Up until around 1990, you didn't dare tell a Cardinals fan of your allegiance. You'd have been better off calling their baby ugly. I'm telling you, it was worse than bringing up the '86 series to Red Sox fans. You wanted to be bold and say, "You still had a game 7, you should have won that game." But we understood why Cardinals fans were angry. This wasn't losing a game and eventually the series because a ball went through Jack Clark's legs (although before the infamous bad call, Clark DID muff a foul pop up by Steve Balboni that could have ended the inning). Oh for a while, we tried to convince ourselves that winning the 1985 World Series was justified because it made up for all of those previous seasons when it was the Royals who suffered heartbreak. Until 1985, nothing went the KC way:
- The Chris Chambliss home run to end the 1976 ALCS -- the ONLY home run hit all year off of Royals reliever Mark Littell, after George Brett hit a 3-run home run to give the Royals the lead and seemingly the ticket punched to their first World Series.
- Maybe the greatest Royal team ever in 1977, going 102-60, only to have their most memorable image of the season to be Freddie Patek -- all 5 ' 5"" of him -- sobbing in the dugout for hours after making the final out of the series.
- Whitey Herzog penciled Brett as his lead off hitter in game 3 of the 1978 ALCS, where he'd hit three consecutive home runs off of Catfish Hunter but the Royals would still lose the series to the Yanks for the 3rd straight year.
- Finally, 1980, the Royals sweep the Yanks in the ALCS, with the final blow being Brett's memorable shot off of Rich Gossage to win Game 3. Then Brett had ass problems and we were forced to watch Pete Rose and that God awful wig of his, bouncing the ball on the ground after every third out (seriously, why did he do this) lead the Phillies to their first title in generations.
- In the meantime, the Cardinals took Whitey Herzog and Darrell Porter from the Royals. Granted, the Royals didn't exactly stand in the way of either going to St. Louis, but still, it was heartbreaking to see both in Cardinal red.
Now I look back at these heartbreaks fondly, just wishing there was a chance to even get invited to a possible heartbreak again. And Cardinal fans? Still no sympathy -- they're never going to feel sorry for us, why should they? Instead, the angers been replaced by shit-eating grins. Grins that tell us that revenge has a funny way of fucking you right up the ass. That for the past 21 years, the Royals have gotten what they deserved, as if we had a price we had to pay for an umpire blowing a call in game 6 of the 1985 World Series. Because after the only ticker tape parade the Royals have ever had, we've had our own curse. The Curse of Don Denkinger.
There's no need to rehash Denkinger's blown call. Any baseball fan just figured it was an umpire's natural reaction to always call Jorge Orta out at first (he wasn't exactly Ron LeFlore running down the line). It's the reason Cardinal Nation feels that all the bad that's gone the Royals way is justified, and it may very well be the reason the Royals never win again. Consider what the curse has done:
- In that same championship year, Steve Balboni set the all-time single season home run record for the Royals. Balboni hit 36 home runs that year. That's it. That's STILL the record for most homers in a season by anyone in a Royal uniform.
- John Schuerholz left Kansas City to turn the Atlanta Braves into a franchise that would win 14 straight division titles.
- Two Royals players won Rookie of the Year honors (Balboni-wannabe Bob Hamelin in 1994, Angel Berroa in 2003). Both players careers fared about as well as a Grammy Winner for Best New Artist.
- At one point in time, the Royals were able to field an outfield consisting of Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye. Damon and Dye have already won World Series for previously cursed franchises; Beltran may win one this year.
- On May 9-10, 1996, manager Bob Boone batted Bip Roberts cleanup. Seriously, BIP ROBERTS, who finished his 12 year career with a total of 30 homers, and never hit more than 9 in a single season.
- Before 1985, the Royals somehow NEVER finished in last place in their division. Since then, they've finished last six times (including in 2006, they clinched last back on April 30th).
- In 1987, the Royals traded David Cone to the Mets for Ed Hearn. Oh but it gets better. Cone, a KC boy, signs with the Royals as a free agent following the 1992 season. He wins the Cy Young in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign...only to have the Royals trade him to the Blue Jays for three games by the names of Chris Stynes, David Sinnes, and Tony Medrano.
- Billy Beane owes some of his genius reputation to the Kansas City Royals, as during his tenure he acquired Damon, Dye, and Kevin Appier for a copy of The Bill James Baseball Abstract that would never be opened.
- Royals manager Tony Pena was so frustrated during the 2004 season his way of firing up the team was to take a shower with all of his clothes on.
- In the biggest form of revenge, a young slugger by the name of Jose Alberto Pujols was a little known prospect in the KANSAS CITY area. In the 1999 draft, the Royals had 16 picks in the first 12 rounds. The only player of significance who they selected was pitcher Mike MacDougal, who was traded to White Sox a few months ago. In round 13, the Cardinals took a chance on Pujols while the Royals selected Gregg Raymundo.
The curse could finally end starting next season, as the Royals finally have a first round draft pick who looks like the real deal in Alex Gordon. Dayton Moore, a Schuerholz disciple, is doing the right things. All I know is that Cardinal fans, happy for the next 12 years with their 1999 13th round draft pick, will always wish for the Curse of Denkinger to last for at least another 21 seasons.