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Posts Tagged ‘George Brett’

The Star, you might have noticed, has embarked this week on something the paper has never done before, to the best of my knowledge — run a series of stories on the Web site before running the entire series in print.

The series is called “Becoming George Brett,” and it commemorates the 40th anniversary of Brett’s first game as a Royal.

I like the way The Star has done this, and the stories are terrific. Obviously, The Star is dispensing the series this way to entice people to sign up for digital subscriptions. That’s where the future appears to lie for major metropolitan dailies, and Star editors know that there’s no more enticing product than K.C.’s No. 1 sports figure. (Golfer Tom Watson would be No. 2, of course.)

The series is not an unequivocal home run, however, in my opinion. There are pluses and minuses.

Some of the pluses:

:: The first segment, which ran in print on Monday as well as online, was authored by sports columnist Sam Mellinger, who got a considerable amount of Brett’s time, including a walk with the former star and his dogs. (Along the way, a woman walker recognized Brett and gushed, “Love those Royals. Thank you, George!”)

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Mellinger

Mellinger did an excellent job of blending the present with the past — how, when Brett was called up from Omaha, he thought a player with whom he was grilling hamburgers was being called up.

:: Lots of photographs and video pieces, including interviews with Brett, augment the stories.

Minuses:

:: To me, the flip-flopping between print and online is a bit confusing. The series promo box, which runs every day, has said from the outset that the series can be seen on kansascity.com. And yet Monday’s kick-off piece ran in print and online, but the Tuesday through Friday stories apparently are running online only.

:: The stories are not assembled coherently and in order on the Web site. Every entry, whether it’s photos or text, is under the “Becoming George Brett” banner, so you have to poke around to find the main stories. They should be assembled as Part I, Part II, Part III, etc…Surely The Star can fix that by tomorrow. Get on it, you computer nerds!

What with this being The Star’s first big series to be tailored so prominently for the Web, it’s not surprising that a few glitches crept in. Overall, though, it’s a thorough and well-packaged series. The readers should be eating it up.

***

While we’re talking baseball, here are a couple of other quick observations.

:: Royals’ TV broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre turned a crafty phrase near the end of Sunday’s game against the White Sox, which the Royals won 4-2. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Royals’ reliever Luke Hochevar struck out White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers to end the inning.

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Lefebvre

As Strike Three was called, Lefebvre said, “He (Hochevar) just carved up Flowers — one petal at a time.”

His poor partner, commentator Rex Hudler, didn’t chuckle or say a word. Heads up, Rex!

:: On their Web site, the Royals are promoting a new wrinkle — GordoNation.

The promo says that Royals All-Star outfielder Alex Gordon is looking for fans to join a new seating section in left field.

The promo sets the hook with a simple challenge: “Do you have what it takes to be a part of GordoNation?”

Of course, I do…Count me in!

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God dang there were some good stories in my two favorite papers the last couple of days.

Good stories get me excited…Can you tell?

First, The Star

:: Feature writer Don Bradley had an outstanding front-page story about America’s favorite road, Route 66, in Monday’s paper.

People from Europe, Australia and Asia — as well as the U.S. — are expected to converge on Joplin later this week for the “Route 66 International Festival.” It’s the first time the festival has been in Missouri.

I had no idea that the sense of adventure and nostalgia associated with the road had captured the imagination of people overseas, too.

routeThe story was accompanied by a graphic (compliments of Dave Eames) highlighted by images of old travel guides and two maps. One map showed the route from St. Louis down through the southwest part of the state — Rolla, Springfield, Carthage — to Joplin. The other traced the length of the road from Chicago to the Los Angeles area.

Bradley conveyed some excellent information, such as that 85 percent of the original highway, which has been decommissioned, is still in use as city streets and state and county roads.

“These days,” Bradley wrote, “you just have to work a little harder to get your kicks on Route 66.”

…One caveat about the story: The editors chose to run a couple of lame file photos on the “jump.” Too cheap to send a photographer out for a day or two to get some fresh, good photos.

P.S. A little background on Bradley…As a young man, he was a “runner” at The Star, delivering parcels from one department to another. One of the offices where he stopped regularly was that of the late Jim Hale, the first Star publisher after the paper was purchased by publicly traded Capital Cities (later Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.) in 1977. Bradley would chat regularly with Hale’s secretary, June Dacus, and told her of his dream of becoming a reporter. Dacus put in a good word for Bradley with Hale, and pretty soon Bradley found himself working in the second-floor newsroom.)

:: In the first of several stories The Star will run this week commemorating the 40th anniversary of George Brett’s first game with as a Kansas City Royal, columnist Sam Mellinger wrote about Brett’s call-up from Omaha and his first game as a Royal in 1973. (The Royals beat the White Sox in Chicago, and Brett got one hit in four times at bat.)

This story was 62 column inches long, enough to cover about 3/4 of a page. But it read like it was 30 inches. When I reached the end, I couldn’t believe I had read the whole thing, and I looked back to see if maybe I had skipped a column along the way…When a reporter can write a story that reads that fast, he’s really done a great job.

***

On to The Sunday New York Times

carolineI almost never read the SundayStyles section, although I should, but the cover story about Caroline Kennedy caught my eye and I dove in. In addition to 39 inches of rich, interesting information about Kennedy, whom President Obama has appointed to be the new ambassador to Japan, the story included compelling photos of Kennedy at various stages of her life, including when she was a teenager.

Two of the most interesting glimpses Kennedy that reporter Jacob Bernstein gave the readers were that Kennedy rides the subway in New York and socializes with people all across the political spectrum, including conservative media baron Rupert Murdoch.

***

Having been hooked by the Styles section, I proceeded to read two other excellent stories in the section…

:: Matteson Perry, a Los Angeles-based screen writer wrote about his romance with a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.” One of her distinguishing and most alluring features was that she had a tattoo of a phoenix covering the left side of her torso…(Yes, Perry got to explore the tattoo and more.) The story was the latest in a series titled “Modern Love.”

Here’s how Perry summarized the make-up of an MPDG:

pixieThough often perky, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl will be troubled as well. She straddles the narrow line between quirky and crazy, mysterious and strange, sexy and slutty; she is perfectly imperfect. And that imperfection is the key, because a Manic Pixie Dream Girl must be messed up enough to need saving, so the powerless guy can do something heroic in the third act.

(Can we identify with that, fellas?)

The story of the romance, Perry said, was “one I stole from the movies.” Of course, the affair turned sour.

So our story ended, not with credits rolling to freeze our relationship in eternal bliss, but with crying and the division of possessions. (I kept the dining room chairs; she kept the old-timey typewriters.)

P.S. Perry is working on his first book, a collection of dating stories…I’ll be pre-ordering that book.

:: I finish with another fascinating “love” story — about a 59-year-old novelist, Joyce Maynard, and a 61-year-old lawyer, Jim Barringer, who teamed up on Match.com. Each was divorced with three grown children.

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Barringer and Maynard…New York Times photo

The story — part of The Times’ “Vows” series — explored their contrasting personalities: He, patient, wry and brilliant; she, a person who lives “with lots of speed and soul.”

They were married on July 6 in a meadow in Harrisville, N.H. The bride and groom wrote their own vows. Part of Ms. Maynard’s vows went like this:

I love it that in your eyes, I am the babe of the universe, although that calls your eyesight into question…So long as I can walk, I will dance with you. I will bake you apple pies and never wear flannel nightgowns.

Let’s hope that this union fulfills the hope and promise we so often see at the end of a movie.

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You’ve got to give the Kansas City Royals credit: Just when frustrated fans were gathering for an attack on the bastion at One Royal Way (Kauffman Stadium), the team made the boldest, most awe-inspiring move in its history by persuading George Brett to take up a place in the team’s dugout.

As soon as I heard the news on sports-talk radio yesterday, I excitedly pulled out my cell phone and called my wife Patty. Of course, being a working woman who is supporting me in retirement and blogging, she didn’t pick up. That dulled my excitement just a touch.

But the prospect of the greatest Royal of all time — ever loquacious and ever pumped up — putting down his golf clubs, grabbing his chewing tobacco and heading to the clubhouse was absolutely thrilling to me. I was there (at least I think I was) the August night in 1980 when Brett stood on second base, having just reached the .400 hitting plateau — arms raised, helmet in hand, basking in the standing ovation being extended by enthralled fans at Kauffman Stadium.

I was watching on TV when he came up to bat — the most memorable Royals at-bat of all time, in my opinion — against the Yankees’ flame-throwing reliever Goose Gossage in the 1980 American League playoffs and, unbelievably, smashed a home run to right field on a high, inside fastball that was traveling about 1,000 miles an hour.

So, when I heard that George was returning to the dugout, it was clear that this was something really special, something that could make all fans feel good again, even though the team had lost eight straight games and 19 of its last 23 going into last night’s game against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

…Allow me to digress her for just a moment. I hate the Cardinals and I don’t much like St. Louis because of the Cardinals. When I was growing up in Louisville, KY, they almost always beat my beloved (at the time) Cincinnati Reds, since moving to Kansas City in 1969, I’ve had to watch our cross-state rivals win pennants and world championships several times, while we wallowed in the post-1985 ineptitude and frustration of our Royals. I console myself by saying it’s easy to be a Cardinals fan, but it makes you tough being a Royals fan. We have true grit!

***

The lead-up to last night’s (and this morning’s) game was fascinating and fixating.

At a press conference, Brett explained why he decided to accept the challenge now of becoming the Royals interim hitting coach:

“This thing has been offered to me before, but my kids were young. I had three young boys. I retired from baseball. Right now, I have two kids in college, and one is a senior in high school. I’m not missing them growing up any more. It’s summer time, and it’s time for me to go to work.”

Summer and baseball called…and he answered. How can you resist a guy that thinks like that?

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Brett with Alex Gordon before thursday night’s game

Later in the afternoon, there he was standing beside Billy Butler outside the cage at batting practice; there he was joyfully and playfully embracing every Royal he happened across as the team went through warm-ups; and, finally, just before the game, there he was in the dugout, chewing that cud and wearing a look of steely determination.

He still looks every bit the part of a baseball player, just worn and weathered at age 60, but rugged and intent. Did I mention that look in the eyes? “Get outta my way,” it screams, “because I’m comin’ through you if you don’t!”

Fast forward to the top of the ninth inning…Royals down 2 to 1; Cardinals apparently pretty sure the Royals don’t have a win in them. So sure that they send out a relief pitcher with an earned run average of more than 10 runs per nine innings. But the Cardinals must have forgotten that George Brett was in the dugout and they must not have paid any attention to the fact that Brett had spent a lot of time during the game talking to right fielder Jeff Francoeur, a clubhouse leader but who has been keenly disappointing at the plate the last two years.

On the second pitch, Francoeur drilled a ball deep to left — gone! a few feet over the wall, enough to tie the game.

A camera homed in on Brett, who was standing at the top of the dugout, holding onto the protective netting. You could read his lips. “YES!” he screamed at the top of his lungs, neck muscles bulging and that protruding in his cheek.

As most everyone in KC now knows, the Royals went on to win the game 4-2 after a long rain delay. The game ended at 3:14 a.m.

They long wait didn’t bother the Royals at all. They were on Cloud 9.

“There’s not a person in here who cares that it’s 3:30 in the morning,” Francouer said in the locker room. “It feels like 10 o’clock for us.”

And as far as we fans were concerned, Brett was back, the Royals had won, and summer lay ahead in Kansas City.

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