By Randy York Photos, Courtesy Kansas City Royals
If humor is the secret to surprise, then count me as shocked with some measure of awe mixed in. When I received an email from Joel Thorson, 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 homeruns 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, Thorson’s view of impending history had become a request to Dave Witty and Aaron Babcock, two Lincoln residents who are former Kansas City Royals employees, to see if their ties to the Royals could pass on the information.
Why? “So Nebraska can get the home run ball to put in a trophy case or something,” Thorson 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 Thorson’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 Thorson 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, so I called Thorson 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,” Thorson responded. “I was just as skeptical. Maybe he was still in diapers when he left but he was born in Omaha.”
Sure enough, Thorson was right, directing me to baseball-reference.com to discover that fact for myself.
Since I’m not one of those baseball junkies like several friends I have, I went online to verify the facts and can see why so many get so immersed in the details.
Here’s the deal. Boggs has hit 118 home runs, the most ever by an MLB player born in Nebraska. Gordon ranks second with 115 and Jackie Brandt is third with 112.
Not bad for a state that has such MLB Hall-of-Famers as 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. He 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,” Thorson 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 Thorson deserves a thanks from Royals’ fans everywhere for his assistance in this historic quest.
May the force be with Alex Gordon and may the Royals stay on the fast track they’ve found all across the country.
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