For Pete's Sake

'Royal in Kansas City, 30 Years Later' documentary debuts Thursday

This is a scene from the documentary.
This is a scene from the documentary.

The Royals have become must-see TV.

The latest example will be seen next week on the MLB Network. The Royals are going to kick off the latest round of “MLB Network Presents” documentaries that start Thursday night.

“Royal in Kansas City, 30 Years Later” will air at 7 p.m., and includes interviews with members of the two World Series championship teams.

Bruce Cornblatt, the Senior Coordinating Producer of “MLB Network Presents,” said he set out to remember the 1985 team. But the Royals won the World Series this year and the symmetry was too good to ignore.

As he dug deeper and talked with more people, Cornblatt found an underlying theme to the episode.

“What I found in Kansas City, and it didn’t surprise me, it kind of endeared me, was how much (baseball) meant to the people, how much it still means to the people,” said Cornblatt, who grew up a Red Sox fan and now lives in New York. “When I interviewed these people and talked to them, it became part of the bloodstream of their life rather than an event apart from them. It was nice to be reminded about what a team can mean to a city and still mean to a city.

“That to me ... was an endearing and gratifying thing to see that that 85 team is not something people remember in Kansas City. It’s what they live with, it’s what they take with them, it’s what their children take with them. I’m not so sure that’s true on the two coasts.”

Cornblatt interviewed family members of the two firefighters who were killed in the line of duty in October, just hours after the Royals’ stunning comeback win over the Astros in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

Jim Mesh, the brother of John Mesh, and Missy Leggio, the widow of Larry Leggio, both appear in the documentary, and there are behind-the-scenes looks of the families during the playoffs and at the World Series celebration.

Willie Wilson, Frank White, Danny Jackson, Darryl Motley, Bret Saberhagen, Ned Yost, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Denny Matthews, Al Michaels and Star sports columnist Sam Mellinger are also part of the show.

Some of the 1985 players talked about the unfinished business after the team lost in the ALCS in 1984 to the Detroit Tigers. The final out was made on a foul ball caught by the Tigers’ third baseman.

Sound familiar? This year’s Royals team talked of unfinished business, too, after their season ended in 2014 on a foul ball caught by Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

“The parallels just took shape and it was like a FedEx to me,” Cornblatt said.

Another key connection was George Brett. The documentary contains highlights of the 1985 Royals’ playoff run, so you know Brett was featured heavily, particularly since he played so well against Toronto in the ALCS.

See? There’s another connection. Brett is interviewed extensively about the 1985 and 2015 teams.

He offers some insight into Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, particularly the controversial call by Don Denkinger at first base in the ninth inning.

“It was Game 6, it was not Game 7 and the people in Kansas City realize it was Game 6,” Brett said. “The people in St. Louis to this day still think it was Game 7 because they think they lost the World Series on that call.”

The people in Kansas City ultimately are the biggest connection between the teams.

As narrator Bob Costas says, “Baseball means something in Kansas City. It always has, even during those years when another World Series title didn’t seem possible. And from an improbable comeback in 1985 to all those incredible rallies in 2015, what might link KC’s championship clubs isn’t just excellence, but the fans, whose appreciation, loyalty and belief in their team never faded away.”

Other documentaries that will come after “Royal in Kansas City, 30 Years Later” are features on Lenny Randle (on Dec. 11) and the Astrodome (on Dec. 15).

You can watch a clip from the Royals documentary here:

The Kansas City Royals won the 1985 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. This archival footage shows the game-ending celebration and victory parade in Kansas City. Courtesy of Gordon Gregory

Here's a time-lapse video of the 2.3-mile route the Royals took during their celebration Tuesday taken from the Moose Mobile, driven by Craig Rookstool. Kansas City was honoring the first World Series championship won by the Royals since 1985 and

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff