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The games we remember that never happened

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Memory is fallible.

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

The “Mandela Effect” is a term first coined in 2010. It specifically refers to a largely shared memory of Nelson Mandela dying in the 1980s, when in fact Mandela was at the time still alive (he passed in 2013). Since then the term has been used to refer to any event where multiple people experience a memory that is proven to be false. I first experienced this personally, upon learning that Sinbad was not in a movie called Shazaam that came out within a year or so of the Shaq movie Kazaam. If you remember that, too, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble.

Growing up I can remember going to at least one or two Royals games each year with my family. I can remember going to games as early as five or six, and have been to several memorable games. But there has always been one game that stood as the my most “memorable” game. Three different, very distinct things happened in that game that stand out in my memory. And apparently, the game didn’t actually happen.

It’s June 30th, 1998. Mark McGwire leads the Cardinals into town for a 3-game series, the only time St Louis will be playing in Kansas City this year, and Mark McGwire is hitting homeruns at an historic pace.

I’m 11, about to turn 12. My family always tried to make it to at least a handful of games each year, and this time my parents somehow managed to convince my sister (16) to come along to this game.

I don’t remember much from the game itself, other than that McGwire hit a homerun (number 37, late in the game). I remember thinking at the time “It’d be really cool if he goes on to break the record this year. This will be a story.

We leave the game, and I can’t remember if we won or lost (we won, 6-1). We make it back to the car, and start the long process of exiting the parking lot at The K. We end up driving close to the stadium itself, and as we turn onto the next set of roads, we look over and is it? Sure enough, it is...

George Brett is in the car next to us, fighting through traffic with everyone else. We stare, as I’d imagine one does when they realize “Holy crap! A famous person just, right there.” He is on a phone (cell? car?) and seems slightly agitated. A few fans run up to his window and knock, asking for an autograph. He obliges for at least a few kids before moving on.

I grew up in Clinton, Missouri, just over an hour south-east of KC. We start to drive home. 435 to 70 south. 70 to Harrisonville where you exit to 7, and that leads to Clinton. Sometime around Harrisonville, our car starts making a weird, sputtering noise. We pull off to a gas station in Harrisonville and my father checks it out. He can’t identify what is wrong, but the determination is made to try to limp the car home.

It’s well after midnight when we break down completely on the side of the road. My father eventually decides to walk for a payphone in a nearby town, but has no luck finding anything to use. We’re stuck for several hours until eventually a Good Samaritan stops and gives us a lift to our driveway.

That’s an abridged version of the story I was going to write my entire article on. I actually started this with a completely different article in mind.

Then, something happened.

I looked for the date of the game. I knew it was #37 because I had a McGwire poster hanging in my room as a teenager (right next to all my Royals stuff. I make no excuses) that showed each home run and, among other things, where it happened. I start looking, and...

The game on June 30, 1998 was played in St. Louis.

No. That can’t be right. Maybe this site just has it wrong. I check multiple sites I know to be reliable baseball information centers, and all agree. It was in St. Louis.

I tell myself maybe it was a makeup game for a rain out so the Cardinals played as the home team and that’s why the internet is wrong. That’s got to be it.

I find a video with all of McGwire’s homeruns that season. I find the clip for the one against a Royals pitcher. He absolutely crushed it (472 feet!) into the upper deck in the outfield.

The upper deck.

That sure doesn’t look like The K. It was at this point, I conceded I must be mis-remembering.

Since this realization, I’ve spoken with my parents and sister. All are convinced the internet is wrong, all remember it exactly the same way I do.

I looked it up, and McGwire only hit four home runs in Kaufman Stadium as a Cardinal.

August 29, 1997 - off Ricky Bones
June 8, 1999 - off Jeff Montgomery
June 9, 1999 - off Terry Matthews
June 3, 2001 - off Kris Wilson.

Each of these are night games,

I realize that most likely it was one of these games that we were actually at. Or, perhaps we’re mis-remembering multiple things that one of us got wrong when telling the story once, and we all blended it to be the truth in our heads. It was over 20 years ago.

This is the unfortunate thing about memory; it’s unreliable. We all, each and every one of us, have memories in our head that are wrong. You may not have experienced this, or may have experienced it many times. This game, it was a big one for me. It shook me and at least one other member of my family to our cores. It is simply not how we remember. But what choice do we have but to accept it?

But if I’m honest, I think I’m from a different dimension. A dimension where McGwire hit #37 against the Royals at the K and Sinbad was in a terrible genie movie in the 90s. Who are you tell me I’m wrong?