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Shooting Blanks

The Royals have never brought the long ball.


In 1985 the Royals defeated the Cardinals for the team's only World Series championship. The missed call by first-base umpire Don Denkinger led to the Royals' championship victory but upstaged a more-important personal achievement logged that year.

Steve Balboni hit 36 homers that season, a number not topped by any Royal since. Neither George Brett nor Bo Jackson, not Bob "the Hammer" Hamelin or even Mike Sweeney have gone yard more often than Bones did in 1985.

But even Bye-Bye Balboni wasn't the power hitter needed since the Royals' inception in 1969. George Brett hit 317 home runs during twenty years with the club, but no other Royal has hit even 200. Only Kansas City, Tampa, Montreal, Florida and Houston have never had a player lead the league in homers.

This season, the power outage continues. As of last week, the Royals were next to last in the American League in home runs, with a paltry team total of nine. Lance Berkman, the second-year sensation of the Houston Astros, had ten by himself.

Balboni, 45, is now batting coach for the Double-A New Haven Ravens. "Thirty-six homers were a lot at one time," he says. "That's always been a big park there in Kansas City. I think it's one of the toughest home-run parks in the American League." Balboni also points to the cool weather at the start and end of the season in Kansas City. Well, it's cold in other major-league towns where the ball flies just fine. And opposing teams don't seem to have nearly as much trouble as the Royals homering here.

Obviously, the Royals need a cure for their persistent impotence. I've queried some of Kansas City's specialists for a solution.

Mike Thompson, WDAF Channel 4 meteorologist, agrees that weather can influence home runs. "The Royals need to infuse the atmosphere with as much humidity as possible, because that makes the air lighter, and the ball will carry farther," Thompson says. You'd think the vast number of tears we've spilled at the ballpark would help. "They could move home plate halfway to the pitcher's mound," Thompson adds.

Sister Star is a Blue Parkway clairvoyant who believes the problem is all in the players' heads. "They got to do more meditation and more concentration," she says. "There's too much negativity flowing through them."

Dana Morse of Midtown's Wild Oats Community Market believes the Royals need more amino acids in their diets. "Amino acids are the building blocks of life," Morse says. She suggests high-protein shakes with blue-green algae.

"They need to play more video games to improve their hand-eye coordination," says Chris Bohannon, a personal trainer at the Prairie Life fitness center in Overland Park. "I'd suggest they fire up MLB 2002 on PlayStation2. If they play it as the Royals, maybe they'll realize just how bad they are," Bohannon says.

Freshly canned manager Tony Muser said last year that milk and cookies weren't getting it done for the Royals. He wanted players to down a shot of tequila for the team. Jim Chappell, owner of Chappell's Bar & Grill in Northtown, has improved on that idea with his Home Run drink: a shot of Red Bull Power Drink and a shot of Jagermeister. "If you want to hit a grand slam, you pour four of them into one and drink it down," he says. On many game nights, I could believe the entire team has partaken of Chappell's grand-slam brew -- without the desired results.

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