Tonight, the Kansas City Royals guaranteed themselves a postseason game.
Maybe it's just one game they'll play. Maybe it's 4, or 8, or 12, or 15, or 20.
Here's George Brett on the topic:
The Kansas City Royals haven't made the postseason since I was 7 years old.
When the Royals won Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, I was laying on my stomach on a red rug in the living room of my house in Prairie Village, Kansas. I was 7 years old, and it was a blowout. The Royals won so completely, so convincingly, so overwhelmingly, that they were surely the best team that ever played. They won 11-0 behind Bret Saberhagen, who was the world's biggest celebrity.
I was 7 years old and I didn't know anything about baseball.
The manager, Dick Howser, soon died. He had a brain tumor, and during the 1986 All Star Game, he started messing up the signals. When he died the next year, I learned of it in my neighbor's living room, where I vowed to never step foot in the hospital where he died.
The team's owner, a Kansas City legend, Ewing Kauffman, died a few years after that. Kauffman did legendary things in baseball. He's one of the few figures old school fans and sabermatricians agree on. He was both unconventional and deeply traditional. He built a team that nobody else would have built, but created a classic baseball atmosphere that the city dreamed of. He poured his heart into it. When he died, the team lost its mast.
In the last years of Kauffman's ownership, just a few years after the World Series win, my mom owned a bookstore, and there was this guy, Dan Quisenberry. He'd been the closer on that Royals team that won, and he came and signed his poetry books, and I thought, "Oh my god, he was on that team." A big league pitcher, reading poetry that he'd written. I knew that wasn't normal. I was just a child, but I knew I was seeing someone extraordinary. First off, he was from TV, and was very nice to my parents. But moreover, here was a guy defying expectations, and making me completely confused in the best way. I was an awkward kid, not a natural athlete, who saw an indivisible line between being into sports and being into books, and here was a guy doing both in a serious way, which seemed in defiance of the rules of the universe. Dan Quisenberry died of brain cancer when he was still young. I was in college when he died. I didn't know him, but I'd met him, and he was important to me. It seemed weird to be upset about a pitcher's death, but I was. I bought a paper the day he died, looking for his obituary. I think it's one of the only papers I bought in college.
When I was still little, my dad had these tickets. I don't know whose tickets they were. I was a child. Children don't know where the tickets come from. We were behind the Royals dugout, just a few rows. The team had just been World Series winners. Brett was still on the team. A win could happen any night. They could win everything again.
Dan Quisenberry passed away 16 years ago. Ewing Kauffman passed away 21 years go. Dick Howser passed away 27 years ago. I was a kid when these men were with the Royals. Since then, the team was mostly a joke. Thousands of words could detail the depth of the joke. Cutoff man Ken Harvey got hit in the back of the head with a throw from the outfield; that's a decade right there.
I lost the faith. Honestly, I did. I started hating sports as a rule, but then I was living in Boston with Nomar and Manny and Pedro, and oh god, I was here with 1999 and 2000 Pedro Martinez who is to this day the best baseball player I've ever seen. BASEBALL was back. I could hate sports but not baseball. The Royals were so bad... I mean, they were terrible. And cheering for the Red Sox was awesome. If you didn't see 99/00 Pedro, you missed something.
A lot of my friends here in Boston had deep personal roots with the Sox. Grandparents who'd died waiting. Memories of 1986 and 1975 and probably 1918. Weird personal memories they'd each tied to the team. I had memories of 1996 through 2004: not the same. I didn't feel guilty, but I saw what was happening in Boston and knew my attachment to the Red Sox wasn't the same as theirs. What I needed was a Royals win. That's where my weird attachments were.
In 2006, I redevoted myself to the Royals. Oh, that was painful. Look that team up now, if you're bold. They lost 100 games. That was an IMPROVEMENT. They scored 757 runs, and gave up 971. They were a terrible team.
I'll save you the eight seasons since. I spent many hours trying to convince people this was the year. But nine seasons is nothing. It's 29 years since Saberhagen, Quisenberry, and Brett won a World Series. The team haven't won a World Series since, or anything else. They haven't played a postseason game. Every other team in baseball has made the postseason.
And now they've got a Wild Card. The Kansas City Royals will play a postseason game for the first time since I was 7. I am 36. If it happens again this way, I will be 65 when they're back.
I hope it's not so long. But if it is, that's all the more reason for me to lose my mind right now, while the Royals—whatever else happens—after their final two games of the regular season, are guaranteed to play one more: game 163 of a 162 game season.
I'm excited. Couldn't you tell?