Copyright © 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
I'm sitting here this evening with my eyes on the computer, but my ears pegged to the broadcast of a baseball game.
Baseball has had a huge influence on my life, in ways both substantial and subtle. While I've always been a fan of "the game," my loyalties have been tied like heartstrings to the fate of the Kansas City Royals.
Tonight, hopefully, will be special. If the Royals can hang on to their 3-0 lead over the Chicago White Sox for nine more outs, they will gain entry to that post-season tournament we call "the playoffs." Before you sigh and intone "so what?", let me explain.
In 1985, the Royals made the playoffs. No real surprise, since they had been there in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1980. But this time, they survived all the way to the World Series, a memorable seven-game dogfight against their cross-state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. After a controversial play in game 6 gave the Royals one more desperate breath, they absolutely destroyed the Redbirds in game 7 to bring home the World's Championship of Major League Baseball.
The Royals were a dominant team, combining airtight defense, superior pitching and enough offense to do the job. They remained competitive through the rest of the '80's, but beginning in the '90's and on into the first decade of the 21st century, the team sank as far as a team can go. There were several 100-loss seasons in that time, and the tight-fisted owners pedaled away star players in favor of keeping the salaries under control. Fans grew disillusioned and began staying away in droves.
A change in leadership and a re-invigoration of the farm system (including a heavy investment in culling talent from the Dominican Republic) began to show dividends. This year was the year everyone talked about as the season when their impressive talent would mature into championship material. And that has finally been the case.