Madison Bumgarner listened to the question and smiled. The bearded, scowling, stoic face of the San Francisco Giants pitcher could not hold a straight face any longer. So he laughed.
It was Tuesday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium, the site of Bumgarner’s greatest moment, and a local reporter had just informed him that in the months after the 2014 World Series, after he had cut the heart out of a city with five scoreless innings in relief in Game 7, this town and its fans really couldn’t villainize him. In fact, they saved much of their ire for Joe Buck, the Fox broadcaster who lavished praise on the pitcher for much of that October night.
“That’s funny,” Bumgarner said. “That’s funny.”
Whether you agree wholly with the sentiment is a little beside the point. On Tuesday, Bumgarner returned to Kansas City and prepared to make his first appearance at Kauffman Stadium since Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. He stood inside the visitors clubhouse where champagne was popped and beer was chugged and the World Series MVP trophy sat somewhere near his locker.
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Bumgarner will face left-hander Jason Vargas on Wednesday night, and more than two years later, he has thought plenty about that night and that series. And he understands his place in Kansas City sports lore, too.
“I get it, for sure,” Bumgarner said. “I’m a baseball fan myself. I get it. But that’s a pretty special compliment there. Maybe the fact they won it the next year had something to do with that. I was glad to see that. When we were out of it, I was glad to see those guys won.”
For close to 10 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, Bumgarner stood inside the visitors clubhouse and remembered his performance in Game 7. He lasted five innings, allowing just two hits and striking out four just three days after throwing a shutout in Game 5 in San Francisco.
“It was incredible,” Royals left hander Danny Duffy said. “Without him, I don't know what would have happened, but he did a fantastic job. I hate to say it, but they completely earned it.”