Hot Stove #118 – The Sports Gap – Chiefs Handoff to the Royals

As if you did not know, the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV.

Final score: Chiefs – XXXI, 49ers – XX.

With the ending of that game, we entered into a 9-day “Sports Gap” in Kansas City. The football season ended (magnificently) for the Chiefs on February 2. Royals catchers and pitchers report for spring training on February 12.

The gap is being filled quite nicely with a parade and tons of Super Bowl coverage, local and national.

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Before my mind switches back to baseball, I’ll share some random thoughts about the Chiefs.

The Parades: In 2015, there was a blue parade…

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As the Royals were on their way to the World Series in 2015, the Chiefs were playing poorly, starting the season 1-5. But then they ran off 10 straight victories to earn a wild card slot. They beat Houston in the wild card game and looked like they were getting hot at the right time – maybe a Cinderella team that could win the Super Bowl. As we awaited the divisional playoff game against New England, I posted a fantasy version of a red parade in Hot Stove. But it was not to be. The Chiefs lost to the Patriots.

The Chiefs returned to the playoffs in 2016, 2017 and 2018, but fell short each time. In 2019, after the Chiefs won the AFC title, I again posted the red fantasy photo in Hot Stove, hoping it would be a good omen. It was, so there is no longer a need for a fantasy shot. Borrowing a line from Seinfeld, this photo is real and it’s spectacular:

The CCP, Kay Barnes and the Power & Light District: Other than being at Arrowhead (or at the Super Bowl), the best place to join a crowd to watch the Chiefs is the Power & Light District. Well, not so much for people my age, but it’s fun to see it on TV.

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The political leadership that produced Arrowhead and the P&L District (and Kauffman Stadium and Sprint Center) grew out of the same organization, the Committee for County Progress (the “CCP”). The story dates back to the 1960s and 1970s.

Charles Curry formed the CCP in the 1960s, and CCP candidates won most of the Jackson County offices. The CCP team of Curry, Alex Petrovic and Charles Wheeler comprised the three-member county court that put the stadiums on the ballot in 1967. The story of that successful election and the building of Arrowhead and Kauffman was detailed in Hot Stove #97.

The CCP also led the way to charter government that reorganized the county to be run by a county executive and county legislature. In 1972, the CCP backed Mike White for the third district in the legislature, and he won (by one vote). In 1974, Mike ran for county executive, creating a need for a new candidate for the third district. I was on a CCP candidate screening committee that included Kay Barnes (then Kay Waldo). As we discussed potential candidates, I suggested to Kay that she might be a good choice for the third district slot. She was relatively new to politics, but was clearly on a track for public service. She said yes, ran a great campaign and won.

In 1979, Kay was elected to a seat on the city council of Kansas City. She lost a re-election bid, but remained active in civic affairs and politics. She was a successful entrepreneur, wrote a book, and in 1999, jumped back into a race for elective office – Mayor of Kansas City. She won and served two terms. Her most visible accomplishments are the Power & Light District and Sprint Center.

So while Rita and I reveled in the Super Bowl victory and watched the Power & Light District celebration on TV, I sent a thank you email to Mayor Barnes. And I’ll say it again. Thank you Kay.

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Groundhog Day Trivia: The Chiefs won the 2020 Super Bowl on Groundhog Day. Using an eight-digit format, that was on 02/02/2020. That is the first palindrome date in this format in over 900 years (11/11/1111). Next up, 12/12/2121.

Another format would be 2/2/20, a nice match for Andy Reid’s Super Bowl victory, his 222nd career win in the NFL.

With all of these deuces, don’t forget the Chiefs punter, #2 Dustin Colquitt.

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The 1993 movie Groundhog Day was the basis for my favorite Super Bowl commercial (not that there was much competition). Jeep recruited Bill Murray to reprise his role from the film. Murray portrays a TV announcer covering Groundhog Day in the town where Punxsutawney Phil comes out to check his shadow. Murray gets trapped in a loop, waking up each morning to his music alarm (Sonny and Cher, “I Got You Babe”) and then living the same day over again. I’ll let the film clips tell the story: The trailer for the movie (click here, 2:39) and the ad by Jeep (click here, 1:01).

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From baseball stats guru Bill James: Bill James Online (@billjamesonline)
2/2/20, 3:38 PM

If the Chiefs win today, do we get six more weeks of football?

Championship Trivia: The Chiefs are not alone in a long wait for a championship. None of the four current major sports champions won a title in the previous 50 years. The other three from the 2019 season are (i) MLB’s Washington Nationals who had not won since their founding (as the Montreal Expos) in 1969; (ii) the NHL’s St. Louis Blues who had not won since their founding in 1967; and (iii) the NBA’s Toronto Raptors who had not won since their founding in 1995.


The Posnanski Jinx: Joe Posnanski left KC several years before the Royals of 2015 and the Chiefs of 2019. His tweet after this year’s Super Bowl: “For 15 years, I wrote sports columns in Kansas City. The Royals were never good. The Chiefs never won a playoff game. The Royals had no plan. The Chiefs couldn’t develop a quarterback. … And it is now clear that the problem, all along, was me.”


Joe predicted that the Chiefs would win 32-19. They won 31-20, so pretty darn close. He had picked his specific numbers in hope of a Scorigami, i.e. a score that had never occurred in the 15,000 plus NFL games in history. Alas, the actual score of 31-20 is not a Scorigami – that score has happened 43 times before in the NFL.


President Harry S. Truman: As the Chiefs headed to the Super Bowl, President Truman’s statue on Independence Square donned a red jersey (numbered for the 33rd President). Thanks to Hot Stove reader Larry Kruse for sending the photo.



Pitcher Satchel Paige: In 2017, Patrick Mahomes joined his fellow rookies to tour the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. This was part of the team’s program to educate new players on the history of professional athletes. Museum president Bob Kendrick conducted the tour and learned that Patrick had heard about the museum and that Patrick’s father, a former major league pitcher, was a fan of Satchel Paige.

Last October, some days before the Chiefs were to be on national TV against the Colts, Mahomes requested a Satchel Paige jersey from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. They sent over a 1942 Monarchs jersey with Paige’s #25. When Mahomes entered Arrowhead for the Sunday night game, he received wide coverage for paying homage to Satchel.

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Videos of Mahomes in the Monarchs jersey went viral (click here). A clip also ran on the national football telecast along with shots of the museum.

Coincidentally, the game was on a special date, October 6, prompting this tweet from Bob Kendrick, “On the anniversary of Buck O’Neil’s death (10/6/06), Patrick Mahomes rocks a 1942 Monarchs jersey in honor of the Monarchs and Buck’s legendary teammate, Satchel Paige!”

Mahomes was also pleased to see the coverage, saying “It was pretty cool because my dad had always told me about Satchel Paige. He and LaTroy [Hawkins, also a former MLB pitcher], my godfather, they looked up to him and the different stuff he did on the mound, as far as the theatrics. Obviously, he was a great pitcher…He changed the way sports is today. He’s a big part of the Kansas City community, but also a part of just sports in general in having put me in the position I am today.”


As the Chiefs marched toward the Super Bowl, Satch returned the honor by sporting a Mahomes jersey on the Field of Legends at the museum.



Artist Thomas Hart Benton: The Chiefs also received support from the Thomas Hart Benson Home and Studio State Historic Site in Kansas City.

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Benton died in 1975, but we know he was a Chiefs fan. He began going to games in 1968 at the invitation of Sports Complex Authority chairman Dutton Brookfield. Benton: “Well, it knocked me out, the color and the spectacle. I made a few drawings…from up in the second deck, but they just were not satisfactory.”

In 1969, before a November 9 game against San Diego, coach Hank Stram allowed Benton to be on the field during the pregame warm-ups. The 80-year-old Benton told the Kansas City Star that “It will be wonderful if I can capture this. Being down here on the field has opened up a whole new dimension on the game. Now, I can appreciate the action of football.”

The Chiefs went on to win the Super Bowl that season. Benton completed some paintings and a sculpture (shown below) in 1971 depicting a quarterback throwing a pass while under pressure from the defense. Some have written that this shows Lenny Dawson at the 1970 Super Bowl in New Orleans, but I doubt it. In the paintings and lithographs, it looks like KC’s Municipal Stadium with the North Stands in the background – that’s what Benton would have seen when Hank Stram let him on the field.

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In the version of the painting below, the quarterback does appear to have Dawson’s number (16). The two lineman would be Dave Hill (73) and Mo Moorman (76). The receiver is likely Otis Taylor (89).

But other versions of the painting and the lithographs do not have these numbers nor the arrowhead logo on Lenny’s helmet. When Benton was doing his sketches on the field, he told the Kansas City Star reporter that the players in his project would not be readily identifiable as members of the Chiefs. He said the lack of firm identification would allow him to sell copies without the stamp of partisanship. And that’s what he did. The limited edition signed lithographs for sale to the public showed no connection to the Chiefs.


Artist Henry Graham: Another artist/football fan was busy in the late 60s working on a Chiefs project. Henry Graham was a welder who had a shop at 15th and Sterling in Independence. He was also the father of Jim Graham, my good friend since grade school. As a crosswalk safety when I was at Bristol Grade School, I sometimes had the duty at 15th and Sterling and would see Mr. Graham working in his shop. When Jim and I were in a hot rod club in high school, Mr. Graham’s welding expertise was invaluable in helping us keep our cars on the road.

In 1966, Henry Graham attended a Chiefs game and took note of the team logo on a wall at Municipal Stadium. Before the team moved to Kansas City, the logo was a cowboy carrying a football with a 6-gun in his raised hand. With the move to KC, the cowboy became an Indian and the gun became a tomahawk. The caricature was dropped in 1972 when the arrowhead was adopted.

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Inspired by the logo, Henry Graham started thinking about a scrap-metal sculpture, but it took a couple of years for him to form a picture in his mind. Then it was another year to do the work. But unlike Thomas Hart Benton, he did not start with any sketches or a model to guide him for the 10-foot sculpture. He told a Kansas City Star reporter that “I just sort of had a vision of what I wanted him to look like. I didn’t miss but by a few inches.”


To construct his Indian, Graham welded together thousands of bits of scrap metal. As the work progressed, he added some nuts and bolts, chain links, bed springs and spark plugs. The Indian’s spinal column is a flywheel ring gear. One ankle is formed by a tie rod and a wheel bearing. He estimated that there were 3,500 pieces that each needed some trial and error to fit properly. “It was kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.”

Upon completion of the project in the early 70s, Graham met with Jack Steadman, the general manager of the Chiefs. The negotiations bogged down over copyright and compensation, and so Graham’s Indian never made it to Arrowhead.

As you can tell in this recent photo taken by Cliff Braden, Henry Graham’s Indian remains a unique masterpiece.



Lonnie’s Jukebox – An Eclectic Selection: The Chiefs in various formats.

Inside the NFL: This is a regular show during the season that airs on Showtime. Rita and I watched the one after the Super Bowl, and it was highlighted by a lot game-time talk by Patrick Mahomes who was miked for the game. I understand the same film and audio are on the NFL Network. There is also an NFL Films version on YouTube (click here, 40:36).

“Do we have time to run the Wasp?”  This was the question asked by Mahomes on the sideline. He wanted to know if the line could hold enough time (4 seconds) for him to get off a bomb to Tyreek Hill. The play is the “2-3 Jet Chip Wasp” and will be part of Chief’s lore just like Hank Stram’s miked-up call for “65 Toss Power Trap“ in Super Bowl IV. Mahomes (narrowly) had enough time and completed the 44-yard “stinger” to the Cheetah. NFL Films has done a wonderful piece on the play, highlighted by Mahomes’ miked-up comments that are as priceless as those of Hank Stram in 1970 (click here, 9:54).

The Temptations and the Chiefs Backfield. Another talked-about play was when the entire backfield shifted by spinning in concert to throw off the defense. In the NFL Films clip, you can hear Mahomes calling the play in the huddle – “Shift the Rose Bowl Right Parade” (named for a play in the 1948 Rose Bowl). Many likened the synchronized spinning to a doo-wop music group. Joe Posnanski suggested Gladys Knight and the Pips. Another put together a video comparing it to “My Girl” by the Temptations (click here, 1:12). Thanks to Steve Jagoda for this clip.

On the Internet. I’m assuming most Hot Stove readers have kept up with the great KC Star coverage. Same for those who subscribe to The Athletic. For those who want to dig deeper, I recommend two articles by Rany Jazayerli. The first is about Rany’s long history following the Chiefs – a good summary of the hard times and the climb to the Super Bowl (click here). The second was written after the game, comparing how the 2015 Royals and 2019 Chiefs made good decisions in 2012 that led to their championships. And how the Chiefs may become a dynasty while the Royals will have a rougher time (click here).


“We Are The Champions” – At the Power & Light District. The last half of this video features the P&L crowd singing Queen’s rock anthem (click here, 2:00).

One More Time: From a different angle. Posters on sale at Union Station.


Chiefs Handoff to the Royals: Salvy Perez posted this photo that someone edited to show him in a Chiefs uniform.

Next Wednesday, Salvy will be changing from red to blue when he reports to Surprise, Arizona, with the pitchers and other catchers.

Play ball. Go Royals!