A bad call didn’t ‘rob’ the Cardinals of the 1985 World Series

27 10 2015

replayI generally write about matters of media accuracy on my journalism blog, The Buttry Diary (occasionally picking on the New York Times). But I’m addressing this matter in my baseball blog because it’s as much a matter of baseball legend as a failure of accuracy by the New York Times.

The Times published an otherwise good (and, I presume, accurate) story by Billy Witz about instant replay in baseball that includes this sentence, in which I have italicized the passage that is absolutely inaccurate (but I don’t expect the Times to correct it):

And so, it seems, baseball will never have to worry about controversies like Don Denkinger’s call at first base that robbed the St. Louis Cardinals of the 1985 World Series or Jim Joyce’s missed call at first that foiled Armando Galarraga’s perfect game in 2010.

Before I elaborate on the Don Denkinger call, I should note that I blogged on The Buttry Diary, including a call for instant replay, about the Jim Joyce missed call.

But, as the Kansas City Royals embark tonight on their second World Series since the Denkinger call, and since the Times was inaccurate on that point, I will focus here on Denkinger: Of course he missed the call at first base, calling pinch-hitter Jorge Orta safe, leading off the ninth inning of Game Six of the 1985 World Series, 30 years ago today. Bad call, no one’s arguing that, including Royals fans or Denkinger. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping a 29-year-old promise, I’m headed to the World Series

15 10 2014

A promise is a promise.

My editor at the Kansas City Times, Mike Waller, had two extra tickets to Game Two of the 1985 World Series and sold them to me at face value. My oldest son, Mike, desperately wanted to go. Mike was 8, the age when sports loyalties start forming and cementing. His brothers, Joe, 4, and Tom, 2, probably wanted to go, too, but they were not as engaged or as fiercely persistent in expressing their interest in the game as Mike.

Mimi wanted to go, too. We had taken all the kids to games that year, our first in Kansas City, sometimes going as a family and sometimes just one of the boys and me. And occasionally, Mom and Dad went to the ballpark for a date night. She thought the World Series would make a good date night. She had moved to Kansas City with me earlier in the year from her beloved native Iowa, leaving her friends and a home she loved for my career opportunity. For two months in the spring, while we tried to sell the house, I’d drive down to Kansas City on a Monday morning, leaving her alone with the three boys until the weekend. An October date night seemed in order.

So I broke Mike’s heart, explaining that I was taking Mom with the second ticket. As a fairly lame consolation, I promised to take him the next time the Royals were in the World Series. Seemed fair. The Royals had an amazing young pitching staff and superstar George Brett had just finished one of the best seasons of his career. Dan Quisenberry was the best reliever in baseball. The Royals were making their second trip to the World Series in six years. This was the seventh season in the past 10 that the Royals played in the post-season. Be patient, son, your turn will come.

Well, it’s come. Twenty-nine years later.

For the next six seasons, I would buy one-fourth of a season-ticket package, giving us two seats in the lower deck, a few dozen rows behind the home dugout, for about 20 games a year. I’d also get some bonus seats in the upper deck occasionally for weekday home games. I’d probably attend 25-30 games a year and each of the boys would get six to eight games. They became fierce Royals fans and Chiefs fans (we’d make at least one Chiefs game a year, too).

Ron Guidry, photo I took in 1977 with his daughter

Ron Guidry, photo I took in 1977 with his daughter

If turning your children into Royals and Chiefs fans sounds like a form of child abuse, I should say in my own defense that I tried to make them Yankee fans. I told them about the Yankees’ glorious history and about growing up watching Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and Bobby Richardson. I told them about meeting Ron Guidry in 1977. Mike was a baby at the time and I got him an autographed photo of Guidry.

But a dad can only do so much. Sometimes your kids just don’t listen to you. Especially if you take them out to the ballpark again and again to watch George Brett. And Bret Saberhagen. And Frank White, Willie Wilson, Bo Jackson, Kevin Seitzer, Dannys Jackson and Tartabull, Mark Gubicza, Steve Balboni … The boys became Royals fans. Though the years we watched regularly from the stands were exciting and respectable years, they weren’t years when second-place teams got to play in an extra round of playoffs. So the second-place Royals teams of 1987 and 1989 did not get the chance to catch fire in the post-season, as these Royals have done. By the time we left Kansas City in 1991, the Royals were on their way to their second consecutive sixth-place finish. Though they actually had a winning 82-80 record that year, the Royals were heading into a generation of losing baseball.

Through the years, my 1985 promise became a running joke between Mike (who’s been a wonderfully good sport about this) and me. Each spring training, I tell him that if the Royals make the World Series this year, I’ll hook him up. We both kinda laughed, and as Mike became a dad, I suspect he’s been more careful than I was about making someday promises.

As the Royals started making their run late in the season, we talked back and forth a lot by phone, text and email. This was getting serious. The younger boys were as excited as Mike (Tom already blogged his excitement) and I said I’d cover them with the promise, too. I made the promise to Mike just because he was old enough to beg to go. I’d turned all three of the boys into Royals fans, and I need to take them all to the World Series now.

Throughout the Royals’ amazing eight-game post-season winning streak (11 games including their final three of 1985), the boys and I have exchanged countless text messages and emails with running commentary on the games.

And making plans for the possibility of the World Series. We all (and our wives and Tom’s fiancée) registered for the lottery for a chance to buy World Series tickets from the Royals at face value. None of us were selected. So I guess I’ll have to pay more than face value this time (if you can hook me up, let me know). I’ll be tweeting at fellow TCU alum Brandon Finnegan, you can be sure. Update: We have tickets. I paid more than face value of course. But the experience will be priceless.

As for Game Two back in 1985: Charlie Leibrandt lost a heartbreaker in the ninth inning, starting the inning leading 2-0. Manager Dick Howser was losing confidence in Quiz against lefthanders and stayed with his starter too long (and when Quiz came trailing 4-2, he retired Andy Van Slyke, the most dangerous lefthanded hitter on the Cardinals’ bench).

The boys and I are thinking Game Two will come out better this time.