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The 1980’s were the golden age of fraternity life. Short shorts, shameless mustaches, Reagan in office, unchecked hazing, rampant cocaine use…they were simpler times.
The 80’s were also the golden age for baseball in the state of Missouri. The St. Louis Cardinals won their ninth World Series title in 1982 and had won the old National League East Division several other times. On the other side of the state, there were the Kansas City Royals, who burst onto the scene in the late 70’s after becoming an expansion team in 1969. The Royals won the old American League West seven times in ten years leading up to 1985. In 1980 they won their first American League Pennant and thus made their first World Series appearance. Needless to say, both teams were baseball powerhouses in the 1980’s.
In October 1985, the two franchises finally met head to head. Pundits called the 1985 World Series the “I-70 Series,” (for the stretch of Interstate 70 that connects Kansas City and St. Louis). Talk to anyone in Missouri and they’ll tell you that it is a baseball state first and foremost. The St. Louis Cardinals have existed since the Nineteenth Century and have a large, dedicated following. Baseball is religion in St. Louis the same way football is in the Southeast. After finally receiving a permanent team to call its own Kansas City pledged its undying love to their boys in Royal blue, a love that still exists today even despite the last 25 years of whatever the Royals have been calling baseball. Two fan bases, one entrenched in history and one new to success found themselves on a battleground with a title on the line. Those fan bases met in middle in the college town of Columbia, Missouri, it was ground zero. What ensued on campus, and specifically in Greek Town, was one of the greatest weeks any Greek system had ever seen.
But first, some back story. Columbia is smack in the middle of the state of Missouri, essentially equidistant from Kansas City and St. Louis. Most students who attend Mizzou come from one of these two cities, a lot of them go Greek. As of 2011, Mizzou had 28 fraternities and 15 sororities on campus, it is home to one of the best Greek systems in the entire country. About a quarter of the campus is Greek, this percentage has not changed since the 80’s.
Back to Missouri in October of 1985. Columbia was torn down the middle. On one side, you have the tradition and aura of the St. Louis Cardinals, one of the most storied franchises in American sports, looking for World Series title number 10. On the other side you had the Kansas City Royals, upstarts from the western side of the state led by George Brett, the FaF Hall of Fame third baseman who drank Bud heavy during post-game interviews and rocked the mullet swoop better than anyone west of the Mississippi.
During the ‘85 World Series Greek Town at Mizzou was pure insanity. Flags were waving from almost every window, sorority girls pranced around in Cards and Royals halter-tops down Frat Row and Greek Town and enjoyed what was an unseasonably warm October in mid-Missouri. Men from rival fraternities became friends over a shared rooting interest while many fraternity brothers temporarily forsook their bonds, deeming them a conflict of interest. Thanks to the weather most fraternities perched kegs out on the lawns and put TV sets in the windows to watch the games. The lawns were like bleachers, the streets of Greek Town were chaos. Coeds swarmed the avenues pushing grocery carts full of kegs and liquor to different houses. Even those without a rooting interest were engulfed in the rivalry. For eight days school stopped. All anyone could concentrate on was the World Series…and drinking, a whole damn lot of drinking. One alumnus recounted that each game night Columbia was an absolute circus. Along with Greek Town the bars on Cherry Street and Broadway were packed wall to wall with Royals and Cardinals fans.
Another alumnus spoke about the atmosphere in his fraternity. It had gotten to the point where the Cardinals fans and Royals fans would eat at separate tables and refused to speak to each other most days. The contest was so heated that fights broke out in fraternities, between brothers, during and after games. On one such occasion, an alum claimed that he witnessed one of his pledge brothers nearly get thrown out of a window by an angry upper classman after Don Denkinger’s controversial safe call of Jorge Orta at first base in Game Six. This call of course is one of the most infamous in baseball history, and depending on whom you ask may or may not have led to the Royals winning that game in the bottom of the ninth inning, forcing Game Seven.
The campus atmosphere that built up to Game Seven is still a legend at Mizzou, even to this day. The game was played on a Sunday, the very next day after Game Six. Even though fans on both sides were insanely hung over (both from alcohol and emotion), the bars, streets, and fratcastle lawns still remained packed and as usual were separated into Royals and Cardinals factions. Tension had never been higher in Columbia.
However Game Seven didn’t turn out to be much of a contest. The Royals won easily, 11-0, for their first and only World Series title, sending Columbia into bedlam. Cardinals fans returned to their houses, dejected and determined to drown their sorrows, while Royals fans partied well into the next day.
Stories about what it was like in Greek Town during the 1985 World Series still linger around Mizzou’s campus. Current students, some born almost 10 years after that World Series, still talk about it. Many wonder what it was like back then, and what it would be like were the Royals and Cardinals to ever meet in the World Series again. Ask anyone who went to MU during that time, and the answer will usually be “fucking nuts.”
This will likely never happen at another campus ever again. Although there have been other same state World Series, most notably the San Francisco Giants vs. the Oakland Athletics in 1989 and the Mets and Yankees in 2000, neither series presented the same dynamic as the 1985 World Series did. Mizzou is somewhat unique in that manner, Ohio State being one of the few other schools that could be presented a similar situation, were the Reds and Indians to ever meet in the World Series. Although there are a few possibilities, I’m fairly confident that the weeklong fratgasm experienced in Columbia, Missouri in October of 1985 will probably never be repeated.
It was the perfect storm that us Greeks crave. Any excuse to drink is a good one, but a reason as epic as the 1985 World Series, in which regional bragging rights, civic pride, and a World Series Championship were on the line must be appreciated, if not held in special regard. What’s not to love about one of the most unique moments in fraternity history?