Code Blue: A Guide to Who is Voting for the Royals

Apparently sportswriters across the country are in a snit about the number of Royals players currently leading the returns of the All-Star Game voting. They believe nefarious behavior is to blame, perhaps a high-level hacking scheme ala Target (and the other 9,000 companies and entities that have endured hacks the past few years) generated by someone with a strong desire for KC to represent. Like maybe a KC Royals fan or two, for instance.

News flash: I’m sure what they suggest is an entirely plausible scenario but also a far less probable one. I believe that people like me and the people I actually know—in real life—may be the ones responsible.

Exhibit A: These are Royals T-shirts I have purchased in the past 6 months—FOR MYSELF.
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I now have a total of 7, one for each day of the week, including 1 long-sleeved one for cooler weather that I bought during the World Series last fall right before temps here plummeted and that I duly noted in this post. Guess how many Royals T-shirts I owned before last October? Correct answer: Zero.

Exhibit B: Within the past 8 months, I have given a number of gifts bearing the Royals logo for Christmas and birthdays, including the Royals ballpoint pens I distributed around my office when they won the pennant last fall. Because that’s what writing program directors do when their team wins after 29 years of habitual losses.

Royals pen

Exhibit C: My teenage daughter requested and received this on her birthday.

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We did have an unseasonably cool start to summer, so she has worn it quite a bit in the past month. Now that the heat and humidity have arrived, she wears it around the house while bitterly complaining about how cold the air-conditioning makes her feel.

Exhibit D: On Senior Skip Day, a Monday in April, my daughter’s class wanted to attend a Royals game just as the previous senior class did. My daughter was bewildered to learn the game was sold out and there were absolutely no tickets to be had…on a Monday afternoon. I pointed out that on a Monday afternoon in April of last year, the 2014 senior class likely had choice seats at a significantly discounted rate since they would have been among just a handful of people attending.

Exhibit D: My husband is a Cardinals fan as he was St. Louis born and raised. However, on Mother’s Day this year, he surprised me with this:

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In addition, he is VOLUNTARILY watching some Royals games and helpfully explaining unusual technical elements of the game as they arise, like the “balk” incident during last night’s game against the Bo Sox (slang for Boston Red Sox for non-baseball readers). He is, at best, a closet fan; we can not really be sure who he cast his All-Star ballot for, so please don’t include him in any estimates. And don’t disclose any of this to his family, most of whom still reside in St. Louis.

Exhibit E: Speaking of St. Louis, my husband and I attended a birthday party there in May for my cousin, a priest and native Kansas Citian, who had recently relocated and was turning 80. He made his own fashion statement by sporting celebratory Royals gear. Lots of friends and family from KC traveled there and, predictably, most of his presents were Royals polo shirts except for the lone Cards shirt given him by his niece who lives in St. Louis. Being a priest, he was terribly polite, but we all know he will never wear it.

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Exhibit F: I just sent a birthday gift to my brother who lives in California. You know him on this blog as “Mark,” gift-giver extraordinaire and arranger of my grandmother’s birthday celebration at a Royals game over a decade ago which I covered last October in a tribute post to my grandmother titled Ageless and Timeless: Baseball’s Most Ardent and Lesser Known Fans. I sent him a powder blue Royals t-shirt with a crown image.

It reminded me of one he sported in his youth and later gifted my kids when it no longer fit him. The design is reminiscent of a previous iteration of their logo. Mark, by the way, is casting his votes from the west coast where he and his significant other hosted a barbecue EVERY GAME of the World Series even though they were the only Royals fans in attendance. To further honor the Royals, they turned the water blue in their bird bath/fountain in their front yard just as is done to celebrate the Royals via the plethora of fountains all over KC, aka the City of Fountains.

Exhibit G: Yesterday, I had a phone conversation with a dear friend and former colleague about the All-Star hoo-ha. Why this constitutes evidence is that she is a college English teacher and has had virtually no knowledge of or interest in the Royals in the 23 years I have known her—until, that is, last fall. We met back in 1992 when she directed the Writing Center and I directed the Writing Across the Curriculum Program at a local college. We spent countless hours in our shared office talking of rhetoric and composition and every literary genre imaginable, except that of baseball lit.  The clincher is this: yesterday she cited as her source on this topic an article in Sports Illustrated. OMG. She read an article in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED! (Are you starting to grasp the magnitude of the shift in the fan base here???)

In fact, she was so irritated at the implication in said article, that KC fans were “stuffing the ballot box,” that she was heading to her parents home on the north side of the city to coach them on All Star Game voting. Please note she was not creating bogus email addresses, but, rather, within the parameters of the ancient art of rhetoric, simply trying to persuade other, less media-savvy folks to vote.

Exhibit H: I voted 35 times in the All Star Game voting even though it seemed shady and almost criminal to do so. I did it because Major League Baseball encouraged me to vote 35 times—no more, no less. Why 35?  I have no earthly idea. Honestly, it felt as if the ghost of Tom Pendergast was leaning over my shoulder every time I hit “send.” (See 20th century political machines.) I have lived faithfully by the one-person-one-vote mantra my whole life. And like most folks these days, I have way more than one email account. But I didn’t even bother to use the others because I already thought 35 votes somewhat excessive.

So I present my case. Everyday kind of people of all ages are voting for the Royals. People who never ever voted for anybody to be in an All Star Game are voting. People who waited 29 years for baseball worth getting excited about are also voting. People who were born 29 years ago are voting. Kids are voting. High schoolers are voting. 80-year-olds are voting. And if some crazed computer hackers are voting by manipulating the results, then locate and prosecute them. Nobody here wants to believe this MLB enterprise permits cheating. We’re having way too much fun ridnig Royals’ wave.

And Sports Illustrated, if you are so interested in the real voting story, come to Kansas City and talk to anybody you should happen upon. I guarantee within minutes you’ll find about a million people highly likely to have already cast their allotted 35 votes…for the Royals.

All of which begs the question: So who YOU votin’ for?

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Life is But One Long Canoe Ride

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Meet the man who has floated my boat for over 32 years. Today is his birthday and he is celebrating with a snowy day, the Super Bowl, a chili and chicken quesadilla dinner with a chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream chaser. Canoeing is in his blood and he is never happier than when he’s taking the Current River at full speed, though sometimes he’ll settle for a placid local lake as is pictured above.

Camping is also in his blood and so it was a pleasure to see him honored last night by the Boy Scouts in our region for his contributions to our son’s troop. My husband served that troop as camping coordinator throughout our son’s tenure, taking the troop spelunking and camping and canoeing every month of the year for upwards of 5 years. (Someday I will regale you with tales of the girls-weekends-out my daughter and I enjoyed during those halcyon scouting years.)

My husband stayed on with the troop long after our son achieved Eagle, mentoring the new young dads in the ways of orienteering and water safety and schooling them in the secrets of tasty camp cooking. So it is fitting that he be recognized for his efforts, though he and I would both assert that tremendous parental involvement and support made all the difference for all the kids all of that time.

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This honor is well deserved and meaningful, but what really makes his day is hearing the scouts themselves or their parents tell stories of the great fun they had and how much they now enjoy the memories of crawling through a dark, muddy cave on their backs, cooking cherry cobbler in a dutch oven over an open fire, or flipping a canoe full of gear and living to tell about it.

Someone once asked me—before we had kids—if my husband had gone very far in scouting. I said, “Well, he became a park ranger; how much further can you go?” But now I know just how much further you can go: you can pay that scouting experience forward and far into the future simply by sharing it with others.

Boy Loves Dog Loves Boy

Here is how this works. Our son helped us select, name, and train our fourth Brittany, Phoebe. One night not so long ago, she fell asleep on the couch waiting for him to come home, her head resting on the coffee table next to his photograph. Alas, the genius of dogs.

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Phoebe awaits the arrival of her buddy.

When Cows Go Rogue Instead of Home

Nothing I could add would increase your enjoyment of this video. Sometimes, this is just how things roll here in Flat Rock Creek.

For the record, I grocery shop a couple of blocks from this site at a store called—wait for it—the Hen House.

 

 

Ageless and Timeless: Baseball’s Most Ardent but Lesser Known Fans

Now that the Royals are headed to the World Series, the rest of my posts this month will likely be devoted to baseball, so bear with me.

My grandmother, Louella

My grandmother, Louella

This post features a quintessential ardent baseball fan, my paternal grandmother who passed away 8 years ago at the age of 97. Meet Louella. Her life, by any standard, was fraught with difficulties and challenges, though she would never have characterized them that way. Born and raised on a farm in northeast Kansas, she was the eldest daughter of parents of Swiss French heritage.

She was a child when the flu pandemic of 1917 struck her tiny corner of Kansas. That fall, her mother begged her father not to travel to attend the annual livestock show in Kansas City, Missouri, known as the American Royal, for fear he could come in contact with the disease. Her father, however, believed he had to attend in the interest of his family and livelihood, and unfortunately fell ill shortly after he returned home. Her mother nursed her father and all 4 of their children through horrific bouts of the disease before she finally succumbed to the influenza herself and died.

My grandmother once described to me the intense and frantic fear attached to this devastating pandemic and explained that families in their community had to mark their homes to signal to others that they had the flu. Priests would not give last rites to victims because they feared contracting the illness.

In her late teens, she moved to Kansas City with her father and attended secretarial school. She worked as a secretary, married my grandfather, and bore two children, both boys. My father, the oldest, was born in 1929, the year the stock market crashed. Her world was again upended, this time by the Great Depression, during which my grandfather struggled to find work and began seeking solace in alcohol. She worked at a large department store downtown to help make ends meet, leaving my dad and his brother in the care of others before she rode the streetcar to work.

They briefly moved to Michigan, believing that jobs were available in the auto industry, only to be profoundly disappointed to learn that no such work existed. Upon their return to Kansas City, they were forced to live, uncomfortably, with my grandfather’s relatives until they could get back on their feet.

During World War II, she obtained employment in a factory, making radio crystals and lifelong female friends. Like many women, she lost her factory job when the war ended. Soon she found work as a secretary at a steel company where she worked until she retired.

My grandfather’s alcoholism unquestionably complicated her life and though she loved him, she confessed to having felt some measure of relief when he died in middle age. He was a goodhearted person, but his unpredictable behavior propelled by liquor disrupted their lives and finances with regularity and eventually sabotaged his ability to secure steady work. After he died, she began to create a new life for herself, including a 30-year stint as a volunteer at the veterans hospital and her church and a long membership in the Ladies Auxiliary of a local American Legion.

Because my dad checked in on her daily, she was able to live independently until the last year of her life. She walked everywhere when she was still driving and even more so when she no longer could drive. After she sold her bungalow near the baseball stadium, everyone thought she was crazy for selecting an apartment on the second floor which required her to walk up and down a full flight of stairs daily. Of course, I now realize that probably contributed significantly to her good health in the final decade of her life.

Louella and her great grandaughter Ellie

Louella and her great grandaughter Ellie

She taught my children how to make cupcakes from scratch and delighted in helping take care of them on their days off school when my husband and I worked. She would get mad if we didn’t leave her a basket of clothes to fold so she would “have something to do” when the kids were napping. We’d come home to find the clothes folded with military precision and dinner preparations made.

She was an incredible seamstress who wasted not a single thread and could whip yards of cloth into apparel or home decor. She was infinitely resourceful, a walking model of thrift and sustainability; she never met a bread wrapper or piece of foil she could part with easily. She gave only bear hugs and had a handshake that could pull grown men to the ground. Her cheerful countenance masked a steely resolve and powerful work ethic borne of what most would consider a life of hardships.

Every year for Christmas, she gave us a beautiful gold Christmas ornament commemorating the year with a scene of the Plaza, a unique area of the city, and always purchased from the department store where she had worked when she was a young mother barely scraping by. When we bought our house, she gave us money from a US Savings bond she had held in my name since I was born.

She didn’t spend much money on sports merchandise and she didn’t buy season tickets or even attend a lot of baseball games. I’m confident she did not own a Royals T-shirt. But she listened to baseball religiously on the public radio and watched it on television, taking in every single Royals game every season for every decade this team existed. She was “tickled” that the Royals beat the Cardinals in their last World Series appearance.

Baseball provided her a joy no other sport could. When her vision failed, she could follow every play on the radio and not miss a thing. It was a game that had been around her whole life, and one that had not morphed into grand spectacle or reckless showboating. It was a team sport where everyone had a part to play, a contribution to make, and nothing, but nothing, in any game could ever be deemed insignificant.

And in that vein, every play of every game offered hope. No matter how far down you were in a game, you could pull out a win. No matter how many games you were down in a series, you could turn it around. No matter how many losses you sustained in a season, you could stage a triumphant comeback at the end. No matter how many years you missed the playoffs, there would always be another season next year and the next. Hope springs eternal in baseball in a way it simply cannot in other sports. In some cases, hope can last 29 years or more.

So you can imagine her surprise when my brother Mark, gift-giver extraordinaire, gave her the gift of a lifetime—enjoying a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium with her family for her 92nd birthday in mid-September. Mark bought tickets for the “Crown” seats right behind home plate and arranged for lunch in the club restaurant before the game.

But history would intervene when the unthinkable occurred on September 11th that year, 2001. The game on her birthday a few days later was cancelled as flights were banned and and all sporting events at stadiums, including that entire week of the baseball season, were postponed indefinitely.

I don’t really know how she ever came to sort out the horror of 9-11, but I do know what happened on a beautiful sunny Thursday afternoon that October. My son left his 5th grade class early to join “Gram” and his Uncle Mark and his grandfather and his dad at the stadium to watch the rescheduled birthday present, which now turned out to be the Royals final home game of the season.

At the end of the game, the players threw balls and bats and everything they had in the dugout up to the grateful kids in the stands before all were let loose to come down on the field for a final runaround. Mark had secured special permission to wait until the kids cleared the field so he and my dad could walk my grandmother by herself around the bases. And walk those bases she did!

Here are scenes from that momentous day:

My dad and my grandmother discussing a play at the Royals game while my brother mentally crunches the stats.

My dad and my grandmother discussing a play at the Royals game while my brother Mark mentally crunches the stats.

7th inning stretch

7th inning stretch

The wonderful surprise within the game: her 92nd birthday acknowledged on the big scoreboard!

The wonderful surprise within the game: her 92nd birthday acknowledged on the big scoreboard!

Those who took her out to the ballgame.

My grandmother with those who took her out to the ballgame.

4 generations take the field.

4 generations take the field and stand tall on home plate.

I suspect there are many baseball fans just like my grandmother, who live solid and respectable lives, slaying every mighty dragon that comes before them and never thinking twice about it. They are not the least bit bitter about the hand that life has dealt them nor do they ever complain. They are the unsung heroes for whom baseball— with its quaint organ music, ballpark hot dogs, 7th inning stretches, simple cheers and clap-clap-claps, against-all-odds playing, and, most importantly, its flagrant permission to hope—became the most truly pleasurable and meaningful pastime for a lifetime.

“Let’s go Royals!”

So who is the lesser known baseball fan in your life?

I Partied Like It Was 1985…in 1985

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By now you surely know of the Royals triumphant entry into their first playoff in 29 years, the American League Division Series, via the “wildcard” route. The city is experiencing a sports euphoria that has eluded it for 3 decades.

So I go to purchase this shirt at the local sports gear store and the young clerk tells me it’s not returnable. I look him in the eye and tell him it’s unlikely that I am going to bring this shirt back since I already partied like it’s 1985…in 1985. He surveyed me with that look one gets when the cognitive dissonance is simply too vast to be fully comprehended. I can live with that.

Go Royals!