Friday, July 9, 2010

Ruppert Stadium

In my office is a University of Kansas calendar which contains reprints of past football game day program covers. The cover for the July page of the calendar is from a Texas Christian University (now more commonly referred to as "TCU") versus University of Kansas game which took place at Ruppert Stadium in Kansas City, MO.

I paused when I read the game venue as I've never heard of "Ruppert Stadium." After further fact-checking, Ruppert Stadium is actually what we now refer to affectionately as the "old ballpark"--Municipal Stadium, the former home of the Kansas City Royals and, before them, the Kansas City Athletics as well as the early-day Kansas City Chiefs.

The stadium was originally built in 1923 as Muehlebach Field and housed the minor-league Kansas City Blues. The single deck stadium cost $400,000. And, several years later, a not-too-bad barbecue joint named Arthur Bryant's was located across the street.

The ballpark, at 18th and Brooklyn, also was the home for the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team which, during its history, would feature players like Satchel Paige and Buck O'Neill. (The Negro League Museum is now located just a few blocks from the site of the stadium. The 18th and Vine District, which played host to some of the best jazz men of its day, is also close by.)

When the New York Yankees bought the Blues in 1937 and incorporated the team into their farm system, the stadium was renamed Ruppert Stadium, in honor of Yankees owner, Colonel Jacob Ruppert. Ruppert died two years later and the stadium was renamed Blues Stadium in 1943.

What's interesting is that the date on the Kansas program is 1944, meaning that the stadium was known by both names, at least for a time. It wasn't until 1955 that it was renamed Municipal Stadium, after the Philadelphia Athletics relocated to Kansas City and then owner Arnold Johnson sold the stadium to the city.

From 1955 until it was vacated in 1972, Municipal was the site for many Kansas City sports low...and just a few highs. This is the stadium where the longest NFL game ever played, between the Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, took place--a double-overtime Christmas Day playoff contest won by the Dolphins. It was also the site for wacky A's owner Charlie Finley's shenanigans, from the Pennant Porch he constructed in right field to the mechanical rabbit who would deliver balls to the umpires.

A Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in the stadium in 1960. But, it was a non-sports event, in 1964, which brought the greatest notoriety to this old structure. The Beatles, on their first U.S. tour, played a less than hour-long set in Municipal for the then record concert fee of $150,000.

The Royals and Chiefs left in 1972 for the gleaming new Truman Sports Complex in suburban K.C. And, in 1976, the wrecking ball tore down Muehlebach/Ruppert/Blues/Municipal Stadium--"the old ballpark."

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