here in Kansas City came on April 2, 1984 when the Royals were set to host the New York Yankees. The season got started the next day when the Royals beat the Yankees 4-2 starting Kansas City to a surprising 1984 American League Western Division Championship.

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

Opening Day: T-minus Six

Opening Day 2009.JPGWe are less than a week away from Opening Day and the winter seems to have finally faded away – though here in Kansas City we got one last blast of snow less than two weeks ago. No matter now, as the grass at Kauffman Stadium is green; workers are all busy getting the ballpark ready (including putting the finishing touches on the new Strouds location adjacent to the Royals Hall of Fame – Mmmmmm cinnamon rolls); and the boys in blue are finishing up down in Surprise.

For baseball fans Opening Day is one of the most anticipated events of the year. In some cases it has nearly become a local holiday which is true in Kansas City at least back to 1985 when Opening Day sellout crowds have become an annual tradition (with the one exception of 1995). The 2010 season continues that line and, if the forecast holds, it looks to be a spectacular spring day for 40,000 fans to welcome home the Royals for another year of Major League Baseball in Kansas City.

To get you ready here are some Kansas City Royals Opening Day facts, notes and oddities as we countdown to Monday, April 5 vs Detroit at 3:10 here at Kauffman Stadium:

 

Overall Record on Opening Day (First Game of Season):

15-26

Record for Opening Day at Home:

10-11 

Record for Home Openers (First Game at Home):

21-20

Pitcher with Most Opening Day Starts:

Kevin Appier (7)

Position Player with Most Opening Day Starts:

Frank White (15)

Current Player with Most Consecutive Opening Day Starts:

David DeJesus (5)

1969 Royals Opening Day Lineup:

Order

Name

Position

Number

1

Lou Piniella

CF

9

2

Jerry Adair

2B

14

3

Ed Kirkpatrick

LF

8

4

Joy Foy

3B

1

5

Chuck Harrison

1B

7

6

Bob Oliver

RF

33

7

Ellie Rodriguez

C

11

8

Jackie Hernandez

SS

24

9

Wally Bunker

SP

27

Managed by 2009 National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Gordon (who wore #6)

Trivia Question(s): Three parter here – if you get the trifecta you are truly a Royals expert. What year did George Brett make his first Opening Day start? Where in the order did he bat? Who hit just in front of him?

 

Did You Know?: Only three times in Major League Baseball history has a player recorded three (3) home runs on Opening Day. Unfortunately on two of those ocassions it was against the Royals.

Reigning American League MVP George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays had three against Bret Saberhagen at Royals Stadium on April 4, 1988. The Royals lost 5-3. (Very bad day for me – later that night the Jayhawks beat my Sooners for the NCAA Basketball Championship and it still hurts 22 years later).

On April 4, 2005 Dmitri Young of the Tigers had three against the Royals at Commerica Park in Detroit – two aginst Jose Lima and a third off Mike MacDougal. The only time the feat has happened in the National League also has a Royals connection. Former Kansas City farmhand Karl ‘Tuffy’ Rhodes blasted three home runs off Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets on April 4, 1994 – but his Cubs still lost the game 12-8 at Wrigley Field in Chicago (its must have been a windy day at the friendly confines).

 

Trivia Answer(s): George was in the Royals Opening Day Lineup for the first time on April 7, 1975 against the Angels at Anaheim Stadium. He batted sixth and went 1-3 in the Royals tough 3-2 loss (the Angels rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth). His fellow future National Baseball Hall of Fame Member Harmon Killebrew was the Royals DH and was in the five hole. 

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

This Date In Royals History – February 23, 1987

Howser Statue.jpgI think Royals President Joe Burke put it best twenty-three years ago today when he said of Dick Howser on his last day as Royals Manager:

“He came back. OK, maybe he didn’t do it. But he did try. He did try. Oh, how he tried”

For that there is no question. George Brett knew how important a return to the field was for his manager who had just days before put his uniform back on to lead the Royals into another spring training in Fort Myers, FL. “His goal was always to be manager of the Kansas City Royals on February 20 (1987)…and he reached it.”

Just a couple of days later Howser knew a full return wasn’t to be. The Star’s Bob Nightengale reported how the hardest decision was made very simple when Howser himself asked Burke “What should I do?”

Burke, who battled cancer himself and knew how painful his words would sound, paused, and finally said: ‘I think today is the day.”

Howser agreed and they called a press conference for noon. The time was 11:35.

He did have one last meeting with the players to explain his decision to them – a measure of respect that appropriately took place on the green spring grass of a freshly mowed baseball in Howser’s beloved home state of Florida. As fate would have it the first player to reach out to Howser was Dan Qusienberry, who with tears streaming down his face shook his manager’s hand and embraced him for several moments. Others did the same.

His message to the players was delivered in the same no-nonsense matter of fact manner that marked his mangerial style:

‘I’m going to have to give it up this year, which is really hard for me to do. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed, but it didn’t happen for me…It didn’t happen. But don’t quit. Don’t quit. Everything will be all right.”

Howser’s spirit was the same in trials both on the field and off. Always prodding to get the most out of himself and his players. He was partial to ending all his exortations as a manager with the brief and blunt motto – “We’ll get it done” 

Just months later he was gone. But if you ever talk to his players you’ll find out the spirit he instilled in those ballclubs endured with each of them. The calm steady hand that keep his team’s composure down three games to one would do the same in this much larger personal battle. Though it might not have felt like it on February 23, 1987 – Dick Howser had proved he was a winner on the baseball field one last time.

He did try. Oh, how he tried – Thank You #10!

Royals Birthdays – February 10

Gordon.jpg1984 – Alex Gordon (Third Base – 2007-Present)

1978 – Ruben Mateo (Outfielder – 2004)

1970 – Alberto Castillo (Catcher – 2004-05)

1954 – Larry McWilliams (Pitcher – 1989-90)

Happy Birthday!

 

Royals fans know that Alex Gordon was a two-time All-American at the University of Nebraska where he helped lead the Huskers to a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and College World Series appearance. His junior season in Lincoln was one of the best in recent NCAA baseball history and won Alex the Dick Howser Trophy as college baseball’s most outstanding player. 

Extra Credit: What former Husker pitcher gave up one of George Brett’s milestone hits?

The Dick Howser Trophy is viewed as the baseball equivalent to football’s Heisman Trophy and was established in 1987 to honor the memory of the Royals Hall of Fame Manager. It is a fitting tribute because Dick Howser had a deep appreciation and love for college baseball. He was a two-time All-American himself at Florida State and later coached the Seminoles as well.

Answer: Former Husker Stan Bahnsen served up George Brett’s first major league hit on August 2, 1973. Brett grounded a fourth-inning single off the White Sox hurler at Comiskey Park for hit #1 on the way to 3,154.

 

Did You Know: The first recepient of the Dick Howser Trophy was Mike Fiore of the University of Miami. So what connection does Mike Fiore have to the Royals?

Well the 1987 Dick Howser Trophy Winner Mike Fiore never played for the Royals – but his father Mike Fiore was a member of the original 1969 Kansas City Royals.

 

Mike Fiore - 1969.jpg

Royals Birthdays – February 8

Buddy Blattner - NY Giants.jpg1943 – Bob Oliver (Outfielder/Infielder – 1969-72)

1920 – Buddy Blattner (Broadcaster – 1969-75)

Happy Birthday!

 

There is little doubt that if you asked who the ‘Voice of the Royals’ was that the answer would come back – Denny Matthews, of course! And in many ways that answer is absolutlely correct as Denny has been with the Royals from the very first game in 1969. However he was the junior partner on that first radio team with veteran broadcaster Buddy Blattner.

In fact it was Buddy who actually hired Denny, giving the novice 25 year-old broadcaster his big break an launching his Hall of Fame broadcasting career. Without Buddy there may not have been a Denny. And without Denny Royals History would have at the very least sounded much differently over the last 40-plus years.

But Buddy, who passed away last September, was a true gentleman of the game long before his time here in Kansas City. Before taking up broadcasting, Blattner had already reached the big leagues as a player for his hometown St. Louis Cardinals in 1942. Then after serving in the US Navy during WWII he returned to play for the New York Giants (1946-48) and Philsdelphia Phillies (1949).

After hanging up his cleats, Buddy took to the airwaves as a broadcaster for the St. Louis Browns and later teamed up with Dizzy Dean for Major League Baseball’s nationally televised ‘Game of the Week’ broadcasts on ABC (1953-54) and CBS (1955-59).

He came to Kansas City after working from 1962-68 for the Los Angeles/California Angels wre he worked with Royals GM Cedric Tallis and for Gene Autry – a good friend of Ewing and Muriel Kauffman. His impressive resume and local ties made him an ideal lead broadcaster for the expansion Royals.

Buddy Blattner - 1969.JPG

Did You Know: Buddy Blattner was a world-class table tennis player including winning the World Championship in men’s doubles in 1936. He was inducted into the United States Table Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1979.

Pitcher/Player…Player/Pitcher

Hitting.jpgAs you surely know by now reports everywhere have Rick Ankiel joining the Royals for the 2010 season with a mutual option for 2011. There is no question that Ankiel is an athlete with great physical skills having reached the big leagues back in 1999 as a much ballyhooed pitching prospect at the tender age of 19.

Thumbnail image for Pitching.jpgOf course his struggles as a pitcher, starting so visibly in the 2000 NLDS and NLCS, are now a part of both Cardinals and recent baseball lore. What makes his story compelling was his ability to return to the minor leagues and climb back to the big leagues as a position player.

He is not the first player in Royals history to have reach the big leagues as both a pitcher and position player. The most recent was reliever Ron Mahay who actually made his MLB debut as an outfielder with the Red Sox in 1995. The outfieder version of Mahay didn’t last long and he returned to the minors in 1996 where he took a shot at pitching.

By 1997 he was back in Boston as a member of their bullpen and has been in the big leagues ever since toiling for a multitude of teams including the Royals. Kansas City fans will also remember that shortstop Tony Pena Jr began a similar try the reverse tranformation last year and will continue that hope in 2010 in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Former Royals pitcher Al Fitzmorris is another player that made a position switch going from minor league outfielder to big league pitcher. Though Fitzy never made it to the show as an outfielder, his offensive skills allowed him to hit .242 (24-109) as a pitcher with the Royals mostly in the seasons before the advent of the designated hitter.

From all accounts Ankiel is also a fearless outfield defender perfectly willing to hit the wall in pursuit of an out.

Ankiel Crash.jpgIn that way perhaps he also has a bit of former Royal Tom Poquette in him – which is the type of hustle we all like to see.

POQUETTE-TOM_00.JPG

Ankiel’s story both on the field and off has certainly been interesting and hopefully his skills will all come together this season here in Kansas City. His progress should be part of the intrigue of the 2010 Royals season.

Welcome to Kansas City Rick!  

Royals FanFest 2010 – FRIDAY SATURDAY

Do you know this guy?

Babe.jpgMaybe this one…

Ty2.jpgHow about this one?

 

Jackie.jpgBabe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Jackie Robinson are just a few of the baseball immortals who will be represented this Friday (1pm-9pm) and Saturday (9am-7pm) at Royals FanFest . In conjunction with the National Baseball Hall of Fame we will have artifacts from the careers of each of these legends – and more - housed within the Major League Baseball History Exhibit inside the Overland Park Convention Center.

And that is just part of the show. We’ll have player autograph sessions, a chance to meet both Royals Alumni and some minor leaguers hopefully on their way to many summers at Kauffman Stadium. Plus a mix of Q&A sessions with current Royals, GM Dayton Moore, a reunion of the 1985 World Champion Royals and more.

It’s a full two days of fun and every Royals fan should be there to take it all in. Get your tickets here and join us as we get baseball season started as the snow melts here in Kansas City!

Stop by the Royals Hall of Fame section and say hello…

(Curt Nelson, Director – Royals Hall of Fame)

 

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