After surviving the Charlie Finley years, you’d think that things would go back to being somewhat normal, right? After all, Finley was the owner who kept a flock of sheep, and a shepherd, on the right field berm. He kept a small zoo on the leftfield berm. He had a mechanical rabbit, Harvey, that would pop up behind the home plate ump and deliver a refill of fresh baseballs. He went to promotional events with the team mascot, Charlie-O, a Missouri mule. Imagine going to Commerce Bank for an Athletics promotional event and walking in and seeing a mule in the lobby? Charlie-O was a majestic looking animal that stood about 15 hands high and wore a custom fitted Athletics cap on his head. Finley took him everywhere, cocktail parties, press conferences and promotional events.
For a short time during the 1965 season, Athletics relievers would ride Charlie-O from the bullpen to the pitching mound. Finley, ever the salesman, championed a lot of ideas that were considered strange at the time: orange baseballs, the designated hitter, ball girls, interleague play and realignment to promote geographic rivalries, night games for the World Series and colorful uniforms. Most of those ideas have now been adopted and seem normal.
Finley was way ahead of his time. In 1959, he hit on one of his best ideas, having 59-year-old legend Satchel Paige pitch three innings against the Boston Red Sox. The Royals have had a relatively quiet and normal history when compared to their predecessors. They have had a few unusual events over the years. Several have taken place on the road such as the Pine Tar Game, which was one of the most iconic game in major league history. There’s nothing quite like watching George Brett stick it to Goose Gossage, Billy Martin and the Yankees and then have a titanic meltdown. There was also Bo Jackson, running up the left field fence in Baltimore after catching a fly ball.
In fact, Bo himself was a creator of unusual events. Have you ever tried to break a baseball bat over your leg or head? After seeing Bo do it, I stupidly tried breaking a bat over my leg once. For a couple of days, I wasn’t sure I would ever walk right again. Me: human. Bo: Superhuman. Lesson learned.
In the early days of Royals Stadium, the club sponsored an annual “Halter Top” day, which sounds innocent enough on the surface. Turns out that in the somewhat uninhibited mid-’70s, many Royal fans would change into their halter tops in the stands. I know one reader who’s father would take the family to one game each summer. That one game always fell on Halter Top day, much to the chagrin of his mother.
Here are a few of the more unusual and strange events that have taken place in the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium. Some are humorous. Some are just downright strange.
1. Cookie & Freddie take a dip - After clinching their first American League West crown on Saturday, October 2, 1976, Freddie Patek and Cookie Rojas, jumped into the right field fountains. “We jumped in there with our cleats and everything on. If he (Royals PR Director Dean Vogelaar) hadn’t had the electricity to the fountains turned off, we could have been swimming out there like a couple of dead goldfish.” deadpanned Patek. Such was the jubilation of winning their first division title. Whitey Herzog also said, “it was pretty tough to get going this morning (Sunday). We partied until about 4:30 am.”
2. Morganna gets her man – August 22, 1977 – Morganna Roberts, the kissing bandit, all 60-23-39 of her, went after George Brett in a game against the Baltimore Orioles, while Brett waited in the on-deck circle. Three weeks later on September 13th, Brett tracked her down while she was performing at a club in in the River Quay district, and returned the favor, jumping on stage to kiss her. The River Quay (pronounced Key) was the city’s early attempt to turn the River Market area into a hip mecca of bars and shops. It made a go of it for a few years until a mob war scared the customers off. Morganna went after Brett again during the 1979 All-Star game in Seattle, where she got her man in front of a national television audience. The Baltimore game? The Royals won by a score of 8-to-7 as Hal McRae hit a two-out, 9th inning RBI single off Dennis Martinez, capping a three-run rally to give KC the walk off win.
3. More Brett pranks – According to Chris Kamler in a story on Fansided, Brett recalled one of his greatest pranks: “One hot day here and John Shulock was umpiring second base. He was asking the ball boy to bring him out some water. I went up to Dick Howser’s office where the hard liquor was kept and got a bottle of vodka. I said, “Give this one to John Shulock.” I’m watching and he takes a big old gulp. It’s 130 degrees on the turf, Sunday afternoon game and he just starts downing it and then starts choking and spitting it out. And the reason I did it to him was because I ran into him at Strouds the night before and we both left about 3:00 in the morning. I thought it’d be good for him.”
4. Fountain mom – On an 85-degree night on August 5th, 2013, 25-year-old Jessica McCoy of Des Moines, Iowa, decided to take a dip in Kauffman’s left field fountains. During the middle of the game. Seriously intoxicated, wearing sandals and holding a drink, Ms. McCoy tight walked her way around the ledges, taking time to sit on the advertisements and watch the game, before resuming her leisurely stroll. She lowered herself in the water, fed by the raucous cheers of the crowd, before making her way back up to the seating section and the waiting arms of police and security. It was possibly the most exciting event of the evening as the Royals gave the Twins a 13-0 beatdown. Ms. McCoy, dubbed the Fountain mom, was charged with trespassing, resisting arrest, and soliciting (?!) for propositioning officers to perform a sex act in a last-ditch effort to secure her freedom. She did the perp walk out of the stadium in cuffs and spent the night in a Kansas City hoosegow.
“I was drunk, and I don’t really remember it.” McCoy told Fox 4 News. McCoy was later fired from her job at First American Bank in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines. Seems kind of harsh since the stunt was no reflection of her employer. The internet is a harsh mistress.
5. Sluggerrr (Byron Shores) fires hotdog into man’s face – On September 8th, 2009, in the dying embers of a 97-loss season, Kansas City fan John Coomer took his family to a game. The Royals mascot Sluggerrr, as he was wont to do in those losing days, tossed a foil wrapped hotdog behind his back, no look style. The weenie struck Mr. Coomer in the eye, injuring him. He incurred about $20,000 of medical bills for repairing a detached retina which resulted in surgery and ultimately an artificial lens in the eye. Coomer sued the Royals, in hopes that the team would cover his medical expenses. The case eventually went all the way to the Missouri Supreme court. The Court ruled in the Royals (and Sluggerrr’s favor) denying Mr. Coomer’s claim. I mean, damn. The guy paid decent money to see a team with a lot of floating turds on it. At least cover the guy’s medical bills.
6. Come on baby, light my fire – On June 5th, 2018, an incoherent 36-year-old woman, Bridget Depriest, was arrested for trespassing and openly burning property. About 4:30 am, a security guard found her wandering the field at Kauffman. He called police, who arrested Depriest. She had set three small fires on the outfield grass and took a dip in the fountains. She said she was in the stadium from about 8:00 am Tuesday, June 5, until 4:30 the following morning but stadium surveillance video disputes that. Kauffman staff believes she either scaled a fence or snuck in behind a vendor truck.
7. Fountain leak delays Royals-Indians game – On August 24th, 2018, the game against the Indians was delayed about 30 minutes after a burst pipe flooded the right field warning track. Grounds crew used squeegees and a sandbag barrier to contain the leak. This happened to be the same game that Sal Perez promised a wheelchair-bound fan, Colin Couch, that he would hit a home run for him. Salvy delivered with a three-run, first inning shot into the fountains off Mike Clevinger. The game itself ended up being one of the more exciting games of the season. Kansas City came into the bottom of the 9th trailing 4-3. Ryan O’Hearn hit the first pitch he saw from Brad Hand into the left field bullpen to tie the game. Hunter Dozier followed by blasting a 1-1 pitch over the right-center wall to give the Royals the victory. The pair became the first rookies to ever hit back-to-back home runs to tie and win a major league game and at that time, anything seemed possible.
8. Bauer loses his mind – July 28, 2019 – Trevor Bauer was one of the better pitchers in baseball before his personal peccadillos brought him down. But on this day, the lowly Royals lit him up for 8 runs on 9 hits. Bauer walked four and struck out six in just 4 1/3 innings of work. When Cleveland manager Terry Francona made his way to the mound to get the ball from his shelled pitcher, Bauer turned, took a bunny hop and uncorked a throw that sailed over the center field fence at Kauffman. The ball traveled an estimated 375 feet before coming to rest. The entire episode was a bit shocking and totally comical. When Bauer started his bunny hop, Tribe second baseman Mike Freeman jumped stage right to get the hell out of the way. Centerfielder Oscar Mercado, who lost a ball in the sun earlier in the inning, had his back turned to the mound, and as the ball flew over his head he turned back to the infield with a “what the hell was that” look. I’ve always been a lip reader and there was no mistaking what Francona said to Bauer on the mound: “What the f**k is wrong with you?” By the summer of 2021, everyone in baseball was asking the same question.