A lost era of Royals fans still cheer

So my friend Kara just posted this good read about the Kansas City Royals on Facebook. And now it has me recalling the good 'ol days, too.

Because of family moves while I was growing up and into my adulthood, I grew up a fan of the Brewers in the '80s, turned into a Royals fan for the '90s, and returned to following the Brewers in the 2000s. I've always been a Cubs fan, though.

I have no recollection of the 1985 World Series. My earliest postseason baseball memories are from 1988, and so began my love for the Dodgers.

As the 100-loss seasons pile up for the Royals, it's always amazed me how passionate the team's fans remain.

Sure, you could say that about Cubs fans, and their century-plus championship drought. But the Cubs have had quite a few winning seasons sprinkled throughout that drought, and Wrigley Field is known more for its frat party atmosphere than the kind of fans who hang on every pitch.

Red Sox fans, too. But they put their 86-year-old curse to rest -- twice. And they, too, had several close calls in between.

Yankees and Cardinals fans are known for their passion. But they're always in the hunt.

Royals fans got nothin.' Not since the early 1990s. And yet the team still draws consistently good crowds for its market size, sometimes larger than more successful teams.
This month makes 25 years since the Royals won their only World Series championship, and the team has young fans anyway, a generation that knows winning baseball only through old stories and grainy video.
My earliest Royals memories are of being awestruck by the beauty of the stadium and its fountains and the wonder of seeing baseball being played on astroturf.

Of watching Brett Saberhagen's no-hitter on TV and then getting our family locked out of our apartment the next morning, just before we were supposed to be leaving for school, because I wanted my mother to buy me a Kansas City Star to feed my fascination with baseball and the newspapers that covered the game's historic moments.

Of watching George Brett's march toward 3,000 hits in September '92. And witnessing his 2,992 and 2,993 hits from the upper deck of Kauffman Stadium.

Of watching George Brett's final games on TV. His kiss of home plate. And his last hit in Nolan Ryan's last uniformed appearance with the Texas Rangers on the last day of the 1993 season.

Of watching that classic ballgame in '94 (No. 6 on my list). Seeing Bob Hamelin barrel into third base and beating the throw on a Gary Gaetti single. And sitting so close to the Seattle Mariners dugout we could feel Lou Pineilla's spit when he returned to the dugout from arguing an umpire's call and proceeded to get into it with a boisterous fan.

Of attending the game on a hot July day in '95 when the Royals inducted Frank White into the team's hall of fame. I went with my dad and my childhood best friend Nate. ... I have memories of the Royals playing Boston on that day, the "Cheers" theme blaring on the stadium PA during the Red Sox batting practice, and calling a Mo Vaughn home run -- but baseballreference.com is telling me I must be thinking of a different day.

Of attending Cal Ripken's world-recording breaking consecutive game. With my dad and three of my best high school buddies on a beautiful June night. I wore my Ripken jersey and we played catch in the parking lot before the gates opened. The "I Was There" certificate we received remains one of my most prized collector's items.

There was joy in watching some of my childhood favorites -- mostly from years of unwrapping their Topps baseball cards -- play the twilights of their careers in Kansas City. Kirk Gibson. Kevin McReynolds. Greg Gagne. Gary Gaetti. Wally Joyner. Jose Lind. Vince Coleman.
They all love the Royals for different reasons. Some of it is geography and family and some of the same memories their fathers may have had, like sitting in the old G.A. and getting sprayed by the groundskeepers on a hot day or trying to get a beer with a fake I.D.
I remember all those things, too. Oh, how I loved sitting in the old G.A. with my high school buddies. $5 tickets. Getting sprayed. And chasing home run balls during batting practice.

Then there was the painful decline.

David Cone. Johnny Damon. Jemaine Dye. Carlos Beltran. They all got away. Mike Sweeney was wrecked by injuries. The Tony Muser years -- I attended a few of those press conferences as an aspiring sportswriter in college -- sheesh.

The Royals sank at the hands of poor leadership and a lack of ownership.

In recent years, it seems like the names on the roster have changed so much that it's a lost cause to try keeping up. You just wait to see who the manager -- whoever that might be, there's been a lot of them in recent years, too -- puts on the field that day.
“Even though I hate almost every player on the team and I hate watching us lose, I continue to watch.”
And yet I've continued coming back.

Watching in amazement and rooting them on from K-Town during that fluke 2003 season. Working in a Friday night game when Kates and I returned to Kansas City for my 10-year high school reunion. Cheering Ned Yost's hiring in May. And becoming a Royals-hat-wearing local again this summer.

I can only hope there are many more thrills -- like that double header in August -- to come for the Royals.
“I just think you should root for the team that’s closest to where you grow up.”

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