Brown, DeSpain recall 1985 World Series
On this day, 20 years ago, the Kansas City Royals won the 1985 World Series, only one day after the controversial call by umpire Don Denkinger in game six.
After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the Royals rallied back to win game five against the St. Louis Cardinals to make the series 3-2.
Baker University professor Tony Brown, lifetime Cardinals fan, said he doesn't recall the games in the series being outstanding.
"I don't remember the quality of games being all that great," Brown said. "It was a lot of pitching. The games were fairly low scoring until the last one."
After dominating game five, Kansas City was still faced with a must-win situation in its next game.
The night of Oct. 26, 1985, is one night Cardinals' fans will never forget. They were three outs away from a World Series Championship, when a call by Denkinger changed the entire series.
Royals' pinch hitter Jorge Orta hit a groundball that was picked up by the Cardinals' first baseman and tossed to the pitcher at first base. Denkinger called Orta safe, even though everybody knew he should have been out, which replays later showed.
"That play was just the beginning of disillusion of the Cardinals," said Brown. "The image I have in my mind is Tommy Herr showing the umpire how the pitcher touched the base. The umpire just looked at him going 'I don't think so.'"
The Rev. Ira DeSpain, Baker University minister, was at game six, sitting in the upper deck of Royals Stadium down the third base line.
"The ninth inning of that game was a huge thing," DeSpain said. "He was obviously out, but he got called safe."
DeSpain got tickets to the game at the last minute, and he wasn't going to pass up the chance to watch a World Series game.
"I was leading worship in church the following day, so I knew that I couldn't yell and scream, because I had to save my voice for worship," DeSpain said. "I had to sit there through this incredibly tense and tight game and not say a thing. The emotion of it all started to show, as tears started coming down my cheeks. I was crying, because that's all I could do."
Brown was watching the game at a friend's house as he was in graduate school that year. He remembers his friends being nice to him after the game, but he doesn't remember much else about that ninth inning.
"The fact is championship teams don't fall apart like that," Brown said. "Denkinger missed the call, but a good team would have forgot about it. The rest of that inning was sort of a blur to me, as I was thinking this is not happening."
After Orta's single, the Royals hit into two outs before having a bunt and walk load the bases. Then Dan Lorg hit a single that scored the two runners, giving the Royals a 2-1 victory and tying the series at 3-3.
"The next day I can remember getting together with my friends to watch the game," Brown said. "I was thinking 'yeah I will watch this but I know it's going to be a train wreck, because of what happened the night before.'"
Winning the series
In game seven, Kansas City crushed St. Louis 11-0 to win the World Series.
DeSpain remembers how game seven wasn't even close.
"That game was completely lopsided," DeSpain said. "The Cardinals' starting pitcher got thrown out of the game for arguing. It wasn't even a contest."
DeSpain said he always wondered how it felt to have a favorite team win a championship and 20 years ago he found the answer.
"I've been a baseball fan my whole life and only one other time in my life had a team I was rooting for been in the World Series," DeSpain said. "I had always wondered what it would feel like to have a world championship team. When the game was over, I went outside and thought about this is what it feels like. It felt pretty good."
There are two vivid memories that DeSpain has from the seventh game.
"I remember Darrell Motley catching the last out in game seven in right field," DeSpain said. "I also remember the signature picture of (Bret) Saberhagen and George Brett hugging near the pitching mound after the game."
Brown thought the series was special, especially for the state of Missouri.
"I thought the I-70 series was a great story with them both being from Missouri," Brown said. "The Royals actually outplayed them, but the Cardinals were able to squeak a few wins out."
"The I-70 World Series of 1985 was a great rivalry that swept across Eastern Kansas to Missouri."
DeSpain also pointed out two aspects of the series that really helped Kansas City. The first was Cardinals' leadoff hitter Vince Coleman was hurt right before the series and was unable to play any of the games. The other was that 1985 was the first year the World Series and the league championship series were moved from best-of-five games to best-of-seven games.
The Royals fell down 3-1 to Toronto in the American League Championship Series and to St. Louis in the World Series. If the series had been a year before, Kansas City wouldn't have made it to the World Series.
Since it has been 20 years since the series, Brown expected more coverage on the event.
"I thought everybody would be talking about it, since it's the 20th anniversary," Brown said. "I think it's odd people aren't talking about it. If I had been at game six, like Ira (DeSpain), I would be talking about it. That would be on my mind right now, because that is one of those signature moments in a sports fan's life."
Brown knows how sports fans may only get one chance to witness a championship with their team, so he thinks this series should mean more in Kansas City.
"This is such a rare thing, that if you are a sports fan and you are really devoted to your team, then you hang on to that," Brown said. "You say that is something worth remembering."
A lot has changed for both organizations since the 1985 series, with the biggest difference being the number of wins.
The Cardinals have been playoff contenders and in the World Series recently, while the Royals are struggling to reach a .500 record.
"I do wish for the intrastate rivalry that the Royals would get better," Brown said. "It would be healthy for this region and the state of Missouri. It would be fun to be in a place where they are talking about baseball in September."
DeSpain feels the rivalry between the two teams is more for Kansas City fans than it is for Cardinals' fans.
"I think it means more to the Royals and their fans when the Royals beat the Cardinals than it means to the Cardinals to beat the Royals," DeSpain said.
The Cardinals lost in game six of the National League Championship Series last Thursday night. Last year St. Louis reached the World Series and lost to the Boston Red Sox.
Brown said this is one decade his team has been successful, but he fears the upcoming years.
"With the Cardinals, it's sort of every other decade they are good," Brown said. "This is the decade to be a Cardinals fan. I am not looking forward to the 2010s."
Thursday's game was the last played at Busch Stadium, which was a place that served as memories for Brown.
"A lot of my memories growing up were in Busch Stadium, going to games when I was a kid," Brown said. "I haven't been there in a decade or so, but I think the plans for the new stadium look good."
Though Royals' fans don't have much to cheer about, anybody who was around from 1975 to 1985, know the Royals were once a good ball club.
"Those 10 or 11 years were the golden years of Royals' baseball," DeSpain said.