Baseball Road Trip: Kauffman Stadium


In 2009 I visited Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City as part of a multi-city road trip that took me through Pittsburgh, the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Canton, OH), Milwaukee, the Field of Dreams (Dyersville, IA), Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago.

Kauffman Stadium is one of the better places in America to watch a baseball game. You wouldn’t think so going in; after all, it is the sixth-oldest stadium in the league and was built in an era when perfectly symmetrical, turf-covered, multi-purpose concrete bowls stuck in the suburbs were all the rage.

More from Red Sox News

But Kauffman went over to grass in ’95 and for its entire existence has been a baseball-only facility (Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL’s Chiefs, shares the same complex). Therefore, the outfield side of the stadium is open and not enclosed like the other “cookie cutter” parks of the era. The crown-shaped HD scoreboard is an enormous but appropriately kitschy defining feature, the fountains and waterfalls are similarly iconic, and a renovation in 2009 spiffed the place up considerably.

My first and only experience at Kauffman Stadium was the summer after the renovation, the year Zack Greinke transcended his anxiety disorder and the characteristic misfortunes of his teammates by silencing the bats of the American League en route to the Cy Young Award. As our road trip led us through Kansas City on a Tuesday night with Greinke set to take the mound against Cleveland, I hoped for something special in the air – not just the buzz of midwestern insects from outside the stadium that invaded our eardrums.

I even bought a scorecard. Still have it.

Greinke didn’t throw a no-hitter that night, but he did limit the Indians to two runs on a meager five hits over eight innings. The real story was the strikeouts. He had 10 K’s after five full, which had me thinking…if this guy can get on a roll…we might be seeing some history here. In fact, between the fourth and sixth innings, he set down seven of nine batters by way of the K. Just dealing.

He wound up whiffing 15 batters, the team record and most by a Kansas City pitcher since Mark Gubicza in 1988. Mark Gubicza! I pictured the righty in his 1990 Topps card, mullet flying, dropping down to one knee as the baseball exploded out of his right hand.

That Tuesday night in August, a guy my age crashed the gate of Royals baseball immortality with Gubicza, Bret Saberhagen and Dan Quisenberry, as I worked on an ice cream headache from a sundae in a miniature plastic KC helmet.

Kauffman stands as a bright memory among my travels.

An important note is that Kauffman succeeded Kansas City Municipal Stadium, constructed in 1923 as Muehlebach Field, which once housed the legendary Kansas City Monarchs Negro League franchise. Appropriately, Kansas City is home to one of the finest baseball museums out there, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM), located at the historic 18th and Vine intersection adjacent to the American Jazz Museum.

We visited both, but for the purpose of this article, I will note that the NLBM features countless photos and artifacts telling the incredible story of a major piece of American sporting history. The highlight is the Field of Legends, where visitors can walk around an infield featuring 12 near life-size bronze statues of stars like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and Satchel Paige.

And finally, it wouldn’t be a road trip without great food, so I’ll use this space to commend Arthur Bryant’s for their outstanding BBQ performance.