KANSAS CITY, MO – The name Mike Moustakas is not a household word in the United States, not even just in the Greek-American community – but in the prelude to the Fall Classic – the nickname of major league baseball’s championship, the World Series – it certainly extends beyond Missouri’s largest city.
Though he has a bit of a way to go before he reaches the exalted status of George Brett who, as Moustakas does now, was a third baseman for the Kansas City Royals, the Greek-American ballplayer made history of his own last week, hitting the first extra-inning postseason home run in Royals history, lifting them to a victory in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to a Game 1 victory en route to their capturing the Divisional series.
Moustakas (whose surname in Greek means mustache-bearer), is proud of his Greek heritage, and flies a Greek flag above his dressing stall in the Royals’ clubhouse – a tradition he shared with former teammate and fellow Greek George Kottaras, who has since left the Royals.
Royals fans affectionately call Moustakas “Moose,” and often greet him with moose calls when he comes to the plate to bat. In fact, the Royals sell foam moose antlers in their gift shop in honor of Moustakas.
The Greek community of Kansas City extends far back, to the turn of the twentieth century. In the very early 1900s, in fact, as early as 1900 itself, Greek immigrants settled in Kansas City and most worked on the railroad. Many went on to establish businesses of their own elsewhere, but a good amount remained in Kansas City, forming the first bona fide Greek Orthodox community there and establishing the Annunciation Church in 1910, which endures 104 years later.
In 1929, the AHEPA National Congress was held in Kansas City, with approximately 6,000 Greeks attending from all over the United States.
Though the city does not look, aesthetically, like a Greek island as does Florida’s Tarpon Springs, it certainly feels very European. Known as “the City of Fountains,” and is believed to have more fountains than anywhere else in the world – except maybe for Rome. Those fountains include ones of the Ancient Greek gods Poseidon and Dionysus.
Meanwhile, if Moustakas continues his hot hitting and gives the Royals their first World Series championship since their first and only one in 1985, perhaps Kansas City will build a fountain of him, too.