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Archive for Tuesday, April 6, 1999

April 6, 1999

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— Sights, bites, brights and insights from Opening Day at Kauffman Stadium. "

Two seats to my left in the press box sat Rick Plumlee, a sports writer for the Wichita Eagle who has a singular distinction. Plumlee has seen more Royals' games -- about 1,400 by his reckoning -- than any man or woman who lives in Lawrence.

That's correct. Plumlee is a Lawrence resident. He has lived in our town for 20 years, as a matter of fact, while covering the Royals, Chiefs and Kansas University athletics for the state's largest newspaper.

To this day, folks are puzzled when Plumlee tells them he lives in Lawrence and works for the Wichita newspaper.

"Some of them ask me if I commute," Plumlee said with a smile. "When I tell them I don't, they ask me how I get my stories back (to Wichita)."

Plumlee sends his stories by computer, of course. And the only commuting he does is from Lawrence to Kansas City's pro venues for games or press conferences.

How did Plumlee wind up in Lawrence? He was working as a desk man at the old Wichita Beacon -- the Eagle's defunct afternoon paper -- back in 1979 when the paper's Royals-Chiefs-Jayhawks outpost opened.

"I took the job because it meant I wouldn't have to work in an office," Plumlee said. "I'm not really an office person. Sure, the hours are bad, but you have more time for your kids this way, and I really enjoyed that."

Plumlee and his wife Kathi raised three children -- Scott, Sean and Heather -- and are now empty-nesting grandparents.

"When I came I figured we'd be here two years and then go to Philadelphia, another Knight-Ridder paper," Plumlee said. "Then we decided bigger wasn't necessarily better. And I liked Lawrence. And, you know, too many people in this business don't know their own backyard, and I wanted to know my own backyard."

As many times as Plumlee has been to Kauffman Stadium, he knows KC's venerable ballyard as well as he knows his own Lawrence backyard.

  • Rain, Rain, Go Away: Don't know if George Brett knows the cell phone number of Jupiter Pluvius, but just minutes after the Royals' icon threw the traditional first pitch on Opening Day amid light rain and gloom, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out. "

  • Cooperstown Countdown: Speaking of Brett, fans in Kauffman Stadium won't have to wonder how many days remain until Brett will be enshrined. On the wall above the visiting team bullpen in left field are a couple of sizable pictures of Brett below a "Cooperstown Countdown" sign. Aces were wild on Monday with 111 days remaining until the July 25 induction ceremony. "

  • Dugouts Part II: What a strange sight. Dugouts for fans. Separated from the Royals' and visitors' dugouts only by photographer bays, deep-pocket fans can watch games from virtually the same vantage point as the players. Unique in major-league baseball, the dugout suites are being sold on a single-game basis. Cost: $1,000, plus $35 per ticket, plus the cost of various food and beverage items. Question: If the umpires can eject players and managers from the team dugout, why can't they toss someone sitting in a fan dugout, too? "

  • April Love: Five years since the last winning season and 14 years since the last postseason game, the Royals -- composed mostly of rookies, castoffs and mediocrities -- were cheered by Monday's sellout crowd like they'd won the 1998 World Series. Question: Will the fans love the Royals in August like they did in April? "

  • Get 'Em While They're Hot: The St. Louis Cardinals -- they have a first baseman who hits a lot of home runs -- will play in Kauffman Stadium June 7-8-9. Could be three nights of Sellout City. "

-- Chuck Woodling's phone message number is 832-3147. His e-mail address is cwoodling@ljworld.com.

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