I ventured south to Tulsa, where I saw my old buddy Howard Gamble. We were regaled with a Sunday afternoon of watching the Cowboys win a playoff game on their way to the Super Bowl that year. The next day, I rode the 267 miles to Dallas on the coattails of a brisk blue norther’…wow, you talk about glidin’ on home…I barely had to touch the pedal to the metal.
No sooner had I unloaded Ol’ Baleau, I was banging away on my 1946 ROYAL, typing out a spontaneous fusillade to Mr. George Poma, in care of the Kansas City American League Baseball Club. The contents of the letter were as follows:
“Dear Mr. Poma, Why in the wide world of sports do you denigrate the tradition and purity of baseball with your use of artificial turf? How can you condone a counterfeit playing surface for the sake of economics, and at the same time, jeopardize the longevity of your own players? I believe George Brett’s knees would be mute testimony enough as to how playing on concrete can extract irreversible damage to a player’s legs and lower back. And then there’s the day games in July and August when you can actually see the heat waves rippling off the surface at 130 degrees, forcing players to soak their feet in ice while in the dugout. This is not what Mr. Doubleday had in mind when he invented our national pastime, wouldn’t you agree? So, let’s get with the program, George. You are a professional at what you do, and I know you’re not content with painting foul lines, sewing seams in the carpet, and manicuring patches of dirt with a whisk broom. Please, reinstate the integrity of baseball, and rip up that atrocious carpet and plant some beautiful Bermuda grass. You can do it, I know you can. The players, and the fans, would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely, William C. Early Date: January 8, 1992.”
Well, far be it for me to indulge in any self-backslapping, but at the opening of the 1994 season, the Kansas City Royals had natural grass under their feet. It took two years, but anything of value is worth waiting for. It was one beautiful sight when I first saw the ESPN highlights of a KC home game. And my first thought was: “Did my letter really have any influence?” I like to think it did.
Postscript: that same year, the adjacent Arrowhead Stadium converted its playing to natural grass. Maybe it was the domino effect. Who knows.
William C. Early © 1992