Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Kansas City -- 2016 Edition

Next Monday, the Yankees head to Kansas City to play the Royals.

Going to Kansas City.
Kansas City, here I come.
They got some crazy little women there
and I’m a-gonna get me one.

Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller wrote that tune back in the 1950s, and it’s been recorded by a lot of people. It hit Number 1 for Wilbert Harrison in 1959.

It doesn't say anything about baseball, though. Until recently, the Royals had a very spotty history -- they didn't make the Playoffs for 28 seasons (1986 to 2013), and in 58 seasons of Major League Baseball (13 for the A's, 1955-67; 45 for the Royals, 1969-2013), the city had been in the postseason just 7 times.

That changed in 2014, as they won one of the American League's Wild Card slots, won the Pennant for the 1st time since their 1985 World Championship, took the San Francisco Giants to the 9th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, won another Pennant last year, and reaped the rewards of the Mets embarrassing themselves in the World Series to take their 1st title in 30 years.

Kansas City has quite a fascinating baseball history, and should still be regarded as a good baseball town.

Before You Go. Check the Kansas City Star website for the weather forecast before you go. (The rival Kansas City Times stopped publishing in 1990.) K.C. can get really hot in the summer, and late August could be brutal. The daylight temperature will be in the high 80s on Monday and the low 80s on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nighttime temperatures should be in the high 60s throughout.

In this case, however, the heat won't be the only problem: Thunderstorms are being predicted for late Monday and early Tuesday -- (possibly delaying or postponing the Monday game. Tuesday or Wednesday may end up featuring a day/night, separate-admissions doubleheader.

Kansas City is in the Central Time Zone, an hour behind New York and New Jersey. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. In spite of being defending World Champions and winning back-to-back Pennants, and also in spite of recent renovations to the 43-year-old Kauffman Stadium, the Royals are averaging 32,674 fans per home game this season -- about 86 percent of capacity, but also about 800 less than last season. What this means for a fan visiting Kansas City is that you can pretty much walk up to the ticket booth on the day of the game and buy any seat you can afford.

Dugout Boxes run $65, Dugout Plaza $58, Field Boxes $47, Field Plaza $38, Loge seats $40, Outfield Boxes $33, Hy-Vee Boxes (these and all after them are upper deck) $20, and Hy-Vee View $18.

Getting There. Kansas City's Crown Center is 1,194 road miles from New York's Times Square, and it's 1,190 miles from Yankee Stadium to Kauffman Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Round-trip on American Airlines, while changing planes in Chicago, can be under $700 round-trip. If you want non-stop, you can fly United, and it'll be more like $750. When you do get there, the 129 bus takes you from Kansas City Mid-Continent Airport to downtown in under an hour, so that’s convenient.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 6 buses a day between Port Authority and Kansas City, and only 2 of them are without changes in Pennsylvania (possibly in Philadelphia, possibly in Harrisburg). The total time is about 29 hours, and costs $198 round-trip. The Greyhound terminal is at 1101 Troost Avenue, at E. 11th Street. Number 25 bus to downtown.

Train? Amtrak sends the Lake Shore Limited out of Penn Station at 3:40 PM Eastern Time, to Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time. Then you have to switch to the Southwest Chief – the modern version of the Santa Fe Railroad's Chicago-to-Los Angeles Super Chief, the train that, along with his Cherokee heritage, gave 1950s Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds his nickname.

The Southwest Chief leaves Chicago at 3:00 PM, and arrives at Union Station in K.C. at 10:11 PM, meaning you would need to leave New York on Saturday afternoon to get there Sunday night, in order to attend the entire series. Round trip fare is $374. K.C.'s Union Station is at Pershing Road and Main Street. Take the MAX bus to get downtown.
Union Station in Kansas City. This city has a fountain fetish.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike, and take Interstate 78 West across New Jersey, and at Harrisburg get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which at this point will be both I-70 and I-76. When the two Interstates split outside Pittsburgh, stay on I-70 west.

You'll cross the northern tip of West Virginia, and go all the way accross Ohio (through Columbus), Indiana (through Indianapolis), Illinois and very nearly Missouri (through the northern suburbs of St. Louis). You'll begin the Missouri section in St. Louis, on the Stan Musial Memorial Bridge; and end it in Kansas City, on the George Brett Super Highway. (The St. Louis portion of I-70 had been the Mark McGwire Highway, but after the steroid revelations, it was renamed the Mark Twain Highway.) In Missouri, Exit 9 will be for the Sports Complex. But you'd be crazy to come all this way and not get a hotel so you'll get a decent night’s sleep, so take I-70 right into downtown.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, 3 hours and 45 minutes in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Illinois, and 4 hours and 15 minutes in Missouri before you reach the exit for your hotel. That’s going to be nearly 19 and a half hours. Counting rest stops, preferably 7 of them, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Kansas City, it should be about 28 hours.

Once In the City. Kansas City, founded in 1838 and named for the Kanza tribe of Native Americans who lived there, is one of the smallest cities in the major leagues, with just 460,000 people, and one of the smallest metropolitan areas, with 2.4 million -- indeed, if you rank the 30 MLB markets (remembering to divide New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco in half, although the fandom doesn't really break that way), only Cincinnati and Milwaukee have smaller markets.

Kansas City is set on the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, and on the Missouri/Kansas State Line. Kansas City, Kansas is a separate city with about 140,000 people, and is known locally as KCK, while the more familiar city is KCMO. As for KCMO, Main Street runs north-south and divides Kansas City addresses between East and West, while the north-south addresses start at 1 at the Missouri River. Famously (or infamously), prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Kansas City was segregated: North of 27th Street was white, south of it was black.

The base fare for buses and light rail is $1.50, though to go to the Missouri suburbs or KCK it's doubled to $3.00. A 3-day pass is $10. The sales tax in Missouri is 4.225 percent, but it more than doubles to 8.475 within Kansas City. If you go into Kansas, their sales tax is 6.5 percent.
The Kansas City Streetcar light rail system

The State Capitol is in Jefferson City, 147 miles east of downtown Kansas City, 126 miles west of downtown St. Louis, and 30 miles south of the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.
The Missouri State House,
on the Missouri River in Jefferson City

ZIP Codes for the Missouri side of the Kansas City area start with the digits 640 and 641; and for the Kansas side, 660 and 661. The Area Codes are 816 in Missouri, 913 in Kansas.

Going In. The Harry S Truman Sports Complex, including Kauffman Stadium (known as Royals Stadium from 1973 until the 1993 death of founder-owner-pharmaceutical titan Ewing M. Kauffman) and Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs and site of a 2001 U.S. soccer team win over Costa Rica, is 8 miles southeast of downtown Kansas City, at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 435, still in the city but on the suburban edge of it.
The official address is 1 Royal Way. You don’t have to worry about the ballpark being in a bad neighborhood: It’s not in any neighborhood. Parking costs $11.

Public transportation is not much of an option. In fact, aside from Arlington, Texas, this may be the most unfriendly ballpark in the majors for those without a car. The Number 28 bus will drop you off at 35th Street South and Blue Ridge Cutoff, and then it's a one-mile walk down the Cutoff, over I-70, to the ballpark. The Number 47 bus will drop you off a little closer, on the Cutoff at 40th Terrace, about half a mile away.

Most fans will enter by the spiral walkways behind home plate, a holdover from the 1960s sports stadium architecture that also befell Giants Stadium, among others.
The ballpark faces northeast, and if you're old enough to remember those Yankees-Royals Playoffs from 1976 to 1980, you'll notice some differences. For one thing, the field, then artificial and a very pale green, is now all-natural grass and a much deeper green. For another, the red seats that you might remember as horribly clashing with the artificial turf and the Royals blue & white uniforms are gone, replaced by navy blue – or, should I say, "Royal blue."
John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil, longtime 1st baseman and later manager of the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues, remained in Kansas City after his retirement until his death in 2006. Starting with the 2007 season, the Royals have chosen for every game "a person who embodies the spirit of Buck O'Neil," selected from community nominees, to sit in what had been the free seat they provided for him. The Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat is located behind home plate in Section 127, Row C, Seat 9.
A revamped version of the old big crown scoreboard is in center field, and so is the Water Spectacular, the fountains that remain the stadium's most famous feature.
The park's outfield distances have never changed: 330 feet to the poles, 387 to the power alleys, and 410 to center. This means the park has traditionally favored pitchers and, due to its distances and (formerly) artificial turf, contact hitters and speedsters. Mike Trout has hit the park's longest home run, with a 489-foot drive in 2014, surpassing Bo Jackson's 475-foot shot in 1986.

With the carpet replaced by real grass, the Royals' go-go-go game of the 1976-85 era is reduced, although the franchise was in decline well before the switchover to grass in 1995. Seating capacity is currently listed as 37,903, pushable to 40,933 with standing room.

Food. Kansas City has a reputation for great barbecue, and "The K" has that, and some other good food items. Royals All-Star Barbecue is behind Sections 221 (3rd base) and 422 (Upper Deck behind home plate). The .390 Bar & Grill (named for George Brett’s 1980 batting average) is in the upper deck on the 3rd base side.

Blue Moose Sausage Emporium is under the right field stands. Boulevard Brewing Company is behind 223. Boulevard Pub is at 230. The Captain Morgan Bar is at 420. Crown Classics (presumably the usual ballpark fare with a team-themed name) are all over the place. Dugout Dog House stands are behind 208 and 247. Farmland Grill is at 239. There are several Hot Corner Grills and FryWorks stands. There are 4 Hostess Sweet Spot stands (Deep-fried Twinkies, perhaps?), Mexican-themed KC Cantina Cart at 224 and 232, an Irish Pub (no cutesy faux-Hibernian name) at 218 and 237, German-themed Leinenkugel's Leinie Lodge at 412 and Nutty Bavarian at 213 and 242, and – brace yourselves, Yankee Fans – the Pine Tar Pub in the outfield corners.

According to a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each big-league ballpark, the best food at Kauffman Stadium isn't anything barbecue-related -- the author, Wil Fulton, said, "We know, 'blasphemy,' 'heresy,' 'we'll burn for this,' blah, blah, blah. Hear us out" -- but Belfonte Ice Cream, which, like the Royals, began operation in 1969. Considering how hot the weather (and the barbecued meats) are, they may have a point. It's available all over the stadium.

Team History Displays. The Royals have their championship flags on poles in the outfield: 1985 and 2015 World Champions; 1980 and 2014 American League Champions; 1976, 1977, 1978, 1984 AL Western Division Champions.
Their retired numbers have been moved from the crown scoreboard to the left field corner, above the Royals Hall of Fame: 5, George Brett, 3rd base, 1973-93; 10, Dick Howser, manager, 1981-86 (also former Yankee infielder, coach and 1980 manager); 20, Frank White, 2nd base, 1973-90.
Besides Brett, White and Howser, those included in the Hall are: Team founders-owners Ewing and Muriel Kauffman, general manager Joe Burke, chief scout Art Stewart, manager Whitey Herzog; pitchers Steve Busby, Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff, Larry Gura, Dan Quisenberry, Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Appier, Mark Gubicza and Jeff Montgomery; 1st baseman John Mayberry Sr.; 2nd baseman Octavio "Cookie" Rojas; shortstop Freddie Patek; outfielders Amos Otis and Willie Wilson; catcher Mike Sweeney; DH Hal McRae; broadcaster Denny Matthews; and groundskeeper George Toma. The outside of this Hall, in left field, includes statues of the Kauffmans, the retired number players, and Buck O'Neil -- more about him in a moment.
The Kauffmans' statue

Splittorff was also a Royals broadcaster before his death in 2011. Toma, a.k.a. "The Sod God," has worked for Kansas City sports teams since the 1950s, including the A's, and was recommended by Chiefs founder-owner Lamar Hunt to prepare the field for Super Bowl I, where the Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The NFL was so impressed with this AFL groundskeeper that he was kept on, and while he retired from active work in 1999, at age 87, he still oversees the work at Kauffman and Arrowhead, and is one of a few people to have been at all 50 Super Bowls.
The Sod God

He also took care of Arrowhead's newly-planted real grass for the 1994 World Cup, and was imported for the Olympics by Los Angeles in 1984 and Atlanta in 1996. The oddity is that, as good as he was with grass, for over 20 years he was working with artificial turf at both Kansas City stadiums.

Beginning with the 2007 season, the Royals had a red seat placed in the stadium amongst the all-blue seats behind home plate to honor John "Buck" O'Neil, the star 1st baseman and manager for the city's long-ago Negro League team, the Kansas City Monarchs. One person is selected every game from community nominees to sit in that seat, formerly Buck's season-ticket seat. Previously, it was Section 101, Row C, Seat 1. Due to the renovations and section renumbering in 2009, the seat number is now Section 127, Seat 9, Row C.

Note that the Royals were named after Kansas City's annual American Royal Livestock Show. It has nothing to do with either the Monarchs or the downtown Crown Center complex.

Brett, and Satchel Paige and James "Cool Papa" Bell of the Monarchs, were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 1999. Brett was Kansas City's choice in the DHL Hometown Heroes poll in 2006.

Stuff. The Royals Majestic Team Store is located at Gate C, behind home plate. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there. I suppose this could include crowns with the KC logo on them.

Books about the Royals are not exactly well-known outside the K.C. area. Their Hall of Fame (Cooperstown and Kansas City) broadcaster Denny Matthews wrote Tales from the Royals Dugout, but that's probably the closest you're going to get to an inside story about the club. Jeff and Jeffrey Spivak, father and son, wrote a 25th Anniversary retrospective, Crowning the Kansas City Royals: Remember the 1985 World Series Champs; and Sara Gilbert (not the Roseanne actress, now a panelist on CBS’ The Talk) wrote The Story of the Kansas City Royals, which takes the franchise from its 1969 beginning to the 2006 season.

The 2015 title resulted in some books, including Matt Fulks' and Dayton Moore's Taking the Crown: The Kansas City Royals' Amazing 2015 Season; and a children's version, Jason Sivewright's and Kevin Howdeshell's The Year a Royal Dream Came True.

There is, as yet, no Essential Games of the Kansas City Royals (or Essential Games of Royals/Kauffman Stadium), but the official 1985 and 2015 World Series highlight film packages are available.

During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranks the Royals 19th, putting them in the "more tolerable" half:

It's hard not to be a little bit happy for the Royals, what with their interminably long stretch of bleakness followed by consecutive World Series appearances, including winning the damn thing last year. It finally worked! But be warned -- winning has a tendency to breed obnoxiousness, and they're already exhibiting some of those "aw shucks, aren't we just the best" symptoms trademarked by another Missouri team.

That, of course, refers to the St. Louis Cardinals. Royals fans don't like the Cardinals.

Because of their Great Plains/Heartland image, Royals fans like a "family atmosphere." Therefore, while they hate the Yankees more than they hate their Central Division opponents Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota, and their former Western Division rivals in Oakland and Anaheim, they will not directly antagonize you. At least, they won’t initiate it. But don't call them rednecks, hicks or sheep-shaggers. And don't say anything unkind about George Brett. Sure, he deserves it, but what's the point? He can't hurt you anymore; his supporters, theoretically, can.

The Tuesday night game will be T-Shirt night, with the 1st 10,000 fans getting Royals T-shirts. The Wednesday night game will be Irish Heritage Night.

The Royals hold auditions for National Anthem singers, rather than having a regular. They have a mascot, Sluggerrr, a lion (royal, king of the jungle) with a crown on his head. (Why the 3 R's, I don’t know, maybe he encourages kids with the legendary "Three R's: Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic." I didn't make those up, and neither did the Royals.) From his page on the Royals’ site:

Height: 7'0".  (That may be his actual height, but it may also be a nod to Interstate 70.) Weight: Muscle weighs more than fat. Position: King of the Jungle. Bats: Doesn't remember, "It's been a while since I was a designated hitter." Throws: Hot Dogs, T-shirts, and visiting fans out of the park! Steals: Cotton candy, peanuts, and sometimes popcorn. Favorite Food: Cardinal Wings, Filet O' Mariner, Rays Soup, Tiger Steak, Oriole Sandwich, Blue Jay Bites.

Steals popcorn? Shades of Don Mattingly. No mention of Yankee Bean Soup among his favorite foods? Sorry, Sluggerrr: No soup for you!
Sluggerrr also manged to cuckold Mr. Met
during the 2015 World Series.

The Royals do a takeoff on the Milwaukee Brewers' Sausage Race, with a "Heinz Condiment Race," featuring Ketchup, Mustard and Relish. They don't play a song after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th stretch, but in the middle of the 8th inning, they play "Friends in Low Places" by Oklahoma native and Royals fan Garth Brooks. They do not appear to have a postgame victory song. Perhaps, to welcome people to the ticket windows before the game, they should play "Come to My Window" by Leavenworth, Kansas native and Royals fan Melissa Etheridge.

Starting in the 2014 season, in a reflection of the Chicago Cubs and their W flag on the scoreboard, the Royals have placed a W on the Hall of Fame wall after every win.

After the Game. Since the sports complex is not in any neighborhood, let alone a bad one, you should be safe after a game, day or night. As I said, leave the home fans alone, and they'll probably leave you alone.

Chappell's Restaurant & Sports Museum, not really a museum but with a huge memorabilia collection, has been called the best sports bar in town. 323 Armour Rd., at Erie St, 11 miles northeast of the sports complex, and 5 miles north of downtown. 

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, Johnny's Tavern, 1310 Grand Blvd., downtown, across from the Sprint Center (the new arena), is known as a Giants fan's bar. Be advised that it is also known as a Sporting KC bar -- and a USMNT bar, and a University of Kansas bar. Drivers Sports Cafe is also cited as a Giants fan bar. 8220 Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kansas, 12 miles south of downtown KCMO, and 18 miles southeast of Children's Mercy Park. Reachable by public transit, but not easily.

If you visit Kansas City during the European soccer season, which is now underway, you can probably find your favorite club on TV at No Other Pub, 1370 Grand Blvd., across from the Sprint Center.

Sidelights. Kansas City's sports history is a bit uneven. When the Royals and Chiefs have been good, they’ve been exceptional. But they've also had long stretches of mediocrity. Still, there are some local sites worth checking out.

* Site of Municipal Stadium. This single-decked, 17,000-seat ballpark was built as Muehlebach Field in 1923, by George Muehlebach, who also owned the beer and the hotel that bore his name, and the American Association's Kansas City Blues. It hosted the Blues' Pennants in 1929, 1938, 1952 and 1953 – the last 3 as a farm club of the Yankees. (They'd previously won Pennants in 1888, 1890, 1898 and 1901, for a total of 8 Pennants -- or 6 more than the A's and Royals combined in nearly 60 years thus far.) Future Yankee legends Phil Rizzuto (Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year in 1940) and Mickey Mantle (1951) played for this club at this ballpark.
The Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues also played at Muehlebach, renamed Ruppert Stadium for the Yankees' owner in 1937 and Blues Stadium in 1943. They won 13 Pennants there from 1923 to 1955, including 3 straight, 1923-25, and 4 straight, 1939-42.

Hall-of-Famers Satchel Paige, Willard Brown and Hilton Smith were their biggest stars, although it should be noted that, while he played with them in the 1945 season, Jackie Robinson was, at the time, not considered as much of a baseball prospect some of the other players who were thought of as potential "first black players," like Paige, Monte Irvin and Larry Doby; it was his competitiveness and his temperament, as much as his talent, that got Brooklyn Dodgers president Branch Rickey interested in him. And in a travesty, Monarchs legend Buck O’Neil has never been elected to the Hall of Fame. The Monarchs had to leave after the 1955 season, because of the arrival of the A's.

Muehlebach Field, as it was then known was also the home to Kansas City's 1st pro football team, the team known as the Blues in 1924 and the Cowboys in 1925 and '26.

In 1954, the Philadelphia Athletics were sold to trucking company owner Arnold Johnson, and he moved the club to Kansas City, where his pal Del Webb, co-owner of the Yankees, had his construction company put an upper deck on what was renamed Municipal Stadium, raising the capacity to 35,020.
Thanks to the Webb-Johnson friendship, a lot of trades went back and forth (including Billy Martin out there in 1957 and Roger Maris to New York in the 1959-60 off-season), and it was joked that Kansas City was still a Yankee farm club. When Johnson died during spring training in 1960, insurance magnate Charles O. Finley bought the club, and he put a stop to that.
Finley was convinced that the reason the Yankees won all those Pennants was the 296-foot right field foul pole at the old Yankee Stadium, and so he brought the fence at Municipal in to 296 feet – though reaching back to its former 353-foot pole, thus obeying the letter of the law that said that all parks entering the majors had to be at least 325 feet to the poles. (This rule has notably not been enforced every time: The new Yankee Stadium maintained the outfield distances that the old one had in its last years, and Baltimore's Camden Yards, opened well after the 1958 debut of the rule, is 318 feet to right.) Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that what Finley called the "KC Pennant Porch," with a small bleacher between the old and new fences, was illegal. So Finley scaled it back to 325 feet at its closest point, making it the "KC One-Half Pennant Porch."
Finley also debuted some of his promotional shenanigans at Municipal, including Harvey the Rabbit, a Bugs Bunny lookalike that mechanically popped out of home plate to deliver fresh baseballs to the plate umpire.

But Finley wanted a new ballpark, and Kansas City wouldn't give it to him. It's not that they didn't support big-league ball, it's that they couldn't stand him. After flirting with Atlanta, Louisville, Dallas, New Orleans and Denver, he moved the team out of Kansas City in 1967, leading Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri to say, "Oakland, California just became the luckiest city since Hiroshima."

Despite being from the St. Louis side of the State, Symington lobbied Major League Baseball for a replacement team in K.C., and MLB granted an expansion franchise to Ewing Kauffman, to start play in 1969. Symington was invited to throw out the first ball at the first Royals home game. For the new team, with Kauffman rather than Finley as owner, the city built a new park. The Royals moved out after the 1972 season. Neither the Royals nor the A's ever came close to October while playing there.

The Chiefs began playing at Municipal Stadium in 1963, won AFL Championships in 1966 and 1969 (in addition to their 1962 title as the Dallas Texans), won Super Bowl IV, and played their last game there on Christmas Day 1971, a double-overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins that is still the longest game in NFL history. And Finley convinced Brian Epstein to let the Beatles play there, on September 17, 1964, their only concert in Kansas City. (Having covered the song "Kansas City," of course, they played it that night.)

The U.S. soccer team played Bermuda at Municipal Stadium on November 2, 1968, and won. The attendance was 2,265. That gives you an idea of how far U.S. soccer has come.

The stadium was torn down in 1976, and a housing development named Monarch Manor going up on the site. 2123 Brooklyn Avenue, near the 18th and Vine district that was the home of Kansas City jazz, making it a favorite of the Monarchs players. The legendary Arthur Bryant’s barbecue restaurant is 4 blocks away at 1727 Brooklyn Avenue. Number 123 bus.

* Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and American Jazz Museum. Founded by Buck O'Neil and some friends, this museum "tells the other side of the story." As Buck himself said, the pre-1947 all-white major leagues called themselves "Organized Baseball," but, "We were organized." The museum's lobby features statues of several Negro League legends, including Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Oscar Charleston – having played for the Monarchs was by no means a requirement for that.
Buck and his statue at the museum

The Negro Leagues were a sometimes dignified, sometimes willingly silly, and very successful response to the color bar. But the raiding of their rosters, with no regard to contracts and thus no money changing hands, by the white majors from 1947 onward, was the beginning of the end. But Buck O’Neil had the right perspective, as he said in Ken Burns' Baseball miniseries: "Happy. Happy... Of course, it meant the death of our baseball, but who cared? Who cared?" The owners of the Negro League teams cared. Other than that...

1616 E. 18th Street. The same building is home to the American Jazz Museum, which includes a working jazz club, the Blue Room. Number 108 bus. The Museum is 5 blocks west of Arthur Bryant's, and a short walk from the site of Municipal Stadium – neither of these facts is a coincidence.

* Municipal Auditorium. Built in 1935 in the Art Deco style then common to public buildings (especially in New York), it replaced the Convention Hall that was across the street, which hosted the 1900 Democratic Convention which nominated William Jennings Bryan for President (and at which a 16-year-old Harry S Truman served as a page) and the 1928 Republican Convention that nominated Herbert Hoover.

The arena seats 7,316 people, but for special events can be expanded to 10,721. The NCAA hosted what would later be called the Final Four here in 1940 (Indiana over Kansas), '41 (Wisconsin over Washington State), '42 (Stanford over Dartmouth, '53 (Indiana over Kansas), '54 (Tom Gola's La Salle over Bradley), '55  (Bill Russell's San Francisco over Gola's LaSalle), '57 (North Carolina over Kansas, Wilt Chamberlain losing in triple overtime), '61 (Cincinnati over Ohio State's defending champs, including Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek) and '64 (John Wooden starting his UCLA dynasty by beating Duke and completing an undefeated season with Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich).

The NBA's Kansas City Kings played their 1972-73 and 1973-74 home games here after moving from Cincinnati – having to change their name because Kansas City already had a team called the Royals. An accident at the Kemper Arena forced the Kings to move back to the Auditorium for a few games in the 1979-80 season. The basketball team at the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) played their home games here from its opening until they opened an on-campus arena in 2010.

Elvis Presley sang there as a new national star on May 24, 1956, and as an entertainment legend on November 15, 1971 and June 29, 1974. The 2nd Presidential Debate of 1984 was held there. This is where Ronald Reagan joked about his age and experience compared to Walter Mondale's, then gave a closing statement that made him look like the Alzheimer's he was later diagnosed with was already in effect. 301 W. 13th Street. Pretty much any downtown bus will get you close.

* Kemper Arena. Built in 1974, it immediately began hosting 2 major league sports teams – neither of which lasted very long. The NBA's Kansas City Kings played here until 1985, when they moved to Sacramento. The NHL's Kansas City Scouts were the ne plus ultra – or should that be ne minus ultra? – of expansion teams, lasting only 2 seasons before moving in 1976 to become the Colorado Rockies, and then again in 1982 to become the New Jersey Devils. A few minor league hockey teams have played here since, but its only current tenant is the American Royal show.

In the Kings' final season, they hosted the Knicks in a game that resulted in one of the most frustrating injuries in NBA history, Knick star Bernard King jumping for a rebound and tearing up his knee. I'll never forget watching on TV and hearing him yell, "Oh, damn! Oh, damn!" and then crumpling to the floor, repeatedly slapping it with his hand. Bernard did play again, and well, but a great career turned into a what-might-have-been. But that wasn'’t the worst injury here, and I don't mean the 1979 roof damage, either: This was where professional wrestler Owen Hart was killed in an accident on May 23, 1999.

Kemper was also the last building seating under 20,000 people to host a Final Four, hosting the 50th Anniversary edition in 1988, in which the University of Kansas, led by Danny Manning, upset heavily favored Oklahoma. In fact, KU made the 40-mile trip from Lawrence many times, creating an atmosphere that got the place nicknamed Allen Fieldhouse East, a name they have now transplanted to the Sprint Center. They went 80-24 at Kemper, including the 1988 title game.

The 1976 Republican Convention was held there, nominating Gerald Ford. Elvis sang there on April 21, 1976 and, in one of his last concerts, June 18, 1977. 1800 Genesee Street, at American Royal Drive, a block from the Missouri-Kansas State Line. Number 12 bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang in Western Missouri at the Shrine Mosque in Springfield on May 17, 1956; and the Hammons Student Center at Southwest State University (now Missouri State) in Springfield on June 17, 1977.

* Sprint Center. This arena opened in 2007, with the idea of bringing the NBA or NHL back to Kansas City. (The arena builders appear not to care which one they get, but with K.C. being a "small market," they'll be lucky to get one, and will not get both.) It almost got the Pittsburgh Penguins, before a deal to build the Consol Energy Center was finalized. It was also being considered for the New York Islanders, before they cut a deal to move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

For basketball, it seats 18,555; for hockey, 17,752. For the moment, no teams, major- or minor-league, play here regularly, although has hosted college basketball: KU games, the Big 12 Tournament, NCAA Tournament games. 1407 Grand Boulevard, at W. 14th Street. Number 57 or MAX bus from downtown.

On May 12, 2014, the New York Times printed a story that shows NBA fandom by ZIP Code, according to Facebook likes. You would think that, being between Chicago and Oklahoma City, with no team in St. Louis, the Kansas City area would be divided between Bulls and Thunder fans. Instead, the distance is so great (509 miles from Sprint Center to United Center, 349 miles to whatever OKC's arena is called now, and 475 miles to Indiana's Bankers Life Fieldhouse), that they divide up their fandom among the "cool" teams: The Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. (As yet, there is no hockey version.)

The closest NHL team to Kansas City is the St. Louis Blues, 249 miles away. The Kansas City metropolitan area's population would rank it 24th in the NBA, and 23rd in the NHL.

* Children's Mercy Park. The new home of Major League Soccer's Sporting Kansas City, formerly the Kansas City Wizards, has also hosted 5 games, by the U.S. soccer team, 4 wins and a draw, most recently a 4-0 win over Bolivia in the Copa America on May 28, 2016. It is across the State Line in Kansas City, Kansas. SKC won the 2013 MLS Cup, including the Final on home soil.

It is across the State Line in Kansas City, Kansas. Seating 18,467, it is at State Aveune & France Family Drive, with the ballpark for the independent baseball team the Kansas City T-Bones, the Kansas Speedway racetrack, and the Legends Shopping Mall all adjacent. Number 57 bus, transferring to Number 101 bus.

* Museums. Kansas City has 2 prominent art museums. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is K.C.'s "Metropolitan Museum of Art," 3 miles north of downtown, at 4525 Oak Street, in Southmoreland Park. And their "Museum of Modern Art" is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 2 blocks away, at 4420 Warwick Boulevard at 45th Street. Both can be reached by the Number 57 bus.

Kansas City is still, in a way, Harry Truman's town. The 33rd President, serving from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953, was born in nearby Lamar, and grew up in nearby Independence. He opened his Presidential Library and Museum in 1957, and frequently hosted events there until a household accident in 1964 pretty much ended his public life.

Upon his death in 1972, he was buried in the Library’s courtyard; his wife Bess, born Elizabeth Wallace, followed him in 1982, at age 97, to date the oldest former First Lady; and their only child, Margaret Truman Daniel, was laid to rest there in 2008. Currently, the Library is run by his only grandchild, Clifton Truman Daniel.

500 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence. Number 24X bus to Osage & White Oak Streets, and then 4 blocks north on Osage and 3 blocks west on Route 24. The Truman Home – actually the Wallace House, as Bess’ family always owned it – is nearby at 219 N. Delaware Street. Same bus.

Just west of the Crown Center is the Liberty Memorial, including the National World War I Museum, honoring the 1914-18 conflict that was then frequently called "The Great War" (accurate) and "The War to End All Wars" (not accurate, as it turned out). 100 West 26th Street.
Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil, and Zack Wheat, the the Hall of Fame left fielder for the 1910s and '20s Brooklyn Dodgers who collected nearly 3,000 hits, are all buried at Forest Hill & Calvary Cemetery. 6901 Troost Avenue, about 7 miles south of downtown. Bus 85.

There aren't a whole lot of tall buildings: One Kansas City Place, at 1200 Main Street, is the tallest in the State, at 624 feet, but only one other building is over 500 feet. The Kansas City Power & Light Building, at 1330 Baltimore Street, and the twin-towered 909 Walnut were built in the early 1930s and are the city's tallest classic buildings.

If you want to copy the song "Kansas City," and be "standing on the corner, 12th Street and Vine," you're out of luck: Due to urban renewal, it no longer exists. There is, however, a park with a plaque roughly where it was.

There haven't been many TV shows set in Kansas City. By far the most notable was Malcolm & Eddie, the 1996-2000 UPN sitcom that starred Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Eddie Griffin (a KCMO native). But the show was taped in Los Angeles and did no location shots, so if you're a fan of that show, there's nothing in Kansas City to show you.


Kansas City is a great American city, almost literally in the center of this great country. And its citizens, and the people who come from hundreds of miles around to see the Royals and Chiefs, love their sports. It's well worth saving up to check it out.

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