Next they went to a junior high school in Cameron. By 10:30, they had driven another 60 miles to Trenton, Mo. (pop. 5,700), where they went to an elementary school. White and Perry were interviewed at a 5,000-watt radio station and by a TV crew from St. Joseph, 70 miles away. Then came a civic luncheon at a small restaurant attached to a Crown gas station. By the end of the day, White and Perry had spoken and signed autographs at four schools, three banks, two radio stations, a luncheon and a dinner.
Unlike in some other expansion markets—Seattle, Toronto and Montreal, to name three—professional baseball has been a part of Kansas City's blood for more than 100 years. With the exception of 1968, the season between Finley's exodus and Kauffman's arrival, there has been a pro team there every year since 1884. That year the Altoona, Pa., franchise in the Union Association folded and moved to K.C., where the team became known as the Cowboys. Later, Kansas City was home to the Blues of the American Association and to the famous Monarchs of the Negro leagues. In 1955 the Philadelphia A's arrived, marking the major leagues' first shift west of St. Louis. Finley's high profile and gimmickry were a lot different from Kauffman's understated style. Charlie O brought elephants, mules and funny uniforms to town, and, oh, yes, he also brought a horrible team. During 13 years in K.C., Finley's A's never reached .500, had a .404 winning percentage and finished an average of 35 games out of first.
The current high expectations in Kansas City make reversals more noticeable than they would be elsewhere. In that season opener against the Orioles, Horn, released by the Red Sox last December and brought off the Rochester roster to Baltimore on April 4, hit a three-run homer off Saberhagen in the second inning. With two on and one out in the eighth and the Royals leading 6-3, Wathan let Farr pitch to Horn, leaving Mark Davis in the bullpen. Farr hung a slider, and Horn hit it out—another three-run blast. The Orioles won 7-6 in the 10th. "Duke [Wathan] had never had anything but a bullpen by committee, and he learned today what you're supposed to do with a $3 million closer," one player groused. Then he added, "One thing about Duke, he learns. He never forgets."
Against the Orioles in the second game of the season, Gubicza showed skeptics that his shoulder—which had troubled him at the end of last season and prevented him from throwing until the end of the lockout—was fit as he got to the sixth inning. Then three relievers set up things for Davis, and the Royals had a 2-1 win.
However, Danny Tartabull tore a muscle in his leg shagging a ball in batting practice before that game and will be lost for a month. Injuries and age are two serious questions the Royals must face from the outset. One third of the lineup-Brett, White and catcher Bob Boone—are 36, 39 and 42, respectively. Brett has been so snakebit by injuries that he has played 140 or more games only four times in the last 13 years. Tartabull and underappreciated shortstop Kurt Stillwell also have been injury plagued.
Last Friday night, the Blue Jays came to town. Pitchers Jimmy Key and Duane Ward held Kansas City's hitters in check while George Bell's RBI single and homer beat Storm Davis 3-1. In the season's first three games, Bo Jackson hit one ball out of the infield—a chopper up the middle that went over Key's head and under the gloves of shortstop Tony Fernandez and second baseman Manny Lee. Bo's speed turned the hit into a double.
Five days, three games, two losses. "This should be a far better club than the one that had the third-best record in baseball," said Saberhagen after Game 3, referring to Kansas City's 1989 record. "I can't wait until we're playing every day, which is when our pitching should tell."
The Royals are enthused about the acquisition of leadoff man Perry, who hit .300 and stole 29 bases for Atlanta in 1988 but was far below those numbers last year. "We need a leadoff hitter, and with Perry and Kevin Seitzer [.387 on-base percentage in '89], we are much improved in front of George, Bo and Tartabull," says Wathan.
But the American League West is the Arms Division, and Saturday afternoon Cy I (Saberhagen, the American League Cy Young Award in 1985 and '89) teamed up with Cy II ( Mark Davis, National League winner last season) to beat the Jays 3-1 as Jackson had two doubles and Perry hit his first AL home run. "This is the way our bullpen should work," said Wathan. When Fernandez singled off Saberhagen with one out in the eighth, Jeff Montgomery—who had an astounding 1.37 ERA last year as a closer and had strikeouts in 32 consecutive appearances—retired Mookie Wilson and Kelly Gruber. That allowed Mark Davis to come on in the ninth for a 1-2-3 save.
Peace was restored to the prairies, and KMBZ might not get another critical caller until May. Welcome to Kansas City, Mark Davis.