Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
One thing about keeping your stadium for a while is that when the rest of the sport realizes the cookie cutter multipurpose model produces ugly stadiums and turns to baseball-only facilities, MLB feels compelled to give those shiny new stadiums All-Star Games. That is exactly what happened to Kansas City, which hosted the Midsummer Classic in 1973 and then went almost four decades before doing so again.
And it wasn’t even the ridiculous timespan between games that got the game in KC! No, it was thanks to Jackson County voters approving the sales tax increase in 2006 that led to renovations for Kauffman (and Arrowhead). MLB had promised Kansas City the game if the renovations were done, and at last baseball’s midseason party was coming to town.
Of course, things were a lot different than they were in 1973. The atmosphere around the game had grown mightily, with events like the Futures Game and Home Run Derby at the ballpark and FanFest being held at Bartle Hall. There were events at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a charity fun run, concerts, and more. Perhaps it was a good thing the game had been denied to KC for so long, as it gave the city time to prepare its gems like Union Station, the Kauffman Center, the Negro Leagues Museum, the Nelson-Atkins, the World War I Museum and Liberty Memorial, and more.
It had been a long time since the Royals were in baseball’s spotlight, of course. While the major-league team was still bad, at least the farm system was showing some promise. As a result, the Royals were well-represented at the Futures Game. Yordano Ventura got the start for the World team, with Jake Odorizzi getting the nod for the U.S. team. Ventura pitched a scoreless inning, although Odirizzi gave up a run in his inning. Wil Myers had two hits and drove in three runs for the U.S., which cruised to a 17-5 win.
No recap of the 2012 All-Star Game would be complete without mention of the Home Run Derby controversy. Robinson Cano, then of the Yankees, was the defending champion and captain of the American League team. Weeks before the event, he indicated he would pick a Royals player for the squad. Then he chose Prince Fielder, Jose Bautista, and Mark Trumbo, who you may have noticed were not Royals. To be fair, the guys he took finished 1-2-3 in the Derby. But the Royals’ lone All-Star, Billy Butler, who would hit a career-high 29 home runs in 2012, would have been an acceptable choice, especially for an event that is, you know, an exhibition and supposed to be fun for the spectators. Anyway, the hometown fans took particular delight in loudly booing Cano’s every move during the Derby, and he was obviously affected, as he failed to hit a single home run.
“It’s great that everybody seemed to be on my side. I’m happy that they’re happy I’m here. That’s an awesome feeling. But me and Robby are friends. That’s the bottom line, and there’s no ill will there.”–Butler, quoted by Bob Dutton, The Kansas City Star, July 9, 2012
The big game turned out to be a bit of a dud. The National League jumped on AL starter Justin Verlander for five runs in the first inning. Melky Cabrera singled with one out, followed by an RBI double from Ryan Braun. Verlander struck out Joey Votto for the second out, but walked Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey to load the bases. Pablo Sandoval tripled to clear the bases, and Dan Uggla’s single brought Sandoval home.
The AL could only manage six hits for the game. Butler went hitless in his two at-bats. Oddly enough, this is still the most recent win for the NL. In a footnote, Tony LaRussa, who had retired after managing St. Louis to the 2011 World Series title, came back to manage the NL team, the first time that had happened since 1933. The win also made LaRussa the first manager to win an All-Star Game for each league.