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Baltimore Vs. Kansas City: Baseball Aside, Style Beats Barbecue

Cody Newill/KCUR

Ahead of the first face-off between the Royals and the O’s in the American League Champion Series, our friends over at Kansas City public radio station KCUR put together a side-by-side comparison of Kansas City and Baltimore. KCUR’s Cody Newill looked at famous residents, real estate, music, drugs and food. We were happy to see they recognized the superior yield of famous Baltimoreans like John Waters and Edgar Allan Poe. But their analysis -- though rigorously researched and highly scientific, we are sure -- yielded a perhaps unsurprising result: Kansas City, KCUR declared, is better than Baltimore.

We here at WYPR disagree. So here’s a list of factors they may have left out. No judgments. If you’ve got other points of comparison to consider, let us know in the comments below.


Kansas City Mayor Sly James, aside from having a great name, stakes his sartorial signature on the bow tie – or at least he wears them often. He appears to have them in nearly every color and in a panoply of patterns. It’s a twee style statement that lends the gentleman from Missouri a hip yet grandfatherly vibe that’s far from dowdy.

But Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s rocks a wardrobe that puts her a cut above. When Vanity Fair ranked the world’s most fashionable mayors, Rawlings-Blake came in at Number 5. That’s fifth in the whole world. After Chicago’s Rahm Emmanuel’s impeccable suits, Rawlings-Blake was dubbed the second most fashionable mayor in the US.

WINNER: Sorry Sly, that’s Baltimore.


What’s in a name, after all? What secrets can be gleaned about the character of a place?

Baltimoreans call their town Charm City. And who doesn’t like charm? Turns out the moniker comes from a 1970s ad campaign to attract visitors. Sure, it’s commercial but before it was Charm City, Baltimore had other names. The earliest, perhaps, was granted by John Quincy Adams, the sixth American president. He called it “The Monumental City,” thanks to the city’s memorial to George Washington. More nefarious: “Mobtown.” The label stems from riots in the 1830s after bad banking practices at the Bank of Maryland practically voided depositors accounts.

Kansas City is the City of Fountains. With more than 200 fountains, the city alleges that only Rome has more.  There’s even a foundation dedicated to the city’s water elements. In another nod to the Old World, Kansas City has been called the Paris of the Plains, and at one point dreamers wanted the city to have more boulevards than Paris, though it remains unclear whether that was ever achieved. A tad lower brow: the city’s residents also call it cow town, though that one’s less than official.

WINNER: Baltimore. Let’s be real: Fountains are fine but Baltimore’s diverse nicknames lend it historical cred (Monumental City), show it’s got a tough side not above vigilantism (Mobtown), and still a friendly outlook (Charm City).


Some 200 years ago, Francis Scott Key watched the 25-hour British bombardment of Ft. McHenry from a truce ship in Baltimore Harbor. Touched by the sight of a giant American flag unfurled, he asked a question that became America’s national anthem: The Star-Spangled Banner.

We’re sure important things happened in Kansas City, too.

WINNER: Baltimore.


While Baltimore may have history on lock, who’s got more of a role in creating the future? Baltimore boasts a staggering number of science, technology, engineering and math jobs, and is home to research institutions like Johns Hopkins. Kansas City is just a bit behind Baltimore in STEM employment, but is close. The City of Fountains is also home to a number of agricultural research laboratories, which is important if we all want to eat, as well as medical technology companies.

Since both have a high density of high-tech workers and host important research, this one would be a tie. But one factor makes Kansas City a standout in this field: Google Fiber. Even though the ultra-high-speed internet is enough to make outsiders jeally, Kansas Citians have also banded together to try to curb the digital divide

WINNER: Very cool, KC. You win this one.

But Are The People Happy?

We can compare random facts and figures and come away with very different ideas of which city is better. But isn’t happiness what matters most? A few smart people from Harvard University and the Vancouver School of Economics looked at a data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to rank American cities based on their happiness. And both Kansas City and Baltimore ended up solidly in the middle of the happiness pile – nowhere near the top or the bottom. (New York City is, quantifiably, the worst.)

The study, adjusting for demographics, income and unemployment, shows Baltimore is a happier place than Kansas City. But Slate’s Jordan Weissmann, quibbling over methodology, offered his own take on the data. His list has Kansas City edging out Baltimore for joyfulness.

WINNER: Let’s call this a tie – and both Kansas Citians and Baltimoreans can sit smugly in the knowledge that they don’t have to live in New York City -- or be Yankees fans.

The Bottom Line: Kansas City has some solid points going for it, but when we do the math, Baltimore’s just unbeatable.

But since our teams will be battling it out for a spot in the World Series, we think it’s time to up the stakes a bit. So we offered this challenge to our colleagues at KCUR:

Dear friends/rivals at KCUR, It is with great interest and amusement that we read your on-line comparison of your home town, Kansas City, to our own city of Baltimore. We’ve pondered the idea of writing an equally pontificating response, but here in Baltimore we prefer action. To that end, we propose the following wager: If the Royals take the series, then we, the staff at WYPR, will produce for KCUR a 30-second spot congratulating the Royals and wishing them luck in the World Series. If the Orioles take the series, then you, the staff at KCUR, will produce for WYPR a 30-second spot congratulating the Orioles and wishing them luck in the world Series. Fellow public radio nerds at KCUR, consider the gauntlet hereby thrown down! We eagerly await your response. Sincerely, WYPR

KCUR accepted the challenge. We look forward to hearing their congratulations.