Going to a Royals’ game at the old Municipal Stadium at 22nd & Brooklyn was always an adventure. Parking was all of 50 or 75 cents and usually meant parking in someone’s front or back yard on Brooklyn or Park Avenues adjacent to the old stadium that, by the time it closed permanently in 1973, had seen its glory days fade into history.
In 1967, voters in Jackson County approved the bonds for Truman Sports Complex, which featured a football stadium for the Kansas City Chiefs and a baseball stadium for the Kansas City Athletics, whose owner, Charles O. Finley had just signed a new lease to remain in Kansas City. However, before the ‘68 baseball season, Finley packed up his A’s in the middle of the night along with the team mule, nicknamed Charley-O, and moved them to Oakland, CA where a sparkling new stadium awaited them. After being threatened by Missouri Senator Stuart Symington for the revocation of Major League Baseball’s antitrust agreement, the league granted four expansion franchises, Kansas City among them.
After three seasons in Municipal Stadium, the Kansas City Royals moved to their brand new stadium for the 1973 season. They defeated the Texas Rangers 21-1 on Opening Day. The stadium complex was originally designed with a rolling roof that would cover either Royal’s or Arrowhead stadiums in case of inclement weather. That plan however, although revisited during a 2007-2009 bond campaign to renovate the stadiums, died on the floor of the budget room, never to be seen again. It was during the passage of the bond issue in 2009 by county voters that the name was changed from Royals Stadium to Kauffman Stadium or “The K” to honor longtime owner Ewing Kauffman.
The first World Series game in Royals Stadium was held October 17, 1980, against the Philadelphia Phillies. Then again in 1985, the stadium was home to a World Series, this time with the Cardinals from St. Louis. Dubbed the I-70 Series, the Royals clinched a Series win in Game 7 on October 27, 1985. The jury is still out as to whether umpire Don Denkinger or St. Louis pitcher Juaquin Andujar had anything to do with giving the Royals their first World Series title.
The K would endure a twenty-nine year drought until post season games would be played again inside its confines. In 2014 and 2015 the Royals secured a berth for the World Series, losing to the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 Series, then in 2015, miraculously defeating the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS to meet the New York Mets for the championship. They closed the Mets out in five games to win their second World Series title.
The stadium is a survivor of sorts, being the sixth-oldest ballpark in the majors and the only park in the American League to be named for a person. Additionally, it is one of ten stadiums in the majors that does not have a corporate-sponsored name.
This year the Royals, led by new Skipper Mike Matheny, will open their abbreviated season at The K on July 31 in a game against the Chicago White Sox. The league is still trying to figure out how to reproduce fan noise in order to make the experience more real for the players, another weird twist thanks to the COVID-19 virus. Stay tuned.