KC Royals saved Marge, their No. 1 fan

marge and rachel big

* Marge Whetsel, 81, with grand daughter Rachael Davis, has been a Kansas City Royals fan since 1978 and says the ball club saved her life — after her beloved husband died in 2007. Photos: Amanda McKie, Rachel Davis. ….

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“A couple of guys in first class on a flight
From New York to Los Angeles,
Kinda making small talk killing time,
Flirting with the flight attendants,
Thirty-thousand feet above, could be Oklahoma,

_ Jason Aldeen, Fly Over States.

By Bob Elliott

KANSAS CITY _ Marge Edwards met Ray Whetsel in seventh grade in common learning class at North East junior high in Kansas City in the 1940s.

When Marge turned 16 she was allowed to date.

And they shared a locker in senior high.

Yes, this is a love story.

Well, actually two love stories.

Marge and Ray wed June 5, 1953 in Kansas City when Ray was home on leave from serving on the destroyer USS Boyd.

They never wanted to live anywhere else but in a fly over state.

Ray was born in his parent’s house.

Marge was born at a K.C. hospital in 1933.

Ray was a member of the U.S. Naval Seebees reserves when a friend asked he and Marge to a Kansas City Royals game in summer around 1973.

For Marge it was not love at first sight with her second love.

“The only thing I remember was how it rained and how (grounds keeper) George Toma got the tarp onto the field so quickly.”

After all, Marge and Ray were football fans.

They had season’s tickets to the Kansas City Chiefs for 13 seasons.

* * *
“Just a bunch of square cornfields and wheat farms,
Man, it all looks the same,
Miles and miles of back roads and highways,
Connecting little towns with funny names,
Who’d want to live down there in the middle of nowhere?”

* * *
Ray and Marge Whetsel wanted to live in Kansas City, even though people in New York or Los Angeles might think it is the middle of nowhere.

Ray had been stationed in Guam and in Charleston, S.C., but as Marge says “home is home.”

Ray worked as an assemblay-line foreman, then in the office at General Motors in Leeds for 29 years. Then he worked for eight years at Unitog Rental Services, Inc., an industrial uniform company.

Leading up to Christmas in 1977, Marge decided on the perfect gift for her husband. With four children — Michael, Donna, Jim and Phyllis — money wasn’t easy to come by.

Marge saved and one day went to Royals Stadium putting money down on a deposit. For Christmas, Ray opened his gift: a receipt for season’s tickets to watch the Royals play in 1978.marge as

Ray headed to the stadium to pick out his seat. He looked at the seating chart and said the magic words:

“I’ll buy another please.”

Marge bought Ray his season’s ticket.

Ray bought Marge a ticket for all 81 games.

They sat in section 108, row JJ.

Ken Wilkerson was our Royal Lancer,” said Marge.

They don’t have Royal Lancers or their counterparts at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium or the Rogers Centre.

Marge explained after Charlie Finley moved his Kansas City Athletics franchise to Oakland in 1968 operating it in a fly over state from 1955-to-1968, Kansas City businessman Ewing Kauffman, whose wife Muriel Kauffman was from Hamilton, Ontario, wanted involvement by the local community if buying the team.

“Mr. Kauffman,” according to Marge, involved area businessmen and they sold roughly 7,000 season’s tickets. Royal Lancers wore blue blazers.

“You still see them giving out programs,” Marge says, “but they’re not as involved as before.”

Manager Whitey Herzog’s 1978 Royals won 92 games, led by Amos Otis, Hall of Famer George Brett and Darrell Porter at the plate and Dennis Leonard, Paul Splittorff and Larry Gura on the mound.

They lost to the New York Yankees in four games in the American League Championship Series.

Marge had another love in her life besides Ray and her children:

They wore blue and white: the Kansas City Royals.

* * *
“They’ve never drove through Indiana,
Met the men who plowed that earth,
Planted that seed, busted his ass for you and me,
Or caught a harvest moon in Kansas,
They’d understand why God made
Those fly-over states,”

* * *
Year after year Ray and Marge went to watch their Royals.

From opening day 1978 until the final home game of 2007, including Ray throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before a 2004 game.

ray 1st p in 2004They met Betty and Mack Phillips, parents of catcher Paul Phillips from Bailey, Miss. for brunch at the Adams Mark Hotel on Sept. 30. Ray and Marge switched tickets with the catcher’s parents so they could get a closer view of their son.

Phillips caught the Royals final game, a 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians finsihing with 69 wins.

Ray was gone less than six weeks later.

It was Nov. 11 ,,, Veteran’s Day.

Now suddenly, Marge was all alone … after 54 years of marriage … after being together since grace 7.

“Ray and I did everything together and all of a sudden he’s not here,” Marge said. “We had just moved into a new place. When you’ve been with someone for that long it’s hard.”

General manager Dayton Moore fired Buddy Bell after the 2007 season and hired Trey Hillman to manage. So, Marge went to a meet the manager get together with her son Jim.

At the reception, Curt Nelson, director of Royals Hall of Fame asked Marge if she wanted to work at the Royals Hall of Fame when it opened July 17 after the 2009 all-star game. Stadium tours would be conducted for fans as well.

Work for Royals?

My Royals?

Do they serve barbeque in K.C.?

“I knew both Ray and Marge from season ticket holders functions, uniform unvieling and fanfest,” said Nelson. “She viewed us
family and we viewed her family.

“Our fans are extremely loyal and we tested their loyalties going so long between post-season appearances.”

The Royals Hall is located in left field of renovated Kauffman Stadium.

“You can spend hours there and not see everything,” Marge said. “When we didn’t have visitors I’d read and remember.

“Working there got me over the hump. It gave me something to do. I had a chance be around what I loved. Alumni players would come through, stop and reminisce.”

Marge worked there for four years.

“It’s not an exaggeration‎,” Marge said, “the Kansas City Royals saved my life,”

Marge loved the Royals.

And the Royals loved back.

* * *
“I bet that mile long Santa Fe freight train engineer’s seen it all
Just like that flatbed cowboy stacking US steel on a 3-day haul
Roads and rails under their feet
Yeah that sounds like a first class seat “

* * *
Marge has been there rooting for her Royals for 36 years.

Marge saw members of the Royals Hall like Amos Otis, Steve Busby, Paul Splittorff and Dennis Leonard.

To Hal McRae, Fred Patek, Larry Gura and George Brett

Frank White, John Mayberry, Willie Wilson and Jeff Montgomery

Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza and Kevin Appier.

Marge knew that the Royals would end the longest-running, post-season drought in the game this season, knew they would beat the favored Oakland A’s, knew they would knock off the favored Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and beat the favored Baltimore Orioles.

And Marge knows the outcome of this World Series,

“I knew in my heart of hearts since before the all-star game,” Marge said standing in the grandstand as ushers (“we’re going all the way Marge”) and fans “I’m so happy for you Marge”) before Game 4 against the Orioles.

For Game 4 against the Orioles her great grandson Xander McKie came with Marge, now 81 years young, to the game that put the Royals into their first World Series since 1985. He was her date for Game 1 of the World Series too. xander and m small

“Marge, you throwing out the first pitch?” asked one passer by

“Been there, done that,” Marge said her eyes twinkling.

Marge knows.

Just like she knew in 1985 when her Royals trailed the favored Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

The conversation went something like this:

Marge: “no need to worry.”

Ray: “how do you know?”

Marge: “I had a dream. We were in the car driving down this long highway, We walked into the stadium and down to our seats. That was old Busch Stadium.”

The Royals rallied from down 3-1 to beat the Jays and did the same to beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I enjoy it when we wind up with Toronto players, they are always so polite,” Marge says. “Matt Stairs was great when he was here. When they come here they’re not ugly or obnoxoius.

“Those people from St. Louis, they come here and are still complaining about the umpire in the 1985. They can’t get over it. We beat them.”

* * *
“On the plains of Oklahoma
With a windshield sunset in your eyes
Like a water-colored painted sky.

* * *
And Marge also watched the likes of Luis Aquino, Paul Bako, German Barranca and Onix Concepcion

Warren Cromartie, Gookie Dawkins, Jorge Fabregas and Pete Filson

Jerry Don Gleaton, Atlee Hammaker, Tug Hulett and Kila Ka’aihue

Wes Obermueller, Odalis Perez, Hipolito Pichardo and Marc Pisciotta

Scott Podsednik, Humberto Quintero, Bombo Rivera and Rico Rossy

Nelson Santovenia, Shawn Sedlacek. Tony Solaita and Kanekoa Texeira.

Come game time it is time for Marge to bear down … as the scouts say.

“I put my radio on if I get someone sits and wants to talk about something non-baseball,” Marge says, who listens to her pals Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews, Ryan Lefebvre and whomever else is on, “I’m too busy watching the game, I’d rather listen to Ryan and Denny to talk.”

* * *
“On the plains of Oklahoma
With a windshield sunset in your eyes
Like a water-colored painted sky.”

* * *
Who is the favorite player of the most loyal Royal fan?

Marge mentions second baseman Carlos Febles, catcher Mitch Maier (who caught Marge’s first pitch), Brett, Wilson and White.

“It’s hard to pick one it’s like chosing your favorite child, I quietly admire them and praise them,” says Marge who has only booed once in 36 seasons and won’t say who.

“It upsets me when over people boo,” said Marge. “I love all my Royals.”

Only once has she walked out on her team … May 28 this year when they were swept by the Houston Astros to fall to four games below .500 K.C. They won 15 of the next 20.

Marge does have a favorite all-time non-Royal: former Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Cecil Cooper. Marge made one of her 23 trips to spring training and had the chance to meet Cooper in 2003.

* * *
“Take a ride across the badlands
Feel that freedom on your face
Breathe in all that open space
And meet a girl from Amarillo
You’ll understand why God made
You might even wanna plant your stakes
In those fly over states”

* * *
Marge has planted her stakes.

Now in Independence, Mo.

And in section 130, row F seats 5-6.

Her goal is to get to row B, behind the Royals dugout.

Ray and Marge have four children, 10 grand children and four great children.

Sometimes Marge’s marge, rachelsister Carleen Dickson, comes or her grand daughter Rachael Davis, who made her first trip to the park at 15 months, knew the players names and numbers by kindergarten; learned how to score and at North Kansass City High was the scorekeeper because she was the only one who knew how to score.

Marge still has the two seats.

Marge is always in one of them.

A friend or family member is in the other.

Every game come rain, come shine.

Someone else’s presence is always there too.

“Ray is there at each game,” Marge said, “some one around us will make a remark about Ray, or tell a funny story about Ray.”

A woman’s love is still strong …

For her late husband and for her Royals.

* * *

Have you ever been through Indiana?
On the plains of Oklahoma?
Take a ride.

Scott Harrigan
Your #1 source for community and amateur sports related news on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and beyond! Send stories to scottharriganisn@gmail.com