Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2008

Keegan: Luck of Irish lifts K.C.

June 1, 2008


— Never mind whether any of the various Irish curses, permanent or temporary, have tainted my existence. It's my lucky charm with sports teams I've covered through the years that is of more relevance.

The 1988 Dodgers were the first baseball team I covered as a full-time beat. They won the World Series with Mickey Hatcher batting third.

Then, it was off to Chicago, and sure enough the Bulls, who had encountered so much trouble with the Detroit Pistons before I sat on press row, won three consecutive titles.

After a year in Baltimore, it was off to New York, where the Yankees, who had gone 18 years without winning a World Series, won four in a five-year span while I tried to manipulate George Steinbrenner into blasting his team, or anybody else's for that matter. The Boss based his feelings about columnists pretty much on how he was treated in the most recent newspaper. He once told a colleague that the next time he saw me he was going to perform a procedure on me to which famous race horses John Henry, Clyde Van Dusen, Prairie Bayou, Funny Cide and Forego, among others, could relate.

After praising Steinbrenner's ownership style in another column, it seemed a good time to attempt to smoke him out of his prolonged silence, so I rung him up at his Tampa home.

"You've always been fair with me," Steinbrenner said. "I'll always take your calls. But don't ever call me again."

That was our last phone conversation. Oh well, at least it was a very pleasant one. No matter. Moved the family again, this time to Lawrence, where history suggested there would be little chance of the luck of the Irish lifting a perennial loser of a football program out of the doldrums. So what happens? Kansas University goes 12-1, wins the Orange Bowl and gets ranked seventh in the nation, then wins its first basketball national title in 20 years.

Saturday night, it was time to put the whole lucky charm thing to the ultimate test. The Kansas City Royals took a 12-game losing streak into a game against Cleveland Indians veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia. Sure, I could have taken the night off, but first-year Royals manager Trey Hillman, a man I came to respect and like during his days as a minor-league manager with the Yankees, needed to break the streak. Royals 4, Indians 2. You're welcome.

Afterward, Hillman was asked if doing it against Sabathia made it even more gratifying. He answered that he would have been just as happy if it had come against "Billy Bob Buck."

Hillman did during Saturday's game what more managers need to do. He used his sensational closer, Joakim Soria, for two innings. Soria earned his 12th save in 12 chances on a night baseball's longest losing streak in two seasons ended. Can't take any credit for that one. Send it the way of Royals scout Louie Medina, who scouted Soria two years ago in Mexico and lobbied hard for him to be selected in the Rule V draft. Foes batted .187 against him last season, .127 so far this season. Incredible.

Will I return today to bring more luck? No. If the Royals want another favor from me, they have to earn it by drafting Topeka native and Missouri ace Aaron Crow with the third overall pick in the upcoming draft.


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