I Know Gordon Would Have Scored


By Greg

It’s been nearly 2 months since the greatest sporting moment of my entire life ended.  Two months to contemplate what actually occurred, two months to try to balance regret and thanks.  Of course, I’m talking about the World Series loss in Game 7 the Kansas City Royals suffered at the hands of the San Francisco Giants.

After 29 years of futility, the Royals made the most of their first postseason entry since Ronald Reagan was not only alive but beginning his second term.  They won the wildest game of baseball I can ever remember in a Wild Card tilt with Oakland, swept the top-seeded Angels in the ALDS, then swept the second-seeded Orioles in the ALCS to arrive at the Fall Classic.

None of this post is really about many of the events that took place in those 14 games, from the Wild Card to Game 7 of the World Series.  Instead it is about the story behind the story that no one knows about yet.  A tale of faith, love, and baseball that has its roots dating as far back as 1989, but as recently as 2007.


I have been a Royals fan since my first grade days, watching my Dad follow them fairly religiously during that magical playoff run in 1985.  I distinctly remember being allowed to stay up to watch them battle the Blue Jays in the ALCS while watching the game on the tiny 13” black-and-white TV in my parents’ bedroom as it perched high atop their dresser.

(How anyone could watch microscopic players on a non-color, non-HD screen is beyond torture these days, but I digress.)

I can also recall getting fill-ins by Dad in the morning before the bus arrived or on our way to Defiance to work on trucks or haul grain for the day.  I can point out exactly where I was on Highway 59 as Dad recounted how Jim Sundberg slid in on his head to win Game 6 in our old green pickup.  I had always wondered why I remember doing that and not going to school, but that game was played on a Saturday night, so his retelling of the Denkinger/Sundberg tale would have been on a Sunday.


Of note, this was the day that Marty McFly traveled back into time on Back to the Future and 26 years later my third* son Lucas would be born.

My Royals fandom continued at a mere lamplight intensity until the Spring of 1989 when my passion for baseball truly took effect, increasing to the size of the blazing sun.  My grandma, Edna Schulte, gave me a comprehensive season preview magazine for that upcoming season, and I devoured it.  I read about how catchers frame pitches, who the best clutch hitters were, how bad the Braves were, how good the A’s were, and everything in between.  It helped that the Royals went 92-70 that year behind Bo Jackson and Bret Saberhagen, and I attended my first game in what would later be called Kauffman Stadium on June 28.


Five years later, with a dangerous pitching staff of David Cone, Kevin Appier, Mark Gubicza, and Tom Gordon, the Royals were poised to break a 9 year streak of failing to qualify for the playoffs, having been made easier by adding an extra division and a wild card slot in each league.  As a family, we followed the Royals for an inordinate amount of games that summer, including 5 of the games in a franchise-best 14 game winning streak in late July-early August.

They were just 1 game out of first place on August 5, but a week later, the season ended in the Strike of 1994.  This ended the best shot the Royals had of capturing a playoff berth and began a long, meandering journey through mediocrity (or worse) that would last the better part of 20 years.

Sure, there were the bright moments.  The Youth Movement (Part I) that saw the likes of Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, Joe Randa, Mike Sweeney, and others rise up to make Kansas City one of the better offenses in all of baseball.  The pitching never did materialize, and after some panic moves and some ill-advised transactions, all was for naught.

2003 was a fun year, as the boys started 9-0 and eventually 16-3 before fading by early June.  It seemed like another tease, like in 2000.  But then the Royals signed Jose Lima from the independent leagues and went on a tear, finding themselves up at the All-Star Break by 7 games.  Alas, it was not to last, and by September 1, had blown that lead and finished 3rd in the division at the end of the year.

That year was especially enjoyable as my high school football team that I coached, the Treynor Cardinals, fulfilled a long quest by winning the State Football title for Class A.

I was still there when the franchise fell flat on its face in 2004-2006, trading away Beltran, fielding perhaps the worst starting rotation in MLB history in 2005, and losing 100+ games each and every year.  I was there when Dayton Moore was hired as the man to lead the club out of the wilderness in June of 2006, and I was there when Zack Greinke went crazy.

And, I was still there when Willie Bloomquist got too many at bats and when Greinke went bonkers in 2009, stayed around long enough to see Kauffman restored to glory cosmetically, and the fall of Gil Meche’s shoulder.

Sure, my attention beginning in 2010 was pretty heavily focused on the minor league system, and for good measure.  Moore had constructed what many prospect ranking services dubbed the Greatest Farm System of All-Time.  That had to excite the fan base, and it made paying notice to what Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas were doing, and you got familiar with the rotation at Low Class A Kane County.

But that all changed in 2013, with the trade of highly-coveted prospect Wil Myers to Tampa in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis.  Five great months of baseball and one terrible May do not a playoff team make, and we fans were more or less teased into what a pennant chase felt like, but like every other year, came up short.


Outside observers to my life would probably comment that it has been very good, and I’m disinclined to disagree.  Great family, great friends, a great job, great kids, great wife, etc.  But one event a casual viewer into my world would have little to no clue about nearly took my passion for life and extinguished it.

Flashback a little over 7 years ago, and we were expecting our first child, but it turned out, we had twins on the way.  Things were going just fine until a warm Saturday in September, when Dana began experiencing complications, and a late trip to the hospital revealed our twins were in danger of being born prematurely at 22 weeks.  An eleven day detour in life happened next, culminating in a tragedy.

Beginning during the wee hours of the morning of Monday, September 17, my wife began feeling ill.  The nurses couldn’t find a cause for it, then later, couldn’t find the heartbeat of the first baby.  This began a domino effect of disaster, as no drug could prevent the birthing process and our son Owen was born at 5:45 that evening, stillborn.  Ellie, his sister, was born shortly thereafter, technically alive, but very small and unable to respond to the NICU team that worked feverishly over her tiny body.

I was a wreck.  My knees didn’t work.  I could barely stand, and at one time, fell to the ground.  I had an overwhelming sadness come over me, as one who watches a series of prayers burn up in front of his face with little to no intermission.  My little daughter was finally handed over to me after no respiratory equipment could be found that could fit into her tiny airways.  She died in our arms after a few minutes when she finally stopped gasping for breath.

There are many events that transpired that evening that I still cannot bring myself to tell anyone, including Dana, who was drugged beyond belief that night.  But I do know my biggest regret of my life and it is this:  When asked if the nurses should leave the babies in the room in a cute little basket overnight, I told them no, take them out.  I didn’t see them until their wake service.

One gets humbled in life a million times, sometimes by your own actions, sometimes by life, sometimes by God.  One of the smallest moments of my first 35 years on this planet was pulling out a credit card and paying for a funeral and casket for my tiny children.

But upon leaving the funeral home that afternoon, a brief but strong line of thunderstorms had rolled through.  Looking back to the east as we drove home, a brilliant double rainbow comforted us.  This was significant as we experienced nearly an identical double rainbow after our wedding.  I believe it was Owen and Ellie telling us it was going to be all right.

Since that day, with strong support from family and friends, I’ve managed to put it all behind me.  But being what I would call moderately to strongly religious, I’ve taken to the fact that I have two angels watching over me.  There have been times where I might have a nagging pain somewhere (tooth, stomach, knee, etc.).  I ask Owen and Ellie to come take it away, and almost invariably, the pain will be gone instantly by saying something akin to “Owen and Ellie, please take Daddy’s ouchies away”. I don’t invoke them too often, as one should not put your God (or your angels) to the test, but I do occasionally.

2014 Royals

The window of contention was wide open for Kansas City, but after a disappointing 1st half, the Royals found themselves 2 games under .500 the Sunday after the All-Star Break.  They convened a players-only meeting and went on an epic tear, going 24-6 at one point to rocket into the division lead by 3 games over Detroit.


Texts like this one would roll between Jack and myself.  It was almost a race to get the “Winning!” or “Winz!” text to each other first after each and every victory.

In the end, the Royals of course qualified for the playoffs for the first time since those halcyon days of Marty McFly and 1985.  They clinched on a memorable night in Chicago, allowing us to experience what it is like to have your team dousing themselves in a champagne shower.

Finishing a game ahead of Oakland, the Royals were to host the A’s on Tuesday, September 30.  By a cruel mechanization of the calendar, the Royals still would not have technically played meaningful October baseball since they clinched Game 7 on the World Series.  They had to win the Wild Card game.

And what a wild game it was.  Without a doubt the most incredible physical experience of my life.  After Shields gave up a first inning homer to Brandon Moss, the Royals instantly found themselves down 2-0.  They fought back, eventually going ahead 3-2.  But then the 6th inning happened, and the A’s put up a crooked 5-spot to go up 7-3.  With Jon Lester rolling, it appeared that the season I had waited nearly 30 years for was coming to an abrupt end.

But then a peculiar thing happened.  The Royals started chipping away, running absolutely hog wild on the A’s catcher Derek Norris.  They ultimately stole 7 bases, a playoff record.  They tied the game in the 9th, had multiple chances to win it, but found themselves down once again in the bottom of the 12th 8-7.

Eric Hosmer tripled off the top of the wall with one out, scored on an infield hit by Christian Colon, who then stole 2nd on a pitch-out, and after an Alex Gordon pop out, it brought up Salvador Perez, who was having a miserable night at the plate to be our hero.

At this moment, I turned away from the field of play at 11:50 pm, and just said aloud “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game.”

Now, I had been listening pretty heavily to the Foo Fighters in the weeks leading up to the playoffs, and Learn to Fly has been one of my favorite songs from the era of music when I was in college.  The lyrics from this song may mean other things of course, but they seem pretty appropriate for the tale I am about to go down.

Run and tell all of the angels
This could take all night
Think I need a devil* to help me
Get things right

Hook me up a new revolution
‘Cause this one is a lie
We sat around laughing and watched the last one die

*The common joke on Royals Review, a KC Royals blog of choice, was that the Royals employed Devil Magic on their playoff run.

Within moments of praying to my little angels, Perez punched a pitcher’s pitch down the third base line past a diving Josh Donaldson to drive home Colon and win the game, creating what I can only describe as an avalanche of jubilation in Kauffman Stadium.  In amongst the moments of picking Jeff up to my left and having Jack lying horizontally across both our heads, I thanked God for having lived to see the day my Royals won a playoff game, and also had tears in my eyes for my twin babies who wanted to see their daddy happy.


Like the song says, it did take damn near all night, as we didn’t get back to my car until 1:00, and what can only be described as the last vestiges of crazy youth, I was back in the office after pulling into my driveway at 4:45. While we were driving home, the baseball team was boarding a late flight and were en route to Southern California.  A date with the top seeded Los Angeles Angels loomed on Thursday, a team we matched up with rather well.

I’m looking to the sky to save me
Looking for a sign of life
Looking for something help me burn out bright

I’m looking for a complication
Looking ’cause I’m tired of trying
Make my way back home
When I learn to fly (high)

Jason Vargas started this game against Jered Weaver, and I figured we’d give them a good fight, but come up short.  Vargas pitched surprisingly well, giving up 2 runs in 6 innings before bowing out for the Royals’ dominant bullpen.  The game was so stressful to watch that I had to do what I do a lot, which is “go to radio”.

It’s a fairly easy way to take the stress level for a game down about 100 notches, as I fired up Destiny on the PS4 and was knocking out aliens while Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre called the game.  While looking down at my phone pumping out a game that I should have been watching, I just said aloud, “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game”.


Then this happened Immediately.  The Royals won 2-1 after Holland shut the door.  But what happened during that inning is almost too unbelievable to mention, but it happened.  My nephew Nathan was born while the Royals were literally winning this game, and I can just picture Jack in the delivery room with one eye on his first son being born and Moustakas taking a trot around the bases with the other, because I know I would have been.  The call coming from Kansas that night came at 1:15, with the greeting of “You still up?”  Duh.  Of course I am.

On to Game 2.  After watching the Cardinals solve the Clayton Kershaw Riddle with Bred once again and observing what the other side of playoff baseball can look like, Yordano Ventura took the mound against Matt Shoemaker, flashing his usual dominant stuff.  But the Angels weren’t going away, and both teams found themselves in another 1-1 extra inning affair.

I had “gone radio” earlier in the game, barely able to take the stress.  Destiny was once again being played, as Max and Bred joined me in killing things.  It was the top of the 12th, and I decided to go for it again:  “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game”.


Boom.  Right now. Hosmer hits a go-ahead 2 run homer to put the game out of reach and with a Holland save, the Royals were heading back to Kansas City up 2-0.

Game 3 was at Kauffman, but being another work night, we all decided to stay home and watch it on TV.  With the Royals down early 1-0, Alex Gordon cleared the bases with a double, Hosmer hit a monster shot to left center, Moustakas eventually hit a solo blast to right and my newly-found secret weapon stayed in my back pocket as the Royals won easily 8-2 to advance to the ALCS.

I think I’m done nursing the patience
It can wait one night
I’d give it all away if you give me one last try

We’ll live happily ever trapped if you just save my life
Run and tell the angels that everything’s alright…

In a most unfortunate circumstance, my wife had scheduled a pumpkin patch/apple orchard weekend with her mom back in Northeast Iowa and being that Game 1 began on a Friday night, we left promptly at 4:00 to arrive in front of a TV by 7:00, which I was able to do without getting picked up for speeding.

Shields started for the Royals, and was spotted a 4-1 lead, but blew it.  The game was ultra-stressful, but I couldn’t draw myself away from it quite yet.  It was the top of the 9th, and Kansas City had loaded the bases against closer Zach Britton, but could not score a run.  Still, I kept to myself.

In the top of the 10th and tired of the ulcer that was beginning to come on, I went to the well again:  “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game”.


See ya, later Gordon parks one into the right-center field seats, and was nearly immediately followed up by a Moustakas 2 run homer that eventually would prove to be the difference.

I could barely believe the happenings were happening, so to speak.  Could this be happening?  Sure, every Royals fan was going through their own personal experiences with this now-magical playoff run, but could my experience have something to do with all of the others?  I was more than beginning to believe so.

…fly along with me, I can’t quite make it alone
Try to make this life my own
Fly along with me, I can’t quite make it alone
Try to make this life my own

In Game 2, a day game, the Royals once again found themselves ahead and with Ventura seeing a few miles per hour drop off his magic fastball, we’d have to rely on the bullpen to deliver this game.  After the O’s tied the game at 4-4 in the 6th, the bullpens for both teams locked horns.

Going into the 9th inning, I was desperately wanting to get this one put away and head back to Kansas City up 2-0, so I invoked my saying, “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game.”


Clutch They did it again, and once again, on cue. After some pacing out in my in-laws garage listening to the radio, Holland terminated the Orioles to secure the win and indeed head back home up two games to none.

While it shouldn’t just be shrugged off by any means, the next 3 games had nothing to do with the central theme of this story.  Sure, the Royals hung on to beat Baltimore in a pair of 2-1 wins in front of the home crowd at Kauffman to lock in a date in the World Series, and of course, I went to radio in the 7th inning of Game 4 while all of my brothers were in attendance.  I was there when Holland induced JJ Hardy into the deciding ground ball out to Moustakas that punched that ticket in spirit, jumping around my living room like a ten year old.  Somehow, my life was being validated before my eyes.

As a diversion from this tale for a brief moment:  When the Royals advanced to the World Series, the experience can only be described as having your first child born.  People calling you up, congratulating you for the accomplishment, knowing how much you’ve wanted it.  Family texting/emailing/calling one right after the other.  Coworkers practically giving you cigars, clapping you on the back for a job well done.  It was amazing.  The one person I wanted to share the moment in person with was Jack, as we had journeyed down this road together for the past 5 years obsessively, but it was plenty good enough to talk to him by phone that night.

Jeff, Bred, and I ventured off to the pinball expo in Chicago for the weekend, prepared for what could be the greatest weekend ever:  No pressure of sports, but a glowing feeling of accomplishment, and about 32 hours of non-stop pinball.  We learned the Giants would be our foe in the Fall Classic on the way out to Chicago.

Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence assured Game 1 would have no theatrics, as the Giants obliterated the Royals 7-1, sticking the dagger in almost immediately.  We had tickets to Game 2, so thankfully did not have to sit through an abomination the likes of the series opener.

I’m looking to the sky to save me
Looking for a sign of life
Looking for something to help me burn out bright
I’m looking for a complication
Looking ’cause I’m tired of trying
Make my way back home when I learn to…


Leaving work early, Jeff and I jetted down to the stadium, and on our walk from our usual parking spot across the road from Kauffman, it was almost surreal.  The low setting sun of late October is in stark contrast from the usually lofty sun during normal baseball season, so your senses immediately detected that this was different.  The crowd was different.  Just about every emotion was in the air, just waiting for you to experience it.

Ventura got the nod, against Jake Peavy.  Of course, former Royal Gregor Blanco leads off with a solo homer, hitting the drive nearly into the identical place that Moss had hit his 3 weeks prior.  Undeterred the Royals answered in the bottom half of the first, went ahead in the 2nd, only to find themselves in 2-2 tie going into the bottom half of the 6th inning.

Not wanting to watch a loss, I went to my angels early in this one, deciding that the 6th inning with the heart of the order up might be the best time to tie the series up:  “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game.”


Hey, Strickland!  After the delirium of watching the tension break in a World Series game at Kauffman Stadium, I just shook my head, glanced up at the sky, and thanked God for what was happening.  For I had confirmation that my babies were indeed there in heaven and because of that, I would see them again someday.

Game 3 was a nail-biter in San Francisco, one that saw Jeremy Guthrie have a fantastic start, handing over a 1 run lead to the bullpen that helped put it away and go up 2-1 in the Series.

Game 4 will forever be the lost chance, almost like Pickett’s Charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  As Shelby Foote noted on Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, every Southern boy dreams that it is 1:00 on July 3rd, 1863, just before the Charge when the possibility of winning the war was still at hand.  With the Royals up 4-1 in the 4th, the Giants just kept chipping away at the pitching staff, until they had broken through completely and lambasted KC 11-4.

The exact feeling after the game was just like Tom Hanks’ version of astronaut Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 when asked to shut down the fuel cells after their oxygen tank exploded in the service module…”We’ve just lost the moon.”  Sure, the series was tied 2-2 and we still had 2 more games in KC, but it just felt like our best chance had just been blown.

Bumgarner really took it to the Royals lineup in Game 5, almost making it unwatchable.  Had I been a non-fan of the teams involved, his performance during the entire playoff run would be been remarkable, but as it was, I hated him (and probably will) more than any player I have come across not named John Elway.

The Royals broke through in Game 6 back home, demolishing Jake Peavy once again and rode Ventura’s blessed right arm to a 10-1 win, a game which saw Moustakas homer again and again a homer was given up by Hunter Strickland, his major-league record 6th of one postseason.

…looking to the sky to save me
Looking for a sign of life
Looking for something to help me burn out bright
I’m looking for a complication
Looking ’cause I’m tired of trying
Make my way back home when I learn to fly high.
Make my way back home when I learn to fly.
Make my way back home when I learn to…

So it all came down to Game 7.  Just those words are enough to make a baseball fan get goose bumps, but when its your own team, fighting for what you’ve wanted for the better part of a lifetime, it gives you heartburn, insomnia, and an electric feeling going up and down your spine.

After a 1-2-3 top half of the first, Jeremy Guthrie got into trouble, and like the Giants were wont to do throughout this series, piled up several 2 strike hits to take a 2-0 lead on a pair of sacrifice flies.  But like the Royals were wont to do, they came right back and tacked on 2 runs of their own, as Gordon drove home Butler from first on a double, and he later scored on an Infante sac fly.

Tim Hudson, the Giants starter, was chased in this inning, which would normally had been a very good thing, but we all knew Bumgarner was going to throw extensive innings in this one if they got ahead or just stayed tied, so the Royals had to make a move.

Our chance was in the bottom of the third.  Cain singled to right, then was appearing to have been moved up to at least 2nd base on a sharply hit ground ball up the middle. But Joe Panik, the Giants’ second sacker, knocked it down and managed to start a very improbable double play that might have been the first nail in the Royals’ coffin.

Because right away in the top half of the fourth, Guthrie surrendered hits to thorn-in-my side Pablo Sandoval and pain-in-my-neck Hunter Pence, then allowed a deep fly to left that somehow moved the rotund Kung Fu Panda to third.  Kelvin Herrera was called in to get out of the inning, but on an 0-2 pitch to Michael Morse, the druggy-looking DH flicked a fly ball to right field, permitting Sandoval to lumber down the line and score what proved to be the fatal run.

Bumgarner entered the game in the 5th, gave up a single to Infante to leadoff the frame, saw Escobar bunt him to 2nd, to face Nori Aoki, who led the majors in hitting against lefties as a left hander.  In what can only be described as perfect outfield positioning and a great amount of dumb luck, the line drive to left field that should have dropped down and proved to be the tying RBI, ended up being caught for the 2nd out of the game.  The Royals would not threaten until the 9th.

Both teams were futile against the others relievers for the rest of the game.  Herrera gutted out 3 innings, Wade Davis fired 2, and Holland tossed a scoreless 9th to keep it at 3-2.  It was set up for what every kid dreams about growing up.

Game 7.  Bottom of the 9th.  Down by 1.

You don’t just keep secret weapons in your back pocket as the sand is almost all the way out of the hourglass, so I broke the request out to my twin angels for one last time:  “Owen and Ellie, we could really use this game”.

Hosmer went down swinging.  In what could prove to be Butler’s last at bat as a Royal, he got a good pitch to hit, but lofted a popper into center field for the 2nd out.  That left Gordon to play Hero of the Day.  What ensued could have been the craziest play in World Series history, if not for a rookie third base coach who put up the stop sign.  I mean, come on.  A bloop single to left center, that was misplayed by the center fielder, then booted again by the left fielder, all the while Gordon is motoring on the bags.  This play is beyond comprehension to begin with and was that miracle a die-hard Royals fan was praying for.  Mind you, the twins were 6-0 in delivering key moments and I fully believed they were going to deliver for their daddy one last time…


He scores.  

No doubt in my mind.  As I found myself screaming at my TV alongside Max in my basement, demanding Mike Jirschele to send Gordon home, imploring everything holy to command he be safe if he was sent, Jirschele put up the stop sign.

Salvador Perez then popped out weakly to Sandoval in foul ground to end the game.  The series.  And the season.

I still haven’t read anything from that game.  No recap, no commentary, no opinion.  I did see some Sports Science tripe on espn.com that suggested Gordon was going to be thrown out.  But not me.  Not in a million years.  After reading this, can you think any different?  If so, I guess there are still non-believers.  But for me, this is all the proof I’ll ever need.

Owen and Ellie, your Daddy loves you from the bottom of his heart.  I still think about you every day and every night.  I am thankful I am not crippled by your loss anymore and we thank you for sending Grant and Lucas to us.  I’ll see you and hold you again someday, but hopefully not for a good long time.


In the meantime, GO ROYALS!

PS:  While I’m still on the Foo Fighters theme, this song has always been a favorite of mine.  For this recent run by the Royals, it reminded me of my dad.  He taught me the game of baseball, even though I don’t recall ever playing catch with him or taking batting practice with him.  But I do know he fell out of watching/listening to baseball at about the same time the Royals went into their 2 decade dormancy.

We four brothers probably finally got to him after getting excited about what the Royals were doing in their farm system, and he started paying more attention.  Listening more, learning the players.  DVRing every single game.  Because as Jack and I were texting our “Winning!” and “Winz!” back and forth to each other from Ankeny, IA and Gardner, KS, there was Dad watching that same game diligently on those hot summer nights back home on the farm.

So, here’s to you, Dad.  Thanks for everything.

~ by goetgre on December 29, 2014.

One Response to “I Know Gordon Would Have Scored”

  1. Wow, what a powerful article, in so many ways. You did an incredible job, your article captured so much emotion, even though I knew how the series ended, I couldn’t wait to read on and see how you “ended” the story.


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