When I was 11 years old, my Royals fandom really began to take off. 1989 seemed like a year full of such promise, with older veterans like George Brett, Frank White, and Willie Wilson mixed in with some young blood like Bo Jackson, Danny Tartabull, and Kevin Seitzer. The team seemed loaded with pitching with guys like Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza and a young pitching phenom named Tom Gordon. This was perhaps the last season in Kansas City where you really felt like the team could contend for a championship.
My mom is a Korean immigrant and while baseball is probably bigger in Korea than in most countries, she didn't exactly come here a big baseball fan. But she met my dad, a huge Tigers fan, and two nights before I was born they enjoyed a game from Tiger Stadium. By the time I was seven, she was screaming at the TV set "ahn-tah!" (which means "base hit" in Korean) at Dane Iorg as he laced a blooper to score Jim Sundberg to win Game Six of the 1985 World Series. Here she was, from a small village in war-torn Korea, to watching a baseball game in Missouri, not more than a few miles from the birthplace of President Harry Truman.
My dad was on the road a lot when I was a kid, leaving mom to tend to four kids by herself a lot of the time. In 1989 I was digesting everything Royals-related I could get my hands on, which back then meant the Kansas City Star, "The Sporting News" when we went to the library, Karen Kornacki's stadium report at 6 p.m. and the three hours of sports talk radio on 980 KMBZ hosted by John Doolittle, the only sports talk radio at the time. Had there been "Royals Review", I would have been a regular Jack Marsh.
Karen Kornacki told me on TV that the Royals had called up an intriguing young pitcher from Omaha to start that night's game. They listed his numbers - they were fantastic. He had been named a minor league All-Star. This could be the next big thing. I urged my mom if we could go to the game. Mind you, this was like an hour before game time. She was cooking dinner. I had four younger sisters running around. I pleaded. I begged. I had to see this phenom pitch in his Royals debut. She relented. She got a babysitter and together, just her and I, we went and watched the Royals host the Twins.
The thing is, when you're 11 years old, you don't really understand all the details of life. It turns out the pitcher who had been lighting it up in Omaha was Stan Clarke, a twenty-nine year old career journeyman, not the next Tom Gordon. And he got shelled. Oh how he got shelled! The Royals lost 7-1 with all seven runs coming in the first inning, Stan's only inning of work. But I was there, with my mom, and she bought me a frosty malt, tongue depressor and all.
Happy Mother's Day mom.