With little actual sports going on right now (jump on the KBO bandwagon!), the ESPN ten-part documentary The Last Dance, detailing the last year of Michael Jordan’s run with the Chicago Bulls has captivated audiences. There is a lot of great previously unreleased footage from that 1997-1998 Bulls team, plus very revealing interviews with MJ, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson, among others.
Sports documentaries, when done well, can be wildly entertaining when they pull back the curtain a bit and give fans a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes. Watching The Last Dance got me thinking, what compelling stories in Royals histories would make for a good sports documentary? I posed the question on Twitter, and Royals fans had some great answers.
Royals-Yankees 1976-1980— Kevin Goodwin (@fritzyspeaks) May 4, 2020
We may think of the Red Sox as the big Yankees rival now, but in the late 70s/early 80s, the Royals and Yankees were one of the biggest rivalries in the sport. They met in the ALCS four times in a five year period, with the Yankees getting the upper hand the first three times and the Royals finally getting their pennant in 1980. You could even extend this well into 1983, when Yankees skipper Billy Martin attempted to get George Brett called out on a big home run for using too much pine tar, leading to one of the biggest on-field player outbursts ever. Filip Bondy’s book on the pine tar game details a lot of the rivalry, but it could make for an interesting flick as well.
Suggested title: Damn Yankees
The chase for .400— Bob McCombs (@BobMcCombs) May 4, 2020
George Brett was in the national spotlight in the summer of 1980, chasing one of the more sacred stats in baseball - hitting .400. No hitter had done it since Ted Williams in 1941, but Brett made a good run, keeping his average over .400 as late as September 19. The media scrutiny became intense, and a late slump put Brett at .390 to end the season, the closest anyone had gotten up to that point.
Suggested title: Chasing Ted
MLB/Royals drug scandal/Prison time in 1983. (Blue, Wilson, Aikens, Martin I believe).— Chris Huber (@mrhuber99) May 4, 2020
Some of the more interesting sports documentaries are about the stuff that takes place off the field. The tragedy of the Royals drug scandal in the early 80s is a compelling story with real life consequences that include the incarceration of first baseman Willie Aikens for two decades, a sentence many believed was unjust.
Suggested title: Hard Time
Said this yesterday: Royals Academy.— Drake (@Drake2985) May 5, 2020
One of the most unique and innovative ideas in Royals history was the brainchild not of any of the baseball men, but from owner Ewing Kauffman himself. Kauffman wanted to take talented athletes who had been overlooked, give them classes to better themselves, and instruction in baseball to produce a crop of young talent. The system produced a few big leaguers like UL Washington and Ron Washington, but the star pupil was Frank White, who became the game’s best defensive second baseman.
Suggested title: The Academy
And Bo Knows Royals. Countless stories and legends of Bo Jackson as a Royal.— B.J. Swenson (@bjswen_kc) May 4, 2020
The most amazing athlete in club history would certainly make a good topic for a documentary, although they already did one in the 30 for 30 series. Bo is certainly worthy of further discussion though, particularly if you wanted to concentrate on his baseball career.
Suggested title: Bo Knows Baseball
The strike season when royals were in the chase— Jason beashore (@beashore_jason) May 4, 2020
Ah, what could have been. The Royals were a fairly mediocre team through much of 1994, but caught fire in August with a 13-game win streak that put them right in the thick of a pennant race. A week later, all games stopped due to a strike and not long after that the World Series was cancelled
Suggested title: The Pennant That Never Was
The Futility Seasons— Dan Holden (@classwords) May 4, 2020
Ep. 1 Throw the Phone
Ep. 2 Jump in the Shower
Ep. 3 The Sunglasses
Ep. 4 Relay to the Back of the Head
Ep. 5 No Negro League
Ep. 6 Yuniesky
Ep. 7 Searching for Zack
Ep. 8 Chewing Cookies and Drinking Milk
Ep. 9 The Tightwad
Ep. 10 100 Loss
I would love to read a book on the terrible stretch of Royals baseball from 1995 to 2012 (get on that, Bob Dutton!) So many wonderful stories of awful baseball. Plus we can probably get Ron Harper’s thoughts on the Jermaine Dye/Neifi Perez trade.
ron harper reading all these #otd and #tbt and 'the shot' tweets pic.twitter.com/FVH4O0iE8i— Dan Favale (@danfavale) May 7, 2020
Suggested Title: Royal Mess
Building on the 2015 team, starting around the drafts/greinke trade maybe a bit before and the building of that team then its bitter end. End always hurts but its arguably a best example of how to win in a small market story— Stephen Nolting (@StephenIsThor) May 4, 2020
Everyone loves an underdog story, and how many teams are bigger underdogs than the 2014-15 Royals? They surprised the baseball world after years in the wilderness, then took the sport by storm with an aggressive style on the bases, great defense, and a dominating bullpen. They battled back from elimination more than once and took home a trophy many felt they would never even play for.
Suggested Title: Crowned
What Royals-related subject would you want to watch a ten-part documentary on?