A Grand Return and A Gala Event

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May 19th, 2022

Hey…  LOOK AT ME!!!  A new blog for the second consecutive week and it’s actually on Thursday, for cryin’ out loud. That’s an all-time record. At least for consecutive Thursdays in May, of 2022, but let’s not be picky.

Lots to write about in this one, although probably not quite as much as last week’s epic adventure through blog land. This is mostly about one three-day trip to our south. Not too far south. Just about an hour by air, following Interstate 35 most of the way.

How’s your geography? Do those clues about direction, a highway, and flight duration nail it down for you? Well, here’s the answer. Barbara and I headed down to Kansas City for the wedding I referenced last week. Cydney Ricker, the beautiful daughter of my late friend, roomie, and teammate Bob “Radar” Ricker, got herself hitched to a wonderful guy by the name of Benton Glaze, and a marvelous time was had by all.

I haven’t spent much time in Kansas City since I was the GM of the indoor soccer team there, the legendary Kansas City Attack. I use the term “legendary” loosely, although we had our moments. I’ve been in and out a few times, and would fly into and out of Kansas City International Airport (the pride of southern Iowa) for the Topeka NHRA race every year. I also spent a couple of nights out in Independence (home of Harry Truman) when I came in for a Mavericks hockey game in order to interview CJ Eick about life in the minor leagues and junior hockey, for my book “How Far?”. But spending time right in Kansas City? That’s been rare since 1996.

When I did live in the area, I got a taste of most of the suburbs that ring the city on the west, southwest, and south, and even spent a month living in downtown.

A rare photo of me and my Attack Camry, circa 1995, shooting hoops (no doubt) in the driveway at Woodleaf Court in Kirkwood. The receding hairline was becoming evident…

As part of my compensation plan with the Attack, they not only paid me a salary, I also got a free apartment and a free car. The car part was pretty easy. They bought a nice brand-new Camry and handed me the keys. We festooned it with Attack decals so that I was a rolling billboard. Although, I do recall understanding, at one point, that we had not exactly saturated the market in terms of name recognition and awareness. Our logo, which was firmly affixed to both front doors on the car, featured the word “ATTACK” over the words “Kansas City”. Not real complicated. I was paying for my parking at the airport when the lady in the booth (yes, real  humans used to man those empty booths you see now, where you scan your ticket and pay without so much as a “hello” or “how are you, today?”) said “Why do you want to attack Kansas City? I think that’s awful. Why do you want to do that?”

I did my best to explain to her that I did not actually want to attack KC, but our indoor soccer team was called the Attack and that was our name. She didn’t seem swayed. When the gate went up I said “I promise. I love Kansas City” and drove out of there. She probably never bought season tickets, I’m guessing.

Anyway, I originally lived in an old historic downtown luxury hotel for the first 30 days on the job, in a nice suite. I was living large. At the end of the 30 days the hotel manager informed me that my time in the lap of luxury was up. Gotta go.

The team scrambled and found me a furnished apartment in Overland Park, a very nice suburb in the south metro and actually in Kansas. Again, though, that only lasted 30 days. It was a nice place but I was working so hard getting ready for my first season as GM, I barely had time to notice much about it. When I moved in (basically with just a suitcase of clothes and Shasta the cat) the table was set with dishes, silverware, and wine glasses with folded napkins pointing up artistically out of each glass. When I moved out, 30 days later, everything was still on the table as it was when I arrived. Even the folded napkins.

Finally, the team worked a trade deal with an apartment complex in the suburb of Roeland Park, also in Kansas but not too far south of downtown KC and close to Kemper Arena, where we played and had our offices. They got a bunch of free stuff (tickets, program ad, and a sign on the boards) and I got an apartment, free of charge. I’d actually moved all my furniture when I got the job, and Mayflower Van Lines had crated it up and stored it until I had a more permanent place to live. It was nice to have my sectional sofa back… Again, though, I was all about work. I barely remember anything about the place. I got up, went to the arena, worked, and came back to go to bed. If it was a game day, that meant being at Kemper by 8:00 in the morning and getting home just short of midnight. But I loved it.

While I was there, I made a few friends and on more than a few occasions we’d go out to dinner in the area known as Country Club Plaza, or another hot spot nearby called Westport. I recall both places being nice, and fun, and full of good vibes and good food. But that was a long time ago… Things must change, right?

Well, when we got our invite for Cydney and Benton’s wedding, they let us know they had blocked rooms at the Sheraton and The Fontaine Hotel, in Country Club Plaza. I had already sensed that this was going to be a phenomenal wedding (the fact it was “black tie” was hint enough) so I was happy to see two hotels in what I recalled to be a really nice area.

We stayed at The Fontaine. What a marvelous place. Truly nice and right in the heart of the Plaza. The only hitch was the GPS on our phones. I don’t know if Siri actually moonlights as the GPS voice, but it sounds like her so I’m going with that. She was pretty good at getting us from the airport to near the hotel, although a few of her alerts (TURN RIGHT!) came a bit late and sounded a bit panic-stricken. At one point, I had to cross the three lanes on I-29 to make the exit old Siri had just called out.

Once we got close to our target, she failed miserably. She alerted me to make a left, at an intersection we’d just passed. Twice she said, “Turn right at the light” and my own internal guidance system knew that was wrong. We needed to turn left, and I did. To cap it off, as we neared the hotel she spoke, ever so confidently, “The destination is on your right.” I said to Barb, “She’s lost. It’s on the left. I know it’s on the left. I looked at a real map before we started this.” I was right. It was left. Siri was lost.

We got there. Or at least I got us there. Siri needed a nap or a cup of coffee or something.

We got some bad news at that point. Former roomie and teammate Lance McCord was due in before us, but he texted me and said “Stuck in Atlanta. My flight to KC has been cancelled. This is bad.”

It turned out his options were to spend 13 hours in the Atlanta airport just to get on a flight to Chicago at midnight, which would connect to a flight to KC, arriving late Friday night. We had a “Welcome Party” to attend, and he’d miss that no matter what. His other option was to spend the night in Atlanta and take an 8:00 am flight to Chicago and then, hours later, connect to KC. Factoring in any delays and the distance from the KC airport to the hotel (where he’d have to change into his tux) he wouldn’t make the wedding anyway. He flew back home to Raleigh. We were all bummed.

Hanging out in the Plaza. It wasn’t until after this photo that we saw the sign posted on the other side that said “Please don’t touch the sculpture.” We apologize.

James “Oscar” Noffke and Alicia were not due in until Saturday, around noon, because Alicia’s daughter was graduating from junior college, so Barb and I had the afternoon free before the “Welcome Party” at 8:00. We headed out for a Country Club Plaza walking adventure and loved it. It was vibrant, hip, and full of friendly people who live there. I was so pleased to see how great it was.

We had made dinner reservations at a steakhouse called “Chaz” and it was spectacular. First rate. I mean, if you’re going to eat out in Kansas City, beef should be on your plate. Our filets were perfect. It was an old-school place, just off the lobby of a historic old hotel (The Raphael) in the Plaza. It had a vibe, for sure. Just across from us was a private semi-circular booth recessed into the wall, with a curtain that could be drawn for privacy. I wonder if the old Kansas City mob would check their guns at the desk or hold on to them when they’d enjoy a dinner while plotting out new plans for the week. If you’re in KC and are looking for a cool joint with great steaks, check out Chaz.

The party that night was great, in a private room at a huge distillery just outside of downtown (more Siri GPS adventures to say the least) and everyone treated us wonderfully. When we finally got to talk to Cydney, she was not only thrilled to see us (and heartbroken like we were that Lance wasn’t going to make it) she excitedly said, “Wait right here. I brought something for you. It’s something you need to have.”

I had an idea, but I wasn’t sure. The last “SIUE Roomies Reunion” we did was Spring Training in 2019. Lance surprised us by bringing a sterling silver memorial cup, and on it was engraved all the reunion trips we’d taken together up until then. The plan was to each hold onto it for a while, and keep adding the engraved locations. Little did we know…

When Radar tragically passed away, he had the cup. It, luckily, ended up with Cydney who took care of it for us. By her wedding, it was finally time to face that fact and she was proud to hand me the cup. It was really emotional, to say the least.

As we talked about it, it occurred to me that it was our little version of the Stanley Cup, and we needed to keep the plan alive to rotate it between the surviving members of our group. I said to Cydney, “Hockey has the Stanley Cup. It has a name. Our cup doesn’t have a name. It needs one. I think we should call it the Radar Cup.” And now it will always be called The Radar Cup.

And as for Radar, I lost track of how many times I had to tell the story about why we called him that. Everyone else only knew him as Bob or Bobby. The short version is this: When Radar arrived at SIUE, a few years after us, he had not yet discovered the weight room and he had wire-rim glasses. On his first day at the baseball lunch table, someone called him Radar, because he looked like Radar O’Reilly from the show M*A*S*H. It stuck. Even after he bulked up and got new glasses and contacts, he would always be Radar to us. And he always will be.

The wedding was the next day, at 5:30, and the wedding party had gone to great lengths to provide private transportation to the church, the reception, and back to the two hotels for all of us who were there from out of town. That was awesome! They thought of everything.

We walked around The Plaza some more, and I helped Barbara pick out some new lipstick (I did a fine job and everyone raved about it, so I insist on being proud of the selection) while I splurged on some new cologne for myself there, at Saphora. I do have a bit of marketing advice for the folks at Saphora though. If you’d add a small “husband’s lounge” in a back corner of the store, with comfy chairs and ballgames on a flat-screen, you might sell more stuff to the wives because we wouldn’t be standing around tapping our feet after two hours of sniffing fragrances and trying lipsticks. Just a thought.

James and Alicia arrived, after suffering through many of the same GPS issues once they got close to the hotel (they drove from central Illinois) and we got together for a bit and then retired to our rooms to tackle the always great challenge of dressing in formal clothes for a black-tie event. We were lucky to make it to the 5:00 shuttle for the 5:30 wedding.

We do look good! I have to admit it. Oscar and I just basked in the glow Alicia and Barbara were emanating.

It was incredible. And we all looked nice in our fancy clothes. We do clean up nicely. My tux was classic black and Barbara’s dress was blue and sparkly. I had lobbied hard for that dress. It was vibrant and gorgeous. I knew it was right for her the first time she tried it on.

Our timing for the wedding was perfect and we only had to wait a few minutes before the ceremony started.

Everyone looked radiant. Barbara and I agreed afterward that if it wasn’t the most beautiful and memorable wedding we’d ever been to, it was sure at the top of the list. Everything about it was magical.

Cydney looked radiant coming down the aisle. I had goosebumps.

I mentioned in my last blog that Radar’s son John was going to walk her down the aisle. He is a fine upstanding man who doesn’t let his Down Syndrome slow him down. He absolutely loved his father, and he’s been a strong young man since we lost him. He’s doing great.

And… He got to walk his sister down the aisle.


I’d said before that we shouldn’t just bring a few Kleenex for this moment. One of us should actually just bring a whole box and hand them out.

As it turned out, we all kept our composure. I think that was because John and Cydney kept theirs as well, and we were all so impressed. It could not have gone any better.

After the vows, the rings, and the walk back down the aisle as husband and wife, we all piled back onto the shuttle buses for the short ride over the the Carriage Club, just a mile or so away. OK, I’ve never quite been to a reception like this one before either. It was magnificent and, again, everyone treated us so wonderfully it was stunning. This day was all about Cydney and Benton, but I was shocked at how many people knew who we were, and why we were there, and what we meant to the Ricker family.

It’s easy to see something like college roomies and teammates through a very narrow lens. It’s just our world, right? We were good guys, good players, and great friends. We were goofballs who loved to have fun but we got great grades and all went on to wonderful careers after baseball and school were over. I’m proud of us.

But what I never knew was what we meant to Radar, and therefore what we meant to his family. Cydney knows, and she makes it clear to us. And the number of people we met who said “Oh I’ve heard of you. You all played ball with Bobby” seemed too great to count.

Since Cydney works for the Kansas City Chiefs in their front office, we also knew the reception might be a little special in that regard. Head Coach Andy Reid was there, talking to everyone and being very gracious. But Cyd also had some front office colleagues in attendance, and they all brought some bling to show off. I will never have this sort of bling. I would show it off too, because it means so much to anyone who sees or touches a real Super Bowl ring. Plus, bravo to the Chiefs for giving members of the front office the real deal rings. Wow.

World Champions. WOW.

Barbara got to “borrow” one from a colleague of Cydney’s and couldn’t believe how huge and heavy it was. It’s the first Super Bowl ring either of us has ever touched, and she got to wear it.

So that’s about it for this installment. We’re both still glowing from the weekend. What a phenomenal experience it was, with us being surrounded by so many gracious and kind people. I never felt like an outsider. Quite the opposite, really. We felt like part of the family. Cydney, Benton, and Cydney’s mom Kathryn made sure we felt that way, as did Radar’s “little sister” Andrea, who we all used to torment when we were big-shot college boys and she was just a kid. She’s not a kid anymore. She’s a judge in Miami. Fortunately I believe the statute of limitations has run out on the ribbing and kidding we used to do when we’d be over at Radar’s parents’ house and she’d be there.

Maybe I’ll see you here again next Thursday. Time to get back on that horse now that my book “How Far?” is in the can and selling.

If you liked this installment, do me a proper favor and click on the “Like” button below. Those “Likes” go a long way. And if you’ve read the book, don’t be afraid to rate it with stars and/or review it on Amazon. Oh, and if you liked it, please spread the word or make a post about it. That goes a VERY long way. Word of mouth is golden! Thank you!


PS: I leave you with a fabulous photo that shows that even a schlub like me can hang out with two beautiful and wonderful women.

With the beautiful bride. So proud, and so happy for her. It was an honor to be there.