Friday, October 10, 2014

Baltimore v. Kansas City

The Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals are going to meet in the American League Championship Series.  I had a bunch of stuff to say about how these were two of the great teams of my childhood, but I see that Joe Posnanski has not only scooped me, but has made the same points better than I would have.  Good for him, and good for all of us 40-somethings who will get to enjoy some retro baseball.

Here are a few left-over points:

1.  Kansas City and Baltimore are two cities that were right on the edge of Major League Baseball for the first 50 years of the 20th Century.  They were minor league cities, but they played a major role in baseball history.  Baltimore gave us Babe Ruth, and John McGraw began his career starring for the old Baltimore Orioles of the National League.  Kansas City had the Kansas City Monarchs, probably the greatest of all Negro League teams, which featured the legendary Satchel Paige.

2.  As soon as Major League teams started to move in the 1950's, Baltimore and Kansas City quickly joined the Big Boys.  The hapless St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore after the 1953 season, and the once-great Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City after the 1954 season.  The A's left for Oakland after the 1967 season, but Kansas City was only out of the Majors for one year before getting the Royals in 1969.

3.  The Fifties and Sixties were wonderful years for Baltimore and Kansas City -- two hard-working cities with old-fashioned economies that did quite well in the post-war boom.  And that momentum carried into the 1970's.  The first five Super Bowls were played from 1967 to 1971 -- either Baltimore or Kansas City appeared in four of those five games.

4.  The Orioles and Royals did even better than the football teams, and were competitive well into the 1980's.  There were 17 American League Championship Series played from 1969 to 1985 -- either Baltimore or Kansas City appeared in 14 of those, and the Royals or Orioles won seven of those 17 pennants.

5.  Baltimore and Kansas City fell off the pace as baseball returned to its roots in the Robber Baron era.  In the 18 seasons from 1996 to 2013, over half the pennants in the American League were won by the Yankees (7) and Red Sox (3).  But Baltimore and Kansas City continued to contribute to baseball.  Camden Yards, the glorious Baltimore park that has never hosted a World Series game, opened in 1992 and launched a new and very successful era of ballpark construction.  Kansas City gave us Bill James, a huge Royals fan who used statistics to re-imagine how the game should be played.

6. When I looked for Baltimore/Kansas City stuff on the Internet, I found these two great clips of Bo Jackson against the O's.  Here you can see Bo try to call time, not get it, and still hit a home run.  And here you can see Bo climb the wall in Baltimore.

7.  And for the Baltimore fans, here is one of my favorite web pages on the Internet:  A history of the scoreboards at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.  I'm not kidding -- I love this stuff.

8.  According to the Census Bureau's estimates for 2013, the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Md. Metropolitan Statistical Area has 2,770,738 people, making it the 20th largest market in the United States.  The Kansas City, Mo.-Kan. Metropolitan Statistical Area has 2,054,473 people, making it the 30th largest market in the United States.

Here are how the Orioles and Royals have fared in the American League Championship Series (pennant-winning years are in bold):

Baltimore Orioles (5-4):  1969, 1970, 1971,  1973, 1974, 1979, 1983, 1996, 1997

Kansas City Royals (2-4):  1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1985


  1. This is a great preview. I flipped on the game last night to find the teams tied at 5 in the seventh inning and the Orioles throwing out a Royal who was attempting to steal second. (Kansas City stole about 250 bases against Oakland this year and was never thrown out.) Then I saw in the weekend USA Today that the same Royal, Dyson, had "ZOOM" shaved into his hair before the series started.

  2. The Orioles were my second-favorite American League team growing up. The Pirates were my favorite National League team. So that World Series was huge for me. The 1975 Boog Powell is among my favorite baseball cards.

  3. I didn't come to hate the Royals as much as one might think, only because they came to power in the American League West at a time that Oakland was sabotaging itself with silliness. Actually, I always thought Charlie Finley's last great disservice to Kansas City was imploding the great A's just as the methodically assembled Royals were coming of age. What great fun the city of Kansas City would've had eventually catching and overcoming Finley's superstars, and how much more of a hardened team those Royals might've been.