Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Interstate 70 – as all-American as apple pie and … baseball?

My home state of Missouri is one of the states that has laid claim to have historical sections of the first interstate in the U.S. That would be Interstate 70, of course, the big road that runs by our OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley. It’s the road that never sleeps and has become a kind of white noise and constant movement that’s part of the scene here.

This week, the nation observes the 60th anniversary of our Interstate Highway System – one of the most remarkable infrastructures on the planet and as all-American as apple pie.

For fun, let’s do a little interstate quiz, specifically I-70, since it’s the one that is rolling along a stone’s throw from our Land Line office windows.

Any ideas when the building of I-70 began? If you said 1950s, that’s close enough. The building of this road began in 1956, and was completed in 1992.

How many miles does it stretch? Truckers probably know this one. It rolls 2,151.43 miles from Baltimore to Cove Fort, Utah. 

What does I-70 have to do with major league baseball? It may seem out there, but here in Missouri, there’s a weird and wonderful connection. Let me try to explain.

In Missouri, after I-70 crosses over the Mississippi River on a bridge north of downtown St. Louis, it passes the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium. And before it reaches Kansas City it runs right past Royals’ Kauffman Stadium, too. These two baseball stadiums mark I-70 through Missouri like spectacular highway bookends. If you’ve trucked past “the K” at night, it’s so close and the lights are so bright, you feel as if you can practically watch the game.

The stretch past the Royals’ stadium is called the “George Brett Super Highway.”

Brett, the Royals’ extraordinary third baseman and Hall-of-Famer, played his whole career for Kansas City. He retired from playing in 1993, but is now vice president of baseball operations for the Royals.

Brett is one of four players in MLB history to compile at least 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and maintain a .300 or better career batting average. The others are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial (the greatest player in Cardinals’ history).

Time to insert this note. The bridge north of downtown St. Louis on which I-70 crosses into Missouri from Illinois is the “Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.”

This week – the same week as the great American highway system observes its anniversary – the Kansas City Royals are playing the St. Louis Cardinals in an inter-league epic rivalry that has come to be called the “I-70 Series.”   

And George Brett is probably watching the 2016 I-70 Series named after the interstate from his executive seat at Royals’ stadium overlooking the part of the Interstate Highway System named after him.

Say what you will, but it is kismet.