"I've got to warn you," says Charles Brennan, a longtime St. Louis radio talk show host at KMOX. "Most St. Louisans that I know like Kansas City quite a lot." Wait a minute. What happened to all the anger and venom from the '80s? "Sure, there's the ill will about the 1985 World Series," says Marc Schreiber, director of communications for the St. Louis Sports Commission. "But most of that anger is directed toward [umpire] Don Denkinger, not Kansas City." (Denkinger gave the Royals a tiny, yet devastating, assist in the series' sixth game by wrongly calling pinch-hitter Jorge Orta safe at first in the ninth inning; Kansas City won 2-1, then took the series in game seven 11-0.)
Could it be that we here in Kansas City are alone in this rivalry? The Cardinals have 35 former players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Royals have George Brett. Can you imagine the Royals' having 35 George Bretts in their history? Major League Baseball planted roots in St. Louis in 1876. It was 76 years later when the Kansas City Athletics arrived at Municipal Stadium. The Redbirds have claimed fifteen pennants and nine World Series Championships. The Royals own two pennants and one World Series win. It seems St. Louis has almost all the bragging rights.
"I don't see St. Louisans looking down their noses at Kansas Citians at all," says Mike Bush, the popular sports director at St. Louis' KSDK for the past sixteen years. "Kansas City is a great baseball town, although it's been slim pickings for them lately." Bush spent 1984 and half of 1985 in Kansas City at KMBC Channel 9. "Frankly, the people here don't think much about Kansas City," continues Bush. "With the Royals' having so many problems with their won-lost record, there isn't much of a rivalry. I'm not sure people give it much thought. It's a nice town to go to for the weekend. Our persecution complex is with Chicago. I grew up in Chicago, and the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry doesn't mean nearly as much in Chicago as it does in St. Louis."
Does this mean that we're getting all worked up by ourselves about the I-70 series next week at Kauffman Stadium with the Cardinals? "I think St. Louisans look at Kansas City with respect," says Schreiber. "I know there was a lot of sympathy here for Dick Howser when he died. Now in the '90s, to say St. Louis feels sorry for Kansas City is the wrong way to put it. In general, St. Louis would like to see Kansas City win. They feel bad that the Royals have struggled. It's certainly not like the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry. To say St. Louis looks down on Kansas City is far from the truth." Pity is so distasteful, isn't it? Perhaps Royals fans should paint little Cubbie logos on their faces for the Cardinals series.
"St. Louisans don't see Kansas City as a major metropolis, but we don't see it as a cowtown either -- somewhere in between," says Schreiber. Great, we're Topeka with stoplights.
The truth is the Royals don't have a rival. We like to pretend that St. Louis is this evil National League beast from the east that sucks all the state funding out of Jefferson City and looks down its elite nose at us, but the reality is that St. Louis residents hardly know we share the same state.
"St. Louis people think that anything that benefits St. Louis also benefits every other city in the state," says Brennan. "St. Louis fans are so myopic that they don't even consider that if the state legislature appropriates funds for a new downtown baseball stadium that Kansas City, Springfield and Jeff City are going to expect state funding for their projects also. When you try to explain that to people here, they have the same look on their faces as cavemen did when they first saw fire," adds Brennan.
Reason number 1,764 to hate St. Louis fans: They think we're irrelevant. How I wish they were wrong.