10 classic stories from the Pitch you should review right now

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Illustration by Kelcie McKenney

Very questionableBy Joe Miller, March 30, 2002

The Kansas City Missouri school district’s never-ending accreditation issues nearly prevented two Central High School students from becoming national champions of the debate. Joe Miller followed this story for years, and the series eventually became a book: Cross-X: The Incredible True Story of how the Most Unlikely Team from The Most Unlikely Places overcame staggering obstacles at home and at school to challenge the community to the debate over race, power and education.

Coach Rinehart says his teams have lost innings in Missouri because an opposing team will drop the topic of debate and point out to the judge that Minton and Leach speak too fast and “speed kills debate.”

The team’s invitation to TOC in Kentucky was an extraordinary accomplishment given the forces deployed against Central’s students, who come from some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Although the school was once a standard bearer for Kansas City’s black community, it is now one of five “academically deficient” schools the state has identified in Kansas City.

Cemetery plotBy Allie Johnson, May 16, 2002

A murder in a cemetery leads Allie Johnson on a long and tragic look at the lives of disgruntled teenagers, with tangles that led to a homicide.

The girl’s best friend was watching the other grieving people. A thin, pale young man dressed in black walked over to the coffin, leaned down and stared at the body for a long moment. He had been one of the last people to see her alive on the night of her murder. Her friend began to sob softly.

“I can’t believe he’s standing over her body,” she whispered to a woman standing next to her. “I just can’t believe it.

The last resortBy Casey Logan, September 25, 2003

Writer Casey Logan spent several days living in the run-down and dingy Midwest Hotel, a Crossroads property that only now, nearly 20 years later, is undergoing renovations. He captured the people, the sights and, finally, the smells.

Almost everything in the room is stained: sheets, towels, rugs, curtains, mirrors, television, desk, sink and bathtub. There are spots in this room, I realize with some concern, that are older than me.

Terminal ferocity»By Kendrick Blackwood, January 15, 2004

FieldKendrick Blackwood of Kendrick Blackwood followed a group of local BASE jumpers for over a year as they planned (and executed) jumps from the skyscrapers of downtown Kansas City. History offers a vivid image of the city center, just as it was on the verge of its ‘rebirth’.

The building will be part of the revival of the city center. It’s being converted to high-priced apartments, as part of a city-wide effort to make the city center a 24-hour destination. But for now, the city center is still mostly dead at night and the building is a target for BASE jumpers.

It could be done. The men have their platforms in the car. The trunk is packed with some sort of survival kit: BASE-jump parachutes, tape, helmets, a map of the plane with the height of the towers, a mini digital camera, two-way radios, a blue light to throw from above, a utility knife and a crowbar.

But it’s just raining a little. They are not sure of the wind. And there is no ground crew, no one to drive the getaway car. No one except the Pitch.

The real thing»By Charles Ferruzza, November 10, 2005

It is exceptionally difficult to choose a piece to represent the late Charles Ferruzza, Fieldiconic restaurant review of. Every piece he wrote had at least one line that reminded you why he was so loved: funny, mean, and knowledgeable, his voice was trustworthy. Although so many restaurants he wrote about have since closed, his columns are precious little time capsules that give a real sense of Kansas City and part of its history. Look through his archives to 2005-07, and you’ll see how much KC has changed.

Downtown Kansas City still had a glimmer of life when the Spinos made a bet and built a new restaurant on the corner of Admiral and Grand streets. But the pulse was quickly fading – the once thriving entertainment scene known as River Quay, across the freeway loop, had already shifted from Coolsville to Ghost Town. And things were just as gloomy a few blocks west, where bawdy clubs and 12th Street strip clubs were to be demolished and several large movie palaces and department stores were closed or razed to the ground. .

Anthony’s outlived most of its urban contemporaries, including the venerable Italian Gardens and Jennie’s. Why? Perhaps it is thanks to the small shrine of Saint Jude, the patron saint of desperate causes – climbed on the stone cliff facing the restaurant parking lot. A friend of mine laughs at this theory. “The reason Anthony’s continues,” he insists, “is that this is the last true unassuming, no-bullshit, smoker-friendly, and unassuming Italian-American joint that stays in town. Do you know what Buca di Beppo claims to be? Anthony is the real thing.

Wake CrashersBy Jen Chen, January 19, 2006

In her weekly Night Ranger column, Jen Chen immersed herself in Kansas City’s nightlife, beer or vodka notch in hand. One week, she read an intriguing obituary and went to Flo’s house in southern KC to crush the deceased’s wake. There were so many great Night Ranger pieces, but this one is sweet, sad, and still funny.

At this point, a guy in a Bill Cosby-style brown sweater came over to chat. Ray was the one who wrote the obituary and became Murphy’s legal guardian. He had brought the dog to Flo’s for a “farewell visit” earlier in the afternoon before taking him home. He said Murphy was acclimating to his new home. “He ate an expensive pillow. What makes a pillow expensive? Little tiny things popped up everywhere – they are called feathers!

My Secret Life in the Klan»By Peter Rugg, September 27, 2007

Surely Peter Rugg could not have known that his 2007 article on “the infiltration” of the KKK would be remarkably relevant in 2020.

The strangeness of the situation was compounded by having to respond to a name that was not mine. He thought I was serious about fighting for white supremacy. He had even suggested that we both found a Klavern – basically a local gang with Robb’s blessing. I immediately regretted ordering the nachos platter.

The people against the erotic cityBy Justin Kendall, March 27, 2008

Justin Kendall has written a portfolio of stories exposing corruption and hypocrisy. Here, it goes way beyond the dirty headlines and tells the story of an almost unimaginably gruesome case of child sexual abuse.

Herd has a smirk on his face as he looks over his left shoulder at his family. For a man who has agreed to serve 18 years in federal prison and whose victim can be heard sobbing uncontrollably, Herd looks in good spirits.

Bar owner Dennis Hess’s ballad started as a love song and ended with his suicide»By Nadia Pflaum, October 22, 2009

This article by longtime writer Nada Pflaum illustrates what Field has always brought profiles of people and places to Kansas City that you won’t find anywhere else. This story paints a picture of a specific time and place as it traces the seedy story of a northern Kansas City honkytonk and its owner’s suicide.

At the Denims Memorial, Lena sits alone at a cocktail table on the edge of the dance floor, a vast expanse of polished wood hemmed with balustrades that give it the appearance of a cattle pen. She is slim, with high cheekbones. Her earrings, hammered silver hoops, come out from under her straight dark chestnut hair. She left some of the taller mother-of-pearl snaps of her plaid shirt undone to reveal a hint of cleavage. She wears transparent braces on her teeth.

Lena says she has been married to Hess for “an incredible six years.” No one from Hess’ large Catholic family joined her at this memorial. It’s past 9 p.m. and the place is almost empty.

How KC’s Richest Enclaves Became an Obscure Predatory Lending Link»By David Hudnall, December 5, 2013

In a wide-ranging investigation, David Hudnall blew the lid off an online payday loan program operated by some of Kansas City’s wealthiest and supposedly honest citizens, and highlighted the dilemmas he posed to parishes and charities that profited from ill-gotten gains.

Regarding the church’s position on payday loans, Reverend Patrick Rush, pastor at Visitation, notes the lack of specificity in the Bible as to what would constitute usury in modern times. “I think in today’s world you would have to judge what constitutes a legitimate interest rate versus what constitutes an exorbitant interest rate,” he says.

Where is 700% in this judgment?

“I would say it’s an exorbitant interest rate,” Rush says.


Ground stories published before 2000 cannot be found online.



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