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Special October Memories

Nov 04, 2014 -- 1:57pm

By Danny Clinkscale

For a whole lot of America, and here in Kansas City, the Royals Cinderella run to the seventh game of the World Series was the greatest story you can imagine. But unfortunately, if you look at it without Royal Blue glasses, it was clearly the October of Madison Bumgarner. As I look back on a wildly crazy month, of 14-18 hour work days (about the best work days you can imagine), I'll give you a little baseball, a little behind the scenes, and maybe something you would never imagine would be memorable.

 
     Clearly Mad Bum is probably about as popular as Mad Cow here in Kansas City, but  he was perhaps the most dominating figure I have ever watched in person in my entire  lengthy career. In October he was clearly Ruthian, Jordanesque, Orr-like, in his transedence  of a team sport where this is not supposed to happen. While Royals fans were not paying much attention, and really, they didn't need to, Bumgarner was throwing a shutout in the Wild Card game, actually lost a game to Washington while pitching well, and then pitched brilliantly in two Giants wins over the Cardinals.
 
     So we kind of should have been ready, but really could you be ready for 21 innings, 9 hits, 1 measly run, 1 walk and 17 strikeouts???????? And the last five of those innings on two 'days rest. At one point in the final game, a shot of the dugout showed Bumgarner in the dugout yawning.....seemingly like the best kid at the playground about 5 o'clock saying "Y'all really wanna keep on tryin' to hit me, or you want to go home and grab some dinner, cuz I'll stay and get you out, but......really, now". The final game was awe inspiring, although for us it was spelled "awww".
 
     Besides that otherworldly performance, and the joy that the Royals team gave the great fans of Kansas City who deserved it so much, I have an unusual memory from this whole month that will for sure stay with me.....Phyllis. That's all I know her as, an elderly, white haired woman
from New York. She was the lady that you heard running all of the American League press conferences, running them with a firm, perhaps stern, but always professional demeanor. I don't know this, but I imagine she has been doing this for 30 years or more. She had no concept
whatsoever of the technology we were using, or at least trying to, and was really a person from a different time, but I actually grew to like her.
 
     Which was strange, since we couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. At the first press day I covered in Baltimore, the media session was to be on the suite level at Camden Yards, It was a huge level with about five restaurant areas. But Phyllis wouldn't let us up there. I just wanted
to work a bit and have my lunch in a room far away, but she actually hunted me down and kicked me out of there. Of course I didn't know she was PHYLLIS, American League press honcho, I thought she was just some old lady running the suites with a silly iron fist. I was pissed and she knew it.
    
     Then the first actual press conference came, and there was Phyllis, running the show in her strong New York accent. I went up and told her afterwards that I didn't want to get off to a bad start. She acted as if nothing had happened, and said "No bad start....and you asked a very professional question...professionally". Quite a few of the media folks weren't real fond of Phyllis, but I guess I got her more than others. She soldiered through some sickness in San Francisco, and I was genuinely happy that on the return to Kansas City she looked healthy and vibrant.
 
     Her National League cohort joined us for the World Series. I think her name was Kaye. She was even more unique, although we never struck up a relationahip. Also an older lady, she wore a different hat every day, and her demeanor was kind of like what you might imagine the Diane Keaton characters in Woody Allen movies would be like thirty years later. When recognizing you for a question, you had no idea what
was going on. She shook her head in a combination of ways that said "Yes, you are next....no you are not... or....no chance in hell".
 
     You do remember different things than just ballgames and score and stats when you do this. But you also never forget what a ride like the Royals took us on could do for a city. I truly was uplifted for the long-suffering Royals rooters, who not only got wins, they got epic stories day after day after day. And so did I, and as you can tell, they weren't all on the field.
 
     You treasure these things. I don't know if the Royals will have this happen again, I don't know if I'll see anything like Mad Bum again, I don't know if I'll ever see Phyllis again. But I did in a very special October 2014.

Amid Pro Mania, Area College Trio Tees Up

Sep 24, 2014 -- 1:41pm

By Danny Clinkscale

  We are about to enter one of the business and most exciting fortnights in Kansas City sports ever. That of course is barring a Royals collapse. So with The Chase for the Sprint Cut at Kansas Speedway, Monday Night Football, and post season baseball for the first time in a generation, it would be easy to forget about college football. So it's a good time to assess where our area  programs are at, heading into the conference season for MU and KU, and for K-State, one more non-con against UTEP this Saturday, and then off they go in the Big 12 the rest of the way.

 
     Let's check the pulse, and, hey, for the time being KU has one. While a relatively close win over Central Michigan is hardly anything to hold a parade over, but let's put this in context. Kansas was a 3.5 point favorite over a team that had just been beaten at home 40-3. These are desperate times, and with Charlie Weis' seat hot enough that some thought he might be fired last Saturday if they fell. The game was tied entering the fourth, but KU got it done.
 
     Saturday will give us an indication if Kansas is gaining traction, or is just a team  that can squeak one out agains a MAC team. Texas comes to Lawrence, and the Longhorns have their issues. But let's also remember that in their last game they went to the wire with a top ten team in UCLA. So if Kansas actually did manage to knock off the Longhorns as a two touchdown underdog, it would be a real sign of progress.
 
     I'm dubious. Kansas popped a couple of big plays but still had a pallid 360 yards of offense and 24 points. Their defense looked good last week, but horrible in their only real test at Duke, which they failed miserably. They are fighting some injuries, and I'm still not a Montell Cozart believer. But belief could grow exponentially Saturday.
 
     Kansas State doesn't play on five different Saturdays this fall, and last Saturday was one of those. It came two nights after a missed opportunity for the Cats. They slowed Auburn to just 20 points, but five red zone trips added up to only 14 of their own, leaving Bill Snyder stewing in the post game press conference. It's the kind of game that he doesn't take on too often, and it was clear to me that he really felt that he had come up with the plan to subdue the Tigers, but his players execution failed him.
 
     As usual if you just want to use imperical information, it's kind of hard to judge the 'Cats. They had to roar from behind to squeak past Iowa State after their walkover again SEMO, and then let the Auburn game slip tghrough their fingers. They appear to have mediocrity at running back (QB Jake Waters is the leading rusher), and at wide reciever besides Tyler Lockett. Waters, however, DOES have Lockett and Waters appears dialed in.
 
     The defense was basically awesone against Auburn, after they were pushed around in the first half against the Cyclones. But they pitched a shutout in the second half against ISU, so it's six quarters of pretty salty work on that side of the ball. But, hey, that's just the facts at hand so far thos season. What we know is that virtually every Bill Snyder team gets better. They probably will. It's tough to see them winning the conference when they play at BOTH Oklahoma and Baylor. But I won't ever write them off.
 
     Everything was rosy in Tiger land until Saturday evening, when Indiana concluded their upset of Missouri. The Tigers schedule had ramped up perfectly, they had looked strong in each game, but then an Indian team that had just lost to Bowling Green took down MU. But everything would return to rosy, just four days from now, if Missouri gets the job done down at South Carolina. It would hand the Gamecocks their second league loss, and set up a big one at home against Georgia.
 
     The Tigers have looked somewhat vulnerable on defense, have had a little more trouble running the ball than anticipated, but Maty Mauk, despite the odd goofball decision, was rolling out touchdown passes by the bushel. They have room for growth on both sides of the ball.
 
     Saturday will tell us a lot in Lawrence and Columbia....South Carolina, while the only news we'll get in Manhattan will come if the Cats somehow
stub their toe against UTEP. Uhhhh, no.

Royals Clubhouse A Key Ahead

Jul 09, 2014 -- 1:04pm

By Danny Clinkscale

  The intricate dynamics of a major league baseball clubhouse are on display right now with the Kansas City Royals, and how some of the moves that have caused changes, and perhaps some angst among the ranks pan out, could be a key to this important season.

 
     Fans, and perhaps people like me in the media who follow the team closely, should feel pretty good about the fact that many times things that are being cried out for, are eventually embraced by the front office and the manager. The most recent example would seem to be the fact that many observers, including this one, feel that things have been too cozy in the clubhouse. The first late-to-the-party move that was a bit 
of a shakeup was the long demanded demotion of Mike Moustakas. It was long demanded, albeit short-lived, and frankly seems to have worked a bit.
 
     This past week, the Royals decided to sign Raul Ibanez, and brought up Christian Colon. The Colon move has little ripple effect, but bringing in Ibanez, and handing him significant playing time, certainly does. First, it immediately torpedoed the increased recent playing time of Jarrod Dyson, who had thrived since getting more regular dutydue to the injury to Nori Aoki. Dyson is very good buddies with Eric Hosmer, who is also a player in this recent clubhouse soap opera.
 
     While Dyson is likely grumbling, Hosmer has zero reason for complaint. He has spent all but four at bats this season hitting first or second despite his season which has resulted in the second worst OPS among regular first basemen in the American League. Five A.L first basemen have an OPS over .841, Hosmer is at .661. A few games ago, Billy Butler was sent packing to sixth in the order, and then seventh. That's Billy Butler, with a better track record by a mile, and even in this by far his worst season, with an OPS better than Hosmer's, and coming off a June in which he hit .313.
 
     Billy is clearly cheesed. He tried to sort of take the high road by saying that Ned picked him out because "I can handle it". In my mind, a clear shot at the kid gloves treatment of Hosmer. If you actually don't watch the games you might fire back that Hosmer is proving a point with an eight game hitting streak, but if you have watched you wouldn't want to embrace the bloopers and bleeders that have made it up. The 6'4" 220 pounder first basemen hasn't hit a homer since Father's Day,and recently completed a 74 at bat stretch without an extra base hit. Of course his four homers are twice as many as Butler, whose own homerless streak is actually two days longer than Hosmer's.
 
     Of course this really isn't about revisiting the offensive challenges of the Royals....it's about whether the response to it will  ause some issue within the squad. It seems clear to me that not only was the deperation for offense to the extreme of hiring on a 42-year-old .154 hitter at play, but that management thought that the clubhouse could use a touch of class that Inbanez brings. Well, until he might get sent packing after the All-Star break when Aoki comes back if he doesn't pick it up from the 3-for-22 he has produced so far.
 
     Last year the Royals never were really in the race. This season they clearly are, and how they handle all these things may give us an indication of whether the franchise can be a regular contender. So far, the signs aren't great, but hardly fatal. There does seem to be overt sensitivity, a dollop of panic, and a concern for character. How this plays out will be a very interesting sidebar to what goes on between the lines.

For Cub And Country This Sunday

Jun 20, 2014 -- 7:45pm

     “For Cub and Country” is what the scarves and the signs say around town when the United States plays in the World Cup, an indication of enthusiasm for the club that people support here, obviously Sporting KC, and for the U.S. national team.

 

     That slogan will be on prominent display again Sunday at the Power and Light district and elsewhere as they United States takes on Portugal in their second match of the Cup. Enthusiasm should be even on a higher pitch than it was on Monday, when in reasonably miraculous fashion, the U.S. beat Ghana 2-1. Basically from the time that Clint Dempsey scored in the first minute until John Brooks scored the winner from Graham Zusi in the 86th minute, Ghana completely had the run of play. No problem, just a reason for greater celebration when the U.S. got the winner.

 

     Even though Portugal got trashed by Germany, the U.S. will have to play much better against Ronaldo and his mates Sunday, and they will probably have to take a different tack as well with Josey Altidore out with a bad hamstring.

 

     Many of you are at this point not reading this, or starting to say why do I care. You are a dwindling number. Here in Kansas City on Monday, the red hot Royals were starting a series for first place with the Tigers, and more people watched the soccer match than the baseball game. Of course, this isn’t just about a soccer match, it certainly is in part because it is the U.S. I’m sure there are more than a few folks who watched who never watch any other soccer. But that number no doubt is shrinking as well.

 

     Having a vantage point from the stage and watching the party at the P and L was fabulous fun, and I wouldn’t miss it Sunday for the world. As you gathered from my last blog, my enthusiasm for the beautiful game has increased about ten fold in the last four years, and watching the great quality of play in this World Cup is only accelerating it.

 

     I am familiar with many of the players now from all countries from watching the top leagues around the world, and the national pride and enthusiasm is infectious. Just like in the Olympics, there are many things off the field of competition that can be criticized very rightly. But I really get the luxury of just watching the games.

 

     One of the very best things about the Cup is that none of the games overlap. They are all stand alone. It creates a special feeling for each one.

 

     I was very much looking forward to the World Cup going in, and it is far exceeding even my own high expectations. I’m can’t  say how glad I am that it lasts so long.

World Cup Excitement in KC Has Changed

Jun 04, 2014 -- 5:43pm

By Danny Clinkscale

 

The World Cup is just about upon us, and the excitement level of this sports fan and the soccer fans of Kansas City tells us so much about how the sports landscape in our town has changed.

 
     In 2010, there was a fairly healthy dose of attention to the Cup, and true excitement  when Landon Donovan's dramatic goal got the United States out of group play. I remember  eing at the 810 zone as everyone went crazy. Robb Heinemann yesterday on "Between the Lines" noted that big crowds at the P and L had convinced him that soccer was going to start to take hold.
 
     But at that same time Sporting was still playing at Community American Ballpark,and they were still the Wizards, and they were playing to far smaller crowds than the consecutive sellouts they play in front of now. In the time since, I have traveled twice to England, first later that very year, when I decided just for kicks since I was reading about "football" so much over there, that I would pick a favorite Premier League team. In large part I picked Arsenal since golfer Ian Poulter tweeted about them.
 
     I never heard much talk then from many people about having a favorite team internationally, but with each passing year it happens more and more, even in listening to strangers perhaps make a mentiion of Man U, or Chelsea, or whatever.
 
     Much of this has been fueled of course by the change to the Sporting brand, here in Kansas City. And of course the incredible experience at Sporting Park, fueled by winning, but also by it being the new cool place to be. It would have to be said as well, that all that winning, in a success vacuum over the past few years for the Royals and the Chiefs, was vital.
 
     My interest level and enjoyment of the beautiful game was already increasing, but my job really helped, when I did two late season Sporting playoff games last year. I had never broadcast a soccer game, and I knew well in advance that I would do the games, so I listened to and watched dozens of games in a short period of time as preparation, and my level of enjoyment went up exponentially.
 
     My Saturday and Sunday morning workout sessions have been made tremendously more easy, lengthy, and enjoyable with the start of Premier League broadcasts that began this season on NBC. Yes, you could find the games before if you tried, but this was easy and accessible, even on the
mildest of cable tiers. I think that has also raised the soccer ante more and more.
 
     So here in 2014, the change can be shown in yet another way. On Monday a whole bunch of us'from the radio station, some listeners, and Sporting employees and supporters will gather Monday night for a  World Cup player pool draft. If you asked me five years ago if I would be not only involved in, but seriously fired up about something like that, I would have looked at you like you had three heads.
 
     I can't wait. The games are only two times zones east, so the game times will be better, and knowing so much more about the players and the teams will make it a blast. I'm seriously no expert, really still a novice, but perhaps like many of you, I have found and exciting new place to be a fan.

Moose Can Learn Media Lessons

May 15, 2014 -- 3:24pm

By Danny Clinkscale

WHAT WE SAW AND HEARD YESTERDAY AFTER THE GAME AT KAUFFMAN STADIUM BROUGHT
UP A VERY OLD STORY.....THAT PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES MANY TIMES JUST DON'T GET IT
WHEN IT COMES TO THE MEDIA. SURE THE MEDIA HAS CHANGED, THERE ARE MANY MORE
DIRECT FORUMS, AND WHAT MANY PLAYERS CAN READ ABOUT THEMSELVES ISN'T ACTUALLY
MEDIA, IT'S FANS ON FORUMS LIKE TWITTER COMMENTING ON THEM.
    
     BUT AFTER A GAME, IN THE FORUM OF THE CLUBHOUSE AND THE LOCKER ROOM, ONLY
CREDENTIALED MEDIA CAN BE THERE. WE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO ASK THE
QUESTIONS THAT THE FANS CAN'T. WE ARE THE CONDUIT TO THE FANS, WHO BUY THE
TICKETS, AND THE BEER, AND THE JERSEYS.

     SO WHEN MIKE MOUSTAKUS COMES OUT AFTER THE GAME AND FLAT REFUSES TO ANSWER
QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS GREAT DAY AT THE PLATE, INSTEAD JUST REPEATING THE SAME
ANSWER ABOUT JASON VARGAS, AND DOING IT IN A MANNER THAT WAS CLEARLY PURPOSEFUL
MANNER, IT BRINGS UP THE TOPIC AGAIN.

     FOR THE PLAYERS TO BECOME IRRITATED TO THE POINT THAT THEY FEEL LIKE THEY SHOULD
BE UNPROFESSIONAL IN THEIR DEALINGS WITH THE PEOPLE WHO PROVIDE INFORMATION TO THE
PAYING FANS IS ABSOLUTE BLINDNESS. THE QUESTION HAS BEEN ASKED FOR DECADES NOW, SINCE
ATHLETES BEGAN MAKING MONEY SO OUT OF LINE WITH AVERAGE PEOPLE. DO YOU NOT REALIZE
THAT WITHOUT THE RADIO, TV, PRINT COVERAGE AND RIGHTS FEES AND EXPOSURE, YOU WOULD
NOT BE RICH.

     AND IT'S ONLY GOTTEN BETTER AND BETTER AS THE MEDIA HAS GROWN BIGGER AND BIGGER. WHILE
BASEBALL IS NOT AMERICA'S TOP SPORT ANYMORE, MILLIONS MORE FANS POUR THROUGH THE
TURNSTILES THAN WHEN IT WAS. TWO MILLION FANS IS THE BENCHMARK NOW, NOT A MILLION.
AND THEY ARE PAYING A HIGH FREIGHT, TOO. JUST FOR REFERENCE FOR KC FANS, OUR TODD LEABO
RECENTLY WENT TO A BALLGAME IN ST. LOUIS. HE HAD GOOD SEATS, FIFTEEN ROWS BACK OR
SO, BUT BEYOND THE DUGOUT. FACE VALUE....$132.00.

     THAT'S WHY MIKE MOUSTAKUS CAN GET FIVE MILLION PLUS MERELY FOR BEING DRAFTED, AND A
HALF A MILLION JUST FOR BEING ON A TEAM, UNTIL HE REALLY HITS THE MOTHER LODE. WELL, IF
HE CAN PLAY AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT. SO WITH SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS ALREADY BANKED IN A
CAREER IN WHICH HE HAS ACCOMPLISHED LITTLE, SOMEHOW HE FEELS THE RIGHT TO STAGE AN,
IMMATURE, SELFISH, AND FOOLISH CARTOON ACT IN FRONT OF HIS LOCKER, SOMETHING IS WRONG.

     LOOK HOW A TRUE PRO LIKE JAMES SHIELDS HANDLES THINGS. I'M SURE THERE ARE TIMES
WHEN HE WOUILD RATHER NOT SPEAK TO US, THAT HE THINKS A FOOLISH QUESTION HAS BEEN ASKED,
BUT HE KNOWS IT'S PART OF THE DEAL. HE KNOWS THAT HIS SEVEN FIGURE CONTRACT IS OF COURSE
PART DUE TO HIS ABILITY, BUT ALSO LARGELY DUE TO ALL OF THE ATTENTION THAT ALL OF THE
MEDIA BRINGS TO ALL OF THE FANS.

     HOPEFULLY SHIELDS CAN PROVIDE SOME GUIDANCE TO MOUSTAKUS. HE NEEDS IT.

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