Skip to main content

That year was next year


I wasn't around for the 1955 Dodgers. I missed the amazement, the astonishment of that day, when before fans' disbelieving eyes, the Dodgers were finally winning a World Series.

"Wait 'Til Next Year" were just words in a book to me, devoted to an event that took place years before I knew what baseball was. "Next Year" -- 1955 -- was something I never experienced.

But I had my own "Next Year". It didn't involve my favorite team, nor was it as long a wait. But it was exhilarating nonetheless.

My attachment to the Kansas City Royals doesn't come from living in the Midwest or because their colors are similar to the Dodgers or because I want the Giants to lose when the World Series starts. It's not even because I remember the Royals' victory in the '85 Series. No, my attachment began in 1976 when the Royals took on the Yankees and were demoralized by Chris Chambliss' home run off of Mark Littell.

The Royals then met the Yankees again in 1977 and 1978, with similar results. The Yankees always won. As a young baseball fan, surrounded by Yankees lovers, many more obnoxious than the last, this was the height of unfair. The Royals wanted nothing more than to get to the World Series. And the boorish Yankees wouldn't let them. And then the Yankees would go on to beat my favorite team just for spite.

Imagine a kid who couldn't go to bed when he wanted, couldn't have cookies when he wanted, couldn't play baseball until he wanted, never being able to root for the winning team. I never got my way. It seemed like the decks were stacked everywhere. You couldn't have what you wanted unless you were big and rich and loud.

And because of this my allegiance to the Royals grew year by year.

In 1979, we all got a breather. The Yankees didn't make the playoffs. The Royals didn't make the playoffs. Heck, even the Dodgers didn't make the playoffs. It was a relief. A kid didn't need that kind of stress year after year.

But then, in 1980, they were back. At least, the Yankees and the Royals anyway (not the Dodgers -- stupid Astros). The Royals featured a lot of the same characters from 1976-78, but they seemed older, a little more world weary.

I didn't expect anything different than what occurred in '76, '77 and '78.

Which is why I was so incredulous when this happened.



George Brett's home run off of Rich Gossage was my Next Year. The Royals were going to the World Series! By beating the Yankees! Wait 'Til Next Year???? This was NEXT YEAR, chumps!

So, yes, I was like all K.C. fans that year. And although the Phillies would win the World Series and it was crushing, at least the Royals did something no one figured they could ever do. They beat the Yankees in the playoffs. Brett's home run signaled the end of the Yankees' reign. The Dodgers would finish them off in the World Series in 1981 and the Yankees wouldn't be the same until the 1990s. This is the reason why I always felt that the Yankees set out to get Brett (highlighted by Billy Martin's moves in the Pine Tar Game). They knew what he had done to their franchise.

The 1980 Royals gave me astonishment and that fairy tale feeling that I had yet to experience in baseball (I have only fleeting memories of Carlton Fisk's home run in the '75 World Series). K.C. was a part of my emerging awareness of the culture of baseball, too. The first hitting coach I was ever aware of came from the Royals. The first groundskeeper, too.

So this is why I root for the Royals this week. Yeah, they're the good guys, but they're also the Next Year guys and so much more. It's more than 1985 or Ned Yost's bunting or Moooose. It's about 1980 and what can happen even though you don't think it can happen.

Here are the Royals cards I was staring at when Kansas City finally advanced past New York:


 


Thanks, Royals, for 1980 and Next Year.




Now, go out and amaze me again.

Comments

Tony L. said…
I'm with you both on hating the Yankees and hoping the Royals will win. I remember Reggie Jackson sticking his hip into the baseline on a double play ball and just thinking that he would absolutely cheat always. I cheered against the Yankees with a passion from that time forward.
BASEBALL DAD said…
I was 4 during the ' 55 series. Don't remember much. We got married in 1980 and I loved the sweep. I also got my first major league baseball in KC, from the Indians bullpen ! Don't like SF either. Go Royals !!
Zippy Zappy said…
Would your opinion of the Royals change if they were to #BaetLA in the WS one day?
Unknown said…
Go Royals - can't stand the Giants!
Nice cards but...GO GIANTS!
zman40 said…
LET'S GO ROYALS!!!

Can't wait to be in that park tomorrow!
BaseSetCalling said…
I'm sure kids born in Minnesota in the early 90s could relate completely. Except they never got a 1980, or a 1985.

Selling my kid-collated 1980 set was one of the … partially regrettable things I've done in my life. It will be a while yet before I can write about that.
night owl said…
I can't get into speculation. I'm sure I'd still like them more than the Yankees.
BobWalkthePlank said…
Great cards! Go Royals!
Fuji said…
I'm a few years behind you in terms of supporting the Royals... but I'm with ya. I really admired the way they fought back this year against the A's and as soon as they broke my heart in the 12th inning of the Wild Card game... I knew that I'd be pulling for them this year. Go Royals!
Don said…
I am with you on the Royals. I cheered at home when Brett hit that home run in the 1980 ALCS. The Royals are one of the few Tiger teams in the AL that I will root for.
carlsonjok said…
I always hated the Royals after Hal McCrae's take out of Willie Randolph in Game 2 of the '77 LCS. (http://sports.cbsimg.net/images//visual/whatshot/mcrae.gif)

But, this year I am wanting them to win, just because it is someone else's turn other than SF, STL, or BOS.

Popular posts from this blog

Stuck in traffic with Series 2

In the whirlwind that has been my life this month, I found myself going absolutely nowhere for a portion of Thursday afternoon. I was in the middle of yet another road trip, the third one this week. This one was for work, and because it was job-related, it became quickly apparent that it would be a waste of time. The only thing that could save it was a side visit to the nearby Walmart to see if I could spot some Topps Series 2. I found it right away, which was shocking as I was pretty much in the middle of the country, where SUVs share the road with tractors and buggies. Who knew that the Amish wanted Series 2, too? The problem was getting back into civilization to open the contents of the 72-card hanger box I bought. The neighboring village is undergoing a summer construction project smack in the middle of downtown. It's not much of a downtown, but the main road happens to be the main artery in the entire county. Everyone -- and by everyone I mean every tractor trailer ha

Heading upstate

  Back in 1999, Sports Illustrated published an edition at the end of the year rating the top 50 athletes of the century for every state.   As a lifelong Upstate New Yorker, I braced for a list of New York State athletes that consisted almost entirely of downstate natives, that is, folks from the greater NYC area and Long Island.   We Upstaters are used to New York City trampling all over the rest of the state. They have the most people, the loudest voices. It happens all the time. It's a phenomenon unique to this state. Heck, there are still people out there who, when you tell them you're from New York, automatically think you're from NYC. They don't think of cows and chickens when they think of New York. But trust me, there are a lot of cows and chickens in New York State. Especially cows.   So, anyway, when I counted up the baseball players that SI listed as the greatest from New York State, six of the nine were from New York City or Long Island. I was surprised all

G.O.A.T, the '80s: 30-21

  I often call this current period of the television sports calendar the black hole of sports programming. The time between the end of the Super Bowl and the beginning of televised Spring Training baseball games is an empty void when I'm looking for something to watch on traditional television. I don't watch the NBA and the NHL on TV holds my interest for maybe a period. College basketball I can't watch until the tournament. This didn't used to be as much of a problem back when I could turn instead to my favorite sitcoms in February. Do you remember when February was "sweeps month"? (Maybe it still is, I don't know). Networks would make sure that every top show aired original episodes that month, no reruns. So you'd always have something to view during the week even when the sports scene was boring. (I know, people have multiple streaming viewing options now. But I find myself going weeks sometimes before I see something I want to view on Netflix or Am