So, I have a story which makes all of the time I spent in sports completely worth it. By itself.
In 2006, I was working for the Kansas City T-Bones in the independent Northern League. At our ballpark – CommunityAmerica Ballpark – we hosted the Best of the Midwest, a college tournament which ran for a couple days, every year about a month before the season started. It was a pretty good warmup for the season for us, helped the groundskeeper get things ready for spring training (yes, in indy ball your spring training field is your ballpark) and was another way to get the stadium’s name in the paper and sell some tickets before the season.
For the 2006 season, our presenting sponsor for the tournament was Pridemaker Apparel, a team outfitter in Kansas City. I think Pridemaker did some jerseys for us, and the sponsorship was a giveback. Pridemaker was owned by a former Royals pitcher, a very good guy, who happened to be a radio personality in KC. As part of the sponsorship he got a couple of suites to use for the entire tournament.
I’ve neglected to mention the suites at the ballpark… They were all numbered, starting from the left-field corner, in ascending order. I know there was a 9, Ted Williams; 22, Buck O’Neil; 29, Satchel Paige; 390, George Brett… I can’t remember all of them, but they were mostly players with a Kansas City or Midwestern tie. There was a Bob Gibson suite, too, #45. Gibson was from Nebraska and played his entire major league career with the Cardinals.
Because it wasn’t a T-Bones game, I wasn’t on the radio, which left me to do things like stop people as they tried to bring a keg into the ballpark. Yeah, a keg. They actually said “Just turn the other way, no one will see.”
But back to suite 45. We knew that the Pridemaker guys were supposed to be in #45. But when I checked on the suite, I saw a group of people in there – but no one from Pridemaker. There was a lady who had taken a leadership role among the squatters, but she wasn’t supposed to be in there either. I had checked on the suite, didn’t put two and two together and let them stay. I went downstairs to check on something else. As I came back up, maybe half an hour later, I saw a familiar, athletic looking man, maybe 70 years old, coming down the stairs rather quickly. I didn’t place him. I would shortly.
I ran into my buddy Bryan Williams, our promotions director. He said, “I can’t believe those people in Suite 45.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, I went to ask them to leave the suite. They wouldn’t go. Your friend, that lady, got a little nasty. She kept pointing at this guy in the corner and saying ‘It’s his suite!’ I kept saying, ‘Lady, it’s not, it’s Pridemaker’s suite’. She wouldn’t let it go.”
“Dude, what suite were they in again?”
“45. The Bob Gibson suite.”
All of a sudden, it clicked. The athletic-looking dude who came down the stairs: Bob Gibson. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand. “Oh my God. Awesome. You just threw Bob Gibson out of the Bob Gibson suite.”
“No way dude. That’s not possible. Holy shit.”
I didn’t mention that Gibson’s son Chris was playing for Southeast Missouri, which was playing in the tournament. I don’t think any of us had ever thought he’d come to the stadium in Kansas City – but he did. And what did he get for it? Thrown out of the Bob Gibson suite.