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Gerry and the Royals

Oct 25, 2016 -- 9:35pm

By Kurtis Seaboldt

I couldn’t wait.

It was almost four o’clock. I had just finished my day at Sports Radio 810 WHB and was getting ready to leave. First I would stop off for some food and drink – I believe a short end from Joe’s would do just fine – before heading home.

It was Tuesday, October 27, 2015. That night, the Royals would become the first team since the 1934-35 Detroit Tigers to host Game 1 of the World Series in consecutive seasons. After hard-fought battles with the Astros and Blue Jays, the Royals would try to finish the business they had left unfinished the year before.

I couldn’t wait.

As I picked up my cell phone, I noticed that I had missed a call from my older brother. Brian was born nine years before me, the second of Jerry and Jo Ann’s three boys, and was the artist and music lover. Gerry was the oldest, born 12 years before me, and was the athlete and sports fan. My mother died in 1998 and my father died in 2011 so it was just the three of us. I saw that Brian had left me a voice mail. Maybe he wanted to get together and watch the game.

“Hey, Kurt. It’s Brian. I think we may have lost our Big Bro.”

The words made my heart stop and then start pounding. Gerry and Brian still lived in the Raytown house that we all grew up in. Gerry had not been in good health for a while and Brian, just as he had done for my father in his later years, took care of him. Brian told me that he had found Gerry in his bed, unresponsive. His heart wasn’t beating. He had called 911 and paramedics had arrived quickly but were unable to get his heart started. He told me that they had transported him to Research Hospital.

I called Brian back and told him I would meet him there. When I arrived, I learned that, somewhere along the ride to the hospital, they had gotten Gerry’s heart going but they estimated that it had been stopped for nearly 45 minutes. The loss of oxygen had likely caused brain damage that could prove to be fatal. The doctors expected that his heart would stop again before the night was over and weren’t sure if he’d make it to the morning.

They got him into a room in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and my brother and I, along with a couple of friends and family, went to the waiting room. We contacted Gerry’s oldest son, Kris, who joined us. Brian and I decided that Kris should and would be the one to make any and all decisions regarding Gerry’s care. A doctor came out and talked to Kris and updated him on what had happened, what would happen and what the very few options were. We went back with Kris to see Gerry and then returned to the waiting room.

There were probably 20 other people in the waiting room including a large group that had brought a crockpot and several different kinds of food and drink. They were all gathered around the TV in one corner of the room. And why not? It was almost seven o’clock. The World Series was about to start.

We sat about 15 feet away in our little area and watched as well, asking each other what we thought would happen in the game and the series. Alcides Escobar hit the first pitch he saw for an inside-the-park home run and our neighbors in the corner went wild. Well, kinda wild. We were still in an ICU waiting room, after all. Occasionally, a doctor or a nurse would come in and talk to us, jolting us back to the reality from which we never really left.

The mood in the room was decidedly quieter as the Mets gained a 4-3 lead and took that lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. The doctors had told us that there would be no change in Gerry’s condition for a while – he was on a ventilator – and that we were welcome to stay but that it might not be a bad idea to go home and try to get some sleep. We knew the coming days were going to be painful and exhausting so we all agreed; we’d leave as soon as the game was over.

Then Alex Gordon did his thing. Again our neighbors in the corner went kinda wild. We did a few fist bumps and high fives and decided we’d stay and watch it all the way to the end, right there in that room.

At about 12:18, Eric Hosmer brought the longest World Series opener in history to a close and we called it a night. Before we left, we went down to see Gerry one more time. At that moment, as we looked at him lying there, unconscious with tubes everywhere, the final score of a baseball game couldn’t have meant any less to us.

But we told him anyway. “5-4, Royals in 14.”

We made plans to meet back there the next morning, hugged, wiped away tears and left. It was the end of a day that I can’t even begin to describe. Sitting there with my brother and nephew watching the team I’ve loved for 40 years win a dramatic game on the biggest stage in the world. All the while, 90 feet away, the man who took me to my first Royals game, lay dying. You felt terrible. Then something good happened and, for a brief moment, you felt good. Then you felt terrible for feeling good. The swing of emotions was dizzying.

We spent Wednesday there as they began a procedure in which they lower the body temperature to halt or at least slow down the progression of the damage. Then they slowly re-warm the body and reassess the situation. They expected the worst but wanted to make sure that everything had been done to bring him back. At about six o’clock they said that tomorrow would be the earliest that they would know anything and advised that we go home for the evening. I sat in my apartment and watched Johnny Cueto close out his Royals career with a complete game win. The Royals were half way to a World Series championship. I turned off the TV, went to bed and barely slept.

Thursday, we learned that all efforts to save Gerry had been exhausted with no success and we had to decide what we wanted to do. He had no measurable brain function. His internal organs were failing. His body was beginning to shut down. Kris’ mother and Gerry’s youngest daughter joined us and we all agreed with Kris’ belief that Gerry would not want to be kept alive in this condition. He was one of the toughest men we’d ever known. To be kept alive by a machine was as far from his style as you could get. We decided that he would be coded as “Do Not Resuscitate”.

Kris asked about organ donation – Gerry’s eyes were perfect as far as we knew – and he was told that they’d do a test in the morning to determine if that was possible. Then they would disconnect the machines that were keeping him alive and whatever happened next would happen next.

Friday morning, we learned that organ donation was not possible. They disconnected the machines at 10:00 and at 10:10 Gerry Lee Seaboldt was gone. That night, I went out with my friends, Matt and Liz, their daughter, Amanda, and her boyfriend, Jake, to watch Game Three.

I wanted to be with friends and, just as importantly, I wanted to do anything that I could to think about anything but what had happened the previous four days. It helped, even though my brothers, the one I lost and the one I still had, were never out of my mind. By an unbelievable and tragic coincidence, Jake’s father had been and still was in the adjoining ICU after suffering a stroke. Amanda, Jake and Jake’s mother, Diane, all asked to see Gerry. Jake and his mother held his hand and talked to him. It was amazing. In turn, I went down the hall and met Bob for the first time.

Two days after Gerry died, the Royals won it all and they did so in typically dramatic fashion. I watched the game at my apartment with my long time friends, Gary Barnes and Ken Haagensen, the same pair that had accompanied me for Game 7 against the Cardinals in 1985 and Game 7 against the Giants in 2014. For the first time in 30 years, the Royals were World Champions. My phone started lighting up with texts. In years past, one of the first would have been from Gerry. But not that night.

The 2015 World Series will live on forever in the hearts and minds of every Royals fan who saw it. It will live on forever in mine as well. But it will always be just a part of a much larger story. 

Messrs. October

Oct 12, 2016 -- 11:43pm

by Kurtis Seaboldt

Not long after the Cleveland Indians ended the season of the Boston Red Sox with their ALDS sweep, someone on Twitter asked me who I thought was the best postseason hitter in baseball history. The question was clearly inspired by the final game in the amazing career of Boston’s David Ortiz, perhaps the most famous October hero.

I looked at some numbers before saying that I would give it to Ortiz but the brief exercise got me thinking about an all-time postseason team. So, here it is.

C – Thurman Munson (Yankees) His .357 BA, .496 SLG and .874 OPS are the highest for any catcher with at least 100 AB’s. He hit .529 in the Yankees’ loss to the Reds in the 1976 World Series.

1B – Lou Gehrig (Yankees) Yes, I know. Two positions, two Yankees. But Gehrig’s numbers are so good. His slash line in 119 career AB’s: .361/.483/.731/1.214.

2B – Chase Utley (Phillies, Dodgers) Utley’s 10 home runs are the most by a second baseman as are his seven home runs in the World Series. He and Reggie Jackson are the only two players to hit five home runs in a single World Series.

3B – George Brett (Royals) One of three third basemen to hit at least 10 postseason home runs and he did it in fewer AB’s (166) than Chipper Jones (303) and Alex Rodriguez (216). His .337 BA is second only to Pablo Sandoval (.351) among third basemen with at last 150 AB’s. He hit three home runs in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS at Yankee Stadium and I haven’t even mentioned Goose Gossage.

SS – Derek Jeter (Yankees) Another Yankee. I tried hard to find someone other than Jeter but it just isn’t possible. He dwarfs every other player in career stats. And there’s the throw in Oakland that saved the Yankees in 2001.

LF – Manny Ramirez (Red Sox, Dodgers) Not only does Ramirez have more hits, home runs and RBI than any other left fielder, his slash line (.338/.442/.604/1.046) is easily the best of any left fielder with at least 100 AB’s

CF – Carlos Beltran (Astros, Mets) Bernie Williams’ totals are much better but Beltran’s are pretty amazing and it’s unlikely that any player at any position has had as dominant a postseason as Beltran did in 2004 for Houston when he hit eight home runs and compiled a slash line of .435/.536/1.022/1.557.

RF – Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees, Angels) The nickname “Mr. October” is deserved. He hit more home runs than any right fielder and he almost single-handedly crushed the Dodgers in 1977. He was also MVP of the 1973 ALCS for Oakland.

DH – David Ortiz (Red Sox) Another situation where the overall numbers are so dominant that they leave no other choice and that doesn't even mention his ability to pile up those numbers at the exact moment when the Red Sox needed them the most. Perhaps the best postseason hitter ever and certainly the best of his era.

SP – Andy Pettitte (Yankees) Easily the most wins (19) in the postseason – Tom Glavine is second with 14 – but it’s more than that. Twelve times Pettitte took the mound with the Yankees on the verge of clinching a series. Eight times the Yankees won and Pettitte was 6-2 in those games. He ended another team’s season six times.

SP – Curt Schilling (Phillies, Diamondbacks, Red Sox) He might be on this list for that 2004 ALCS start at Yankee Stadium alone. His career numbers are astounding (11-2 with a 2.23 ERA with four complete games, including two shutouts).

SP – John Smoltz (Braves) Smoltz is not just third in wins with 13 but he’s third in winning percentage (13-4, .765) among starters with at least 10 decisions.

SP – Madison Bumgarner (Giants) Duh. His cumulative numbers may not knock you out of your chair (8-3, 2.11) but they are still great, especially when you consider his age. Simply brilliant when his team absolutely needs it, even on short rest as Royals fans will bitterly attest.

SP – Bob Gibson (Cardinals) Nine career starts. Nine complete games. Seven wins and an ERA of 1.89. He won all three of his starts as the Cardinals beat the Red Sox in the 1967 World Series and he struck out 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, a record that still stands today.

RP – Mariano Rivera (Yankees) The only possible choice. It’s not just the 42 saves – Brad Lidge is next with 18 – but it was his sheer dominance over an extended period of time. His career postseason ERA of 0.70 almost defies belief. The best closer ever was the best in October as well.

MGR – Tony LaRussa (White Sox, A’s Cardinals) He won a division title with the White Sox, three pennants and a World Series with the A’s and three pennants and two World Series with the Cardinals.

They're Baaaack!

Aug 28, 2016 -- 11:13pm

by Kurtis Seaboldt

Royals fans were scratching their heads.

It was Monday, August 1, and the team was in Tampa, Florida. They had arrived on a gloomy flight from Arlington where they had just been swept in a four-game series against the Rangers. They had lost eight times in nine games and had just completed their worst calendar month in four years.

And they were doing nothing about it.

The trade deadline was hours away and the Royals, with a handful of attractive, tradable pieces were doing nothing. Weren’t buying. Weren’t selling. It seemed inexplicable. Dayton Moore had vaulted himself into the upper echelon of general managers by assembling a team that had been to consecutive World Series but the last six months had not been stellar.

Big contracts to keep Alex Gordon and acquire Ian Kennedy and Joakim Soria were not paying off. Gordon was hitting .206 and had driven in 16 runs. He had hit seven home runs which meant that he had driven in nine teammates. All year.

Kennedy had just allowed one run over seven in a loss to Texas but his 6-9 record and 4.23 ERA was nothing to shout about. Soria had an ERA over 4.00. The team’s closer, Wade Davis, was hurt. They weren’t scoring runs and they were giving up plenty. This season was over. Why not begin the building process for next year?

Then Danny Duffy climbed the mound at Tropicana Field and pitched the greatest game in Royals history, striking out 16 batters in a 3-0 win. Royals won the next night but lost three in a row before Duffy stopped the skid with a win over Toronto. Counting that game and last night’s win at Boston, the Royals have won 17 of 21. Their record in August is 19-7, completely reversing their 7-19 July. They are the first team since the 2005 Oakland A’s to follow a 19-loss month with a 19-win month.

The Royals, 12 back in the division and 8.5 back in the Wild Card when August began, are now just 5.5 back in the Central and 3 back in the Wild Card. Danny Duffy has vaulted into the Cy Young discussion, Kennedy built off his last July start and has a 1.11 ERA in August. Soria has not allowed a run in 11 straight appearances. Even Alex Gordon had a ten-game stretch in which he batted .432 and slugged .919.

The capper to this amazing resurgence has been the Royals’ bullpen. Minus Davis and Luke Hochevar, the bullpen only ripped off the longest scoreless streak in half a century with only one member who was in the pen a year ago. Kelvin Herrera was joined by Soria, Chris Young, Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Flynn, Peter Moylan, Dillon Gee and Matt Strahm in pitching more than 41 consecutive scoreless innings. Look at those names again.

Suddenly, Dayton Moore’s offseason looks a heck of a lot better. And his decision to stand pat at the deadline looks like borderline genius. The Royals still have work to do and there is little margin for error. But the hardest team in baseball to kill the last two seasons is within striking distance and there isn’t a team in American League that feels good about that.

Rotation, Offense Must Improve For Royals Postseason Run

Jun 27, 2016 -- 10:10pm

By Kurtis Seaboldt

This is why you shouldn’t wait.

Late Saturday night, I got the idea to write a column about the Royals’ two biggest issues this season: their starting rotation and their offense. After back-to-back beat downs at the hands of the Astros, it made sense. But I like to have stats to back it up and that takes time and now, 48 hours later, I am writing what amounts to a “here’s what’s wrong with the Royals” column after a pair of impressive wins.

It’s not the best timing, for sure, but timing has never been my strong suit. So you’ll forgive me in advance for sounding like a wet blanket. Here we go (clears throat, covers head, looks for available escape routes).

The Royals will not make the 2016 Playoffs.

Wait! Don’t get mad! Let me put it another way. The Royals will not make the 2016 Playoffs if they don’t have a significant improvement in at least one of the two areas that I mentioned above. They must either get much better pitching or much more productive on offense. History – my guide in all of these matters – says it is so.

The Royals, as of Sunday night, were 14th in the American League in starters ERA. They were 13th in runs scored per game. Going back to 1999 – that’s the earliest season that MLB.com has sortable splits for pitching – fewer than half of the teams that ranked that low in either category made the playoffs. Way fewer than half. In fact, none of them made the playoffs.

The lowest that any playoff team ranked in starters ERA was 13th (1999 Rangers and 2001 Indians. The lowest that any playoff team ranked in runs scored was 10th (2004 Twins and 2008 Angels). Again, the Royals are 14th and 13th in those categories, respectively.

Now, the Royals could get to 13th in starters ERA and they could get to 10th in runs scored. But doesn’t solve the problem and here is the reason. The 1999 Rangers and 2001 Indians were both second in the league in runs scored. They made up for bad starting pitching by clubbing teams over the head with their bats. The Royals don’t do that.

The 2004 Twins and 2008 Angels were first (Twins) and fifth (Angels) in the league in starters ERA. They made up for a subpar offense by shutting teams down with their rotation. The Royals don’t do that, either.

If you could take away either one of the two problems, the Royals would still be left with a problem that no team has overcome. Either problem would be enough to sink a team and the Royals have both. This is not sustainable over the long haul.

The return of Alex Gordon and the resurgence of Kendrys Morales’ left-handed power swing suggest that the problem on offense is the one more likely to be solved. There really isn’t much to point to as far as the rotation is concerned – although Ian Kennedy’s start Sunday against Houston and Danny Duffy’s gem against St. Louis Monday night are good signs.

One of the two must change and the change must be significant. If not, the defense of the Royals’ crown will end before October even begins.


Jun 13, 2016 -- 7:23pm

by Kurtis Seaboldt

It was one of the worst road trips in the history of the Kansas City Royals. It wasn’t the worst, even if you go back just ten years – the Royals went 0-9 through New York, Tampa and Chicago in 2006 – but it was one-sided to a degree that has seldom been seen.

Even with their two wins, Kansas City was outscored on the ten-game trip, 51-20. Even with their two wins, the Royals’ road record is now 13-23, the third-worst in all of baseball.

This didn’t used to be a problem.

From 2013 through 2015, the Royals were 133-110 (.547) on the road. That was one of the best road records in the majors in that time span. In fact, it was the best road record in the majors in that time span. So what the heck is happening this year? Well, for one thing, their pitching on the road has been worse. Much worse.

From 2013-15, the Royals had a road ERA of 3.38, the best in baseball and easily the best in the American League – Cleveland was second at 3.72. Only seven teams had a home ERA lower than the Royals’ road ERA and all were in the National League. What has happened this season is nothing short of remarkable.

The Royals’ road ERA is 4.48, more than a run higher than their average of the previous three seasons. Much of that has been due to the alarming rate at which baseballs thrown by their pitchers have ended up over the outfield fence. The Royals have allowed 53 home runs in 36 road games this season. That puts them on a pace to allow 119 on the year, which would be the highest road home run total in the majors since 2000, during the heart of the steroid era.

The home-road imbalance has been even more pronounced for the rotation. Royals starters have a home ERA of 4.02 this season. On the road, it is 5.59. Opposing batters are hitting .272 and slugging .498 against Royals starters this season. Ernie Banks hit .274 and slugged .500 during his career. Royals starting pitchers have essentially turned every batter they’ve faced on the road this season into Ernie Banks.

Ernie. Banks.

The Royals’ starting pitching is on a pace to allow 101 home runs on the road this season. Over the last ten seasons, only 24 teams – starters and relievers – have allowed 101 road home runs in a single season.

The recent re-emergence of Danny Duffy gives the Royals and their fans some hope that the near future could be brighter. It better be. They can’t continue to win if it isn’t.


May 27, 2016 -- 8:53am

 by Kurtis Seaboldt

The lead was 18 after one quarter. It was 31 at the half. After three quarters the lead was 40. The Cleveland Cavaliers put a beating on the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. Their 116-78 win tied for the fifth-largest margin of victory ever recorded in a Conference Finals game.

It was an epic destruction. In fact, to find the last time a team won a Conference Finals game by at least 30 points you have to go all the way back to… last week. The same Cavs beat the same Raptors in the same Quicken Loans Arena, 115-84, in what was then the 14th-largest margin of victory ever in a Conference Finals game.

Things have been much closer on the Western Conference side. Well, maybe not much closer. The Thunder beat the defending champion Warriors by 28 and 24 in a three-day span earlier this week. It’s not a new trend. Well, not entirely new. It has been present all through this year’s NBA Playoffs.

There have been 76 games played since the playoffs began back on April 16, a day that saw Oklahoma City thump Dallas by 38 and saw Golden State hammer Houston by 26. Seventeen games (22%) have been decided by at least 25 points. Nearly one out of every four games has been decided by 25 or more.

For perspective consider this: In the previous three playoff seasons, there were only 16 games decided by 25 points or more. There have been 8 games in this year’s playoffs decided by at least 30 points, the most in a single year in NBA history. There were only two in 2014. Two. The Cavs have that many through five games of this series alone.

And there really is no concrete explanation for it. The best theory I’ve heard comes from Soren Petro. He says the NBA has become much more of a jump-shooting league and when those shots don’t fall for one team on a given night, it leads to a blowout. That makes a lot of sense. It's really the only plausible explanation that I've heard.

The only issue I have with that theory is that it didn’t happen in the regular season. In fact, there were fewer 25-point wins in the 2015-16 regular season (82) than there was in any season since 2011-12.  There were 94 last year, 87 and 86 the two years before that.

So, what gives? I’m not really sure. The old joke about the NBA was that nothing matters except for the last two minutes. This spring, it has been the least exciting two minutes in sports.

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