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A Tale of Two (Kansas City) Royals curiousKC Explains How the Baseball Team Got its Name

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Above image credit: In January 1969, the Kansas City Royals unveiled their new uniforms. Pictured from left to right: Catcher Dennis Paepke, pitcher Roger Nelson and outfielder Bob Oliver. (Courtesy | Kansas City Royals)
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2 minute read

There are two famous royals in the Kansas City area – the Kansas City Royals and the American Royal. 

Both boast their own version of the World Series – one competes with a ball and a bat, and the other with smoke and meat. But are they somehow linked?

That’s what a curiousKC questioner wondered. More specifically, they asked, is the baseball team named after the famous livestock show?

The short answer is yes, thanks in part to a man called Sanford Porte of Overland Park. In 1968, the expansion baseball team’s new owner, Ewing Kauffman, staged a contest to determine the best name.  

“(Porte) suggested, in recognition of Missouri’s billion-dollar livestock industry, that the American Royal best exemplified that through its pageantry and parade, and that the new team should be named the Royals,” said Bob Peterson, the former CEO of the American Royal, in a 2014 interview with NPR.

Sanford Porte’s original suggestion to name the baseball team the Royals. (Courtesy | Kansas City Royals)

But there was once another Kansas City Royals, according to the MLB. Managed by a former Kansas City Monarch Chet Brewer, it comprised Major League and Negro League players for the 1945 California Winter League. A fun fact: Jackie Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs and the old Royals.

Indeed, agriculture has played a huge part of Kansas City’s past and present.

The American Royal Livestock Show dates back to 1899, when it was originally known as the National Hereford Show. Initially, the show focused on cattle and horse exhibitions in the West Bottoms stockyard district.

The first show was staged in a tent but soon exploded in popularity. In the early 1900s, the American Royal became famous as a celebration of agriculture. By the 1950s, it added events such as horse shows, rodeo and barbecue competitions. 

This is the American Royal’s original building and (top right) its arena where judging would happen. (Courtesy: Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library)

Kansas City didn’t have a major league baseball team until 1955, when it briefly became the home of the Kansas City (formerly Philadelphia) Athletics. After the Athletics moved on to Oakland after the 1967 season, Major League Baseball moved quickly to expand to 24 teams, including one in Kansas City. The newly dubbed Kansas City Royals played their first game at old Municipal Stadium near downtown in 1969. 

Kansas City Municipal Stadium
Kansas City Municipal Stadium in 1969, when the Kansas City Royals debuted. (Courtesy | Ballpark Digest)

And that’s how the city’s two-time World Series champion got its name – to honor the city’s barnyard roots, set smack dab in the agricultural hub of the Midwest.

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