Keeping Score: Three BBQ Joints, two Tigers losses, One Direction, and Rusty Kuntz

Jamie Squire

The Tigers were in KC? That must mean another Baseball Road Trip Review!

As Tigers fans all over await word on the extent of Miguel Cabrera's hip flexor injury, the fate of Jhonny Peralta in the Biogenesis Scandal, and celebrate Max Scherzer climbing to a sexy 14-1 on the season l thought I would share my experiences this past weekend in Kansas City. A small group I was apart of took in some Tigers/Royals action on Friday and Saturday. It was quite a weekend...

The Cast:

3 Friends of mine

British teen idols, One Direction

Hoards of "1D" fans lining the streets of KC

Negro Leagues Museum President Bob Kendrick

Acclaimed author Tim Wendel

Anonymous Detroit based baseball writer

The total jerk in section 125

Leaving the Des Moines area at 1pm on Friday afternoon we made great time into the KC Metro area arriving just prior to 4pm. So starts the weekend...

Pre-Game Friday:

The first thing to notice immediately upon getting into the downtown area heading to the Sheraton was that literally thousands of young girls with moms in tow were lining the streets around the Sprint Center to see international sensations, the boy band One Direction (1D). This led to plenty of "1D" jokes which is always fun. Some could probably be shared. Most cannot. You know, if you can't make bad jokes about cheesy boy bands, who can you joke about?

After checking into the hotel we immediately set out for...

BBQ Joint #1

LC's BBQ is wedged into a small v-shaped plot of land on a back street to Kauffman Stadium with the wonderfully quirky name, "Sni-A-Bar Road". LC's is not about ambience. It's about bars on the windows. It's not about table cloths or fine service. It really is kind of dive, and "dive" might be kind. This is a place where the food better drive the traffic. Naturally, it does. Despite the complete indifference of the young lady at the cash register, we ordered the Burnt Ends with a Boulevard Wheat...absolutely tremendous. LC's has a thin sauce that starts sweet and hits you with the spice at the end. The Burnt Ends are crispy but not over done. They get extra credit for having MLB Network on in the background. This is a must stop joint on the way to the stadium.

Game 1 Friday Royals 1- Tigers -0

Not a lot to say about Friday night's game. The Tigers bats did not arrive in time from the All-Star Break evidently. Ervin Santana's change up appeared to be devastating to many Tigers hitters and they could muster no sustained attack. The few well hit balls the Tigers did manage all were in the vicinity of the center-field wall and were gobbled up by Royals center-fielder Lorenzo Cain. None of the plays were all-world, just above average and enough to keep the Tigers at bay.

Anibal Sanchez was okay. He allowed a run in the first inning and then no more from there. Ramon Santiago couldn't snare a vicious smash by Alex Gordon to open the first inning. Sanchez paid no attention to Gordon who, despite a short lead, got a massive jump and stole second. This set him up to score on Billy Butler's single and the Royals had the only run they would need.

Overall, I thought Sanchez was good but not great. He kept the Royals from scoring but had to pitch out of jams a few times. Nothing wrong with that, but he was out-pitched on this night by Santana.


The lone bright spot on the evening for Detroit was Bruce Rondon coming out of the bullpen and looking quite impressive. He used the whole array of pitches he possesses on this night. A good sign for moving forward. I believe only one pitch on the stadium gun hit triple digits but he retired hitters on change ups and sliders. Rondon will be a key component over the final two months if he can sustain the momentum from his initial post-break appearances.

Well...one more bright spot was explaining to my buddy, Shawn, that former Tiger legend and current Royals 1B coach is really named Rusty Kuntz.

Post Game Friday

Heading downtown after the game led us smack into the One Direction concert aftermath. Literally hundreds of cars lined the streets around the stadium with fathers in pick-up duty and the streets in the popular Power & Light District were packed with roving bands of pumped up 1D fans. It was much safer to duck into The Flying Saucer, a local brew house with a vast array of offerings.

Looking over the menu at the Saucer revealed several choices from the Ommegang Brewery. I went with it simply due to the fact that Ommegang is located in Cooperstown, NY home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It seemed a baseball trip should tilt the choice in favor of a brewery from Cooperstown. Ommegang's "Three Philosophers" was outstanding. I am not a beer snob by any means. My opinion carries only so much weight on these matters. But if you see this beer near you, try it out (assuming you're of age and drink responsibly!). Very smooth. Malty but not overly heavy. Not bitter if bitter is your thing however.

Saturday Pre Game

Is there a better morning in July then the weekend where you can get up and watch early AM golf from the British Open? Love that.

BBQ Joint #2

Heading over the nearby state border and into the great State of Kansas leads one to the Woodyard Bar-B-Q. Featured in the past on the Food Network and on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", it did not disappoint.

Great place to sit and enjoy tremendous BBQ. Woodyard has been around for decades and its easy to spot how the mom-n-pop place has evolved over the years. A courtyard with seating surrounds the triple-stack smoker as you walk into the building to order. You sense the conversation these folks must have had as the year's have passed over how to expand.

"Should we add a deck with outdoor seating this year?"..."Yep".

"How about we toss up an indoor seating area over there?"..."Okay".

"I think it's time for us to build a brick patio with picnic tables."..."Do it."

It's very disjointed but somehow it all works to make a great place to eat.

The setting is terrific especially when a train rolls by on the nearby tracks and the smoke is permeating the air with incredible smells from the triple stack smoker. I went with the two dishes they brag about on their website. The Burnt End Chili was tremendous and the Pecan Smoked Salmon Sandwich was above average. I truly wish I had tried the big racks of ribs that were coming out to tables around us...they looked amazing. Brownies the size of landscaping bricks also looked good...but I don't hit BBQ joints to satisfy the sweet tooth. I'll be back at the Woodyard for those ribs one day.

Negro Leagues Museum

No baseball road trip to KC can be complete without stopping at the Negro Leagues Museum at the corner of 18th and Vine. It never fails to be interesting. The rest of the group had never been to the facility before and they really enjoyed learning about a corner of the game's history that persevered and overcame so much discrimination and meant everything to such a significant part of the population.

We had the added bonus of author Tim Wendel being on hand at the museum this day to discuss his book "Summer of '68". Of course this book looks heavily at the Tigers and their march to the World Series title that season plus the social change and unrest being experienced in the United States at that time. Wendel spoke with nearly 90 individuals from around baseball including many Tigers' legends to gather up stories and information in the book. Wendel spent about an hour spinning some of the better tales he learned and answering questions. A very fun and interesting pre-game diversion.

I also had the opportunity to meet the museum's President Bob Kendrick. A very nice man who is doing great work to spread the word and fortify the museum's future. Kendrick is recommended twitter follow...his passion for baseball in general and the museum in particular comes flying through via his tweets, not something all can say.

Simply put, there is really no reason for any baseball fan to skip the Negro Leagues Museum. So much history packed into such a short amount of time. Educational and entertaining for all.

BBQ Joint #3

Truth be told we weren't that hungry after being at the Woodyard a couple of hours prior. But when you visit the Negro Leagues Museum this also puts you within about 90-seconds of driving to the legendary Arthur Bryant's BBQ. Hey...why not?

Bryant's is very good, probably not my favorite but it won't disappoint you. The "Sweet Heat" sauce is outstanding and one we keep around the house here in Iowa. It's an old-school place and the line that weaves out the door tells you how the food is. The pictures of the famous customers who have made it to Bryant's makes the wait in the rather laborious line very tolerable. Steven Spielberg? Yep. Jimmy Carter? Yep. Sports, politics, entertainment all represented.

It seems the locals favor other BBQ joints and hold Bryant's as a tourist-trap kind of place. Maybe so...but a two-fer ride to this part of town to hit Bryant's and the Museum will not disappoint you.

Game 2 Saturday Royals 6- Tigers 5

Just before the first pitch we ran into a Detroit based beat writer (I didn't ask his permission to be noted in BYB, so I'll go "anonymous" here). I have met this gentleman in the past so he was gracious enough to spend a few minutes chatting. Always a treat to hear how his travels are going as he chronicles the Tigers in his outstanding fashion. We kicked around issues regarding the club a little, discussed the future of some players, and of course talked BBQ!

The game started nicely. The Tigers offense showed up and scored two runs in the first inning to grab a quick lead on very vulnerable looking Jeremy Guthrie. Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez lashed run scoring liners and the Tigers were off and running.

Unfortunately Justin Verlander was unable to build off his no-hit bid from the previous Sunday against the Rangers. Verlander "out-vulnerabled" Guthrie and allowed the Royals to take the lead. Verlander allowed 2 runs apiece in the 3rd and 4th innings to put the Royals on top 5-3. After Alex Avila drove in two runs to tie the game in the 5th, Verlander came out and allowed a two-out solo homer to the struggling Mike Moustakas to cough a lead back up to Kansas City.

Torii Hunter appeared to make a defensive miscue in the third inning. He took what looked like a terrible angle on Salvador Perez two-run double with two out in the inning. If Hunter had cut the ball off before it rattled into the corner there is a good chance that Billy Butler would not have lumbered home from first base.

The Tigers had a great chance to tie the game or capture the lead in the 8th inning. Alex Avila stroked his third hit of the game to lead off and Don Kelly drew a walk from Aaron Crow. Two on and nobody out brought Austin Jackson to the plate. This is the only point of the weekend where I was truly furious and it's directed at Jim Leyland. Simply put, sacrificing an out when you are losing and only have six outs remaining is not the play. Definitely not when one of your better hitters is at the plate. This was bad enough...then Jackson patiently works a 3-1 count while trying to bunt. He was in command of the at-bat at this point. But Leyland did not take the bunt off and let Crow escape being in a bad count by voluntarily providing him with an out.

Hunter grounded out. Cabrera grounded out. Inning over. **sigh/curse** Could Jackson have popped up or hit into a double play? Sure. But he also might have blooped a double down the line or lined a single to right. He might also have made an out that advanced the runners anyway. But a sacrifice is a sure out and with only six left, it was too steep a price to pay to get those two runners moved up 90-feet.


Victor Martinez made a valiant try at a game tying homer in the 9th. It looked gone off the bat but must have been loaded with top spin. It hit only half-way up the fence one it got to the right-field wall. Two quiet outs later, Greg Holland had his second save in two nights.


Two shout outs...


To the guy we sat near who ordered his wife and kids where to sit, when to sit, and what to eat in an authoritarian style while offering people two bucks for a bobblehead and challenging other fans if they had actually bought the seats they were sitting in....you, sir, are a jerk.

To the Tigers fan with the prosthetic leg with an Olde English D stitched on it...while I'm sorry you lost your leg obviously, I applaud your devotion to the Tigers.

Post Game Saturday

After a long night out the evening before this was a quiet one. A trip back to The Flying Saucer for one more bottle of "Three Philosophers" was about it. About the only thing of note was that while sitting outside on the sidewalk patio it was readily apparent that it was "Bachelorette Party Night" in the Power & Light District. With no embellishment we must have seen a dozen roving packs of young ladies dressed in all different kinds of "themes" among their crew. These themes typically included preposterously short dresses and amazingly high heels. (which led to one girl falling on her face in front of us due to an uneven sidewalk, skyscraper heels, and alcohol!)

Sunday wrap up

A traditional stop on the way out of town is to his Lamar's Donuts. The local version of Krispy Kreme. Very good stuff with extremely friendly staff. The Apple Spice Cake Donut is a gem.

Three hours later we hit Des Moines with another baseball road trip in the books.

Summation

Witnessing two losses isn't a ton of fun from a baseball perspective. That makes the Tigers 1-3 in my presence this season. My first losing season of viewing the Tigers in several years. But the company was great, we met some nice folks, Kauffman Stadium is a great place to watch a game, and the food was outstanding.

We'll tee it up again next season!

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