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KCUR 89.3 covers community-related topics about sports in the Kansas City region. Do you have a story idea? E-mail News Director Maria Carter, maria@kcur.org.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Before most of the Royals’ players and coaches reported for spring training, the graphers were there. Waiting.

What’s a grapher? The term is short for “autographer,” someone who devotes him- or herself to collecting player’s autographs.

“We go to the ballparks, team hotels, and some of us who are more extreme go to spring training and travel to the All Star games," said Ethan Roth, who acquires and sells baseball autographs for a living. "It’s basically the art of getting an autograph without paying for it."

Kansas State Athletics Director John Currie says he and his staff are reviewing video of Monday night’s celebration after the Kansas State Wildcats’ upset win over the KU Jayhawks, and criminal charges are possible.

John Currie released a statement Tuesday that acknowledges the breakdown in security while the Jayhawks tried to leave the basketball court. Currie says K-State is working with local law enforcement to identify any fan who intentionally touched any KU player or personnel.

Currie added that action will be undertaken with such identified fans.

Greg Echlin / KCUR

Storming the basketball court after beating the nationally-ranked Kansas Jayhawks is becoming a trend.

It’s the third straight game after a KU loss on the road that the opponent’s crowd stormed the court when the final buzzer sounded. Monday night, it was at Kansas State after the Wildcats beat No. 8 KU, 70-63.

Jayhawks coach Bill Self says he is concerned.

“You storm the court. You run in and bump everybody, stuff like that. This has got to stop,” said Self.

Missouri Mavericks

 No one would ever call Kansas City a hockey town. Oh, there’s plenty of ice, look around, but hardly any of it is indoors. Let’s just say this isn’t the best place for aspiring Zamboni drivers.

The only NHL franchise in our history, your Kansas City Scouts, lasted all of two losing seasons in the 1970s. A series of minor-league teams followed, culminating in the present-day, double-A Missouri Mavericks, who arrived at the Independence Events Center in 2009, and now may have that which eluded hockey teams here for decades: a future.

User: miranda / Wikimedia Commons

Legendary basketball coach Dean Smith died late Saturday at the age of 83 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  He grew up in Emporia, Kan. and went to high school in Topeka.  Though his only head coaching job was with the North Carolina Tar Heels, Smith maintained his connections in Kansas.

Knowing Dean Smith’s roots in Kansas, former Kansas athletics director Monte Johnson tried to hire Smith away from North Carolina in 1983.  They met in Albuquerque, New Mexico, site of the ’83 Final Four.

In college basketball, the eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks are maintaining their hold on first place in the Big 12 after beating Iowa State Monday night, 89-76.

With a victory over the Kansas Jayhawks earlier this season, Iowa State positioned itself as one of the few teams that could be a serious threat to break the stranglehold KU has on regular season titles.

The Jayhawks are working on winning their 11th straight title. But even after solidifying first place in the Big 12, Jayhawks coach Bill Self isn’t ready to celebrate yet.

A Fan’s Notes: Having a Ball

Jan 30, 2015
frankieleon / Flickr-CC

  Football is a game of inches—and, apparently, pounds-per-square-inch. By now, you’d have to be living way off the gridiron to not know about “Deflategate”—or “Ballghazi,” depending on the major media outlet covering the story, which is all of them.

Missouri Tigers athletics director Mike Alden announced Thursday that he’ll step aside at the end of August.

The news came out prior to the men’s basketball game at Mizzou Arena Thursday night.

When Missouri Tigers first-year head coach Kim Anderson was hired last spring, he says Mike Alden dropped no hint that he didn’t plan to be around much longer as athletics director. After the Tigers lost to top-ranked Kentucky, 69-53, to plunge deeper into the depths of their struggles, Anderson said he wants to justify being hired by Alden.

Courtesy / Pro Football Hall of Fame

After striking out three times in a bid to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this may be the year that former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Will Shields gets in.

He’ll find out this weekend when the announcement is made in Arizona where the Super Bowl is taking place. There’s hope that Shields’ involvement with one of the NFL’s hottest issues off the field may put him over the top.

Ernie Banks, one of baseball’s all-time greats as a player and as a person off the diamond, died Friday. He was 83.

His sunny disposition and skills on the field took off when his professional baseball career began with the Negro Leagues in Kansas City. Cool Papa Bell, another former Negro Leagues player and a Baseball Hall of Famer, tipped off Kansas City Monarchs manager Buck O’Neil on the raw abilities of Ernie Banks.

At the time O’Neil, who died in 2006, had not seen Banks play.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was on hand in the Dallas-Fort Worth area Friday for the College Football Hall of Fame announcement. He is one of two coaches and 15 players who being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Before Snyder was hired at Kansas State in 1989, the Wildcats had been to only one bowl game in the history of the program. When he arrived, the cupboard was bare. 

Greg Echlin / KCUR

After an early exit from the MLS playoffs last year, Sporting Kansas City is making changes for this season.

They announced their biggest off-season move Tuesday, signing Roger Espinoza.

Espinoza played for Sporting for five years before going overseas to play in the English Premier League. 

"This is the age where the majority of players hit their peak,” said the 28-year-old at a news conference at Sporting's office in Kansas City, Mo.

Sporting’s season opener is on March 8 against the New York Red Bulls at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.

The 16th-ranked Missouri Tigers football team successfully ended its season Thursday afternoon in Orlando with a 33-17 Citrus Bowl win over 20th-ranked Minnesota.

Heading into the fourth quarter, it was a close game. The Tigers led, 19-17, but pulled away.

“You have to have a drive, a competitive drive in the fourth quarter,” said Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel. “It sounds really easy. It’s not easy. It’s the character of your team and your players, the leadership that you have.”

A day after their final game this season, the Kansas City Chiefs are stewing over a dubious NFL record.

Until this year, no team in NFL history had ever gone through an entire season without completing a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. The worst moment occurred Sunday when Dwayne Bowe had a chance to become the first this season, but he fumbled just shy of the end zone.

Quarterback Alex Smith didn’t play because of a spleen injury, but even he was stunned at how it turned out.

A 19-7 victory over the San Diego Chargers Sunday wasn’t good enough to propel the Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs.

When the Chiefs finished the regular season with a 9-7 record, they didn’t find out they were eliminated until after the game when Baltimore came from behind to beat Cleveland. Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel, who started in place of the injured Alex Smith, says they can only blame themselves.

“We were 7-3 at one point,” said Daniel. “(We) sort of got on a slide at the back end of the season. Uncharacteristic of us.”

Courtesy photo / Kari Deude

For more than 100 years, the University of Kansas Jayhawks and the University of Missouri Tigers have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry.

It's a rivalry that's alive and well, even though the teams haven't played each other in two years.

RELATEDJayhawks and Tigers Love to Hate Each Other Across State Line

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

There was no shortage of Mizzou hate Dec. 13  when the University of Kansas played the University of Utah at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Thousands of Kansas fans gathered, ironically in Missouri, to watch the Jayhawks play.

Kansas and Missouri haven’t played one another since 2012, when Missouri left the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference.

But just mention the University of Missouri to a die-hard Jayhawk and you’ll get a heated response. To fans, it’s more than just a sports rivalry. It's part of their identities.

Wikimedia -- CC

For the second straight year, the Missouri Tigers will play for the Southeastern Conference football championship. They’ll play Alabama, the top-ranked team in the nation, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta starting at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

Since leaving the Big 12 for the SEC, the Missouri Tigers have stepped up the caliber of their play. But the rest of the SEC wasn’t quite ready for them.

The Denver Broncos beat the Chiefs 29-16 Sunday night under frigid conditions at Arrowhead Stadium. That sent the Chiefs to their second straight loss and dropped their overall record to 7-5.

The slide started with a loss to the previously winless Oakland Raiders, then the impactful news of starting safety Eric Berry being diagnosed with lymphoma. After the Denver Broncos quickly took the spirit out of the Chiefs with an early 14-0 lead, it would have been natural suspect the news of Eric Berry affected the Chiefs preparations.

Keith Allison / Flickr-CC

The Oakland Athletics confirmed Wednesday that Billy Butler will play for the team starting in 2015.

Despite showing a desire to remain a Kansas City Royal, Butler's $12.5 million option for 2015 was too much for Royals managers.

Oakland approached Butler with a three-year, $30 million contract and $5 million signing bonus.

Some had mixed emotions about seeing Butler leave the only professional team for which he's played. Dean Tangeman posted this response on Twitter:

Sprint Center To Host 2017 Elite Eight

Nov 17, 2014
Paul Sableman / Creative Commons

No stranger to big-time college basketball, Kansas City will play host to late-round games in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the NCAA announced Monday.

Kansas City is the host of 2017’s Midwest Regional games, which include two Sweet Sixteen games and one Elite Eight matchup. The games will be played at the Sprint Center.

The Final Four is scheduled to be played in Phoenix. San Jose, Calif., will host the West Regional games. The South Regional games will be held in Memphis, Tenn. New York will host the East Regional games.

Not since the Missouri Tigers squared off against the Kansas Jayhawks in 2011 has any big-time college football team played at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Next year, however, MU will play a game there against Brigham Young University.

MU athletics director Mike Alden said he knows fans would love a rematch between the Jayhawks and Tigers, but it's up in the air whether that could be arranged.

"Boy, it would be awesome if one of these days we could get that together," Alden said. "But who knows?"

Chiefs To Skip 2015 Home Game To Play In London

Nov 6, 2014
Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR

The Chiefs’ home away from home next season? London.

The team will “host” the Detroit Lions at London’s Wembley Stadium on Nov. 1, 2015, the NFL announced Thursday. Designated the home team, the Chiefs will play one fewer game at their true home, Arrowhead Stadium, next year.

Each NFL team usually plays eight regular season home games each season. Next year, the Chiefs will host seven regular season games and likely host two preseason contests.

Bill Anderson / KCUR

When Up To Date host Steve Kraske was joined in studio by Billy Collins, he wasn't expecting the former U.S. Poet Laureate to have scribed a few lines a la Casey at the Bat as he waited in the green room.

But, impressed by the Royals and their fans, Collins offered this tribute.

Frank Morris / KCUR

About 6,000 fans Thursday made one more trip to Kauffman Stadium, just to celebrate the 2014 Kansas City Royals.

It was cloudy and threatening rain as fans filed into Kauffman Stadium. Almost on cue, the sun came out when the celebration started. 

Fans chanted “Thank you, Royals,” with the familiar cadence. Many were smiling. It was festive. There were little kids dressed as baseball players, cheerleaders, and Sluggerrr, the Royals’ mascot.

Most were smiling, but Mike Arnott stood with eyes puffy from crying. 

Royals Fall Just Short, Drop Game 7

Oct 29, 2014
Jeremy Bernfeld / KCUR

Just two hours before midnight Wednesday, autumn magic ran out of juice. The coach turned into a pumpkin. The Kansas City Royals’ magical postseason run ended a win shy of a championship.

Behind a dominating relief appearance by usual starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the San Francisco Giants beat the Royals 3-2 to win Game 7 and capture the crown.

Cody Newill / KCUR

In an appearance at Union Station Wednesday, Kansas City Mayor Sly James showed up decked out in a blue bowtie and matching Kansas City Royals hat to show support for the boys in blue as the team headed into the final game of the World Series.

James said the excitement Kansas Citians have shown during the World Series has been long overdue.

"You can't buy this kind of pride," James said. "It's about time that we had something like [the World Series] where we can say, 'This is ours, we did it, we showed the rest of you, and this is something we're going to cherish.'"

Alex Smith / KCUR

When the Royals won the American League Championship in mid-October, Selim Henderson got busy buying T-shirts.

A lot of T-shirts.

“I bought about 30 dozen to start with,” Henderson says.

He set up a roadside stand in south Kansas City, and sales went so well, he bought another 30 dozen.

His best seller? The Royal Flush.

“That has five of the players on cards – ace, king, queen, jack, ten – and that’s the winning hand in poker,” Henderson says.

By beating the San Francisco Giants, 10-0, Tuesday night, the Kansas City Royals forced the seventh and deciding game of the 110th World Series.

It was the most lopsided World Series victory since the seventh game of the 1985 series when the Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-0.

Julie Denesha / KCUR

A blue wave of cheering fans gathered at Kansas City's Power & Light District Tuesday night to watch the Kansas City Royals beat the San Francisco Giants 10-0 in Game 6 of the World Series.

“I’m proud of them,” said Victor Stringer. “I’ve been following the Royals since the 1970s, I think we can take this whole thing. I just believe in them.”

Twelve-year-olds Jaydon Dickinson and Donte Smith played a game of catch before the start of the game.

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