This morning, I had breakfast with David Matson, Steve Roling, Jeb Bayer and Bob White. We do this every month or so to talk mostly baseball. But we gathered this morning to remember and celebrate Jack Campbell who has been part of our group. Jack passed away last Sunday and his funeral was yesterday (obituary).
Jack has been a contributor to Hot Stove, mostly providing cranky reporting about the Royals from spring training. Here is his quote that appeared in Hot Stove during spring training in 2019: “Goodwin can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Bonifacio should start in right…Keeping Gore is ridiculous! Chris Owings is a sure bet…Schwindel is getting screwed!!! Peralta is the only relief pitcher any good so far…new guys haven’t done squat…Of course it’s ridiculous to talk with half of spring training left.” And get off Jack’s lawn. He was passionate, but not always in tune with the Royals lineup choices.
For the last few years, Jack and Marsha have rented a place during spring training and welcomed a series of friends to join them at the games. Rita and I made the trek in 2016 and met up with them at the Giants stadium in Scottsdale. Below, Tom Grimaldi’s photo of Jack and Marsha rooting for their Royals.
From Royals spring training camp in 2019, Jack on the left with David Matson (middle) and Steve Roling.
One of the really good guys. RIP Jack.
Washington, D.C.: Rita and I just returned from a trip to DC. We had three items on the agenda when the trip was set up a few months ago. 1. A political reunion dinner organized by John Ashford. 2. A Phillies game via day-trip by train to Philadelphia. 3. The African American Museum that opened in 2016. During our five days, we added a couple more museums and lucked into a special treat at the Kennedy Center. This being a Hot Stove, I’ll start with the baseball.
Citizens Bank Park – Philadelphia: On Sunday, the last day of the MLB regular season, we took the train from DC to Philadelphia. All games on the last day start at 3:00 EDT, and so we had some time before the game to take in yet another museum. Among the many offerings in the city, we chose the famous collection at the Barnes Foundation.
We then headed to the South Philadelphia Sports Complex where the professional football, baseball and basketball venues are located. The complex is similar to the Truman Sports Complex – stadiums in the middle of a sea of parking a few miles from the central city. One big advantage over Kansas City – Rita and I took the subway from downtown to the park.
The Phillies opened Citizens Bank Park in 2004. At the left in the photo below, the tower has a cracked liberty bell that is outlined in lights, swings back and forth and tolls when the Phillies hit a homer (Brad Miller hit two to ring the bell twice, but Miami won the game 4-3). Just below the tower is a two-tiered bullpen, the visitors on top and the Phillies at ground level. That’s Bryce Harper in right field.
Rita and I did our usual walk-around to see the statues and other features of the park. In the area of the club’s Hall of Fame wall, there were large replicas of World Series trophies for the two times the Phillies have won: In 1980 against the Royals and 2008 against Tampa Bay. Below, the 1980 replica (not easy to see, but there is a blue Royals logo on the base).
National Museum of African American History and Culture: Magnificent facility and collection. We entered with a huge crowd on Friday morning when the doors opened at 10:00. Most visitors begin with the History Galleries in the lower concourse, so we headed upstairs.
We started in the Culture Galleries on the top floor, specifically the “Musical Crossroads.” When you walk in, you are greeted by Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac convertible. You are then taken chronologically through the history of black music – and quite a history it is. The journey starts with the roots in Africa and moves to the U.S. where it branches out and evolves to folk music, gospel, jazz, soul, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, rap, etc.
We then moved down a floor to the Community Galleries and focused on “Sports: Leveling the Playing Field.” The exhibits chronicle the days of segregation, the eventual breaking of the color lines and the many accomplishments of black athletes in all sports. Below, Jackie Robinson.
There is a room devoted to the Negro Leagues, and the central poster is shown below. Goose Tatum played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters and baseball for various Negro League teams. This poster, circa 1945, shows Tatum with the Kansas City Monarchs and also indicates that Satchel Paige will be pitching (“’The Ageless Wonder.’ Reputedly the Greatest Pitcher of All Time!”).
We returned to the museum on Monday afternoon – the crowds are thinned out by then, at least on weekdays. This time we did the three levels of History Galleries – from slavery to freedom to segregation to civil rights.
The most moving moment for me came while I was standing at the Harriet Tubman exhibit. I have always admired her work as a conductor for the underground railroad. While I was reading some of the text (photo below), an African American woman approached with her son who looked to be about seven years old. She had him read aloud what I had been reading. He did so, sounding out some words that were not familiar to him. I clasped him by the shoulder and told him he had done a fine job. Had tears in my eyes.
Other Stops: Several years ago, we visited the International Spy Museum, an interesting private museum with a storefront entrance in a DC office building. This past May, the museum relocated to a much bigger space with many new exhibits. It has become a very popular tourist attraction. The exhibits cover every aspect of the spy game, including a nod to Moe Berg, the multi-lingual major league catcher who was a U.S. spy in World War II.
At the National Gallery of Art, we saw an old friend named David. We first saw him many years ago at his home base in Florence – no, I’m not talking about the majestic marble statue of David by Michelangelo. This is a lovely bronze statue by Verrocchio. The statue has been loaned by the Bargello Museum to our National Gallery to be part of an exhibition of sculpture, paintings and drawings by the Renaissance master Verrocchio. The exhibition also includes pieces by students from Verrocchio’s workshop (e.g., Leonardo da Vinci). Below, Rita with David (and Goliath just over her shoulder).
Reunion Dinner: For our last night in DC, John Ashford and his wife Ivy hosted a dinner party at Equinox Restaurant – a reunion of Missouri politicos from the 1970s. I met John in the early 1970s when I was active in the Young Democrats and he was chief of staff for Secretary of State James Kirkpatrick. In 1972, Jack Schramm was a popular state rep who ran for Lt. Governor (lost in the national Nixon landslide). Jack’s Kansas City office had a paid staff of one – it was Rita’s first job out of college. Jim Davidson also worked for Jim Kirkpatrick and then Stuart Symington, but is best known to me because he and former Texas congressman Martin Frost were instrumental in opening our firm’s DC office. DC attorney Gene Godley was serving on Tom Eagleton’s DC staff in 1976 when he got the call to work on the VP campaign for Walter Mondale – Gene recruited me for the advance staff for Mondale. To provide some bipartisanship, John included Jack Buechner, a former Republican congressman from St. Louis who has worked in John’s DC-based firm. Jim’s wife Alison and Jack Buechner’s wife Andrea completed our table of ten.
We talked a lot. Mostly about politics in the old days, which we remember as a lot of fun. Not much talk about today’s politics.
Below, Rita with Jack Schramm and me.
John lamented that we could not light up cigars as we finished our dinner. That was okay with most of us. But when we hit the sidewalk as we left, John was no longer subject to smoking ordinances.
Thank you John and Ivy. Now get back to KC so we can reciprocate.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Rhiannon Giddens: Over the last couple of weeks, the Ken Burns documentary on country music has been running on public television. It’s been fun to watch, and I appreciate that Burns gave a lot of screen time to Rhiannon Giddens. That name may not ring a bell to some of you – so I’ll tell the story of how Rita and I became big fans of this striking and talented singer and musician.
In 2014, the Coen brothers and their music director T Bone Burnett produced a live show in New York to promote their movie Inside Llewyn Davis. The concert included some performers from the movie plus the likes of Joan Baez, Marcus Mumford, Jack White and Patti Smith. But many critics focused on a singer not so well known (and not in the movie) – Rhiannon Giddens. She earned the night’s one in-show standing ovation. Many critics agreed. One sample: “The concert’s real head turner was Rhiannon Giddens…she turned to the folk revival repertory of Odetta for the enigmatic ‘Water Boy,” singing it with the fervor of a spiritual, the yips of a field holler and the sultry insinuation of the blues.”
Showtime produced a documentary of the concert, and when Rita and I saw it, we were hooked. And just a few months later we got another taste. T Bone Burnett brought Giddens in to join Marcus Mumford, Elvis Costello and others for an album of songs based on partial, unreleased lyrics by Bob Dylan. Giddens again stood out, both on the superb album (Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes) and the follow-up Showtime documentary on the making of the album (see clip here – 3:27).
Giddens had done some recording, mostly with the folk group The Carolina Chocolate Drops. In February of 2015, she released her first solo album, Tomorrow is My Turn (produced by T Bone Burnett). I’m guessing that Rita and I were among the first buyers (still buying CDs back then; in our pre-Spotify years). Again, many accolades from the critics. To get a flavor, click here for the album trailer (2:26).
In the fall of 2015, Bill Shapiro, longtime host (now retired) of KCUR’s Cyprus Avenue, brought Giddens to Kansas City for his concert series at the Folly Theater. Rita and I were part of the mesmerized crowd. As soon as she made her entrance barefoot on to the Folly stage, she owned the room. A stunning performance. I exchanged emails with Bill after the concert, and he summed it up this way: “By the by, the concert at the Folly by Rhiannon Giddens last Sunday evening (which our piss poor local paper failed to cover) may have been the best I’ve ever seen.” I’m with Bill.
Giddens is a classically-trained opera singer who sings in multiple genres – folk, bluegrass, gospel, jazz, blues and country. She emphasizes roots music, often playing her banjo and fiddle. In 2017, she was named a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, a grant of $625,000, because “Giddens’ drive to understand and convey the nuances, complexities, and interrelationships between musical traditions is enhancing our musical present with a wealth of sounds and textures from the past.” This made her a perfect choice for the Ken Burns series which traces country music back to its origins in minstrel music, ballads, hymns, blues, etc.
In March of this year, Burns promoted his TV series with a concert featuring country artists at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium. A documentary of the concert has been running on PBS. He chose Giddens to kick off the show. Click here to see Giddens in the opening and closing of the show (at 6 minutes and at 1:49) plus a wonderful 5-minute segment (from 0:44 to 0: 49) that takes you from Patsy Cline to Willie Nelson to Rhiannon Giddens (it’s “Crazy” good).
This long story has yet another chapter. After seeing Giddens on the Ken Burns series, I checked her tour schedule and could not believe our luck – she was set to perform at the Kennedy Center the night we arrived in DC. But the show, in the 490-seat Terrace Theatre, was sold out. I contacted my retired partner Martin Frost to see if he could score some tickets. He did! Martin and his wife JoEllen also took us to dinner the following night at their favorite Georgetown restaurant. Good people to know.
As for the concert, our high expectations were exceeded. With three other musicians supporting her, Giddens covered songs from the 1800s to the current day. Beautiful singing. Expert playing of the banjo and fiddle. A lot of meaningful commentary about the history of the music, as well as explaining her own new compositions on slavery (she’s against) and immigration (she’s for). As in Kansas City, she was barefoot and owned the room. It was grand.
Not done yet. The morning after we saw Rhiannon, we made that first visit to the African American Museum. In the Musical Crossroads section, after being greeted by Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, the history of African American music is told in chronological order. The very first photo you see is of Rhiannon Giddens. Not because she dates back to the beginning, but because she has worked on rejuvenating the old time traditions. Below, the museum exhibit showing her with The Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Encores: From Giddens’ first album, Patsy Cline’s country ballad “She’s Got You” (3:56). From the Basement Tapes, “Duncan and Jimmy” (4:22); Giddens modified Dylan’s words and composed the music for this rousing piece; the two guitar players next to Rhiannon are Elvis Costello (sunglasses) and Marcus Mumford.
Enjoy the music.