Regret takes on many forms.
For a baseball fan in a city that has endured the longest postseason drought in major professional sports, regret most likely looks like having the World Series come to town, not going, and then having to wait 29 years for the opportunity to come again.
Twenty-nine years is how long Kansas City waited for postseason baseball to return after winning the 1985 World Series. Twenty-nine long years of mostly uncompetitive baseball; mostly embarrassing baseball; mostly baseball played so poorly that the franchise became a punchline for futility.
Sometimes when the baseball gods give you a miracle, a fan base is destined to pay for it tenfold – or twenty-nine-fold.
Postseason baseball returned to Kansas City this year thanks to the best Royals season in a generation and, understandably, the city went bonkers. The Royals treated fans to one of the nuttiest postseason baseball games ever played to upend Oakland in the American League Wild Card Game and ensure that October Baseball would be played at Kauffman Stadium.
Then they swept through the Anaheim Angels in the ALDS, rendering their best regular-season record in baseball meaningless, and followed that up with a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS to claim the American League pennant.
The eight straight wins to open postseason play was a first in baseball history.
The World Series was back in Kansas City for the first time since I was 5 years old. I needed to be there. This had to happen.
Purchasing a ticket to Game One of the World Series wasn’t realistic. At one point, the cheapest seats cost more than $1,000 on StubHub, and standing-room-only floated around $400. The enthusiasm for the first-game-in-a-generation World Series ticket drove prices to a point that was far too steep for my budget. Not that I would have made it anyway. A last-minute urgent request at work kept me at the office late, so I missed the first pitch of the game driving home before I could plop down on the couch and watch what ultimately was a 7-1 Kansas City loss.
Sensing that the Fall Classic might not make it back to Kansas City, I nearly dropped $325 on a standing-room-only ticket to Game Two the following morning. I hesitated to complete the purchase, however, since a proposal had to be shipped out that day. Our office’s computer system shut down for two hours that morning, and the print center’s primary machine shredded a belt, rendering it inoperable. Thus, a nightmare scenario unfolded. Game Two began with me at the print center helping to troubleshoot system problems. We assembled binders as the first few innings ticked away.
Thanks to the technological glitches, an airport run was in order. That allowed me to hear a couple innings in the car while making the 35-minute drive to the FedEx Shipping Center at KCI where I heard FedEx employees celebrate Salvador Perez’s two-run double that padded the Royals’ lead in a series-evening 7-2 victory.
The next three games took place in San Francisco, with Kansas City winning Game Three 3-2 before dropping Game Four, 11-4, and Game Five, 5-0.
That brought the World Series back to Kauffman Stadium in a win-or-go-home situation. It provided me with one final chance to see the Royals play in the World Series in person. Game Seven – if it happened – would be far out of my price range, I was certain. If I truly wanted to get to the World Series, Game Six was the opportunity.
A FRUITLESS SEARCH
October 28, 2014.
Game Six. Game Day.
A wasted day at work was about to unfold. The World Series was back in Kansas City, possibly for the final game of the season and certainly for the final game that might possibly be in my price range. An airline ticket to Scotland for Thanksgiving had wiped out any pay-any-price baseball budget that previously existed, but I was willing to dig a bit into my finances to try to make this happen.
If it was going to happen, this was the day.
I arrived to work early, anticipating leaving early to head to the ballpark. The next eight hours consisted of refreshing the Royals’ website to try to purchase tickets through the franchise which allegedly were available, as well as unflinchingly monitoring the fluctuating prices on StubHub.
I’d determined I had $240 to spend on a ticket; not a realistic price for Game Six by any means, but a guy can dream, right?
My hope was that I would snag one of the standing-room-only tickets that the Royals were selling through their website for $165, but I could never get through the poorly designed tickets.com-managed site thanks to a foolishly nonexistent waiting room feature. My other hope was for a StubHub miracle, either that somebody would unload a single ticket for relatively cheap or that prices would plummet within an hour of the game’s scheduled first pitch.
The hours ticked by, and no ticket was purchased. At 3:45 p.m. I left the office, hopped in my car and headed for the Truman Sports Complex with no ticket in hand, just a whole lot of hope that some magic would take place, a ticket in my price range would appear, and I would find myself inside Kauffman Stadium to bear witness to whatever mystery or magnificence Game Six had to offer.
I pulled into the Kauffman Stadium parking lot a few minutes after 4 p.m.; a full three hours before Game Six. The plan was simple; check with the box office to see if they would have any standing-room-only tickets available at any point for purchase in person (I’d heard these had been available at previous games, despite what the Royals’ website advertised); keep refreshing the computer on my wireless internet in the car; and then troll around for some family with a spare ticket – rather than a sketchy scalper – to buy from.
Option one was eliminated within 20 minutes when I walked to the ticket window and was told all tickets had to be purchased through the Royals’ crummy website that hadn’t let me through during eight hours of trying.
Option two occupied the next few hours as I stood behind my car with the laptop on the trunk, repeatedly trying – and repeatedly failing – to get through on the Royals’ site while keeping an eye on StubHub.
Finally, 6:15 p.m. arrived – less than an hour before first pitch – and StubHub began to show movement. Ticket prices dipped to $325, then to $310 and $300 … $299. Opportunity seemed to be unfolding.
Suddenly, a standing-room-only ticket appeared for $202, but it was gone by the time I entered my payment information. Same with another that popped up for $203. I tried to snag an upper-deck seat for $225, but alas, that didn’t last long enough for me to buy it.
During the final half-hour before game time StubHub turned into a ticket fire sale as those with extras sought to unload them rather than eating the cost of the ticket. Tickets dipped below $200, but each of my efforts failed as my laptop loaded slowly and others purchased the tickets I’d hoped to procure.
The final eight minutes before game time were a disaster. So many people sought tickets; the computer connection was slow; it was a flurry of frustration. And then it was done. 7:07 p.m. arrived and StubHub locked up, as it does once the scheduled event begins.
I sat in my car in the mostly people-free parking lot, 150 meters from a packed stadium where the crowd was roaring as the Kansas City Symphony was introduced to perform the National Anthem.
I was so close to the World Series, but so far away. My efforts had been for nothing. I’d failed.
As the National Anthem played and the ensuing fireworks popped and colored the sky, I opened the car door, stepped out and began drifting toward the stadium ticketless.
I hoped I’d stumble upon a trustworthy family running late to the game; a family who happened to have a spare ticket; a family who would happily sell their spare ticket to a stranger for face value or just a bit higher.
I wandered past about a dozen scalpers lurking around the stadium, all of who offered to sell me tickets, but none whom looked trustworthy. Two of my buddies were screwed by scalpers at Game Two for $500 a pop, so these sketchy fellows wouldn’t be my lifeline tonight.
I looked around, and no good ticket opportunities presented themselves, so I headed toward the ticket window for no particular reason. A young couple was talking to the person behind the glass, and they were turned away ticketless as I approached. We began chatting, and I learned they’d been told to try the Royals’ website – so, basically, go home and hope for better luck next year.
The top of the first inning was under way, and we were outside – probably for good.
As we spoke, another guy – dressed in black jeans and a jacket and probably in his 30s – strolled past us and asked if we needed an extra ticket. He didn’t stop for a response, continuing on toward the Will Call window.
I asked him how much he was selling for. He shrugged and said “$150,” and continued to the window where he gave his name.
About five seconds passed before I connected the dots and figured out he wasn’t just another scalper. I watched as the Will Call attendant took his name, thumbed through a stack of envelopes, and then slid one under the glass to him.
“Do you mean your spare ticket is one that you’re just now picking up from Will Call?” I inquired.
“Yeah,” he replied while thumbing through his tickets.
“Sold!” I told him, handing him $160 and not expecting him to make change. I didn’t know where in the stadium I’d be, only that I’d be inside the stadium. After all, I’d just watched a Royals representative hand him the ticket, so I knew it was legit.
I bolted toward the gate as the top of the first concluded. I had my ticket scanned, and raced to the escalator to the upper deck where the ticket told me my seat was.
I was in. I had a seat. I’d made it happen!
Shortly after I settled into my seat – right next to a couple that informed me they’d paid $320 per ticket for the same section and same row – the Royals unleashed a vicious seven-run second inning and rode rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura’s three-hit masterpiece en route to a 10-0 victory.
It was a historic thrashing; the biggest World Series blowout since the Royals’ Game Seven 11-0 shutout against St. Louis in Game Seven of the 1985 World Series.
I can’t say that it was a crazier atmosphere than what I witnessed at the Wild Card game a few weeks earlier, but it was close.
Kansas City had been on the brink of elimination, and responded with pure vengeance. After being forced to play the Wild Card game on the final day of September in hopes of playing some real October baseball, the Royals ensured that baseball’s final game would be played the next night right here in Kansas City.
What a trip.
THE RUN ENDS
The Royals’ World Series dream ended one night later with a 3-2 loss to San Francisco in Game Seven at Kauffman Stadium. I watched with friends at a local sports bar, and I monitored ticket prices on my phone as they rose above $800 for standing-room-only admission in the final minutes before game time.
It was a bittersweet conclusion to a roller-coaster ride that ended fittingly with Alex Gordon standing 90 feet away from home plate with the tying run in the bottom of the ninth.
Kansas City waited so long for this moment, a lifetime for most, and we were rewarded with all of the drama we could handle including numerous first-time-in-history moments.
It’s easy to be disappointed that the Royals didn’t win the World Series, but I’m thankful that my city got to experience so much long-awaited magic and I’m thankful that I got to be there in person for the Wild Card and Game Six of the World Series. These are moments I’ll never forget.