In southern climes, where warmer weather comes early, the “Boys of Summer” began baseball’s annual ritual of spring training this week.
The grass is green, flowers bloom and each team, regardless of talent and previous circumstances, has a chance to be a winner. Optimism oozes from every clubhouse, although veterans, and those willing to accept reality, know it will evaporate for many clubs once the grind of a 162-game season begins.
My first dose of major league baseball was when the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955. The KC A’s were my team, although that resulted in a lesson of long-suffering.
Often the team was made up of Yankee retreads, but I’ll never forget 1958 when Bob Cerv, in the twilight of his career, hit 38 homeruns and was in a season-long battle with Washington’s Roy Sievers, Boston’s Jackie Jensen and the Yanks’ Mickey Mantle — who won with 42 — for the slugging title.
I saw my first game in 1957, with a group from Humboldt’s First Baptist. The A’s played in Municipal Stadium, with Brooklyn Avenue just outside the right field fence. When I walked up to the stadium, I was amazed at how large it was. I had never seen a structure of that size before.
During the years I saw Mantle smack a homerun onto Brooklyn Avenue, marveled at Ted Williams’ skills with the bat and cheered a legion of A’s.
My favorite was Bud Daley, a pitcher. A lefthander who relied on a knuckleball, Daley won 16 games each in 1959 and 1960. He also was a pretty proficient hitter. In 1959 he batted .295 and drove in 13 runs.
My allegiance switched to the Royals in 1969, after Charlie Finley took the A’s to California two years earlier.
It was good to be a KC fan with the expansion team, particularly in the 1980s when several players, including George Brett, attained star status and the Royals won the World Series in 1985.
Now, a new season is starting and the Royals, with an infusion of starting pitchers through winter transactions, appear on the cusp of regaining their winning habits.
I can hardly wait.
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