Photos Courtesy of Kansas City Royals
By Randy York
If humor is the secret to surprise, then count me as shocked with some measure of awe thrown in. When I received an email from Owen Thorsen, a retired Omaha policeman, via Sean Callahan, I couldn’t help but laugh after the semi-retiree tried to tell me that Alex Gordon is four home runs away from a major league milestone.
To set the record for most home runs by a Nebraska native in Major League Baseball history.
Yeh, right, I thought, before asking who holds the record Gordon was chasing.
“Wade Boggs,” I was told, and that’s where humor trumped surprise.
Still, I bit, asking Callahan to let me in on the hoax.
This Fan Wants a Home Run Ball in a Trophy Case
A few minutes later, Thorsen’s view of impending history became a request to Dave Witty and Aaron Babcock, two Lincoln residents who are former Kansas City Royals employees. Thorsen’s goal was simply to find a tie to alert the Royals about something that would be meaningful to Kansas City’s growing list of Nebraska baseball fans.
Why? “So Nebraska can get the home run ball to put in a trophy case or something,” Thorsen said, explaining that Gordon was “closing in on a home run record that is very important to Husker fans.” I was semi-convinced until I noticed that Thorsen’s email is one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever seen … email@example.com, an address he secured when Frank Solich hired Bo Pelini as his defensive coordinator way back when, years before Bo had the most popular cat in the country.
I had to ask Callahan just exactly who Thorsen was, and the online writer/radio insider/TV analyst told me he had no earthly idea. He was just a friendly guy whose only moniker was that Bo knows defense.
Omaha Fan was as Incredulous as the Rest of Us
Somehow, I couldn’t resist. I called Thorsen and learned that he discovered this impending milestone on his own.
I cut to the quick. “Wade Boggs was born in Nebraska?” I asked.
“I didn’t think so either, but he was,” Thorsen responded. “I was just as skeptical as you are. Maybe he was still in diapers when he left Nebraska but he was born in Omaha.”
Thorsen was right, directing me to BaseballReference.com to discover that fact for myself. Since I’m not one of those baseball junkies like several friends of mine, I went online to verify facts, and the process helped me understand why so many get so immersed in baseball history. It’s fascinating.
Here’s the deal. Boggs has hit 118 home runs, the most ever by a major league player born in Nebraska. Gordon, who was born and still lives in Lincoln, ranks second with 115. Jackie Brandt is third with 112.
Not bad for a state that claims MLB Hall-of-Famers Richie Ashburn, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Sam Crawford, Bob Gibson and yes, Wade Boggs, who was born in Omaha, grew up in Tampa, Florida, and played 18 years in the bigs, primarily with the Boston Red Sox. Boggs also played for the New York Yankees on a World Series Championship team and for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with whom he recorded his 3,000th hit. Did we mention that Boggs had 12 straight All-Star appearances, nine more than Alex Gordon’s three?
Maybe a Historically Charged Fan Will Be Benevolent
Who knows? If and when Gordon ties and passes Boggs for hitting the most home runs by a Nebraska native in MLB history, maybe a friendly, historically charged fan will be benevolent.
“I would like to see some effort made by the Royals to retrieve Alex’s 119th home run ball,” Thorsen said. “Hopefully, it’ll take place in KC and land in the bull pen or some other place where it can be retrieved. The ball ought to go into a trophy case in Lincoln. It would also be great to get the bat, but that would be up to Alex.”
Whatever happens and whenever it happens, Owen Thorsen deserves special thanks from Royals’ fans everywhere for his assistance in this historic quest. Having won 22 of their last 27 games, may the force be with Alex Gordon and the Kansas City Royals as they contend for their first playoff berth since beating the St. Louis Cardinals for the 1985 World Series Championship. I know this: Alex Gordon would be the last to care about the milestone ahead. He was just one-year-old the last time the Royals made the playoffs, and the only home runs that interest him are the ones that get the Royals back where they feel they belong.
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