This will come as a surprise since I am a baseball blogger, but I actually enjoy attending baseball games! I have been to more than my fair share of games at Kauffman Stadium, so I thought I would reflect on some of the best regular season games I have ever attended.
I excluded post-season games since they would easily top the list. I ranked games based on the following criteria:
- Dramatic narrative of the game
- Awesomeness witnessed
- Importance of game*
- Nachos consumed
- But mostly, personal significance and FUN, because that’s what sports is about
*-haha, not a factor for anything before 2014
Oh, and if your’e wondering what was the worst game I ever attended, that is easy, this 17-3 laugher to the Oakland Athletics. On School Day. Welcome to hell.
Honorable mention: August 10, 2015 - Royals 4 Tigers 0. It was a Royals Review meetup for Johnny Cueto’s first home start. The right-hander lived up to the billing with a brilliant four-hit shutout to cap off CUETO MANIA that had been building ever since the Royals acquired him in a July trade.
5. June 1, 2011 - Royals 2 Angels 0
This game makes the list because it was an exciting walk-off win with some controversy, but primarily because it was the first time my son and I attended a game together and stayed all nine innings. He was three years old at the time, so this was a pretty big milestone. If you are a new parent thinking of taking your child to a Royals game, here is my advice:
- Under one year of age is fine, if they have no trouble sleeping anywhere
- Over six years of age is fine, but expect to pump hot dogs, nachos, and ice cream in them every three innings, including possibly a stop by the Team Store.
- For kids age one through five, DO NOT BRING THEM TO THE K. Seriously, you just spent $50 to take your kid to the world’s most expensive playground while you watch the game on your phone.
I kid, but taking my three-year old to the K had been a rather expensive endeavor that typically caused us to leave by the sixth inning. But on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon game in 2011, the Royals and Angels played a very crisp, quick-moving affair (it was getaway day), that left the game tied 0-0 into the bottom of the ninth, with my son Sam and I still in attendance.
With one out, Jeff Francoeur dribbled a single off Angels reliever Scott Downs. Billy Butler then blasted a pitch that went over the wall - kind of. The ball landed on top of the padding of the wall, hitting the metal gate that keeps fans from falling onto the field. For a few minutes everyone thought it was a ground-rule double, until replay anti-climatically revealed it was a walk-off home run.
4. April 2, 2007 - Royals 7 Red Sox 1
This began Dayton Moore’s first full season as a Royals General Manager and I was trusting the process whole hog. He had brought on “big time” free agent Gil Meche to start the opener against Boston and it finally looked like respectability was on the horizon for the Royals. The Red Sox brought their championship experience into Kauffman Stadium, and after knocking home a run in the first, it seemed like maybe we had seen this story before.
Oh, but Tony Pena! The light-hitting shortstop the Royals had acquired just a few days prior laced a Curt Schilling pitch into the deep alleys of Kauffman Stadium and legged it out for a triple! The run jump-started the offense, and for good measure, Pena laced another triple in the eighth to cap off the 7-1 victory. Despite an inauspicious debut by Royals rookie Alex Gordon, it looked like the Royals, for the first time in a generation, had hope.
3. August 9, 2014 - Royals 5 Giants 0
In early August, the Royals Review gang decided to meet up for a game, proving we do really like baseball! The harsh light of Kauffman Stadium took some adjustment from the darkness we were accustomed to from our mother’s basement, but we rallied the team on, and even made a sign!
The game coincided with the arrival of Sung Woo Lee, the Korean superfan, who we were able to meet before the game. His celebrity had exploded that weekend, but he was quite gracious and humble about the entire experience.
The critical spirits of Royals Review would not drag the team down as James Shields shut down the Giants, allowing just four hits in a complete game shutout. Alex Gordon went to Dong Town, and the Royals defeated the Giants for good, never again to face them that season.*
2. April 18, 2003 - Royals 4 Tigers 3 (11)
Kids, come gather around and I will tell you the tale of the 2003 Royals. They were a terribly flawed team, with awful pitching led by has-beens and never-weres. The lineup had probably four solid hitters - Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez, Mike Sweeney, and Joe Randa. The bullpen was held together with duct tape and moxie. That team had no business winning 70 games. And yet, for a few magical months, they were the greatest team in Royals history.
That team won their first nine games in a row to start the year, and by April 18 were 11-3 and in first place. The city was starting to get a bit excited about this start, so when there was Buck Night or Friday Fireworks night or some event that got people to the K, the place actually sold out for a non-Opening Day for the first time in ages.
Darrell May (nicknamed D.A.R.Y.L. by site founder Freneau) was serviceable that day, holding the awful Tigers (they lost 119 games that year) to three runs. With the game tied 3-3, the Royals mounted rallies in the ninth and tenth, but left runners in scoring position. Then, in the bottom of the eleventh, a man strode to the plate. He had been one of the best hitters in the country as a collegiate. One day, he would be an All-Star. Sadly, all anyone remembers about him now are his blooper-reel defensive gaffes.
But on April 18, 2003, Ken Harvey was a hero. He blasted a Matt Anderson pitch in to the seats in left and the game was over. 39,000 screaming fans went nuts. This is what it felt to be part of Major League Baseball again. The 2003 season was, perhaps magical.
Until it wasn’t. But that’s a story for another time, kids.
1. April 23, 1988 - Royals 4 Orioles 3
This fairly anonymous game tops the list for one reason - it was the first game at Kauffman (then Royals Stadium), I can remember. I was able to track down the box score based on a few memory fragments I could recall:
- I knew the Royals faced the Orioles during Baltimore’s record-setting losing streak to begin the year, and at one point were in danger to losing to them.
- I knew the game had an intentional walk, because I didn’t know what that was and my dad had to explain it to me.
- I remember that Thad Bosley was the player intentionally walked, because I remember thinking he must be really good, even though I had never heard of him.
- I remember Slimer messed up an experiment and his brain and Egon’s brain were switched. Wait, that’s another random memory fragment.
So I was ten years old at the time, and just getting into baseball. I had remembered the Royals won the World Series three years prior, and I was a kid, so I took the foam fingers literally, I really thought the Royals were #1! It was to my surprise that I learned not everyone had my sunny optimism. Back before internet comments, people would just yell out whatever was on their minds. “John Wathan is an idiot!” “Danny Tartabull is overpaid!” and “George Brett is a washed up bum!” And this was as the team was winning!
The game would be one of hundreds of games I would attend over the next three decades, including the most thrilling Wild Card game in history, a pennant-clinching contest, and Game 7 of the World Series. Some of my memories will fade, like Slimer fades through a wall, but my memories of good times at Kauffman Stadium will last a lifetime.
What is the best Royals game you have ever attended?
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