McGregor: 50 years ago, Royals helped Kansas City redefine itself

From Andrew McGregor at US Sport History on April 2, 2018:

t wasn’t a strike, but the crowd didn’t mind. The 17,688 in attendance on that gray, cloudy Tuesday afternoon could not contain their enthusiasm. As the ball sailed towards home plate, they stood and roared. Senator Stuart Symington had delivered on his promise, and now, with his first pitch, baseball had officially returned to Kansas City.

After a year without baseball, Kansas City fans got their money’s worth that day. Lou Piniella, who went on to win the 1969 American League Rookie of the Year award, collected the franchise’s first hit (a double to left field) in the team’s first at bat. He scored on the next play, pushing the Royals to an early lead. Although the Twins fought back, the Royals prevailed after twelve innings.

Fans and long-time baseball observers lauded baseball’s return to Kansas City, but they had tempered expectations. “The Royals are expected to continue the city’s tradition of second-division finishes,” the New York Times’ Neil Amdur wrote. The absence of Charlie O. Finely and his controversial antics, however, provided the city with a new opportunity to do things the right way. “The best thing to do is clear the air and start from scratch,” Elgin Smith believed. Mrs. Joe Tate agreed. “It’s better for all concerned. Mr. Finley always seemed to be at war with the City Council, the mayor, or somebody.”The new team gave Kansas City a chance to build a new image.

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Originally published: April 2, 2018. Last Updated: April 2, 2018.