A quarter of a century ago, this was unthinkable. The Royals had just won the World Series, capping off a decade-long stretch in which the team dominated the American League West. It was a young team with a deep farm system, indicating that it might continue winning for years.
Today, though, Royals fans no longer greet the season with hopes of a successful year. Instead, we willingly make an emotional investment in a product that we know is defective. What we buy isn't physically dangerous like lead-based toys or a Toyota, but the product crushes our souls. Year after year, our team loses — not spectacularly, but in a generic, nondescript fashion that transcends simple embarrassment.
Other fans claim to suffer. Cubs fans moan about their "curse," but their team makes the playoffs before succumbing to the inevitable. During their own long championship drought, Red Sox fans documented their October frustrations with long, neurotic books and New Yorker articles. Hollywood celebrated the Cleveland Indians' suffering.
It isn't just that the Royals haven't won a championship in the last 25 years. The team hasn't even come close to appearing in the playoffs. People in Cleveland, Boston and Chicago haven't set aside their home teams or let whole seasons go by without going to a game. Talk never turns to euthanizing the Indians, the Cubs or the Red Sox via "contraction."
We suffer anonymously. Bill Murray doesn't serenade Royals fans during a seventh-inning stretch. The closest we get is Garth Brooks, whose full-moon face appears on the K's Jumbotron to politely lead the crowd in a "Friends in Low Places" sing-along, his song an unintentional anthem for our cellar-dwelling team.
So, as we suffer together with a humor as dark as the Royals' prospects at the All-Star break, take note of these 25 worst moments in the 25 years since Kansas City won the World Series.
25. Felix Martinez
Most of baseball's bench-clearing melees involve a lot of shouted threats but little actual violence. This wasn't the case for shortstop Felix Martinez in 1998. That year, a couple of outbreaks presented rare opportunities for the .214 Martinez to actually hit something. He broke Otis Nixon's jaw in one fight, with a kick to the face, and earned a lengthy suspension after sucker-punching the Angels' Frank Bolick during a second brawl.
24. The Worst Promotion in Royals History
In 1998, baseball's marketing geniuses seized upon an idea that was seemingly the product of a pothead's musings after too many bong hits: Turn Ahead the Clock Day. In a nod to throwback events, most MLB teams played games ostensibly held in 2021. Robots delivered the first pitch and performed the PA duties. Playing Seattle, KC's bullpen blew the game in the late innings, indicating that the future would be much like the present.
According to John Helyar's book Lords of the Realm, the Royals could have acquired Kirk Gibson right after the 1985 World Series. When Gibson's agent called the Royals, the team wasn't interested. Why? Commissioner Peter Ueberroth urged every team to limit costs, particularly expenditures for the signing of long-term free-agent deals. When no team signed Gibson (among other players), an arbitrator ruled that baseball owners had acted in collusion to manipulate baseball's labor market. From 1986 to 1990, Gibson led two teams to the postseason, won the MVP award, and hit one of history's most memorable home runs.
22. Mark Quinn Lights Up the Night
During the 2001 season, Mark Quinn made 241 consecutive plate appearances in 60 games without drawing an unintentional walk. He finally managed to draw one on September 29 off Mark Buehrle, prompting an unusually derisive Kauffman Stadium crew to set off a fireworks display. Bonus: Quinn was sadly unselective about his off-season activities, missing the beginning of the 2002 season due to injuries sustained while kung-fu fighting his brother.