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Philadelphia vs. Kansas City: Who ya got?

This isn’t the first time these cities have faced off in a championship round.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Philadelphia Phillies
Mike Schmidt and George Brett were both great, but Schmidt was clearly superior.
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, I debated the merits of the cities of Philadelphia and San Francisco. Between the lopsided NFC Championship Game and the insane amount of whining coming out of everyone from San Francisco since that game, it’s safe to say that Philadelphia emerged as the clear victor in that battle.

With the San Francisco 49ers firmly behind them, the Eagles will be taking on the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend in the Super Bowl. Therefore, I will similarly compare the cities of Philadelphia and Kansas City - which have faced off for a championship once before - and see which is superior.

Famous landmarks

Philadelphia has Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross house, and many more historical monuments. Kansas City has...nothing? Seriously, I can’t think of one notable Kansas City landmark offhand.

Edge: Philadelphia

Quality of barbecue

It seems that good barbecue is the main calling card of Kansas City. Philadelphia is known for many things, but it’s not usually at the top of the list when people name meccas of barbecue.

Edge: Kansas City

Hall of Fame third baseman

George Brett played 21 seasons for the Royals, making it to 13 All-Star games, winning an MVP award, and deservingly made it to the Hall of Fame. Yet he pales in comparison to Mike Schmidt, rightfully recognized as the greatest third baseman of all time.

Edge: Philadelphia

Ability for people to remember what state the city is in

Most people can probably identify Philadelphia as being in the state of Pennsylvania. But I suppose that a large percentage of the country’s populace - including certain politicians - would place Kansas City in Kansas. To be fair, there is a Kansas City in Kansas, but there are no major league sports teams there.

Edge: Philadelphia

Celebrity fans

I like Bradley Cooper, Miles Teller, and Tina Fey well enough, but Kansas City can claim Paul Rudd, Jason Sudeikis, and Henry Cavill. Got to give this one to Ant-Man, Ted Lasso, and Superman.

Edge: Kansas City

Ability to win the 1980 World Series

The Philadelphia Phillies prevailed over the Kansas City Royals in six games to win the 1980 World Series.

Edge: Philadelphia

Aside in which I further discuss the 1980 World Series

In 1980, the Phillies and Royals were on oddly similar paths. Neither team had ever won the World Series (admittedly, the Phillies are a much older franchise), and both teams won their divisions from 1976-1978 but fell in the league championship series each time. They both missed the playoffs in 1979, only to break through to the World Series in 1980.

The Phillies won the first two games at home (the first win was their first World Series win in 85 years, just in case you thought the recent drought was depressing). They had a chance to win game three with the go-ahead runner on third base in the eighth inning with Mike Schmidt at the plate, but Schmidt flied out and the Phillies eventually fell in ten innings.

Starting pitcher Larry Christenson got bombed in the first inning (0.1 IP, 4 runs) of game four, which left the series tied, and I’m sure the good fans of Philadelphia were perfectly rational about the situation. The rationality assuredly carried over into game five when the Phillies found themselves trailing by one in the ninth inning. But clutch hits by Del Unser and Manny Trillo gave the Phillies a come-from-behind 4-3 win.

When great moments in Phillies history are discussed, this comeback isn’t frequently mentioned. Has it just faded from our collective memory over time? This makes me wonder if years from now, younger Phillies fans will have no idea about Matt Stairs’ home run in the 2008 NLCS.

In game six, Steve Carlton pitched seven strong innings, and Tug McGraw finished things off with the most iconic moment in Phillies history:

Another aside to discuss the oddly similar histories of the Phillies and Royals

I mentioned how the teams were on similar tracks leading up to the 1980 World Series. But that continued after the games as well. Both teams made it back to the Fall Classic within the next five years. The Phillies fell to the Orioles in 1983, while the Royals were able to prevail in 1985. However, the franchises fell upon hard times shortly after.

The Phillies only made the playoffs once between 1984 and 2006, which sounds bad until you see that the Royals went 28 straight seasons without a postseason bid.

Much like the 2022 Phillies ended a ten-year drought with a World Series appearance, the 2014 Royals not only made it to the playoffs but took the AL Pennant as well. If you want an encouraging sign for the 2023 Phillies, look at the 2015 Royals who rebounded from the World Series loss by returning and winning it the following year.

As for the present day, the 2023 Phillies look to be in much better shape than their Kansas City counterparts. The defending NL champs are expected to return to the playoffs this season, while the Royals are coming off a 97-loss season and didn’t make a lot of splashy offseason moves.

Impact of Danny Tartabull

After beginning his career with the Mariners, Danny Tartabull was traded to the Royals where he spent five productive seasons, including an All-Star appearance in 1991.

By 1997, Tartabull was past his prime, but still seen as a decent power threat, having hit 27 home runs the season prior. The Phillies were desperate for additional power in their lineup, so they signed him as a free agent, even though it was clear that Tartabull didn’t really want to be there.

As it turned out, he wasn’t there for long. On Opening Day, he fouled a ball off his foot, breaking it. He attempted to play two more games, but eventually went on the Disabled List and never returned.

Edge: Kansas City

Ability to keep an NBA team from moving to California

In 1984, after 12 years in Kansas City, the NBA’s Kings decided to seek greener pastures in...Sacramento? Ugh, how bad is your city when a team thinks that Sacramento is seen as a superior option?

While the past two weeks have not improved my opinion on the San Francisco/Oakland area, it at least made a little bit of sense why the Philadelphia Warriors would want to move there. And at least the NBA realized that was a mistake and quickly moved the Syracuse Nationals to Philadelphia to replace them.

I was tempted to give the edge to Philadelphia, but I’m not inclined to give the Sixers any credit since their primary goal at the trade deadline seemed to be getting under the luxury tax. Are we sure Daryl Morey is actually a good general manager? (I know he’s not technically the GM, just like Dave Dombrowski isn’t the Phillies’ GM, but he’s serving in the role traditionally associated with the position.)

Edge: Even

Final analysis

By a count of 5-3, Philadelphia emerges as the superior city. Does that mean the Eagles will prove to be the superior team in the Super Bowl? It seems foolish to think otherwise. Let’s just hope that after the Eagles win, the people of Kansas City will accept the defeat with more grace than San Francisco has.