The 2020 season is coming to a close as the Royals have 10 games left in the schedule. At 21-29, the Royals have a shot to finish the year close to a .500 record, especially since they have won seven out of their last eight and have games coming up against the Milwaukee Brewers on the road, and the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers at home. The Cardinals series may be tough, but both the Brewers and Tigers have losing records, so it’s possible that the Royals could win 7-9 games over this 10-game stretch, which could help them finish with a winning percentage much better than they have been used to the past couple of seasons.
That being said, this Brewers series this weekend at Miller Park will be an interesting one to follow for Royals fans. At the core, there are many ways the Royals and Brewers are connected throughout their respective franchise history. In fact, one could somewhat say that the Brewers are “Royals North” or that the Royals are “Brewers South” (whether that’s an endearing thing to say depends on if you are from Wisconsin, Kansas, or Western Missouri). And thus, in preparation for this weekend’s three-game series in Milwaukee, let’s take a look at five ways that the Royals and Brewers are “kindred” spirits of sorts in the baseball universe.
The Royals and Brewers have existed for roughly the same time (sans one year in Seattle)
Both the Brewers and Royals entered Major League Baseball in 1969 along with the Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres. MLB was looking to continue to grow its brand in the late 60’s, and Kansas City, who had lost the Athletics when Charlie Finley moved the franchise to Oakland, pushed the envelope to ensure that the city would be awarded a MLB franchise when the league decided to expand. Led by owner Ewing Kauffman, Kansas City was awarded a franchise, which became the Royals, and 52 years later, the franchise has won four pennants (1980, 1985, 2014, and 2015) and two World Series titles (1985 and 2015).
The Brewers also began their life as a franchise in 1969…but not in Milwaukee, actually. Much like Kansas City and the Athletics, Milwaukee had the Braves from 1953 to 1965. However, the city lost their MLB franchise to Atlanta in 1966. Even though they were on deck for expansion, MLB decided to expand to Seattle instead of Milwaukee in 1969 along with the Royals, Padres, and Expos. However, the city of Seattle was not financially ready to support a MLB team and unfortunately, the Pilots failed in their lone season in Seattle (baseball returned to Seattle with the Mariners in 1977). After one difficult season, the Pilots were bought out by Bud Selig and promptly moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers, where they have been since 1970.
The Royals and Brewers play in similarly-sized markets
According to an article by Sports Media Watch as of October 2019, Kansas City ranks 32nd in TV market size, and Milwaukee ranks 35th. Both cities are considered “small markets” in every sense of the word, as only eight metro areas rank smaller than Milwaukee, according to the report.
Despite their market stature, both cities have two professional sports teams in their metro area. Kansas City has the Royals and Chiefs of the NFL, while Milwaukee has the Brewers and Bucks of the NBA. And even though they may not have the population numbers of other major markets and cities, Kansas City and Milwaukee fans are known for being passionate and loyal to their MLB, NFL (for KC) and NBA (for MKE) teams.
I did not count the Packers as part of the Milwaukee market, even though I know most people from Milwaukee consider themselves Packers fans (Wisconsin pride I guess). The reason I didn’t count the Packers as part of Milwaukee is that Green Bay is nearly two hours north of Milwaukee, and thus, is not in the same metro as Milwaukee. That would be akin to saying Wichita or Columbia, Missouri is in the KC Metro, which would appall anyone from Kansas City.
Tailgate culture is huge at Kauffman Stadium and Miller Park
The trend these days is to have a ballpark in the heart of a city. Success stories like Camden Park in Baltimore, Oracle Park in San Francisco, and Busch Stadium in St. Louis (just to name a few) have only fueled the fire that in order to be financially successful, a franchise needs to have their stadium in the city. As someone who grew up in a Giants household and went to plenty of Giants games as a kid in the South of Market Area (where Oracle Park is), I can attest that the “downtown ballpark” is a great experience.
However, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and Miller Park in Milwaukee buck that trend. Neither stadium is located “downtown” and both are known for immaculate “tailgating” experiences. Kansas City denizens know its about barbecue and yard games in the Truman Sports Complex parking lots leading up to a Royals game, while Brewers tailgating is simply part of the “lifestyle” for Milwaukee locals in the summer, as evidenced by all the literature I have procured online. Even though Kansas City prefers ribs and brisket to Milwaukee’s brats and beer cheese, this much is certain: both cities prefer the hi-jinks of tailgating in an asphalt parking lot to the frills or a “bar scene” that we see at Chicago’s Wrigleyville or St. Louis’ Ballpark Village.
And that connects Royals and Brewers fans more than most people would like to think. Both fans can bond over their experiences of beer, food, and catch in the parking lot outside of a stadium hours leading up to game time.
Both teams have been similarly competitive in their 52 years of existence
If you look at the Royals‘ and the Brewers‘, it is eerie how similar their profiles are in terms of competitiveness. The Royals currently have a franchise winning percentage of .480; the Brewers have a franchise winning percentage of .481. The Royals had a huge playoff drought that spanned from 1985 to 2014 (29 years). The Brewers had a huge playoff drought that spanned from 1982 to 2008 (26 years). And lastly, the Royals’ winning-est manager in franchise history is Ned Yost, who has a winning percentage of .471. The Brewers’s most “successful” manager? That is Phil Garner, who has a winning percentage of .477.
And thus, the Royals and Brewers are kindred “small-market” spirits who have both experienced their fair share of struggles and ups and downs over the course of their 52-year histories in baseball. That should endear Kansas City Royals fans to Brewers fans and vice versa alone. That being said, the only outlier between the two would be postseason success. The Royals have made the playoffs nine times and have four pennants and two World Series titles under their belts. Unfortunately, the Brewers only have six appearances and one pennant, which came in 1982 during the “Harvey’s Wallbangers” era.
That being said, take away the postseason success factor, and it’s intriguing to see how closely Kansas City and Milwaukee’s competitive histories align.
Kansas City and Milwaukee are similar, Midwest cities in size and spirit
I have many friends who hail from Milwaukee. And I must admit: Milwaukee may be one of my favorite Midwestern cities (which means something considering I am not from the Midwest originally).
There’s especially something special about a summer in Milwaukee (or at least pre-COVID): The sheer number of special events in the downtown area; the underrated brewery culture (Lakefront Brewery is great); Brewers fandom; etc. A summer in Milwaukee is a great amalgamation of all that is Midwest, with that Wisconsin, upper Midwestern flair that separates it from the Midwestern lifestyle we are exposed to here down in Kansas and Missouri. If Kansas City is Melissa Etheridge, then Milwaukee is Bon Iver, and for the inner hipster in me, it’s hard to not gravitate toward the Eau Claire native.
That being said, even though Milwaukee may be a little more “pioneer” than the “country” Kansas City, both cities feel the same. They are underrated cities that are often overlooked by more major cities nearby. People will be more likely to visit Chicago which is roughly two hours away from Milwaukee, while many people will feel that St. Louis is “Missouri’s” city rather than Kansas City. And yet Milwaukee and Kansas City hold their own. Milwaukee’s beer scene is unmatched in the Midwest, and Kansas City is a BBQ capital of the world that is also underrated for summer events and cheap dive bars. Milwaukee and Kansas City may not have the rep that Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Detroit have, but they are worthy destinations nonetheless. Furthermore, the natives of Milwaukee and Kansas City are fiercely loyal to their hometowns, which makes living or visiting these places as a transplant all the more enjoyable. One can feel the love, passion, and endearment to the cities from those intimately involved.
And thankfully, that carries to the baseball diamonds at Kauffman Stadium and Miller Park. Royals and Brewers fans know they are not the Cubs, Cardinals or even White Sox. They know they don’t have their history or their titles or their records. They also understand that they don’t have the long lineage of MLB legends either. The Royals have George Brett. The Brewers have Robin Yount (and somewhat Paul Molitor). And yet, despite those factors going against these two teams and cities, baseball remains a priority and passion during the summer months. You can’t come to Kansas City from April to September without going to the K, much like you can’t go to Milwaukee from the same time span without going to Miller.
Kansas City and Milwaukee, at the core, are Midwest siblings, overlooked by their older and larger family members (Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis). But they are still worthwhile nonetheless. It’s hard to go to these cities and not have a good time, and thankfully, the baseball experience in these cities is the same as well. Royals and Brewers baseball, despite the “small market” flavor of the franchises, still proves to be something special.
And both teams officially endorse Miller Lite as their official beer as well…
Which, can be a positive or minus with Royals fans, depending on what part of the State Line you hail from.