Kansas City A community devoted to all that is Kansas City! http://www.lunch.com/goingtokansascity <![CDATA[ Royalty Where They Are]]>
Baseball has always been a constant in Kansas City. It was, after all, home to the Kansas City Blues, for years a top farm team for the New York Yankees. They also had the crown jewel of the Negro League, the Kansas City Monarchs. They got Major League Baseball for awhile too when the Philadelphia Athletics moved in in 1954, but they were gone 13 years later, even though the people of Kansas City turned out in record numbers to watch them. You would think Major League Baseball wouldn't want to ignore that kind of feverish devotion, but they tried like hell. The only reason Kansas City was given a new team was because of Senator Stuart Symington, a Missouri Democrat who got really pissed off by MLB letting the Athletics move to Oakland and responded by threatening legislation to remove baseball's antitrust exemption and vowing to support any and all challenges to the reserve clause. Baseball relented. In a hastily organized round of expansions, they created the Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots, San Diego Padres, and Montreal Expos. The Royals named themselves after the American Royal, a livestock show held in the city since 1899. Some other sources say the name was a tribute to the Kansas City Monarchs.

The Royals' first general manager, Cedric Tallis, was a big time trader. He loved to make trades, and his tenure in Kansas City started with a bang when he made a trade with the Pilots which brought in the 1969 Rookie of the Year, Lou Piniella. The Royals finished the season in fifth place, then went the way of building a team through speed. For the following season, they traded for Amos Otis - who became their first real star - Cookie Rojas, Ted Abernathy, Fred Patek, John Mayberry, and Hal McRae while spending on a good farm system. It was just two years before the Royals were winning. They finished second in 1971, and their next couple of managers kept putting the emphasis on defense and good, smart baserunning. In 1975, the Royals hired new manager Whitey Herzog, and with that, they truly began their climb to the top. They finished second that year, going 91-71, and that set the tone for the rest of the decade as the Royals became thoroughly dominant. Starting in 1976, the Royals won three straight division titles, only to lose to the New York Yankees in the ALCS in all three years.

It was during this period that superstar and face of the Royals George Brett emerged. In the 1978 ALCS, he hit three home runs. Those teams also featured players like Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura, Dan Quisenberry, Willie Wilson, UL Washington, and Darrell Porter. Even with all their power and the fact that the Royals in those years won more games in the regular season than the Yankees, they couldn't catch the BIG break. Don't forget, back then the division was so weak that it was nicknamed the American League Least. At the end of his famous book The Bronx Zoo, Yankees closer Sparky Lyle says outright that he hopes the divisions are realigned and that the Royals are placed in New York's division, because they'd never win again. 1977 ended with Whitey Herzog saying he would leave the team if John Mayberry wasn't traded. Herzog is one of baseball's great strategists of all time, so Mayberry was sent to the Toronto Blue Jays.

How good was Herzog? Let me put it this way: When the Royals finished in second place in 1979, it was considered such a disappointment that he was fired and replaced by Jim Frey. Also, Herzog's relationship with the front office was strained, which is probably the primary reason they let him go. In 1980 George Brett nearly hit .400 and won the AL MVP. The team wound up back in the ALCS, facing the Yankees again, and this time they finally swept the Yankees out. Upon winning their first Pennant, victory in the World Series was looking kinda like a gimme for the Royals. After all, they were facing the perpetually doomed Philadelphia Phillies, a team with 97 years of futility weighing down on their shoulders, a moody staff ace, a quiet third baseman, and a manager who just got lucky, and they had been through a nasty drug scandal. But the pitcher in question was Steve Carlton and the third baseman, Mike Schmidt. They also had Pete Rose. They did NOT have the Karma Houdini. Everything went Philadelphia's way, and the Phillies won their first-ever World Series in six games.

1983 saw the Royals get rocked by scandals seemingly every other day. In one, George Brett hit a home run in the ninth inning of a game against the Yankees. The Yankees' manager, Billy Martin, spotted something unusual on the bat. Billy Martin being Billy Martin, he threw one of his famously volcanic hissy fits, complaining that Brett had more pine tar on his bat than was allowed. The umpires inspected the bat and, no doubt to their everlasting shock, found themselves agreeing with Martin. Brett's home run was taken off the score and Brett was called out, and the game was over. Brett argued, creating the signature image of the whole event when he stormed out of the dugout. Another scandal isn't so lighthearted because ot had to do with cocaine. Willie Wilson, Willie Aikens, Jerry Martin, and Vide Blue were charged with trying to buy the stuff. They were charged in October 1983, pled guilty, and spent three months in jail. Baseball suspended them for the whole season in 1984, but they all appealed and were allowed to return in May.

In 1985, the Royals topped the division again, for the sixth time in ten years. Bret Saberhagan won the Cy Young. In the last week of the season, George Brett went on a tear with a hitting streak that helped the Royals bring down the California Angels in the standings. In the ALCS, the Royals fell behind the Toronto Blue Jays two games to none, then three games to one, before they rallied and pulled off the comeback victory. Upon vaulting into their second World Series, the Royals were probably drooling at the chance to take on their opponents: Their cross-state rivals, the Saint Louis Cardinals, flying high thanks to slick managerial work by none other than their old pal Whitey Herzog, in the position that defined Herzog's career. This Series was nicknamed the I-70 Series. The Royals made another show of it when they fell behind again 3-1. They came back to win the Series 4-3, upstaging the shit out of the Cardinals.

That title has so far been the apex of the Royals' baseball royalty. They started falling in 1986 and started off 1987 by trading Kansas City native David Cone for Ed Hearn. Cone went on to become a perennial All-Star who eventually pitched a perfect game in 1999 with the Yankees while Hearn was gone in a month. They managed to win 83 games that year, good enough for second behind the World Series Champion Minnesota Twins. Maybe they could have been better, because they let go of Hal McRae and hired a new manager. The Royals were competitive most of the next several years, and they developed a lot of great young talent, including two-sport star Bo Jackson and Tom Gordon. Unfortunately, their best just wasn't good enough. Usually a 92-win season results in the playoffs, but not in 1989, when they finished second behind the Oakland Athletics. Plus they were getting rid of star pitchers and exchanging them for marginal players. Bud Black was traded for Pat Tabler. Danny Jackson was sent packing for Kurt Stillwell. Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagan was traded for Kevin McReynolds. In the early 90's, the end finally came for the longtime hero and face of the Kansas City Royals, and George Brett retired. The Royals dropped out of contention but still posted good records until 1993. In 1994, the team re-signed David Cone and the team began making a play at greatness again. Unfortunately, the strike threw a real monkey wrench into everything.

That was pretty much the end. By now, their longtime general manager was gone and their owner died in 1993. Without leadership, the Royals made the fateful decision to reduce payroll. Not JUST reduce it, actually, but send it spiraling to the bottom. The Royals until then had one of the league's highest payrolls. After their mid-90's salary dump, they had the second-lowest in baseball. In 1997, with the newest expansions, the Royals were given an opportunity to move to the National League. Such a move wouldn't have been bad for them. The NL's lack of dependancy on the designated hitter would have meant one less skyscraper salary to pay, and they would have had a chance to butt in on the rivalry between the Saint Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, two teams with enormous fanbases who would have given the Royals a great attendance boost. Looking at the Royals nw, it's easy to make this argument. Back then, though, it didn't fly quite as well; after all, Kansas City had a history with the AL. Their glory years weren't far in the past, plus they didn't want to be robbed of having the Yankees as rivals. The Royals stayed in the AL. The Milwaukee Brewers jumped to the NL, where their close proximity to the Cubs gave them a boost.

In the meantime, the Royals kept dumping salary. Instead of paying their best players, they traded rapidly. They sent their rapidly-developing outfielder Johnny Damon to Oakland; he eventually emerged with the Boston Red Sox, where he became a cult hero and a key cog with Boston's exorcism team in 2004. They sent outfielder Jermaine Dye to Oakland too; he turned up with the rival Chicago White Sox in 2005, when he was the World Series MVP on the team that exorcised Chicago's baseball curse. They sent Rookie of the Year Carlos Beltran to the Houston Astros. He has NOT won the World Series. Yet. No, he merely went to seven All-Star games and won three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers, none of which were with the Royals.

In 2002, the Royals hit their all-time futility mark, losing 100 games. A year later saw a temporary return to, well, goodness. Manager Tony Pena led them to their first winning record since 1994, and was rewarded with Manager of the Year. They started off very hot that year, too; they spent the first few months winning games at the same clip as the Yankees, who eventually won the Pennant. The Royals since then have been terrible. They've been in eternal youth movement mode, eternal rebuilding mode, constantly looking for silver bullets to buy with a low payroll. They don't look like they'll be contending again for awhile.

Hall of Fame players for the Royals are George Brett, Orlando Cepeda, Joe Gordon, Whitey Herzog, Harmon Killebrew, Bob Lemon, and Gaylord Perry. Brett is the only one there as a Royal, and for good reason: He is still easily the team's best player in history. He won batting titles in three different decades, and led the 1985 boys to their World Series title. Brett, Dick Howser, and Frank White all have their numbers retired. The Royals are notable for having been the team of Bo Jackson for a long time. Jackson played both baseball and football, and his football team was the Oakland Raiders, an unusual circumstance because the Raiders are direct rivals of the Kansas City Chiefs, Kansas City's football team. Bo was a good baseball player, but a much better football player. Had an injury not ended his football career, he may well have taken a spot in Canton. (And here fans all seem to believe baseball is the EASIER of these two sports. Deion Sanders, another baseball/football guy, is in Canton but not Cooperstown. Gee, I wonder why...)

The Royals once had a thriving rivalry with the New York Yankees, but those days are long gone. These days the Royals ply their trade languishing in the AL Central, the worst division in baseball, where they can barely keep pace with their fellow doormats, the Cleveland Indians and recently, the Twins while the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox (usually, when they're not choking) walk all over everyone.

Defining events and moments for the Royals include the Pine Tar Incident, which is just wacky in retrospect. But they also have their 1985 World Series title and their 1980 Pennant. George Brett led both of those teams. Where their identity was once linked to dominance, today the Kansas City Royals are one of Major League Baseball's faces of perpetual futility. As I mentioned above, the Royals today seem addicted to the use of youth and silver bullets. I don't know why they seem to think that going from a high payroll to a low payroll is a good move. Baseball doesn't have a real salary cap, so even though MLB has more diversity in its champions than any other professional league in the country, the winning teams either have to pony up, fluke, or capitalize on other, better teams' flukes.

The Royals are known to have a devoted, fanatical fanbase to rival the one across Missouri in Saint Louis for the Cardinals. Their team might not be as old, but they're historically important and great in their own respect.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/goingtokansascity/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Kansas_City_Royals-517-1391367-231006-Royalty_Where_They_Are.html http://www.lunch.com/goingtokansascity/reviews/sports_team/UserReview-Kansas_City_Royals-517-1391367-231006-Royalty_Where_They_Are.html Sat, 22 Dec 2012 15:19:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ Barbeque Football]]>
Hunt was not the kind of guy who easily accepted the word "no" when he really wanted something. So he did something about it: He picked up the phone and started calling some of his rich buddies who also wanted to put NFL teams in their cities but were turned down, including his fellow Texan and oil man Bud Adams. Soon he had a group of eight rich people who were angry about not getting their share of the football pie. This group was referred to as the Foolish Club, because they were taking an outrageous chance. And the outrageous chance they were taking was starting up their own professional football league: The American Football League, which became a force that brought the established and hopelessly shortsighted NFL to its knees.

Hunt got that team in Dallas. The Dallas Texans were one of the greatest successes of the original AFL. To coach the team, Hunt originally had his heart set on University of Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkenson or New York Giants defensive coordinator Tom Landry. They both said no, so Hunt settled on an unknown assistant coach from the University of Miami, Hank Stram. Hunt hired Stram just because Stram really wanted the job. It was a smart move on his part, as Stram went on to win 124 games for the team from 1960 to 1974. He's still the winningest coach in the team's history.

Unfortunately, the appearance of the AFL had also tossed the NFL into a complete panic, and the senior league was faced with a choice: Expand or die. League leaders went with the former option, and when news of an AFL team in Dallas got to them, they decided it was time to place that NFL team in Dallas after all. By 1963, Dallas's AFL team was still relatively unknown because the league was also unknown. Although they managed to compile a 25-17 record during their time in Dallas - winning the AFL Championship in 1962, even - while the Cotton Bowl-sharing Cowboys went 9-28-3 in that same time, the Cowboys were better-monied and therefore more popular. So Hunt began looking for a new horizon, flipping through Miami, Seattle, and Atlanta before settling on New Orleans because he wanted a place he could get to from Dallas fairly easily. New Orleans was okay with it, but Tulane University wasn't because it didn't want its popular college football team competing with the pros. So Roe Bartle, the Mayor of Kansas City, persuaded him to move to the midwest, where the Dallas Texans transformed into the Kansas City Chiefs. He actually wanted to keep the Texans nickname as a tribute to his team's lineage, pointing out that the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers kept their nickname when they went west. But naturally that logic wasn't going to fly in this case.

Like many AFL teams, a lot of great prospects ditched the Chiefs to play in the NFL. The Chiefs drafted running back Gale Sayers, who went running into the Hall of Fame as a Chicago Bear instead. Despite this, the Chiefs were able to build a great team, and in 1966 they won the AFL Championship again, beating Buffalo. With the merger on the horizon, the season didn't end there. Instead, it propelled Kansas City into the first-ever AFL-NFL World Championship Game, which we know today as the Super Bowl. The Chiefs were clobbered by Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers, but they returned to the Super Bowl in 1969 to face the Minnesota Vikings. It was the fourth Super Bowl ever played, and at this point people were still looking down their noses at the AFL, claiming it inferior, and the NFL had a 2-1 advantage in the previous Super Bowls. Yes, Super Bowl III was fresh on everyone's minds, with Joe Namath's guarantee and his New York Jets subsequently beating the Baltimore Colts, but for all the hype about that game putting the AFL on the NFL's level, Michael McCambridge writes a very different story in America's Game, his most excellent tale of the history of the NFL. He writes - and his sources confirm - that people were still making fun of the AFL. Namath and the Jets the previous year were seen as a big-time fluke, a once-in-a-lifetime upset resulting from the senior league getting a little too cocky with all their talent. It was almost completely written off, and when preseason exhibitions between the AFL and NFL started going full-time the following season, the results gave the AFL's few boosters little to go on. Those early interleague preseason games didn't count in the standings, but to the teams, there was pride on the line, and the NFL spent the preseason that year kicking the AFL's asses all over the gridiron. And Kansas City's Super Bowl opponents that year, the Minnesota Vikings, were hailed as one of the best teams the NFL had ever seen, just like the previous year. The Vikes went in heavily favored and, with the pride of their league now on the line, were expected to totally mop the floor with the Chiefs. But when it was the Chiefs who did all the mopping in a 23-7 victory, the NFL had now dropped to 2-2 in these big-time title games against the junior, inferior league, and it was now forced to admit the juniors could compete at their level after all.

The Chiefs couldn't build that success into a long-term dynasty, though. To date, that 1969 Super Bowl title is that last Kansas City has won, and it's in fact the last Super Bowl they even appeared in. The Chiefs won 87 games, more than any team in the AFL. In 1971, the team fielded a squad with 11 Pro Bowlers, and both Hunt and Stram considered them the best team they ever had. By 1974, though, the Chiefs had fallen, and Stram was fired in 1974 after going 5-9. A year later, Len Dawson, Kansas City's stable rock and fearless leader at quarterback, retired and the Chiefs suffered a fall to the dregs of the NFL as five coaches compiled an overall record of 81-121-1 from 1975 to 1988. The list of failed Chiefs coaches during the time included Marv Levy from 1978 to 1982, a notable hire since Levy would later prove to be a Hall of Fame coach. Just not in Kansas City. The 1983 draft is noted for the number of great quarterbacks who showed up in the league. Kansas City picked a quarterback: Todd Blackledge! If you've never heard of him, it might have something to do with the fact that Blackledge was out of football by 1989, having a TD/INT ratio of 29-38, a 60.2 career quarterback rating, and 5286 total passing yards. The other quarterbacks taken in 1983 include John Elway (Hall of Famer who, to be fair, was taken first and therefore off the table by the time Kansas City was up with the seventh pick), Jim Kelly (Hall of Fame), Ken O'Brien (went to the Pro Bowl), Dan Marino (Hall of Fame), and Tony Eason (no major accolades, but dependable enough in the games he started, putting up respectable numbers and taking the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl).

In 1989 Marty Schottenheimer was hired as coach. They went 8-7-1, their first winning season since the 70's, save for a fluke year in 1986 when they made the playoffs. In 1990 they went 11-5, their best since the 16-game season was started. The Chiefs actually did extremely well in the 90's - during the course of the decade, they were one of only three teams to win over 100 games, and only the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills won more games than Kansas City. Although they traded for Joe Montana early in the 90's, the Chiefs constantly lost games they needed to win, and they spent the decade choking in the playoffs. They never got to the Super Bowl, and they went to the AFC Championship only once, in 1993, where they were decisively beat by Buffalo. Schottenheimer left in 1999 and was replaced by Gunther Cunningham, the defensive coach. Their star linebacker and defensive end Derrick Thomas also was killed in a tragedy, and the defense simply collapsed after that. The team's next two seasons were respectable, but not great.

In 2001, the Chiefs brought Dick Vermeil out of retirement. Vermeil was supposed to have the team ready for the Super Bowl in three years, and he would coach for five. Quarterback Elvis Grbac voided his contract, so Vermeil replaced him with a player he really liked from his days coaching the St. Louis Rams: Trent Green, who would go to the Pro Bowl. Priest Holmes was installed as the primary running back, and the offensive line proved to be one of the best in the league. Kansas City's offense emerged as a tidal wave of points. In 2003, Kansas City was favored to return to the Super Bowl after going 13-3. Then they made Yours Truly look like a genius. They happened to swamp bad opponents with a lot of points that year, but no one noticed they were giving up a ton of points to the league's most hapless offenses too, and so I said they would lose to Indianapolis in the Divisionals. If by some chance they managed to beat the Colts, they would surely get stomped by 14-2 New England and their devastating defense, before the Patriots won the Super Bowl. That's exactly what happened. The Chiefs did bad the following year before rebounding and going 10-6 in 2005. Despite losing Holmes, the Chiefs went 10-6, but the Chiefs missed the playoffs, and Vermeil left.

In 2007, the Chiefs started 4-3 but lost every other game during the season under new coach Herman Edwards. The next season they did even worse, and had to IMPROVE to another 4-12 season after that. After winning their division with a 10-6 record the next year, they fell back to 7-9 in 2011.

The Chiefs have one of the loudest and most loyal fanbases in the NFL. Their stadium, Arrowhead Stadium (awesome name, by the way), sells out regularly, and the Chiefs draw better on average than any other NFL team except the Washington Redskins. The fans are among the most vocal, and they employ some of the most unique and distinctive chants in the league. They use The War Chant and the Tomahawk Chop during games and have a unique cover of "Rock and Roll Part 2." From 1963 to 2008, the Chiefs also had a live band among their fans, but due to stadium renovations in 2009, they didn't return. Instead, they use a drumline in their parking lot now, and Arrowhead is ranked among Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Ralph Wilson in Buffalo as one of the league's best stadiums to tailgate.

The Chiefs have had 14 Hall of Famers, including ownership and coaches. Based significantly on their contributions with Kansas City, the Chiefs' Canton players include Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Buck Buchanan, Emmitt Thomas, Len Dawson, and Derrick Thomas. Based on contributions primarily to other teams, Hall of Fame Chiefs also include Marcus Allen (running back for the Raiders), Warren Moon (quarterback for the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans)), and Joe Montana (quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers). Montana is particularly notable, because he's widely considered the greatest quarterback of all time, and he was never expected to play anywhere outside of San Francisco. The Chiefs have an odd list of coaches because most of these coaches are headed into Canton, if they're not in it already, but few of them will be there as Chiefs. Hank Stram is the only Hall of Fame coach in Canton based on his work in Kansas City. Marty Schottenheimer spent his longest coaching tenure in Kansas City, but beyond him is Marv Levy, who got into Canton based on his work in Buffalo; Dick Vermeil, who is considered great based on his resume with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Chiefs' rivalry with the Oakland Raiders is considered one of the premier rivalries in the AFC. They hate the Raiders even more than the rest of the league, and they also have very strong divisional rivalries with the Chargers and Broncos. Their signature games include their Super Bowls, Joe Montana's game against the Niners, Montana's final game against John Elway's Broncos, and a game in 2003 which the Chiefs actually lost. It was against the Cincinnati Bengals, coming off years of futility and finally coming out as relevant again. The Chiefs were 9-0 at the time, and the Bengals were 4-5, and Bengals receiver Chad Johnson guaranteed a victory which Cincy made good on. It was big because it announced to the league that the Bengals were, win or lose, finished being the NFL's doormats and wouldn't take any more of anyone else's shit. The Chiefs were seen as unbeatable at the time and saw Johnson's guarantee as another mindless Namath wannabe boast. Johnson later personally apologized to the Chiefs in private, explaining he was just trying to get the Bengals fired up. The Chiefs understood.

Making a journey out to Arrowhead Stadium requires that you drop into one of Kansas City's famous barbeque joints to see how they do barbeque in the famously barbeque-obsessed city. All fans who pick the Kansas City Chiefs would be wise to remember that.]]>
http://www.lunch.com/goingtokansascity/reviews/d/UserReview-Kansas_City_Chiefs-517-1394174-221837-Barbeque_Football.html http://www.lunch.com/goingtokansascity/reviews/d/UserReview-Kansas_City_Chiefs-517-1394174-221837-Barbeque_Football.html Fri, 9 Mar 2012 17:53:12 +0000