I was in Kansas City to see a Royals game. This was done as part of my goal — one must have goals — to see a game in every Major League ballpark. Some teams play in cities you wouldn’t otherwise go out of your way to see, and that turns out to be part of the fun.
What did I know about Kansas City? It straddles Missouri and Kansas, with the Missouri part being the major one, and the one with the ball team. There’s great barbecue. And “Kansas City” (“I’m goin’ to Kansas City/Kansas City, here I come”) by Wilbert Harrison, later covered by the Beatles, is a catchy song. That was the extent of my knowledge.
But KC was an easy add-on to my annual trip home to the St. Louis area. At the tail end, I boarded Amtrak for a six-hour ride (at a mere $36) across the breadth of Missouri, east to west. Seats are comfortable, leg room is expansive. I brought dinner and snacks and finished a long novel.
It was relaxing. (Especially since the train didn’t collide with anything, unlike a train a day earlier.)
The next morning, a Wednesday, I set out from my downtown hotel for Kauffman Stadium for the 1 p.m. game.
Kansas City doesn’t make it easy to see a game. Its stadium is eight miles from downtown, off a freeway on the outskirts of the city. It’s actually closer to Independence than to KC.
I took a bus. It was an hour’s ride, but for now, buses in the city are free. Hard to beat free.
MLB stadium No. 12 (of 30): Kansas City. Here for a day game against Texas. Play ball! pic.twitter.com/81HWlW5ZIS
— David Allen (@DavidAllen909) June 29, 2022
I’d sprung for a $26 ticket in a shady loge section, where the views were fine and the temperature was a good 10 degrees cooler than the sunny seats. Also, elbow room was plentiful. I practically had my section to myself.
Attendance was light at 11,000. It was a weekday afternoon. And the Royals are terrible this season.
They have a good stadium, though. Built in 1973, it’s got a distinctly retro flavor, with an open, swooping design and infield seats that end at the foul poles. Updates have been low-key, not jarring. If you love Dodger Stadium, in other words, you’d certainly appreciate Kauffman Stadium.
Fountains in the outfield splash between innings. Near them are four statues, including one of George Brett, the standout player of my youth who, with brother Bobby, owns the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. And waterfalls in the outfield run continuously.
I ordered a stadium staple: the Rookie BBQ sandwich, brisket on a bun, with slaw. I cheered for the home team, which seems like the polite thing to do as a visitor when you have no particular rooting interest in either team.
The Royals beat the Texas Rangers, 2-1. The same way you’ll hear “I Love L.A.” after a Dodger victory, the Royals play the Beatles’ peppy version of “Kansas City,” flashing the key line “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” on the Jumbotron.
This was Ballpark No. 12 (of 30) for me, by the way. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
Heading out of the stadium, I began hoofing it up the incline to the main road. A Royals employee in a golf cart cheerfully offered me a ride. Midwestern hospitality.
The bus came. The driver, hearing how the game turned out, danced a little in his seat, exclaiming, “The Royals actually won?”
Neon signs from various Kansas City jazz clubs light up the American Jazz Museum. (That’s Jay McShann’s piano below them.) pic.twitter.com/x8c6QhIPGP
— David Allen (@DavidAllen909) June 30, 2022
I packed a lot into the next day. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum shares a building with the American Jazz Museum. And why not — jazz and baseball are two great American creations. A combo ticket was $13 and was money well spent.
The jazz museum was well done and the Negro Leagues museum was riveting. The details of what baseball segregation really meant, and what Black players had to endure, were a window into American history. Their moments of triumph were all the sweeter.
I walked a few blocks to Arthur Bryant’s, the famous barbecue spot that writer and KC native Calvin Trillin once called the finest restaurant in America. The line stretched to the door, past a photo memorializing Barack Obama’s visit. When I got to the order window, I asked for the brisket half-sandwich.
Bryant’s has some apologetic signs up about the price of brisket and burnt ends sandwiches, which now cost a little under $18, a completely normal California price. But if they’re selling a half sandwich, that was a sign that a full is too much.
When the tray was handed to me bearing a large sandwich cut in half, I said warily, “I ordered a half sandwich.” “This is the half,” the server assured me. Before I reached the register, he got my attention and pointed to the full, overflowing sandwich he’d handed to the customer behind me. “Good Lord,” I exclaimed.
A half sandwich, stacked high with brisket, was a meal, and also delicious. I got a side of slaw and tucked it into the sandwich. Fellow columnist Joe Blackstock, who’s been to Bryant’s, later told me I should’ve got the potato salad, the best he’s ever had.
Anyone for badminton? Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen’s whimsical 19-foot shuttlecocks adorn the lawn outside KC’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. pic.twitter.com/2zwKvoPUKX
— David Allen (@DavidAllen909) July 1, 2022
I took a bus to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Entry, like the bus, was free. It’s a top-notch museum, and its holdings include a Monet water lilies painting that’s part of a triptych. I’d seen a second painting from the scene a few days earlier in St. Louis.
The third panel is in Cleveland. Well, someday. (Cleveland has a Major League team, after all.)
There wasn’t time for everything worthwhile in and around KC. There’s the National World War I Museum, a contemporary art museum, the riverfront City Market and, in nearby Independence, the Truman Presidential Library. Also, I guess, the potato salad at Bryant’s.
I may or may not make it back, but as with my vacation in Milwaukee last year, KC was fresh evidence that even cities you might not think about visiting have a lot to offer.
Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
My Sunday column was on Bill and Marilyn Ruth of Corona, who would be marking 75 years of marriage on 7/5. It inspired this note from reader Terri DiDonato: “Coincidentally, my in-laws will also celebrate their 75th wedding anniversary on the same day.” What are the odds? Congratulations to Lou and Peri DiDonato of Rancho Cucamonga. And consider this: Between the DiDonatos and the Ruths, that’s an epochal 150 years of marriage.
David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, which is less impressive. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.