The Kings played their first game in Sacramento on Oct. 25, 1985, only two days before the Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series. The convergence that week of the two professional sporting events has been mentioned by fans, business officials and other interested parties during this Giants-Royals matchup.
Among those with strong memories of that eventful week is former Kings senior vice president Greg Van Dusen, a Sacramento native who oversaw the team’s relocation to Northern California after the 1984-85 season.
The NBA approved the sale of the Kings in 1983 to a group headed by Sacramento developer Gregg Lukenbill. With two years remaining on the lease at Kemper Arena, Van Dusen said the new owners cut a deal with now-retired Commissioner David Stern.
“A few months after Gregg’s group bought the team, I was driving around with him and he said, ‘Pack up. You’re moving to Kansas City,’” Van Dusen said Wednesday from Sacramento. “We had a verbal commitment from the NBA. They had an odd number of teams, and we were told that if we could make the franchise financially viable in Kansas City, the league would consider granting an expansion franchise for Sacramento.
“Most people thought we were planning to move the team all along, so I wasn’t real popular. That was understandable. But we really tried to make it work. We improved season and individual ticket sales, but the Kings never seemed to capture the hearts of the community.”
Despite the lingering suspicion, there were a few perks of the job, including the Kings’ suite at then-Royals Stadium. Van Dusen, a lifelong Giants fan, said he attended dozens of games and spent time with Royals coaches and players.
“Bud Black was a rookie,” Van Dusen said. “LaSalle Thompson was a rookie. So the three of us wound up at the same place a lot, usually community and charity appearances, before Gregg brought me back to Sacramento.”
While the former Kings executive remains a Giants loyalist, he named his second son, Brett, after Royals great George Brett.
“I learned a lot from the Royals,” he said, “about how they did their marketing and treated their fans. I’m very happy to see them in the Series. It’s great for the community. I hope it goes seven games and the Giants win.”
More props for old blue
USA Today ranked Kauffman Stadium, opened in 1973 as Royals Stadium, renamed in 1993 and renovated most recently in 2009, as one of the top five ballparks in Major League Baseball. Tours are conducted daily – rain or shine, it is proudly noted – except when there are day games.
And proving that the Royals have changed with the times, the “AOS Technology Hot Spot” bar/restaurant on the third level has two large tables with outlets for charging cellphones and perusing the web.
▪ There is a perception within the Giants’ organization that the team doesn’t receive enough credit for its accomplishments – including three World Series appearances in five seasons – but that might be changing. A team spokesman estimated that the number of one-on-one player-interview requests doubled between the National League Championship Series and the World Series.
▪ Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig made his first official appearance of the World Series to announce that MLB was dedicating Wednesday’s Game 2 to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the terminal illness more commonly known Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Selig was joined by the parents of Pete Frates, the former Boston College baseball captain who helped promote the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” the grass-roots movement that has raised an estimated $140 million for ALS organizations and research. Frates was diagnosed in 2012 and can no longer speak. The commissioner became emotional during the news conference, most notably when he talked about Frates’ personal struggle and recalled that Gehrig made his famous speech over 75 years ago (July 4, 1939) at Yankee Stadium.