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Royals win fans and game in opener

DATE OF EVENT: Tuesday, April 8, 1969

DATE PUBLISHED: Wednesday, April 9, 1969, in The Kansas City Times

Editor’s note: Opening day for the Kansas City Royals was a promise fulfilled. The Athletics had left Kansas City for Oakland in October 1967. Major League Baseball promised one of its four expansion teams to Kansas City as a replacement. Ewing M. Kauffman bought that team, which would be named the Royals. They finished their first season with a 69-93 record, the best of the new expansion teams.

Feelings of excitement and eager anticipation rolled through the turnstiles yesterday with the fans who arrived early and stayed late to see the Kansas City Royals win their first regular game of the 1969 season.

The Royals defeated the Minnesota Twins, 4 to 3, in the twelfth inning at the Municipal Stadium.

By the end of the first inning there was no doubt — they were “our Royals” and “our home team” to the 17,688 cheering, clapping, popcorn-eating baseball enthusiasts.

To get the afternoon started right, Lou Piniella, first Royals hitter, hit a double and was sent home with a single by Jerry Adair, to give the Royals the first run of the game.

Raincoats, jackets and umbrellas were in evidence, but little needed. Although the stadium lights were on, the spring sun broke through early. Even the wind was mild.

Men in business suits appeared to make up the majority of the crowd, although many ladies and a sprinkling of youngsters could be seen.

Some persons, interviewed between innings, observed they had followed baseball since the time of the Blues. Yesterday was the time to see a “good old-fashioned ball game,” one woman observed.

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pourie of Lee’s Summit explained they had only missed one opening game since 1955.

“From the looks of this club,” Pourie asserted, “I think we’ll come quite often. I think they can play ball.”

Just about everything that happened yesterday was a first of some kind. John Bluethmann of 9534 Glenwood Street, Overland Park, grabbed the first foul ball in the upper deck after the ball bounced from another fan’s hands. After getting it autographed by Ewing Kauffman, Royals owner, and Sen. Stuart Symington, Bluethmann planned to take the ball home to his 3-year-old son, Bill.

For Mrs. Roy McCluskey, 6300 West Eighty-third street, Prairie Village, who moved here a month ago from Peoria, Ill., rooting for the Royals meant switching leagues.

“I was a Chicago Cubs fan,” she said, “but certainly I’ll switch. After all, I am a Kansas Citian now.”

She added that a son who lives in Scottsbluff, Neb., had asked McCluskey to send him some Royals stickers for his motor car.

Mrs. Lester Dean of Lake Lotawana said she has been through the Monarchs, the Blues, the Athletics and now the Royals.

“I saw them both Saturday and Sunday,” Mrs. Dean explained. “They’re my boys now.”

Transistor radios helped many fans follow the action.

“The last game I saw (the Athletics) it was a pitcher’s duel,” Rex Christy, one of those using a radio, noted. “What I’m really trying to do today is identify the players. I’ve never seen them play before.

“Oh yes, I’ll be back. This is my recreation.”

Christy, a steelworker, lives at 1117 West Twenty-fifth street terrace, Independence.

Several young fans insisted they looked forward to a close game. A few persons admitted a lot of home runs made baseball most exciting for them. Everyone agreed, however, they wanted most of all to see the Royals win.

Fans kept the refreshment stands busy turning out hot dogs, drinks, peanuts and popcorn. The difficulty in getting served both at the stands and by vendors in the stadium was because of a lack of help, not lack of food, explained Rick Foreman, manager of the Confection Cabinet corporation which operates the concessions.

“It’s hard to get vendors and stand help for a day game,” Foreman said. “Persons are moonlighting; it’s not steady employment, it’s a second job. Tonight we’ll have all the stands open and we’ll probably have 450 vendors in the park.”

This is the first year the Confection Cabinet corporation has handled the concessions at Municipal Stadium.

Before the game started, Kauffman, Senator Symington, Joe Cronin, president of the American league, and Mayor Ilus W. Davis were introduced. They spoke briefly, offering congratulations and thanking all involved in bringing big league baseball back to Kansas City.

Kauffman, who received a standing ovation, promised the fans the Royals would be their team as long as he lives.

“If you do not all believe that I have been repaid in full for buying the Kansas City Royals baseball team by your wonderful applause you are sadly mistaken,” the owner said. “This is a young and determined team. The more enthusiastic you people are, the better they will play.”