25th ANNIVERSARY: Baseball Sure Has Changed Since 1985

As a Royals fan born after 1985, trying to give perspective on a World Series I have no recollection of proved a difficult task. My lack of insight is due to the fact I wasn’t born until two years after Darryl Motley closed his leather around the clinching fly ball off the bat of Andy Van Slyke.

The problem I had is as a journalist is that I feel responsibility to generate original material from my reactions to things I’ve seen or heard. I’ve always felt writers are artists, words are our paint, and paper (or in this case, your computer screen) is our canvas.

I obviously am aware of the 1985 World Series; in fact my first memories were from my mother when I was still a child. She was living in Kansas City during 1985. I’m not sure if she could name anyone on the team besides George Brett and Bret Saberhagen , but still to this day she reminds me how hopping the party was in Westport that night.

Not to mention George Brett is the namesake of my girlfriend (Brett, not George if you were wondering).

The fact that this blog is creating material based around the 25th Anniversary of the I-70 Series proves what no other sports besides baseball possess. History is deep-rooted within the game. It’s a passion players from the past and present recognize and respect.

Passion oozes from fans to the front office, specifically in the postseason. The best example I can give is Don Denkinger. I’m not sure if fans of other sports can instantly conger up such strong emotions from one play, which happened a quarter of a century ago.

This instance is pertinent to the ’85 Series, but there are hundreds more throughout history. Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 WS, Carlton Fisk in the 1975 WS, Chris Chambliss in the 1976 ALCS, Ozzie Smith in the 1985 NLCS, Kirk Gibson in the 1988 WS, Joe Carter in the 1993 WS, and on and on and on. When any of these names are uttered to baseball fans, the replay reel automatically turns on in the back of their mind. They can vividly see, hear, and maybe even smell the events unfold exactly as they happened decades ago. This is something I think is unique to baseball. The I-70 World Series only added to the replays vaulted forever into our minds.

As I went through dozens of websites about Brett, Saberhagen, Lonnie Smith, killer tarps, and Denkinger, what I found intriguing is how much the game has changed.

It’s almost comical now to look at the backdrop for the ’85 Series, Royals Stadium’s god-awful forest green Astroturf carpet with diamond cutouts for dirt. The only things beyond the outfield wall were fountains and a prehistoric Royals scoreboard. Players with tight fitting uniforms and pants only reaching their calves. Fan favorites sported stirrups, mullets, and afros. Players were getting reprimanded and suspended for cocaine use.

Pat Sheridan and a classic look, vintage 1985

Now computer generated scoreboards wrap themselves around the outfield walls and facades of Kauffman. The fountains shoot and splash in between innings as if they were straight out of the Bellagio. Thousands of seats have been implemented beyond the outfield walls and every available inch of open space is marred by an advertisement. Players have traded in their old school duds for uniforms looking more like pajamas . Hairstyles have been upgraded to dreadlocks , the caveman style , and surfer dude look . Baseball is no longer dampened by narcotics use, instead by HGH and steroids.

The uniforms and stadiums aren’t the only things which have changed. The way the game is played, specifically the use of pitchers, has changed drastically.

The 1985 Royals staff was dominant, in a way which will probably never been seen again in the postseason. Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry, and Charlie Leibrandt all finished in the top five for 1985 Cy Young voting. In the seven-game series the Royals used only six pitchers, one of whom, Joe Beckwith, only threw two innings.

To put it in perspective, during the 2009 World Series between the Yankees and Phillies, both teams used eleven pitchers in the six game series. Essentially the Yanks used five more pitchers to complete one less game.

The highest paid player on the field for the 1985 Series was Ozzie Smith. The Wizard cashed in for a cool $1.4 million during the season. The highest paid Royal was Brett at an even $1 million.

1985 Kansas City Royals team payroll: $9.6 million

1985 St. Louis Cardinals team payroll: $11.8 million

1985 Combined team payrolls: $25.4 million

Alex Rodriguez’s 2010 season earnings: $33 million

Since the I-70 Series the Royals and Cards have paved differing paths. Since ‘85 the Royals haven’t sniffed the postseason. They placed second in the division three times over the next 25 years, but finished last or second to last 16 times. The Cardinals have made nine playoff appearances, including three World Series berths, winning it all in 2006.

While diehards point to 1985 as the last Royals success, Kansas City’s organization has made sure to make it a lasting memory. The greatest single thing I take away from the ’85 Series wasn’t a specific player or play, but how it has changed the landscape of baseball over the last 25 years. It has created a passionate and devoted fan base for support in victory and defeat.

Nearly all of the awards presented by the Royals in the off-season are devoted to people who helped contribute during the unforgettable October of 1985: the Dan Quisenberry Special Achievement award (recognizing an outstanding member of the community), Dick Howser Player Development Person of the Year award, Frank White Defensive Player of the Year, Willie Wilson Baserunner of the Year, George Brett Hitter of the Year, and Joe Burke Special Achievement award.

As I look back on the I-70 Series I see seven games in October which transformed an organization. Its reverberations have been felt throughout the organization on the big league and minor league level. It has acted as a motivator for achievement for many of the youngsters who’ve become Royals. All of these kids strive to receive achievements named for legends of the past, so they can reign in another Fall Classic championship in the future.

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