He was in Municipal Stadium's radio booth for the franchise's opener in April 1969, and he'll be inside your radio the next time you flip it on at game time. The team has a different stadium, a different owner and a slightly different logo, but Matthews remains.
Is longevity the stuff of greatness? Does Matthews' name deserve to be etched in baseball's hallowed Hall of Fame?
The names Jack Buck and Harry Caray are honored there. When Buck died in June, fans in St. Louis and across the country wept. Caray's death in 1998 caused an outpouring of emotion that rivaled Princess Di's farewell.
Crowd control won't be a big deal at Matthews' passing, but he has fans, of course, among Kansas City followers who tune in away games. "I love listening to the Royals on the radio," says Tony Rome, a 26-year-old Shawnee resident. "I don't even care that they suck." He tries to tune in the first and ninth innings because he knows Denny will be calling them. "He definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," Rome says.
But 73-year-old Joan Gant isn't swinging at that pitch, and we have to listen to her because, "that old lady right there knows more about baseball than most of the players on the field," says a Kaufmann Stadium usher, pointing at Gant, who wears a Royals visor and carries a scorecard.
"I don't think [Matthews] is one of the top baseball announcers," says Gant after pondering the question. "He's just not as good as Jack Buck, Harry Caray and Ernie Harwell." Gant says she liked Fred White, Matthews' former broadcast partner, better than Matthews. "I liked Fred's delivery better ... but Fred doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, either. The Hall of Fame is reserved for only the elite."
Matthews doesn't even get on the easy lists. The New York Times omitted Matthews' name recently when tallying a half dozen baseball broadcasters with tenures of 28 years or more.
"Kansas City is the most remote outpost in baseball," Matthews says. "People just don't know about me. People in this town don't know. That is simply the way it is in Kansas City." Still, he says he has turned down broadcast opportunities in St. Louis, Chicago and New York.
He has never had an agent and laments that he's never been marketed to listeners. "The Royals have never promoted their broadcasters," says Matthews. "It's something I haven't understood for going on 35 years. Every other market in baseball promotes their broadcast team."
As for his entering the Hall of Fame, Matthews says, "I think it's inevitable that it will happen." Election requires impressing a committee of six. "David Glass [the Royals' owner] has really been working hard to get me in. I also have some people on the selection board like Joe Garagiola who are in my corner."
Besides, it's not as though broadcasters in the hall were inductees. "It's kind of a misnomer," says Bill Francis, a senior researcher at Cooperstown. "Honored is the word we use." Announcers' names are etched into a plaque as winners of the Ford C. Fricke Award. The Hall of Fame's Web site proclaims that a recipient of that honor is "not to be confused with an inductee."
So Matthews is probably headed for Cooperstown to join George Brett as the only lifetime Royals resident. But with baseball's future in doubt, will he be the final member of the Royals family so honored?