You probably saw the report that after their ALCS-clinching defeat of the Angels on Sunday night, members of the Royals journeyed to a local bar and partied with happy fans, spraying them with champagne and generally making sure that those fine folks would be late for work the following day. The report you didn’t see, because we are publishing it now the first time, is that members of the Anaheim Angels of Orange County, California, U.S.A., also gathered in a bar – namely, the Rough Landing Tavern at the Kansas City International Airport – to share the moment with a few of their own supporters while waiting for the grounds crew to remove the “Royals Rule!” and “Angels Blow!” graffiti from the team plane.
What follows is an exclusive report from correspondent Johnny Ondaspot.
KANSAS CITY—Albert Pujols leaned on the long oak bar and stirred his whiskey sour with a short plastic straw, its dry end scarred with the bite marks he’d administered during a soundless hour of gloomy contemplation.
“Man,” he muttered at last, and darkly, with a shake of the head. “I just…”
Finally, amid the tinkling of ice that had melted less quickly than his World Series dreams, Pujols turned to Julie Widenour, 26, of San Clemente, and said, “Could you pass me those pretzels? I probably need to eat something.”
A moment later, as the lifelong Angels fan passed the bowl of Rold Gold to the big first baseman, Widenour shook her head and bit her lip in efforts to stifle the tears. Turning to a reporter, she whispered hoarsely, “I really thought we were going to win that series. Instead, as you might’ve noticed, we lost. Now, rather doing body shots off of (Angels bench coach Dino) Ebel and Jagerbombs with (shortstop Erik) Aybar, I’m sitting here next to Pujols as he eats stale pretzels and stares blankly at The Weather Channel on a TV with its volume turned down.”
Widenour, with five of her fellow Angels supporters, had followed the team into the Rough Landing Tavern at the Kansas City International Airport after the Royals’ ALDS-winning 8-3 victory on Sunday night, and now, as Game 3 starter C.J. Wilson sat at the baby grand piano playing Beethoven’s Pathétique in A-flat, 62-year-old Daniel Crawford, of Anaheim, turned to outfielder Mike Trout and asked, “Um, would you like to play gin rummy?”
“No, not really,” the dejected star replied, after a pause. “Thanks, though.”
Crawford then asked, “Crazy Eights?”
Staring at the teal carpet, Trout just shook his head.
“OK,” said Crawford, walking away.
Across the room, Wilson began playing Chopin’s melancholy Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor (Opus 27, No. 1), endowing the famed larghetto with an especially plaintive tone. At the same time, 31-year-old Joshua Mathis, of Anaheim, played a second game of Words With Friends on his iPhone 6.
“Hey,” Mathis uttered softly to himself. “I think I have a word.”
Meanwhile, at a four-top against the window, Howie Kendrick peeled the label from his third bottle of Heineken and pressed the damp pieces into a tight little ball, rolling it back and forth between his hands until it finally tumbled off the table. Sitting nearby, Joyce Crumpton, 42, of Santa Ana, turned to Bob Johnson, 38, of Irvine, and muttered, “It seems a sad kind of metaphor, doesn’t it? — sometimes it’s just the way the ball ….”
Shaking his head and motioning at the dejected infielder, Johnson pressed a finger to his lips and said, “Not now, Joyce.” He pushed away from the table and walked across the room, to the piano, where the downcast Wilson had just embarked on the adagio by giving it a particularly ponderous mood.
“C.J.,” said Johnson, quietly, as he leaned against the polished wood of the piano, “can I get you something to drink? Some gin? Maybe some rum?”
In response, the straightedge pitcher just shook his head and continued to play.
“Oh, I forgot,” Johnson replied, slapping himself gently on the forehead. “You don’t drink alcohol. But maybe … um, well, maybe you should start.”
Walking past, catcher Chris Iannetta stopped momentarily and muttered just loudly enough to be heard, “Or maybe … maybe he should never start again.”
At that, Wilson slammed his hands on the keyboard and sent a deep reverberation through the bar, its tone lingering long after the initial vibration had waned. Standing alone at the window, outfielder Josh Hamilton seemed to ignore the mournful timbre as he stared at the plane.
An announcement cut through the echoes: “Sorry, folks. It’ll be another hour before the crew has the airplane ready. You might as well get comfortable.”
Nearby, Kendrick peeled another label and pressed it into a larger, wetter ball. Meanwhile, Jo Tucker, 44, of Anaheim, finished her sloe gin fizz and began making her way toward the women’s restroom just around the corner.
Alone on a sofa, Aybar coughed.
John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.