January 24, 2020
Cities are sometimes connected by reputations or events. For example, Philadelphia and Boston are connected in my mind as the cradles of the American Revolution. Brooklyn and Los Angeles are connected as the homes of the Dodgers. Kansas City and St. Louis are often connected as the “big cities” in Missouri. Interestingly, although not as well-known, Greater Kansas City has been connected to San Francisco in many ways for many years.
The connection between the two regions started in 1848 with the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California. Shortly after the settlement of Independence, Missouri, the westward trails all moved their starting points to this new westernmost town. Independence, and later Westport, became the place that the overland gold seekers went to outfit their wagons before heading west. Many of the original “49ers” started their voyage just a few miles east of Arrowhead stadium, passing within a Patrick Mahomes pass of the Truman Sports Complex along what is now Blue Ridge Blvd.
There are several interesting sports connections between Kansas City and San Francisco as well. Of course, the most significant is when Kansas City lost its first Major League Baseball team, which relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and became the Oakland A’s. Due in part to the poaching of the A’s, and also in part to Ben Davidson’s spearing of Len Dawson, KC’s primary rival during the AFL days were the Bay Area’s Oakland Raiders.
Another minor trivia point—I recall that the San Francisco Fog (a Major Indoor Soccer League team) relocated to Kansas City to become the Kansas City Comets in 1981. This was KC’s first professional soccer team of any kind and a staple of the KC sports scene for years. While we are talking about team relocations, one could argue that the Kansas City Kings’ relocation to Sacramento is yet another KC team living in the Bay Area!
Lastly, it seems that when Kansas City sports franchises decide to break a long championship drought, they meet San Francisco in the championship! After the Royals’ 29-year World Series absence, they faced off against the Giants in 2014, ultimately losing the series. And now, as the Chiefs return to the “Big Game” after 50 years, the Niners will be there to welcome them. But this time, I’m confident that we’ll be victorious over our San Francisco opponents!
If you’re interested in more Kansas City sports history, I encourage you to explore the Library’s catalog and online resources, including the Kansas City Star archive.
Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director & CEO
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