This was the headline in this morning's Kansas City Times: "Missouri! Meet the world."
It would be accurate perhaps to reverse the wording, because this is the week the world will come to Missouri.
It began tonight when the Cardinals won, 3-1, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven World Series
In a sense, there is a rightness to the setting for this World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals.
St. Louis, "The Gateway to the West," represents the East. It is industrial and cosmopolitan. It was baseball's western outpost before Brooklyn became Los Angeles and expansion a way of life.
Kansas City, 250 miles to the west on Interstate 70, is symbolic of the young West. It is suburban sprawl, a smaller, cleaner city than St. Louis where the gentry lives across the state line in the posh suburbs of Kansas.
In St. Louis, the ballpark sits in the middle of downtown. It is one of those tacky doughnut ballparks that everyone was building in the late 1960s, but it is still something of a throwback, a place where Cardinals fans come dressed in red, where they form lines around the park to try to get World Series tickets.
In Kansas City, you have to drive 15 miles from downtown to reach Royals Stadium. It sits right off I-70, and from the upper deck behind home plate, you can see the headquarters of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes gleaming on the far side of the left field fence.
This truly is Middle America.
"St. Louis has more of a city feeling to me," said Royals left fielder Lonnie Smith, who was traded here in May after three seasons in St. Louis. "Here, you have to drive 20 minutes to get anyplace. St. Louis is older; it's got all that tradition. Kansas City doesn't have that stuff."
That stuff. It can be whatever you want it to be. They have played baseball in St. Louis since the 19th century. This is not the first all-Missouri World Series. That was played in 1944, when the Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns played all six games in Sportsman's Park and the Cardinals won, four games to two.
The 1944 pennant was the only one the Browns won before they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles in 1954. The Cardinals' 1944 pennant was one of 14 they have won, and their Series title that year was one of nine. Although both teams, like all teams of that era, were watered down because of World War II, news accounts report that St. Louis came to a halt, all eyes focused on the intra-city Series.
"The Cardinals were the dominant team, but our fans were pretty loyal," recalled Don Gutteridge, the leadoff hitter on that Browns team. "Browns fans in St. Louis always were outnumbered by Cardinals fans. I doubt if it's much different with the Cardinals and Royals. The Cardinals are always going to be the dominant team in the state."
In fact, there is an inferiority complex in this city. St. Louis is bigger (by about 500,000 people), it has more tradition and it has the Mississippi. "Our river, the Missouri, is only 33 miles shorter than the Mississippi," complained a member of the Chamber of Commerce at a party held here Friday night. "But they write all the songs about the Mississippi."
It isn't as if Kansas City hasn't had its share of fame. Harry S. Truman lived and died in suburban Independence, and the house where he lived and the museum he built are less than five miles from Royals Stadium, where, in fact, the entire football and baseball complex is called the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex. This morning, the museum was thick with tourists, many of them wearing baseball caps.
"We figure if this town's good enough for Whitey, it was worth seeing," said Hal Worlitz, wearing a Cardinals cap. "We would have gone to Whitey's house, too, but we don't know where it is."
Whitey -- Dorrel Norman Herzog -- is the manager of the Cardinals. He has lived in Independence, about a mile from the Truman house, for 25 years. Until 1979, he managed the Royals. But after winning three division titles, he was fired in 1979 for not winning one. During this World Series, he will be the first manager to live in his own house in both cities.
Truman and Herzog are two of the luminaries from here. Others include Jean Harlow, Jesse James, Satchel Paige and Casey Stengel. Walt Disney once declared that Mickey Mouse was born in Kansas City.
An interesting mix. St. Louis can claim the blues, riverboats, Yogi Berra and the boxing Spinks brothers as natives. A fellow named Samuel Clemens, who later changed his name to Twain, came from Hannibal, less than an hour's drive from downtown. What's more, Joe Hardy, the most famous baseball player from Missouri, also came from Hannibal.
Of course, Joe Hardy sold his soul to the devil to help the Washington Senators beat the hated Yankees. Baseball fans here may not remember the Senators, but many can certainly relate to hatred of the Yankees. Or, for that matter, intense dislike of anything New York, anything Los Angeles, anything coastal -- West or East.
"The Show Me state showed 'em," was George Brett's rallying cry after the Royals won the pennant Wednesday night. "We were rooting for the Cardinals to beat the Dodgers, and I'm sure the Cardinals were pulling for us. Let's get on with this I-70 Series."
The section of the interstate for which this series is named -- unless you believe the caps calling this "The Show Me Showdown," -- is a flat, dull, 250-mile stretch of road. Farms and fields and flatland are everywhere. The towns have such names as Sweet Springs, Kingdom City, Wentzville and Tonganoxie. Columnist Jonathan Rand commented here this morning that "the only thing to look forward to on I-70 are the rest stops."
One of those stops is a giant truck stop known as Midway. Near Midway, just outside the town of Boonville, is an overpass. As you drive west on I-70, you can see a sign on the overpass that reads, "Welcome to Royals Country." As one drives east, the sign says, "Welcome to Cardinals Country."
For the most part, there is little rancor between the rival fans or the rival cities. Most Royals fans will tell you they would be rooting for the Cardinals if anybody but Kansas City were opposing them. Since the Royals have existed only since 1969, many baseball fans here rooted for the Cardinals for years. Few even noticed the pathetic Kansas City Athletics before they left town in 1967.
"It isn't like it would be in New York," Lonnie Smith said. "The people here think alike for the most part. This is the Midwest; people are people. In New York, the Bronx and Queens are like different countries. Met fans and Yankee fans, they could go to war. That would never happen here."
Perhaps Jamie Quirk, a Royals utility player who has played for both teams, summed it up best for both teams and both cities. "We all want to win," Quirk said. "But if we lose, it's not like we'll have to listen to (Los Angeles) Manager Tommy Lasorda or (Yankees Manager) Billy Martin all winter.
"This will be competitive for everyone. But it will also be fun."
The Show Me state is getting a chance to show its stuff. Mark Twain would have loved it.