A Royals history lesson

I missed history.

With the Oakland Athletics comfortably leading Kansas City 7-3 heading in to the bottom of the eighth inning of the AL Wildcard Game, I turned off my television on Sept. 30 and went to bed expecting another promising season ending in disappointment like the past 29 years have for the Royals baseball organization.

I was wrong.

Knocking in three runs in the eighth, Royals right-fielder Nori Aoki hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Jarrod Dyson for the tying run and send the game to extra innings.

The winner of the AL Wildcard spot would not be decided until the bottom of the 12th inning when Salvador Perez, with the swing of a bat and a walk-off single RBI to left field, sent the Royals to the divisional series for the first time since 1985 — the organization’s only World Series winning year.

Let’s go back to that 1985 season, before most students here at Arkansas Tech, myself included, and all but 12 of the Royals current players were even a twinkle in their dad’s eye.

That year, Kansas City captured the American League West Division, finishing only one game ahead of the California Angels. The squad then went on to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays in a seven-game American League Championship Series. This set the championship-hungry Royals up to play the NL winning St. Louis Cardinals — the in-state rival just a short drive away down I-70.

With the late Dick Howser as skipper, fiery George Brett leading at the plate as the MLB’s all-time hits leader for a third baseman, and World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen commanding the mound, the Royals organization’s 1985 team reached its pinnacle after claiming six division titles and 2 pennants over the course of the previous decade.

But the World Series didn’t come easy — nor does it ever.

The Royals dropped games one and two at home to the Cardinals, and would fall behind 3-1 in the game count with one game left at Busch stadium before returning to their home field to finish the seven-game series. The pressure was on.
In game seven that weight — the weight present-day Royals fans have been feeling on their shoulders for 29 years — was lifted with an 11-0 World Series game seven win.

The odds were against Kansas City then too. The Royals had become the first team ever to win the World Series after losing the first two games of the series at home. The team also earned the title as the only ball club ever to come back from a three games to one deficit twice in the same postseason and win the World Series.

So now, in 2014, the Royals have barely grabbed a spot in the playoffs. Once again, that pressure, that itch from October — it’s all felt by this team in a tumultuous maelstrom of testosterone and determination.

Like the 1985 Royals, the Royals of 2014 are fighting an uphill battle and surprising everyone by winning.

The small market team that hadn’t made a noise in more than a quarter of a century wasted no momentum after its Wildcard win.

In an AL Divisional Series the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were expected to take in sweeping fashion, the Royals stayed true to their ’85 parentage and swept LA in three games on Oct. 5.

The Royals are now the first team in major league history to win three straight extra-inning playoff games. Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS were taken from LA on their home field, and Game 3 concluded with a strikeout from relief man Greg Holland to win 8-3.

As the fans in Kauffman Stadium stood screaming in joyous rapture, brooms hoisted high, the camera quickly panned to George Brett. On his visage was seen the look of a man who had finally realized a long-awaited return to glory.

Whatever happens in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles — a David vs. David matchup as to each team’s franchise prestige — I won’t be turning off the TV during this time.
History does tend to repeat itself.