On Friday, the Royals had the Hall of Fame Classic (HFC). The HFC was an oldtimers game that was played to commemorate the opening of the Royals Hall of Fame (RHF). The renovations to Kauffman Stadium have been complete since the start of the season, with one exception- the Royals Hall of Fame. That Hall was completed prior to the All-Star break and was set to open for the first home game of the second half.
The last couple of seasons, Willie Wilson has hosted the Willie Wilson Classic at Community America Ballpark, home of the Kansas City T-Bones of the Northern League. Supposedly, Willie and the Royals had some sort of falling out and the Royals never invited him back to the ballpark, with the one exception of his 2000 RHF induction. But, apparently, everything got worked out and Willie was at Royals Fanfest this past winter. It was around that time that the HFC, presented by Willie Wilson, was announced. So, that meant that Kauffman Stadium was getting the event and not Community America Ballpark.
I went to the Willie Wilson Classic last year and had a great time. I got a ton of autographs and enjoyed the game. Just click on the WWC label to see some of my posts about the event.
Unfortunately, I did not enjoy myself this year as much as last year. For starters, this game was held prior to a Royals game while last years was held on an open date. As an autograph collector, I knew that the visiting team would not be taking batting practice on the field because of the HFC. So, I planned on getting to the ballpark around noon to try to get some signatures from the Rays, and maybe some of the oldtimers, as they arrived at the ballpark. To my dismay, way too many people had the same idea. It was unreal for a Royals game. There was about thirty people there when I arrived and that number kept growing as the afternoon went one. The only Rays autograph that I got was from a coach, Todd Greene. The only oldtimers autograph that I got was from John Wathan. I also got an autograph from Luke Hochevar and Mike Jacobs of the Royals as well as a Goose Joak Original signed by the Royals GM, Dayton Moore. Needless to say, I didn't do too well outside of the ballpark.
Around 3:30, a bus arrived at the players drop-off point. I thought that it was going to be the Rays second team bus until it pulled up and looked like a fancy school bus. I was about to leave the area until I saw Willie Wilson jump off the bus. He was followed by the other oldtimers as they made their way to the ballpark. Everyone was asking for signatures and no one signed a single one. They said that they would sign inside of the park.
After that, I went and got in line at the gates. It was about twenty-five minutes before the gates opened and I was first in line. On the way to the gate, I drifted off by Arrowhead Stadium to get a picture of "The K" from beind the home plate area. Here is how it looks after the renovation.
For those of you unfamiliar to the ballpark, here is what it looked like two years ago.
So, I got in line and waited for the gaets to open. I was on the third base side since it is closer to the visitor's dugout. I figured that the RHF players would be in the Royals dugout and the Legends team would be in the thrid base dugout. That wasn't the case and I had to make my way over to the first base dugout. I got a good spot there and waited for all the players that said that they would sign inside to start signing. Needless to say, that did not happen. I only saw three guys sign autographs inside the ballpark- Bert Campaneris, Fergie Jenkins, and Todd Hundley.
Bert signed a bunch of autographs in my area and I was fortunate enough to get three cards signed by him. Fergie signed a little on the opposite end of the dugout. People had to toss their balls over to him to get them signed and I wasn't about to throw my autograph book over the dugout. I got his signature last year, so I skipped out on him this year. Todd Hundley signed a few autographs down the foul line after warming up with his dad, but he didn't sign long enough for me to even leave my spot. I didn't see a single RHFer sign for anybody! It was kind of depressing even though I already had signatures from most of them.
After a quick batting practice session, the Legends headed over to the third base dugout. They were getting ready to announce the participants and I was able to get this photo of Willie Wilson and Frank White in the dugout.
Shortly afterward, as they were being announced, George Brett was announced.
George wasn't on the list of Royals players, so it was good to see him out on the field that day.
Here is the Royals Hall of Famers on the field (L-R Willie Wilson, Frank White, John Mayberry, Amos Otis, John Wathan [not a RHF, but someone had to catch], George Brett, Jeff Montgomery, Dennis Loenard, and Steve Busby). Freddie Patek was about to be introduced as the photo was taken and I have no idea where Cookie Rojas, Larry Gura, Whitey Herzog, and Bret Saberhagen were that day (actually Saberhagen was in a pro/am golf tournament at Lake Tahoe).
As for the Legends team, it consisted of Fergie Jenkins, Ron Robinson, Todd Hundley, Randy Hundley, George Foster, Bert Campaneris, Bobby Dernier, Dave Stewart, and John Warden.
Here is a picture from the first inning as Frank White bats with George Brett on deck. The second photo shows Brett grounding into a double play as John Mayberry gets ready on deck.
This was the first time that I have seen Brett bat in-person since I was a fourth grader in 1989. It was kind of cool, but not as cool as it would have been if he had got a hit, like Frank White did.
After the first, I went to get something to eat and then headed to the RHF. The HFC just wasn't nearly as fun as it was last year. Last year, John Warden MC'd the event and did a great job. This year, they had Willie Wilson, George Foster, Dennis Leonard, and John Warden mic'd up to the soundsystem and it sucked. You couln't tell who was talking or what they were talking about.
While I was eating, I watched the game for another inning. After I got in line for the RHF, I was out of the loop for the game. I didn't even know who won the game until I looked it up an hour ago (it wasn't the Royals, which was fitting).
The RHF was doing a weird thing where 40 people were admitted in every 15 minutes. I had to wait about 45 minutes before I could get in. Once I entered the facility, I was greeted by this.
It was an ash wall telling the story of baseball in Kansas City. It featured headlines from the first professional team in Kansas City, the Unions, to the Royals World Series victory in 1985.
While in that big entrance way, we had to stay there for about 15 minutes listening to a 24-year old ask some Royals trivia. After that, twelve people were admitted to a theatre where they were able to watch a 15 minute video on the history of baseball in Kansas City. At least that is what I think it was about since I wasn't one of the twelve. After that, we had the option of skipping the video and heading straight for the museum section. Why that option wasn't presented to us right away is beyond me. Hopefully, they will get this stuff straighted out in the coming weeks.
Here is one of the first displays that I saw in the RHF. It features potential logos for the Royals in there early days. Interestingly, most of the logos were designed by Hallmark. I like the one on the bottom left the best. I wish that it would have been selected, but with todays KC rather than the one that is used.
After that, there was a bunch of interactive displays. They had touch screen TVs set up where you could choose video clips that you could watch and they even has a screen where you could design your own ballpark. That sounds interesting to me, but I bet that it is not that cool once you get into it.
They had one display with all of their current minor league home jerseys on it. Right after that, they showed off some of their early jerseys. Here is a picture of the coolest two. Unfortunately, I do not think that they had an original road jersey.
Across from that display was a display of some of their promotions that they had throughout the years. They had various shirts and hats on display as well as a photo from 1969s "hot pants day". They even had every single bobblehead that they have given away since 2003.
After that, they had their closers section. Here they had a nice display for Dan Quisenberry and Jeff Montgomery. They had a Rolaids Relief Man Award for each pitcher as well as one of their gloves.
Next to that was the Cy Young award winning section. A Royal has won the award three times and each of those was on display there- Bret Saberhagan, 1985 and 1989; and David Cone, 1994.
This was the last display before one entered the main gallery. The main gallery consists of the '85 World Series trophy, the American League championship trophies, the Royals Hall of Famers pictures, and special section dedicated to the two Royals players that have had their numbers retired by the Royals- George Brett and Frank White.
Here is the entrace to that gallery. It is a giant number 5 that has George Brett's 3000th hit bat and ball located in the middle of it. George had 3,154 hits in his career and that number 5 is made up of 3,154 baseballs.
To the right of the number 5 was the Frank White section. This area featured Frank's eight Gold Gloves and one of his actual gloves. Unfortunately, I did not get a good picture of the area, so don't bother clicking on it. It is pretty blurry.
After that was the Hall of Fame section that wasn't too much different than the old section at the K. Once you left that area, you were pretty much out of the RHF and were in a miniture gift shop.
Overall, I was pleased with the Hall of Fame. It seemed a little small on the inside compared to the outside and a suite takes up the enire first level. I didn't make it into the theatre, but I'm sure that that will fill in some of the space. I would have liked to have seen something along the lines as a Municipal Stadium model, like the Reds have in there Hall of Fame with Crosly Field. But, at least they didn't have any kids games in the RHF like the Reds do (althought the "design your own stadium" could make up for that). The Royals also had one of the things that you can do at a lot of ballparks these days in the RHF. It was one of the "you make the calls" where you watch a Royals highlight and call the game in place of Denny Matthews. That might be kind of fun. I have thought about doing something similar to that at other ballparks that I have been to, but those were all recorded on tape or CD. The Royals is emailed to you. If they ever make it where you can call a half inning of the game with a buddy, I will defintiely take part in that.
Conversely, I hope that the Willie Wilson Classic goes back to Kansas City, Kansas next year. It was much more fan friendly at the minor league park.