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Baseball drowned

The rain continues to fall in Kansas City, and because Mother Nature will not back off, there will be no baseball at Kauffman Stadium tonight. Game three of the American League championship series between the Royals and Orioles has been postponed. It will simply be played at 7:07 p.m. tomorrow, when game four was supposed to start. Game four is now set for 3:07 p.m. Wednesday, and if a fifth game is needed, it will be played at 3:07 Thursday.

Got to Buffalo Wild Wings at 2:30. As can be expected on a wet, windy and rainy Monday, not much action. The management was going to bring in 12 servers if the Royals played tonight, but with the game washed away, they don’t need nearly as many.

It’s Monday, so it means The Pulse at 7 p.m. I finished a meager ninth nationally last week, but it was enough to extend my streak of top-10 finishes to 10 straight. It was the first time since July 14 (did not play July 21) that I was anything but first or second.

Dan and Pam left me some mini cupcakes and a card for my birthday. Alexandra Mullinax left me a cookie cake. Very thoughtful. Too bad Alex and Brittany aren’t going to the Royals game tonight. Tori is behind the bar, Ashley is waiting on me, so all is okay.

Brookville boo-boo

It rained off and on all the way from Kansas City to Brookville yesterday. It would not stop raining in Brookville until late in the second quarter. This made for an interesting night.

I had a rain cover for my camera, and I would have used it, but I could not get my flash over the rain cover, so I ditched the cover. It wasn’t raining that hard.

The bigger problem was my game notes. I always pride myself on being able to keep a running play-by-play of the game even though I’m taking pictures. I’ll take the play-by-play I write down on the sideline and feed it to The Automated Scorebook on my computer, and it will spit the stats out immediately. I would operate TAS live from the press box when I worked for The Advocate, and that saved me so much time, since I didn’t have to sit there and manually add up statistics. I could just print out the stats and play-by-play, write the story, file it, and be done 15-20 minutes following the game.

My first quarter play-by-play from last night almost didn’t make it. It was quite soggy. The second quarter was a struggle, too, but it was because the paper was wet. Fortunately, the rain abated, and the second half was much easier.

I was also glad I brought two jackets. My parka was soaked after the first half, and I changed to my Milwaukee Brewers dugout jacket for the final 24 minutes. Not as warm, but I had two layers over my turtleneck anyway.

Last night’s Smith Center-Ell Saline football game proved two things:

  1. Mother Nature is often a great equalizer.
  2. Special teams matter.

Both points were proven early. A fine punt by Smith Center’s Kody Zabel and excellent coverage by the Redmen following the game’s first offensive possession left the Cardinals marooned inside their own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Ell-Saline quarterback Luiz Antonio Arceo could not handle the muddy football following a low snap, and the Redmen had the ball at the 4.

Nick Lehmkuhl scored two plays later, and just like that, it was Smith Center 7, Ell-Saline 0, and the game wasn’t four minutes old.

Smith Center looked poised to add to its lead when it used a lengthy drive to reach the Ell-Saline 5, but on fourth down, a low snap to Thayne Benoit did not allow the play to come off, and the Cardinals took over on downs. The first half ended with the same 7-0 score.

It took all of 20 seconds of the second half for the score to change.

Arceo fielded the second half kickoff near the left sideline. He found a wall of red shirts and followed them to the middle of the field, and reached the Redmen 3. One play later, he scored on a keeper around the right side. The conversion failed, but it was a new game at 7-6.

The Redmen looked like they would strike right back when Kaden Meitler returned the next kickoff to the Ell-Saline 14, but that drive came up empty when the Cardinals held on downs with a fourth-and-two at the 6. The Smith Center defense held, and following Arceo’s punt, the visitors had the ball at the Ell-Saline 22.

Guess what? No points. Despite first down from the 12, Smith Center couldn’t pick up the first down from there, and then Zabel missed a 22-yard field goal attempt.

The next Smith Center drive did result in points. For the wrong team.

The Redmen again penetrated the red zone, but with the ball at the 18, Meitler fumbled on a run around left end. Ell-Saline linebacker Luke Sheridan spotted the loose ball and picked it up, and began running the other way. Benoit was in position to make the tackle inside the Smith Center 20, but a good block downfield allowed Sheridan to complete an 80-yard touchdown jaunt. Arceo this time was successful on the conversion, which proved to be critical. Ell-Saline led 14-7 at the end of the quarter, although Smith Cneter was driving.

Six plays into the final period, Benoit spotted Zabel open over the middle. His pass got over the outstretched hand of Cody Walters, and after making the catch, Zabel rumbled into the end zone from 34 yards out. Now, if Zabel could convert the extra point, it would be deadlocked with 9:26 to go, and overtime would be a real possibility for the second time in three seasons between the schools.

Except that Zabel missed. There was still 9:26 to go, but the Cardinals still had the lead.

That 14-13 score did not change. Smith Center never got close to scoring again, and its final play was a Benoit pass which was intercepted by Noah Bradley. Despite gaining 64 net yards and picking up just five first downs, going 0-for-8 on 3rd down conversions and losing the time of possession battle by nine minutes, the Cardinals prevailed, winning for the first time in three games vs. Smith Center. The Redmen won 43-8 at Brookville last year and 20-18 in overtime at Smith Center in 2012. In the 2012 game, the Cardinals missed their conversion in overtime after having the ball first; the Redmen scored and Payton Buckmaster ran in the conversion to win.

The Redmen saw their 33-game winning streak in district games ended. They had not lost a disirict game since October 2003 to Norton at home.

More importantly, Smith Center’s string of 11 consecutive state playoff appearances is in trouble. Not only must the Redmen hope the Cardinals lose at least one district game out of three, they must also defeat Bennington and Phillipsburg in the final two weeks. The best hope would be to hope Phillipsburg wins against Republic County and Ell-Saline, and then Smith Center beats the Panthers in the regular season finale Oct. 30 to force a three-way tie. Since Smith Center lost to Ell-Saline by only one point, the Redmen would need to beat Phillipsburg by two to finish among the top two in a three-way tiebreaker. If Ell-Saline beats Phillipsburg, of course, the winner of the Redmen-Panthers game would finish second behind the Brookville boys.

Following the game, I listened to the Royals-Orioles game. Incredibly, Kansas City got TWO MORE home runs in extra innings to win a postseason game. Alex Gordon led off the 10th with a solo shot, and Mike Moustakas added a two-run clout to put the Royals up 8-5. The Orioles scored once in the bottom of the 10th, but Greg Holland shut the door, allowing the Royals to prevail 8-6 and take a 1-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.

It was midnight when I got off I-435 at Missouri Highway 152, so I decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and see who was there. Liz was, and of course she had a big smile when she saw me. Both Morgans, Gilliand (who’s six-plus months pregnant) and Tomec, were there, as was Alexandra Mullinax. Since I was staying only three miles away at the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs, I stayed until a little after 1 before leaving.

Today is going to be hell for the crew at Buffalo Wild Wings. Missouri plays Georgia at 11, the Royals play at 3. LSU plays at 6:30, but who cares?

Baseball+KC=crazy love

Tonight is the calm before the storm in Kansas City. In 24 hours, the Royals will take the field in Baltimore for their first American League Championship Series game since October 16, 1985, when the Royals somehow erased a 3-1 series deficit to the Toronto Blue Jays by winning 6-2 at Exhibition Stadium.

It’s all over the media–TV, radio, newspapers. Kansas City can’t get enough of the Royals. I figured if the Royals ever got good again it would be like this, because for all of the talk about the Chiefs, Kansas City is first and foremost a baseball-mad town. The city was home to one of the most successful Negro League teams for nearly 50 years and saw many a legend pass through, and sadly, many of those legends never saw action in a single Major League Baseball game due to segregation.

One of the Negro League legends who got to the Majors, Satchel Paige, made his last appearance in Kansas City. He pitched three scoreless innings for the Athletics on September 25, 1965 vs. the Red Sox, probably the highlight of the Athletics’ 13 seasons in KC. The Athletics were in tatters when they moved from Philadelphia in 1955, and then went into the toilet when Charles O. Finley bought the club in 1961.

To put it mildly, Finley was an asshole. BIG ASSHOLE. He tried to dick around with the dimensions at Municipal Stadium, and in 1964, he ordered the right field fence to be angled to a point where it stuck out exactly 296 feet from home plate, the same distance it was from the plate to right field at Yankee Stadium. The American League told him to immediately cease and desist. He then moved the fence back to the bare minimum of 325 feet, and the he tried putting a roof hanging 29 feet over the field so it would be effectively 296 feet. Nope. Even with the right field fence at 325 in 1964, Municipal Stadium allowed the most home runs of any park in American League history up until that time. The next year, FInley went 180 degrees in the opposite direction and erected a 40-foot fence in right field. Not surprisingly, Municipal Stadium allowed fewer home runs than any park in the Majors in 1965 and 1966.

Finley was even worse with his Mule, Charlie O. Charlie O. was treated far better than his players and staff, and he was known to poop all over the field, and he his lackeys were expected to pick up the poop.

Kansas City was beyond angry to see the Athletics leave in 1967. So angry, in fact, U.S. Senator Stuart Symington threatened to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption if Kansas City was not given an expansion team by 1971. Kansas City was not on the list of expansion candidates for 1969, but commissioner Spike Eckert and owners, fearing the loss of the antitrust exemption, buckled to Symington’s threat and awarded KC a replacement AL team for ’69.

Luckily for KC, the man who stepped up to own the Royals was 180 degrees from Finley. Ewing Kauffman grew up Kansas City, loved baseball, and had deep pockets to spend the money to attract talent to the Royals. He also was forward thinking in player development, beginning the Royals Academy in 1970. The Academy is long gone, but its legacy will never be forgotten, for it produced dozens of men who one day wore the Royals uniform, most famously Frank White, one of the best defensive second basemen to play the game. White is one of only two Royals players to have his number retired; you can guess the other.

In July 1975, the Royals hired Whitey Herzog as their new manager. Herzog previously managed the Texas Rangers in 1973 before he was fired by another terrible owner, Bob Short, who moved the second incarnation of the Washington Senators to an oversized minor league ballpark halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth in 1972. Arlington Stadium was never suited for Major League Baseball; the only reason Short left DC for north Texas was the only reason any owner moves his or her team: MONEY.

Herzog’s authority in Arlington was undercut by Short, never more so when Herzog was forced to start 18-year old left-handed pitcher David Clyde only three weeks after he was drafted out of Houston’s Westchester High School. Clyde was 18-0 with an 0.18 ERA during his senior season, but no man, no matter how much he dominates in high school, is ready for Major League Baseball without at least getting some seasoning in the minors. Now college players might be ready right away, but high school, no way. Short was desperate to draw people to his crappy park–the Rangers were averaging less than 8,000 fans per game–and so he brought Clyde up immediately. The Rangers had their first sellout when Clyde pitched against the Twins on June 27, 1973, and although Clyde was wild, he won, and Short continued to

When Billy Martin was fired by the Tigers in September 1973, Short put Herzog out of his misery by firing him and hiring Martin. Even though Texas was just 47-91 under Herzog, the White Rat had the Rangers playing much better fundamental baseball, and the team did not get shutout through the first 80 games of that season after being shut out 26 times in 1972, when Texas’ manager was the greatest hitter who ever lived, Ted Williams.

Herzog preferred an aggressive style of baseball, one which emphasized speed. Hit-and-run wasn’t just a novel ploy; it was a means to score runs. And Royals Stadium was perfect for Herzog’s style, with the old, hard artificial turf and power alleys 385 feet from home plate.

Indeed, Herzog had the Royals in the playoffs in his first full season of 1976, winning the first of three consecutive AL West titles in 1976.At that time, only the Mets had experienced more success that soon, winning the 1969 World Series in their eighth season. However, the Mets were  The Royals very nearly got to the World Series on their first postseason try, but Chris Chambliss broke the Royals’ hearts by hitting a home run off Mark Littel on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth in the fifth and deciding game to give the Bronx Bombers a 7-6 victory. The Yankees would again win the ALCS in five in 1977, but this time, New York won games four and five in Kansas City. There were rumors the Royals’ slugging first baseman, John Mayberry, partied all night after the Royals won game three and was too hung over to play game four. In 1978, George Brett hit three home runs in game three at Yankee Stadium, but this time, the Yankees needed only four games to close the ALCS.

After the Royals’ pitching went south in 1979, Herzog was fired and replaced by Jim Frey.Herzog wouldn’t have to wait long to find another job, hired in June 1980 by the other Major League Baseball team in Missouri, the St. Louis Cardinals. He was also the Cardinals’ general manager at first, but relinquished those duties in 1982. As GM, Herzog quickly rebuilt the Cardinals, trading for Bruce Sutter and Ozzie Smith, both of whom are now enshrined in Cooperstown.

KC returned with a vengeance in 1980. Brett was flirting with a .400 batting average deep into August before finishing at .390. Willie Wilson came of age as the Royals’ leadoff man, and Amos Otis enjoyed a renaissance in center field, complimenting a strong pitching staff led by Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura and new closer Dan Quisenberry. The Royals easily won the AL West, then swept the Yankees, who won 103 games under future Royals manager Dick Howser, in the ALCS. Brett’s three-run home run in the eighth inning of game three into the right field upper deck at Yankee Stadium off of Goose Gossage put an excl

Getting to the World Series and winning it are two distinctly different quests. The Royals found that out the hard way against Philadelphia. The Phillies, led by Pete Rose and one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time, Steve Carlton, won the first two games in the City of Brotherly Love. Brett was hampered in game two by a bad case of hemorrhoids, which he had surgically removed when the team returned to Kansas City. Brett was healthy for game three, and KC won that game, and game four as well to even the series.

Philadelphia won game five 3-2, and then took it back home, where the Phillies won game six and the series.

The Royals slipped below .500 in 1983, with the season’s highlight being the Pine Tar Incident at Yankee Stadium. Yankee manager Billy Martin tried to get a ninth inning home run by Brett disqualified because he had too much pine tar on his bat. At first, the umpires called Brett out because the pine tar was higher on the bat than the legal 18-inch limit. Instead, Brett was out and the Yankees won 4-3. Two days later, AL president Lee MacPhail reversed the umpires, upholding the Royals’ protest and ordering the game to resume three weeks later, with Brett’s home run on the board. Brett did not take part in the game following his home run, since he was ejected for attacking the umpires, as was Howser, by now managing the Royals. When the game resumed, it took all of NINE minutes for the Royals to close the game out.

In 1984, the Royals won a weak AL West by holding off the Angels and Twins. They were no match for Detroit in the ALCS, as the Tigers, who started the year 35-5 and won 108 games by time it ended, swept the series three straight. The Tigers would pummel the Padres, Kansas City’s 1969 expansion brethern who did not make the playoffs until that season, in the World Series.

Then came 1985. The Royals and Angels engaged in an exciting season-long race for the AL West title, with KC finally overcoming the Halos late. Nobody gave the Royals much of a chance against the playoff newcomer Blue Jays in the ALCS, and Toronto proved the experts right by winning three of four games.

In past years, the Blue Jays would have been on to the World Series. Not in 1985.

Starting that season, the league championship series were epxanded by commissioner Peter Ueberroth from best-of-five to best-of-seven, largely to increase contributions to the players’ pension fund, which received a cut of the gate from every postseason game.

The Royals took full advantage of the expanded LCS, winning game five in Kansas City behind a Charlie Liebrandt shutout, then going back to Toronto and stunning the Canadians by winning games six and seven at frosty Exhibition Stadium. Hours before the Royals won game seven in Ontario, the Cardinals finished off the Dodgers in six in the NLCS.

The Show-Me Series was here. It was pure euphoria for Missouri sports fans at a time they needed it most. The Chiefs were in the midst of a long, dark period which saw them make one playoff appearance between 1972 and 1989; the football Cardinals relapsed into irrelevance after coming within a missed field goal of winning the NFC East division in 1984 (they would be in Arizona by 1988); the University of Missouri was mired near the bottom of the Big Eight Conference on the gridiron, saved from the cellar only by the pitifulness of Kansas State and Kansas; the Blues would get to the NHL playoffs and flame out year after year; and the state lost the NBA the previous March when the Kings packed up and left Kansas City for Sacramento.

Most expected the Cardinals to win the series. They were there only three years earlier, where St. Louis defeated the Brewers in seven games, and they played in a much tougher division, where they needed every one of their 101 victories to win the NL East by just three games over the Mets. The Cardinals had NL MVP Willie McGee, who led the league with a .353 batting average, and two 20-game winners in John Tudor and Joaquin Andjuar, although the latter won only once in Septebmer and not at all in October. The Cardinals had a good slugger in first baseman Jack Clark, but not much power otherwise. St. Louis was short-handed, however, as rookie left fielder Vince Coleman, who led the league in stolen bases, was out after he broke a bone in his leg when he was run over by the tarpaulin at Busch Stadium prior to game four of the NLCS.

Kansas City had a strong starting pitching rotation (sound familiar), with left-handers Charlie Leibrandt, Danny Jackson and Bud Black complimenting ace right-hander Bret Saberhagen. George Brett was still a feared hitter, and Willie Wilson gave the Royals the better leadoff man in the Series.

St. Louis won the first two games at Kansas City, but both were close, 3-1 and 4-2. When the series shifted east on I-70, the Royals turned to Saberhagen, and he handcuffed the Redbirds 6-1, although many in St. Louis felt AL umpire Jim McKean squeezed Cardinal pitchers while giving Saberhagen a generous strike zone, a claim which was not totally refuted by Herzog.  St. Louis appeared to bounce back by winning game four 3-0 behind Tudor, but the Cardinals were crushed in game five 6-1, sending the series west.

Then came the infamous game six. St. Louis took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, and it appeared they were two outs away from the title when Jorge Orta hit a soft groudn ball to Clark. Clark’s throw to closer Todd Worrell was in plenty of time, but first base umpire Don Denkinger–American League–called Orta safe. The Cardinals then fell apart, as catcher Darrell Porter, an ex-Royal and the MVP of the 1982 Series with the Cardinals, committed a passed ball, and Clark dropped a catchable foul pop-up. Kansas City took full advantage, with former Cardinal Dane Iorg lacing a two-run single to right field to score the tying and winning runs to force the seventh game.

Game seven was a disaster for the Cardinals. Tudor was ineffective, and after he was taken out in the third, he went into the clubhouse and badly cut his left hand on an electric fan. The Royals took the lead early on a Darryl Motley two-run home run in the second , and kept pouring it on, rubbing salt in the Cardinals’ wounds by scoring six runs in the fifth. In that inning, Herzog was ejected for screaming at Denkinger, telling him “We wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t missed the (freaking) call last night!” One pitch later, Andjuar was ejected and had to be restrained from going after Denkinger. Final: Royals 11, Cardinals 0. Kansas City’s finest sporting moment since Super Bowl IV.

Sadly, it all went south right away. Howser was diagnosed with brain cancer in June 1986, and he would die one year later. Brett and Saberhagen would stick around and continue to be productive, but the Royals soon faced the new economic realities of baseball, and by 1994, when the strike hit, they had been relegated to also-ran status. KC fell below .500 in 1995, finished last in its division for the first time in ’96, and by 2002, the Royals would begin a five-year stretch in which they lost 100 or more games four times.

It wasn’t until 2013 that the Royals fully rebounded, going 86-76 thanks to a strong second half. Now, they stand just four wins away from their first World Series since I was 9 years old. If the Royals can make the World Series, Kansas City will go bonkers. If the Royals WIN the World Series, look out.

Tuesday at The K

The Royals’ bid to win the American League Central division championship just died in Detroit, where the TIgers wrapped up a 3-0 victory over Minnesota. Kansas City will have to settle for the first wild card and a meeting with either Oakland or Seattle Tuesday at 7 p.m.

It will be the first postseason game in Kansas City since Game 7 of the 1985 World Series, and the first for the Royals since that night, a span of 10,564 days without playoff baseball for the franchise. The national media will begin its descent upon Kansas City later tonight and continue throughout tomorrow when the Royals work out at Kauffman Stadium. It would have been convenient for the media to drive across I-70 from Kansas City to St. Louis for the NL Wild Card game, but it looks like they will be hopping flights from KCI to Pittsburgh Wednesday morning. Good luck with that. Or I guess those media members will be flying to Anaheim in advance of the wild card game’s winner facing the Angels in the division series.

This leaves the Toronto Blue Jays as the MLB team with the longest playoff drought, which extends back to Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, when Joe Carter hit a three-run home run off of the Phillies’ Mitch Williams in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Canadian franchise to its second consecutive championship. I do not rank that home run anywhere among my top 10, or my top 25. First, it was in Game 6, not Game 7. Second, the Blue Jays were up 3 games to 2, so there was game 7 if Philadelphia won. Third, the Blue Jays were heavily favored. I’m sick of hearing how great Carter’s home run was. Bull.

MLB’s second act at its end

The 162nd game of the Major League Baseball season will be meaningful for four teams in particular, maybe more.

NOTE: the second act is the regular season. The first is spring training, the third is the postseason. At least I can spin it that way.

The Central divisions of both leagues are still in question. The Tigers in the American League and Cardinals in the National League each have a one-game lead, but both missed opportunities to close out today.

Detroit lost its second consecutive game at home to last place Minnesota, 6-1, while St. Louis fell in Phoenix to the Majors’ worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-2.

The Pirates came back from an early 3-0 deficit in Cincinnati and went to extra innings, but the Reds’ Todd Frazier launched a grand slam in the bottom of the 10th to doom Pittsburgh, 10-6. The Pirates must win tomorrow and the Cardinals must lose to Arizona to force a one-game playoff Monday in St. Louis. Regardless of what happens, the Pirates will be no worse than a wild card and play the Giants in the one-game playoff.

The Royals almost came back, but left a runner stranded in the ninth as they lost to the White Sox in Chicago, 5-4. If the Royals and Tigers end up tied, the playoff is Monday in Detroit. The worst that can happen to the Royals is the wild card game is in Kansas City. It will be the first playoff game at Kauffman Stadium since October 27, 1985,, the night the Royals won the World Series by blowing away the Cardinals 11-0. Back then, the stadium was known as Royals Stadium, the playing surface was artificial–the hard stuff, not the rubbery faux grass you see today–the seats were hard red plastic, and there was no replay screen, although there was the original crown scoreboard in center field.

Oakland still has a hold on the second wild card, but just barely. If Seattle can oust the Angels tonight, it will come down to tomorrow. The Athletics would have to lose and the Mariners would have to win, but there would still be hope in the Pacific Northwest. Every eye in Seattle and Washington State would be watching the M’s, because the Seahawks have a bye tomorrow.

The Brewers FINALLY clinched a winning season tonight by beating the Cubs 2-1. Milwaukee was 73-58 on the morning of August 25, and it has gone 9-21 since. Ouch. Pittsburgh was six games out of first on that earlier date.

Gift bearer

I was a good guy today. I drove from Tiffany Springs Parkway all the way to 119th Street in Overland Park to stop at The Cheesecake Factory and Lukas Liquors. The only thing I picked up for myself were two six-packs of Abita root beer.

I got three slices of cheesecake–two red velvets for Elizabeth Psenski and Brittany Davidson, and Kahlua for Jaclyn Blankenship. God I love Kahlua and was tempted to eat it myself, but I figured it would do my heart and mind good to give it to her. I bought Brittany some more beer so she and her fiance Zach can celebrate her birthday Saturday. I won’t be able to be in Kansas City Saturday due to the volleyball matches going on.

The Royals lost the completion of the suspended game to the Indians 4-3. They scored once in the bottom of the 10th and had a runner on second,, but Omar Infante popped up to shortstop. The Royals got out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the first of the regularly scheduled game and lead 1-0 in the second.

The Bears and Jets are the Monday Night Football game. Meh. There’s been better and there’s been worse. The Bears have a good offense and a bad defense, and the Jets have a bad offense and a good defense. If they could combine the Bears’ offense and Jets’ defense, that would be an unbeatable combination.

The Pulse, Buzztime’s sports trivia game, starts at 7 p.m. I’m going for my fourth consecutive national high score. I fell to #2 last time I tried for four in a row.

KC’s magnificent Monday

Indeed, Kansas City is a happy place this Monday. The Chiefs and Royals were the lead stories on the news both last night and so far today.

The Royals are in Cleveland battling Jack Krier’s Indians, first completing the suspended game from August 31 which the Tribe leads 4-2 going into the bottom of the 10th, and then starting the regularly scheduled three-game set.

The Chiefs have to be kicking themselves after playing so poorly against a bad Tennessee Titans team on opening day. The TItans have looked beyond pitiful in losing to the Cowboys and Bengals the last two weeks. The Texans reverted to form against the Giants yesterday, and if the Colts don’t walk away with the AFC South, Chuck Pagano should be fired. It may be one of the worst divisions since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The worst which comes to mind was the 1975 NFC West, where the Rams were 12-2, the 49ers were 5-9, Falcons 4-10 and Saints 2-12.

It is a nearly perfect day outside…no clouds, temperatures hovering near 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit)…and I’m stuck inside writing up stuff from last week. Oh well, it’s been my Monday routine pretty much every fall, winter and spring since September 2005, so why stop now? At least I can bring my computer and work at Buffalo Wild Wings between rounds of trivia and food. It’s been a good day so far.

I’ve got a run to make across the metro to get something for Brittany Davdison. Her birthday is Saturday, but I can’t be in Kansas City, because I’ve got a volleyball tournament at Hoisington to cover, and I might also pick up one of Russell’s matches in Lyons. Tomorrow, I’m driving on US 36 from St. Joseph to Kensington to watch Thunder Ridge and Natoma play, along with Pike Valley of Scandia and Courtland, two tiny towns on 36 between Belleville and Mankato.

Happy town

Kansas City should be a very happy place tomorrow. The Royals won to avoid a sweep by Detroit and stay tied for an American League wild card playoff berth, and the Chiefs picked up their first victory of 2014 by dominating the Dolphins in Miami 34-15.

Tomorrow could be very different, at least for the Royals. They travel to Cleveland, where they first must play the bottom of the 10th inning from the August 31 game in Kansas City which was suspended when heavy rain made Kauffman Stadium’s surface unplayable. The Indians scored twice in the top of the 10th to take a 4-2 lead. After that gets done, there’s the regularly scheduled game. The Royals might find themselves hurting if they can’t win the regularly scheduled game, because I doubt they can score two runs with three out.

The afternoon NFL games are done. There are three remaining undefeated teams; Eagles, Bengals and Cardinals. That’s right the ARIZONA CARDINALS are 3-0 following a 23-14 victory over San Francisco at home. The Big Red holds a game lead over Seattle and two over San Francisco in the hyper competitive NFC West, where it’s going to take at least 12 wins to claim the division, and that may not be enough.

I’ve been at Buffalo Wild Wings since opening. I probably should have left a long time ago,, but I have been surprisingly productive sitting here while watching football and playing trivia. I’ve finished my two stories on Smith Center football and one on Smith Center volleyball, and I’ve started my column, which will be easy to write this week because of all that’s going on.

It’s been a pretty good day. Elizabeth Psenski worked from opening until 2:45, when she mercifully got to go home. She worked two double shifts the previous two nights. Brittany Davidson popped in for a few minutes, but I didn’t get her the Abita beer I bought her, but at least she’s here tomorrow. Brittany Mathenia-Tucker, Alex Mullinax and Tori Weber are all here right now. I probably should go, but then again, I would hate to leave them. Either way, it’s been good.

The weather is beautiful outside. I hope it holds up for Friday’s trip to Norton. I’m almost too afraid to look at the weather report.

Labor Day slipping away

Where is the time going on Labor Day? It’s already after 6 p.m. I guess my time is winding down in Kansas City. Back to Russell soon enough. I probably should drive back tonight to Russell and save the hotel points or money, but if I do stay, I can get some work done, finish it off, then drive back from 10 to 2 at a more leisurely pace. I have a decision to make. Soon.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ rapid freefall continued today at Wrigley Field. Their 4-2 loss to the Cubs, plus the Cardinals’ 5-4 victory over the Pirates in St. Louis, puts Milwaukee out of first place, whether it be tied or alone, for the first time since the first week of the season. I didn’t expect the Brewers to make the postseason after their fast start, but for it to be happening now is a little distressing. I’m doing my best not to get emotional over it, and so far, I haven’t.

The Royals were spared by Mother Nature early this morning when heavy thunderstorms suspended their game with Cleveland. The Indians scored twice in the top of the 10th to take the lead when the game was halted. The game will now resume in Cleveland Sept. 22, since the Indians don’t visit Kansas City again this season. Luckily this was a division game, or else the Royals might have had a hard time getting the game resumed.

Prior to 2006, the game would have been declared a tie, Under baseball’s official rules, when the visiting team breaks a tie and the home team cannot take its turn at bat, the game reverts to the last completed inning. That would have forced the game to start over, even though the statistics would count.

The Royals host Texas at 7:10.

This is the last Monday without the NFL until December 29. There is a college game on tonight, Miami at Louisville, the Cardinals’ first in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Royal spotlight

The Royals are taking on the Indians in the final game of the weekend series at Kauffman Stadium. Cleveland won the first two games of the series, 6-1 Friday and 3-2 in 11 innings last night.

Why is this significant? It’s not because the Royals are playing the Indians, it’s WHEN the Royals are playing the Indians.

Sunday night.

For the first time that I can remember, the Kansas City Royals are featured on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, meaning people from San Diego to Bangor and Seattle to Key West can flip their televisions to ESPN and watch Major League Baseball live from the City of Fountains and its beautiful ballpark, which looks a heck of a lot different than the last time ESPN broadcast a Sunday night game from Kansas City.

The Sunday Night game invariably is skewed to feature the popular teams of Major League Baseball. The Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs, Braves and Mets all make multiple appearances per season. In fact, if the Yankees and Red Sox play a weekend series, you can almost be certain the Sunday game will air on ESPN.

The Royals have been so bad for so long ESPN has had no compelling reason to put them in the Sunday night slot. Since ESPN began televising Major League Baseball in 1990, the Royals have had only FOUR winning seasons out of 24, and one of those was the strike-shortened year of 1994, when the final 47 games and the playoffs were wiped out. The four winning seasons matches the number of 100-loss seasons the Royals have suffered through in that period; those occurred within five years (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006).

Tonight, the Royals get to strut their stuff for the sporting public. And tonight is a good night to do it, since starting next week, most sports fans will tune to NBC for Sunday Night Football, and baseball will be on the back burner, except for St. Louis and a couple of other places.

The Royals lead 1-0 n the top of the third. They’d better get this game in, because there is a line of very heavy rain marching east. The leading edge is at Manhattan right now, meaning it should arrive in Kansas City between 9:30 and 10. Yikes.