Kauffman Stadium

2016 Regular Season. Kansas City Royals hosted Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri), home of the 2015 World Champions. A capacity crowd of nearly 40,000 came to see the home team and it was a perfect day for a twilight game; clear skies, a temperature of 78 degrees, and featuring hues of the sunset beyond words. For this time of year, you couldn’t ask for more. Both teams came into the game with 11 wins thus far in the season. On this day, Baltimore Orioles outperformed the Kansas City Royals 14 hits to 7. Royals starting pitcher Kris Medlen went 3 & 2/3 innings and gave up 9 of those Oriole hits. Baltimore Orioles beat Kansas City Royals 8-3. But, its early and, until someone proves different, the Royals are kings of baseball. 2015 was the first World Championship for the Kansas City Royals since that magical year in 1985 and the second in franchise history. Salvador Perez, as well as outfielder Jarrod Dyson and pitcher Danny Duffy are the only players from that 2015 Royals team that are on the current active player roster. Pitcher Greg Holland was traded away, re-signed, and is also on the 2021 Kansas City Royals. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and Royals first baseman Erik Hossmer would eventually enter free agency and are now teammates for the long term with the San Diego Padres.

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Astro Turf. When it was introduced in the Astrodome (1966), it was merely replacing the natural grass that was dying from lack of sun light through the opaque panels that enclosed the ballpark. As we all know, Astro turf took on a life of its own after that, a viable low maintenance material that became the kneejerk selection for the post-modern designs, the cookie-cutter stadiums of the 1960’s & 1970’s. Kauffman Stadium took a role in that history (1973-1994). Before that, the Royals played at Municipal Stadium (1969-1972), a year after the Athletics moved to Oakland, California. I visited Kauffman Stadium in 1993 and, from a fans point of view, it’s a different game now. It seemed like a much smaller ballpark back then; Maybe it’s the renovations and better use of space. Or, maybe it’s just because, after many years, places tend to look smaller than we revisit. Or, is it the other way around?

When in town, fan loyalty is not hard to find at all, banners on display and fans wearing their teams gear wherever you go. The great thing about being defending champions is you can relive the highlights of that magical season every day. As an added bonus, the fanbase enjoys a repeat appearance in the World Series (a feat in itself) to win it all after losing a hard-fought series to San Francisco Giants in 2014. This also means that, with rising ticket prices, loyalty is more expensive the year after. Still, there was a genuine feeling of a franchise and baseball family coming full circle from those pennant years of the 1970s & the 1980s. What happens at “The K” is held close to the cuff. Kansas City is the city with a thousand nicknames and they all describe royalty.

Kansas City Royals are one of four new expansion teams in 1969; Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots (later known as Milwaukee Brewers), San Diego Padres, and Montreal Expos later known as Washington Nationals). So, what’s the association with Kansas City and Royals? The franchise name is in honor of the “America Royal,” an annual event held throughout town since 1899 that features a livestock show, a horse show, a rodeo, and bar-b-que competition. It tends to get lost in translation but the honor was either “for cows” or “for an industry that helped create a strong economy in Kansas City and built by a strong working class, depending on how you look at it. But, the concept of royalty has evolved, identifying with every aspect of life in Kansas City; titles like the football Chiefs, the once basketball Kings, the Kings of Jazz, etc. The storied franchise of the Kansas City Monarchs was royalty in the Negro Leagues. And, speaking of royalty, there is one red seat in Kauffman Stadium that marks the spot where the Legendary Buck O’Neal sat for decades to watch and keep score of the Royals home games; a man with too many titles to mention them all. In short, he’s the soul of the game. And, if you don’t know who Buck O’Neal is, then you don’t know Kansas City.

Baltimore Orioles @ Kansas City Royals

Baltimore Orioles beat Kansas City Royals 8-3. Photos taken on Saturday April 23, 2016 by Miguel A. Sanchez.

Camden Yards

Los Angeles Angels @ Baltimore Orioles.

2011 Regular Season at Camden Yards or just Orioles Park (Opened 1992). It was the first of a series of new MLB parks; ushering in a retro design that incorporated the ballpark feel of yesteryear with today’s technology. Many other new ballparks would follow the same concept in the coming years. Another element of retro-ballpark design is incorporating the existing bricks and mortar of the surrounding community. Take the warehouse beyond right field. It’s the most recognizable landmark in MLB and the longest brick building east of the Mississippi River.

In the cookie-cutter era of the 1960’s and 1970’s, stadiums were mostly built in a remote part of town; surrounded by a sea of parking lots. Camden Yards started the biggest construction boom since concrete and steel were first used to build Shibe Park & Forbes Field. Other items incorporated in the design are the original foul poles from Memorial Stadium; where the Baltimore Orioles played before.  

Baltimore is the birthplace of Babe Ruth. As you walk eastbound past the warehouse, you’re not going to want to miss the Birthplace of Babe Ruth Museum on Emory Street. It’s literally a flyball from Camden Yards. In fact, there are layers of history here. Continue eastbound for a couple blocks and you will find the Inner Harbor: the site of the War of 1812. At the time, Mary Pickersgill sewed the American Flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that became the American national anthem. Mary Pickersgill’s home is a museum commonly known as the “Flag House” nearby and the Inner Harbor is now a trendy tourist attraction. When at Camden Yards, beware of the sudden shouts of “Oh!” during the national anthem. “Oh!, say can you see, for instance. It will catch you by surprise if you’re not expecting it.

This week marks the 25th Anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr’s record of consecutive games played, surpassing Lou Gehrig with 2,131 games on September 6, 1995. It’s ranked as one of MLBs most memorable moments. Every day during pre-game admission, fans relive that historic day in Camden Yards; on the Jumbotron. No doubt, seeing Cal Ripken Jr. walking around the field, reaching out to greeting fans never gets old. It was simple yet significant. Between 1982 and 1998, he showed up and left it all on the field. There is a school of thought in baseball that Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and the chase for Babe Ruth’s home run record saved baseball in 1998, after the dark episode of the 1994 Strike. MLB had an amazing revenue year in 1998. But for me, Cal Ripken’s work ethic brought me back to baseball after the strike. He is the iconic figure of Baltimore Orioles baseball. He and Babe Ruth are in a league of their own.

The traditional “Orioles” name is traced back to the American Association in the late nineteenth century. But this team is originally the St. Louis Browns of the American League who was purchased and moved in 1954. They mostly dominated in the 1960 and 1970 era with four World Series appearances and the 1966 and 1970 World Championship. They also won the 1983 World Series with Cal Ripken Jr.

The Los Angeles Angels were in the heat of a pennant race. Manager Mike Scioscia slotted his ace Jered Weaver on 3 days’ rest. Baltimore lost 11-2. They were virtually out of any post season talk. The next day, they started a run of winning 7 of the last 11 games. The Epic “Game 162” of the 2011 regular season left four teams still trying to clinch 2 post season spots. The rest of baseball was implicated as teams didn’t know where to travel or who to face in the playoffs. It would all be decided in a compacted 129 minutes and it ended here in tragic form for the Boston Red Sox. The Baltimore Orioles became one of the legendary late season spoilers.