After 29-Year Playoff Drought, Kansas City Rallies Behind Royals

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(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Fans who root for the team that leads the league in empty space in the trophy case have to like the Kansas City Royals. The Royals last won the World Series in 1985. Before that, it was...well, before that it was never.

Sam Mellinger, who covers the Royals for the Kansas City Star, joined Bill Littlefield.

BL: Sam, you said in a recent column that the Royals are embracing new-found success “like an honor.” Explain, please.

[sidebar title="Cards-Giants: NLCS Rematch " width="630" align="right"] The 2014 NLCS features a pair of familiar franchises: the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the San Francisco Giants. [/sidebar]

SM: Yeah I mean, if this group of baseball players was doing the exact same thing that they're doing for the Royals — if they were doing it for the Tigers or the Angels or the Cardinals or some other team like that it would be all about them.

With this team — we always say 29 years without the playoffs — but that doesn't do the whole thing justice, I don’t think. It's 29 years, basically, without sniffing the playoffs. And these guys have completely embraced that, and they love hearing stories of fans.

There are babies who've been born since the last Royals’ last playoff appearance who have grown up and are now doctors. And the players have embraced that. They love it. And I think they really have a sense that this is bigger than them and they dig it.

BL: Royals fans have been described as "starved for success." How are they responding to what the Royals have accomplished already and what more they still may do?

SM: All that losing had sort of been a wet blanket over a fanbase. In the last few weeks especially, it's just been remarkable. I mean the crowd for the wildcard game against the A's — it was unbelievable how loud it was. James Shields said that when he walked out to the mound before the game to throw the first pitch that he could feel the ground shake it was so loud. And it was like that around town. I mean I could give you a hundred stories the last two or three weeks that you never would have seen over the last 20 years.

BL: Last year teen pop sensation Lorde released a song called "Royals" that was inspired by a photo of Royals legend George Brett. Lorde and Brett met in April. I wonder, can we give all the credit for K.C.'s deep playoff run to a teenage singer-songwriter from New Zealand?

When it comes to suffering over a long period of time, there aren’t a lot of franchises that the Royals will take a backseat to.

Sam Mellinger, Kansas City Star

SM: That was big news around the Royals when that happened. To me that was another moment where you kind of realize how long this franchise has gone. I mean George Brett is an old man. You know, I think he's 60 [ed note: Brett is 61]. You know he has no idea who that is. There’s this song about something that happened way before she was born. You look at that picture, and it’s just like, “Wow, it has been forever.”

BL: You’ve noted that the Royals, who don't hit a lot of home runs, beat the league's most productive offense when they swept the Angels. What does that lead you to think Kansas City is going to against the Orioles?

SM: You know, the Orioles — this isn’t exactly the team that won 96 games in the American League East. They're without Manny Machado and Matt Wieters, but they're still a really good team. They’ve got good starting pitching, a really, really good bullpen, they play great defense — a lot of the things that the Royals do.  So I don't know. It's a coin flip. But to me I have no idea which way to lean.

BL: I would imagine that Orioles fans are saying, "Hey, it's been a long time since we won the World Series, too." But Kansas City's got 'em beat in that respect. 

SM: It's actually been longer since they've won the World Series. It was ’83, I think, for the Orioles, but they've been in the playoffs since then — two years ago. Yeah, when it comes to suffering over a long period of time, there aren’t a lot of franchises that the Royals will take a backseat to.

 Earlier MLB Postseason Coverage:

This segment aired on October 11, 2014.


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