Royals Then and Now

When I think of the summer of 1980, three distinct memories spring to mind.

George Brett chasing .400.

Jimmy Carter chasing Ted Kennedy around a stage.

And me, chasing a dream to break into broadcast news.

After a year as the all night deejay at KAKE Radio in Wichita, at the tender age of 22, I was promoted to the “second shift,” and would spin the adult contemporary hits of the day. Reached the point that summer where if I heard Olivia Newton-John croon “Magic,” one more time, I thought I would surely lose my mind.

Same with Elton John and Little Jeannie. Ditto the Commodores and Still. And how can we ever forget Teri DeSario’s smash 1980 duet with Harry Wayne Casey? (K.C. without the Sunshine Band). Yes, I’m Ready.

To throw up, thank you very much. Thirty-five years later, the earworm lingers.

Tried to sneak some genuine rock ‘n roll into the mix once. Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders Brass in Pocket. Caught hell from the “Music Director,” another deejay a few years older than me whose job it was the police the rest of us to make sure we adhered strictly to the carefully-honed adult comtemporary playlist.

When April hit, my record spinning came to an ignominious end. Matson’s dulcet tones vanished from the airwaves in favor of Denny Matthews, Fred White and the Kansas City Royals Radio Network. My job was to play local spots when the network threw it to the affiliates, and listen for Denny or Fred’s top-of-the hour station identification cue.

When Denny or Fred would say, “This is the Royals Radio Network,” I sprang into action, cleared my throat, keyed the microphone and intoned,

“It’s two minutes after eight o’clock. Clear skies, 93 degrees in the Air Capital. You’re listening to Royals baseball on 12-40 K-A-K-E, Wichita.”

As the season wore on, I took some 22-year old liberties. “’re listening to the Royals hammer the Blue Jays on 12-40 K-A-K-E, Wichita.”

“...dismantle the White Sox...”

“…crush the hapless Twins…”

C’mon, I only had 10 seconds. Hadda make the most of it.

This season reminds me so much of 1980. Now, and then, it seemed like the Royals won every night.

Royals Stadium, Kansas City. August 17, 1980

As the season wound down in September, I’d landed that first broadcast news job. Chased my journalistic dream to Hays, Kansas. Started on a Monday, reading radio news, covered a school board meeting on  Tuesday. Anchored the TV news that weekend. 

Carter chased Kennedy all over the platform at Madison Square Garden at the Democratic National Convention, hoping for an arms-raised-together money shot that would never come.

That very same night in Kansas City, Brett went 2-for-4 against Baltimore, lifting his average to .389.

Five days later, he caught .400.

Kennedy had loftier notions in mind that hot August night at the Garden, and he had no way of knowing it, but he could very easily have been talking about my love of a baseball team. In 1980 and in 2015.

The work goes on.

The cause endures.

The hope still lives.

And the dream shall never die.