In a season, well month-and-change, that has felt consistently surreal, it was the first sepia-toned moment.
The consequences seemed ever so dire, both for the tangible effects another loss would have, dropping the lead in the AL Central to a mere 0.5 game, as well as the larger meaning. The offense, much-maligned to start the year and held up even through this hot streak by the shaky foundation of cluster luck and a league-leading batting average with runners in scoring position, had scratched out a mere 2 runs in the previous 26
games innings (lol Physioc). The pixie dust appeared to be running out, the magic wearing thin.
The proverbial bloop-and-a-blast, the line bandied about to try and muster any remaining hope at every level of baseball from Little League on up, actually came to fruition. Alcides Escobar plopped a ducksnort into shallow center field and two pitches later, on a slider which didn’t slide quite enough, The Man himself, Alex Effin Gordon, muscled the ball over the 387 sign in right center field.
Royals 2. Twins 1.
Time appeared to freeze as Royals fans, no matter their location, took a second to gather their thoughts. It was a moment, and feeling, foreign to a generation of Royals fans and a distant memory to the remainder of them. It was only August 26th and it only kept the Royals 1.5 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers. It’s very possible the offense continues its seemingly inevitable spiral into malaise and, despite their best efforts, the Royals slowly slink out of first place and, eventually, the playoff race entirely.
Growing up a sports fan in Kansas City, no matter the success taking place in the present, the impending doom of the future always occupies the back of your mind. There is this persistent belief in gravity; of waiting and waiting for the other shoe to drop, plummeting the Royals back down to the familiar surroundings of mediocrity.
This impending sense of doom likely played a large role in the meager attendance Tuesday night at the K and, no matter what out-of-touch Ned Yost believes, it will take longer than 5 weeks to rid the city of the feeling. And, for 8 innings, the Royals played right along with the expectation of demise, providing a pitiful offensive performance for the third consecutive game.
Alex Gordon was having none of this, however. If only for a night, the demons appear to have been exorcised. The juju dodged. The unflinching pull of gravity avoided.
It was victory snatched from the jaws of defeat from an organization who has spent 25 years making a name for themselves doing the inverse. It was a grand, flashbulb moment for a franchise largely devoid of them for a generation.
My dad called me immediately after the home run. We talk frequently and almost always discuss the Royals for some length of time. This was the first time I can ever remember him, however, calling immediately following a happening at Kauffman Stadium. He knew I was at work. He didn’t care. I knew I was at work. I didn’t care. I answered anyways.
This moment could not wait to be digested and discussed. It was something unique to anything else I’ve ever experienced as a Royals fan. It was dramatic and it was unexpected and, most importantly of all, it mattered. It matters in the standings, of course, but more importantly it seemed to confirm the incredible, unprecedented-in-a-generation run this Royals team just went on. It almost seemed to verify the destiny of this team, to eradicate the nagging sense that this is too good to be true and will end any day now.
It still might, of course. I grew up in Kansas City and have been let down far too many times to expect anything less. But, for a night at least, caution was thrown to the wind and pure, unadulterated belief was permitted.
And it was beautiful.