The last time they were together like this it was pouring outside — the night of the 1977 Plaza flood.
On Tuesday, Kansas City Royals star Amos Otis met face-to-face with five of the eight boys (now men in their 50s) whom he aided 40 years ago on Sept. 12, when rain deluged the city, turned roads into rivers and ended up taking the lives of 25 people.
“I really thank God for touching his heart that night, cuz that night was a rough night for us,” said Vincent Shelby, one of the men who gathered at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to thank and honor Otis.
They never forgot the way Otis helped the stranded kids, trapped when the Royals game against the Oakland A’s was canceled, allowing them to stay at his home, play cards, spin records and talk the night away.
“I just did exactly what I thought any father would do,” Otis said Tuesday. “I saw a bunch of kids sitting outside the Holiday Inn” near the stadium. “They wouldn’t let them in. It was cold, it was raining, they were frightened. And I didn’t think it was a big deal. But listening to these guys … it really was a big deal. And I’m glad that I could do it.”
One of those boys at the time was Richard Brown, now a Missouri state representative. Brown handed Otis a framed proclamation, thanking Otis for his act of kindness as a Good Samaritan.
The other men present were Johnny Strickland, Joe Harstead and Shelby’s brother, Welton Shelby — who led a chant from the Royals games of his boyhood: “A-O, A-O, A-O.”