MLB Network has announce that this coming December, they will be featuring a documentary on the king of pine tar himself, George Brett. The feature is titled “MLB Network Presents: Brett,” and as 2023 marks 50 years since Brett made his MLB debut, MLB Network decided it was the perfect time to come out with this documentary. I look forward to it.
This documentary is currently available for free on YouTube, if you feel inclined to check it out. The film covers the history of minor league baseball in Omaha, Nebraska, currently home to the Kansas City Royal’s Triple A affiliate, the Omaha Storm Chasers. Not only does the documentary delve into the politics and challenges behind the minor league team’s history, but also looks at the College World Series, as it takes place in Omaha.
Last night I attended my first Royals game since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Not that I’ve been avoiding Kauffman Stadium altogether — last summer I ran the Royals Charities 5K and at the end of 2022, I took a behind-the-scenes tour of the K. But it had been quite some time since I last attended an actual Royals game, and to rectify that, I bought my ticket to watch the boys in blue take on the Guardians.
This return to game attendance was certainly memorable, but unfortunately, not in a good way. For one thing, it was broiling hot outside: 96°F officially when the game started, and it felt like triple digits. As for the game itself, I knew things were going to be rough when the Guardians hit a grand slam in the 3rd inning. This was followed by a two-run homer in the 5th inning and another two-run blast in the 6th. By the time the 7th inning stretch arrived, the Royals were down 14-0.
The Royals did manage to score a run in the bottom of the 7th, but this was small consolation in the face of what was probably the worst defeat I’ve ever seen live at the K. To make matters worse, Relish won the hot dog derby — my least favorite of the three condiments.
Attendance in general was sparse, with the official number coming in at 11,978. Kansas City is feeling a bit disgruntled with its baseball team these days, and with games like the one we experienced last night, it’s not hard to understand why.
In spite of all this, I am still glad that I made a point of attending the game. Kauffman Stadium has long been one of my favorite places to visit, and sitting in the stadium last night, I find that the sentiment remains. It breaks my heart that the organization intends to move the team out of Kauffman and into a new venue in downtown Kansas City. Until that day arrives, I want to try and get out to more games and soak it in while I can.
John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil, Jr. was born on November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida. He grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where he worked in the celery fields while his father ran a pool hall in Newtown. O’Neil later moved to Jacksonville with relatives, where he attended Edward Waters College to complete high school and two years of college courses. He was nicknamed “Buck” after the co-owner of the Miami Giants, Buck O’Neal. His father, John Jordan O’Neil, Sr., played on a local team, thus exposing Buck to baseball at an early age.
O’Neil left Florida in 1934 to play semi-professional baseball, collecting several years of barnstorming experience. His efforts were rewarded when he signed with the Memphis Red Sox in 1937 and then joined the Kansas City Monarchs in 1938. O’Neil had a career batting average of .288 (based on statistics from 1937 to 1950), which included four seasons above .300, and he also played in three East-West All-Star Games and two Negro World Series.
Buck O’Neil served in the United States Navy in 1944 and 1945 during World War II. He served in a naval construction battalion in New Jersey during this time, and then returned to the Monarchs at the start of the 1946 season.
O’Neil was named manager for the Monarchs in 1948, continuing to play first base full time through the 1951 season. He continued to manage the Monarchs through 1955, serving as a reserve player and pinch-hitter during these later years, winning pennants in 1953 and 1955. Following the 1955 season, O’Neil resigned as manager of the Monarchs and became a scout for the Chicago Cubs. He was named the first black coach in the major leagues by the Cubs in 1962, though he was not assigned in-game base coaching duties. In 1988, O’Neil joined the Kansas City Royals as a scout, and in 1998 was named “Midwest Scout of the Year.”
In 1990, O’Neil played a major role in the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, and served as its honorary board chairman until his death. In 1996, O’Neil became the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and in 2006 he received an honorary doctorate in education from Missouri Western State University, where he also gave the commencement speech.
Also in 2006, O’Neil was nominated to a special Hall of Fame ballot for Negro League players, managers, and executives in 2006, but received fewer than the necessary nine votes (out of twelve) to gain admission. Nevertheless, the always good-natured O’Neil spoke at the induction ceremony for the seventeen Negro League players who did get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame that year.
After several weeks in the hospital, Buck O’Neil died on October 6, 2006 in Kansas City, Missouri due to heart failure and bone marrow cancer.
On December 7, 2006, O’Neil was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush due to his “excellence and determination both on and off the baseball field.” On Opening Day of 2007, the Kansas City Royals announced they would honor O’Neil by placing a fan in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat in Kauffman Stadium each game who best exemplifies O’Neil’s spirit. The seat itself has been replaced by a red seat amidst the all-blue seats behind home plate.
In 2021, the Early Baseball Era Committee elected Buck O’Neil to the Baseball Hall of Fame with 81.3% of the vote. He was formally inducted on July 24, 2022.
As one last hurrah to 2022, I signed up to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Kauffman Stadium today. The weather was about as good as one could hope for on December 31st, but it was still pretty chilly, and I was glad I bundled up for this experience. My tour guide was an older gentleman named Michael, whose daughter also works for the Royals. According to Michael, one month after he retired, his daughter insisted that he needed something to do and helped him get set up giving tours of Kauffman during the off season and working in the Royals Hall of Fame during the season. He’s been working in this capacity for the last eight years, and he certainly knew his stuff.
This post is going to be predominantly pictures, but I’ll try to include explanatory captions where appropriate.
The chart by Statista below depicts the average price of tickets to MLB games by team. I continue to be stunned by how expensive Royals games are compared to teams like the Rockies or the Mets, for example. For crying out loud, they’ve got the worst record in baseball right now!
The image below is pretty tiny, so click on the chart to get a larger version and more information directly from Statista.
I’ve seen many of the other City Connect unis that have come out throughout the league, and for the most part, I’ve liked what I’ve seen. I haven’t hated any of the others, but in all honesty, these KC threads are the first uniforms that I’ve truly loved. And I am so stoked that it’s the Royals that get to sport them.