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FROM MONARCH TO ROYAL WITH STYLE
FROM THE MONARCHS TO THE ROYALS: KANSAS CITY STYLE
By:- Gary Norris Gray-BASN-Staff Reporter
OAKLAND, CA-(BASN) There’s a Kansas City style, to barbecue, and to baseball. The Kansas City Royals once again are in the American League Championship Series with a style that scholars of the game say parallels the brand of ball played long ago by the Kansas City Monarchs of the historic Negro Leagues.
They lead the series two games to none over the Toronto Blue Jays as the series moves back to Canada Monday night. The Royals have taken this lead with stellar defense, strong pitching and relentless base running. Repeating what they have done the past two years. This team might change the face of baseball.
This style is called gap power baseball: hitting to get on base rather than hitting the ball over the fence; few strikeouts; and aggressive base-running. The Royals were among the top six teams in stolen bases during the regular season, after leading all teams in steals last season. The Monarchs ran with abandon, and so, the Royals imitate their historic brothers.
It’s small ball, speed, and defense, observes Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum which is also in Kansas City. “That was the style of play that became signature Negro League baseball: very fast, very aggressive, very daring. They’d bunt their way on, steal second, steal third, and if you weren’t too smart they’d steal home,” Kendrick explained. He says that the exhibits in the Negro Leagues Museum tell that history consistently.
The sabermetric geeks, Money Ball bandits, and baseball aristocracies do not like this brand of baseball because it moves too fast and it does not depend on tendencies.
SLOW-SMOKED AND SWEET
Working the game in increments, rather than home runs, also parallels the slow-smoked and sweet style of Kansas City barbecue. It’s a Kansas City thing.
“This is a young Kansas City Royals team that probably doesn’t know they’re playing a Negro league style, they’re just playing,” Kendrick said of last season’s team, which returned mostly intact for the 2015 campaign. “That’s O.K. The national spotlight being on Kansas City serves as a reminder that we should not forget the heroes of the Negro leagues and the contributions they made.”
Bob Motley, age 92, the last surviving umpire of the Negro Leagues, lives in Kansas City and is a Royals fan. He told the Kansas City Star newspaper that when he watches Royals games, “I’d say the style I’m seeing was almost exactly what I used to see” in the Negro Leagues. “These Royals play hard,” Motley said. “When I was an umpire, I saw that every game.”
Jarrod Dyson, center-fielder for the Royals, said last season “We’re basically bringing back old baseball,” Dyson said. “Doing things the way they used to be done.” That style has remained the Royals formula for 2015.
THE WAY THINGS USED TO BE DONE
It’s the formula brought by manager Ned Yost, who relies on his experience, instincts, and relationships with his players rather than statistical analysis and Money Ball style of play. He is often faulted for this, but he has turned losing teams around in Milwaukee and Kansas City. His players bunt, and run, when they want to. He says the green light is always on for aggressive running, regardless of what the statistics say.
The Royals roster is constructed of line-drive hitters and fleet fielders tailored to the wide dimensions of Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium. Speed demons, Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Alex Gordon, and Terrance Gore patrol the outfield. It’s also ideally suited for the economics of playing in the sport’s second-smallest metropolitan area. Building a team around outfield defense and middle relief is less expensive than the expenses of power hitting and starting pitching.
This year they added veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto, a free agent from the Cincinnati Reds. This changed the dynamics of the Royal pitching staff because now they knew they would never go into a long losing streak.
Mr. Kendrick remembers how Buck O’Neil described the economy of Negro League baseball: The bus rides from city to city, a couple sets of uniforms, and 20 of the best athletes a manager could find.
Negro League players never left town hungry or looking for a place to sleep. The hospitality of the African American community fed them after the game and hosted the team.
Ernie Banks who also played for the Kansas City Monarchs and the Chicago Cubs would state “Lets play two:” The Negro Leagues literally played two games in one day all the time.
O’Neil was a first baseman and manager for the Kansas City Monarchs, and later became the first black coach in Major League Baseball. He played a major role in establishing the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a few blocks from the former site of Muelebach Field where the first Negro League World Series was held in 1924. He is memorialized with a statue. Major League Baseball should have inducted Mr. O’Neil into the Hall of Fame when he was alive, he was the ultimate ambassador to the game. O’Neil passed in 2006. The Kansas City Monarchs were charter members of the Negro National League when it was founded in Kansas City in 1920.
“That athleticism we’re seeing with the current Royals, that constant movement that puts pressure on the pitcher and on the defense,” Kendrick said. “It’s like what Buck O’Neil said; you can’t go to the concession stand because you might miss something you’ve never seen before.”
The Kansas City Royals are half way home to another trip to the World Series.
It’s just a Kansas City Thing- Just like barbecue, slow cooking and fast baseball gets the job done.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network on Blogtalkradio.com Disabled Community Activist. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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