In preparation for my LifeLearn Baseball course (debuting Spring 2013), I have been reading Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman by G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius. I was aware, of course, of the Beatles' performance in Kansas City during the fall of 1964 American Tour, and that this performance prompted the band to perform the song "Kansas City", which they later recorded and released on the album Beatles for Sale. In other words, I knew of the concert from the band's perspective. What I did not know was the story from the ball club's perspective. This blog, then, will fill that gap.
In 1965, Municipal Stadium was home to the Kansas City Athletics, who moved from Philadelphia in 1955. (The current KC baseball team is the Royals, who played their inaugural season in 1969 as an expansion team following the Athletics' move to Oakland a year prior.) The Athletics' owner was Charles Oscar Finley, an irascible and controversial man who would between 1972-1974 lead his team (by then the Oakland Athletics) to three consecutive World Series titles. Though he always denied it, as early as 1961 (his first season as owner) Finley had plans to move the franchise. This naturally caused irreparable damage in the minds of KC baseball fans (especially after blatantly lying about it). In a rare effort to mend public relations, Finley hired the Beatles to perform at his stadium. On the back of each ticket was a photo of Finley wearing a Beatles wig, pictured right.
The band played a 31-minute set on September 17, 1964 to an audience of 20,280. Municipal Stadium, however, held 34,165, and 28,000 tickets would have had to sell to break even. "Kansas City was the only concert venue on the tour that didn't sell out. Many potential concertgoers stayed way after the Kansas City Star and others urged a boycott of the concert as a way of showing displeasure with Finley. Finley promised to give all of his after-expenses profits to a local charity, Children's Mercy Hospital, but because the concert did not sell out, Finley actually lost money - possibly becoming the first Beatles concert promoter ever to do so" (Green, page 77). Finley, however, in an attempt to put as positive a spin on it as possible, insisted "I don't consider it any loss at all. The Beatles were brought here for the enjoyment of the children in this area and watching them last night they had complete enjoyment. I'm happy about that. Mercy Hospital benefited by $25,000. The hospital gained, and I had a great gain by seeing the children and the hospital gain" (Miles, page 171).
Some, though, did make money on the Beatles' KC visit, "especially the two people who acquired the bedsheets from the Beatles hotel rooms, which they then cut into small squares to sell as souvenirs. They netted $159,000 for their efforts" (Green, page 77) after purchasing the 16 sheets and 8 pillowcases for just $750 (Miles, page 171). Die hard Beatles fans may recall a similar incident in Robert Zemeckis' 1978 film I Wanna Hold Your Hand.
Green, Michael G. and Roger D. Launius. Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman. Walker & Company, New York, NY, 2010.
Miles, Barry. The Beatles Diary, Volume 1: The Beatle Years. Omnibus Press, A Division of Book Sales Limited, New York, NY, 2001.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.