Fifty years ago, as 1969 was winding down, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were in the theaters as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Yes, that was fifty years ago. The Oscar for the best song that year came from the movie (played while Paul Newman showed off his bicycling skills). More on this in Lonnie’s Jukebox at the end of this post.
But first, some baseball news…
The Royals New Order: It’s now official. John Sherman and a group of local investors own the Royals. It’s a great group of Kansas Citians (and expats of KC) and bodes well for the long term success of major league baseball in Kansas City. John’s baseball history from the A’s to the Indians to the Royals can be found in Hot Stove #106.
And please ignore the trolls on the internet saying that the new owner is John Bolton. Or Andy Reid. The Sherman mustache is much better trimmed.
Marvin Miller – The Road Runner: In Hot Stove #72, I told the story of Marvin Miller’s contributions to baseball. His work as the leader of the players union led to the end of the reserve clause and set the stage for fairness in salaries and other benefits. Bowie Kuhn was the commissioner during most of Miller’s victories, and the owners were so unhappy with Kuhn that he was replaced by Peter Ueberroth (that didn’t work out so well either – it led to the series of collusion case losses by the owners during Don Fehr’s time as the union chief).
Last month, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery honored Miller and others in a “Recent Acquisitions” exhibit. The Miller photo in the exhibit is shown above, and as always, he is sporting the signature mustache that is part of baseball union history. When Miller was first hired by the players in 1966, player rep Robin Roberts had some concerns about the owners’ sensibilities, specifically noting that “players don’t wear mustaches…not the best thing for your image.” Miller responded, “Robbie, this is 1966.Take a look at the young people in the stands wearing long hair, beards and mustaches. I’m not going to shave a mustache I’ve had since I was seventeen because of some management hang-up.”
That was almost a template for his future dealing with the owners. And as usual, he was prescient. Just six years later, the team with the most mustaches won the World Series. And the next two. The mustachioed Oakland A’s
Miller had better luck with the National Portrait Gallery than the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was so successful for the players that some influential baseball executives repeatedly blocked his entry into the Hall of Fame. Before this year, Miller had been on the ballot and rejected seven times. The most egregious was in 2008. Bowie Kuhn and Marvin Miller were both on the ballot. The decision was up to the Veterans Committee which had 12 members. A nominee needed 9 votes. Kuhn, who even the owners thought did a bad job, received ten votes. Miller got three.
A colorful response came from former player Jim Bouton: “It’s ridiculous. Marvin kicked Bowie’s butt in every confrontation. It’s like having a cartoon Hall of Fame which admitted Wile E. Coyote and kept out the Road Runner.”
In a recent column, Joe Posnanski lamented: “Veterans Committee members found their collective voices in electing pro-owner shill Bowie Kuhn, racist owner Tom Yawkey, owner Walter O’Malley, who moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, and controversial commissioner Bud Selig. But enough of them held such heartfelt grudges that they repeatedly shut the door on Marvin Miller.” Joe added some Bouton-like examples, saying that electing Kuhn instead of Miller was like “voting in Goldfinger and not James Bond, voting in Tom and not Jerry, voting in Maria Sharapova and not Serena Williams, voting in Lex Luthor and not Superman.”
This year, Marvin Miller was on the ballot for the eighth time. He was the only non-player among the ten nominees on the ballot. Twelve votes were needed from the 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee. Last night, the results were announced on MLB Network. Two new Hall of Famers were elected. Catcher Ted Simmons (13 votes) and Marvin Miller (12 votes).
“Beep, Beep!” The Road Runner is in the Hall of Fame!
Miller died in 2012 at age 95. He famously wrote a letter to the Hall in 2008 asking that they never vote on him again. Sorry Marvin, but greats like you don’t get to tell your final story. Ask Alexander Hamilton.
World Series – 2014-2019: When the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series, they filled out the bingo card for division success. In the last six years, each of MLB’s six divisions has won a World Series.
Houston Has More Problems: The end of the Astros 2019 season did not go well. In the locker room after winning the ALCS, an Astros official taunted three women sportswriters. The Astros responded slowly and arrogantly, including lying about what happened. It was ugly. Then they lost the Series, four games to three, losing all four of their home games.
But they will always have 2017, the year they won their first-ever World Series. Well, about that…
The Astros have been accused of cheating their way to the title. Based on one on-the-record witness and some anonymous sources, the Astros are charged with using illegal technology to steal pitching signals. It was a mix of high tech and low tech. A center field camera (a big no-no) was used to steal the catcher’s signs and show them on a screen monitored by an Astros employee in the tunnel of the dugout. If the pitch was to be off-speed, the employee banged on a trash can, a sound the hitter could distinguish from the ambient stadium noise. Knowing that a fastball was not coming was obviously pretty valuable info. An extensive MLB investigation is underway.
One enterprising pundit created a faux Wikipedia page on MVPs in World Series history. Houston outfielder George Springer, the 2017 MVP, is replaced by “Center Field Camera Man,” playing in the “cheaters” position. The batting stats match what Springer hit in the Series, but new “tipping” text is filled in.
The Dodgers were on the losing side in that 2017 Series. Their local newspaper has redesigned the World Series ring:
Deuces Are Wild: When I was a kid, I listened to the Kansas City Blues games on the radio. The play-by-play guy was Larry Ray, and I still remember one of his regular lines: “Deuces on the scoreboard.” This was before the days of jumbotrons filled with stats, and so Ray’s phrase covered most of what was then on the scoreboard. He meant there were 2 outs, and the batter had a 2-ball, 2-strike count. Three deuces on the scoreboard.
So to this day, I have a tendency (addiction?) to notice multiple deuces on the scoreboard. While watching the 2019 World Series on TV, I spotted a dandy and backed up the feed to snap a photo. EIGHT DEUCES on the TV version of the scoreboard. It happened in Game 2 (that deuce was not on the scoreboard). Stephen Strasburg of the Nats was pitching to Astros pinch hitter Kyle Tucker who at that moment had a postseason batting average of .222. The score was tied 2-2. All of Larry Ray’s deuces were on the scoreboard: 2 outs, 2 strikes and 2 balls. There was a ninth deuce, but it’s a graphic rather than a numeral, showing 2 men on base. All of the deuces were not lucky for Tucker. On the next pitch, he struck out looking.
A Personal Mustache Note: Below, a photo of all six partners of our law firm in 1980 (plus former partner Lee Shapiro). Three mustaches. [Seated: Dale Schulte, me, Mike White and Bob Wehrman; standing: Jim Polsinelli, David Welte and Lee Shapiro.] We also had four associates for a total firm of ten lawyers. The lawyer count at Polsinelli is now about 900.
Best Picture Update: When Rita and I left the Telluride Film Festival this past Labor Day weekend, four films were on our list as potential best picture nominees. All four appear to be holding up in awards chatter. Two are currently in KC theaters: Parasite and Ford v. Ferrari. Marriage Story is now streaming on Netflix. The Two Popes is in a limited theater run and begins streaming on Netflix on December 20. My full Telluride coverage is at Hot Stove #105.
As far as non-Telluride movies released to date, six appear to have the most Oscar buzz: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, The Farewell, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and The Irishman.
So far I have seen only one of these, The Irishman. Martin Scorsese’s new gangster film is produced by Netflix and had only a limited theater run before hitting your TV. The big theater chains will not run Netflix films, so Rita and I saw it in North Kansas City at the renovated Screenland Armour (first opened in 1928). My take: the movie is good, but not great. Definitely not a Goodfellas or the first two Godfathers. Running time is 3.5 hours. Joe Pesci was the scene stealer over De Niro and Pacino.
Waiting in the wings are three films not yet released: Bombshell, to open next week in KC, and Little Women and 1917, both to open on Christmas Day.
Bombshell is the story of Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) accusing Fox News chief Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) of sexual harassment. I am anxious to see how this film matches up with The Loudest Voice, the 7-episode Showtime miniseries that aired this past summer. Rita and I enjoyed that series which starred Naomi Watts as Gretchen Carlson and Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes.
Little Women can’t miss for me because the star-studded ensemble cast includes Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn and Lady Bird).
1917, a film about a WWI mission, is said to be a technical achievement because the long takes and elaborate choreography give the effect of one continuous take for the whole movie. This one-take/real-time effect was used in Birdman, the best picture winner in 2014.
If you want to see the trailer on any of the movies, just type in the title on Google and add trailer.
Broadway on Netflix: Some 15 or so years ago, Rita and I were in New York with Larry and Diana Brewer. We booked a night at Caroline’s Comedy Club to see Andy Borowitz, the hilarious political satirist (sample headlines here).
Andy was good, as expected, but the surprise was a standup routine by the opening act – an unknown (to us) comedian, Mike Birbiglia. We loved his delivery and agreed he was going places. And he did. TV, movies, off-Broadway, books, etc.
In November of 2018, Rita and I were in New York to catch some Broadway shows, including The New One, a one-man show by…Mike Birbiglia. The topic is Birbiglia’s journey into parenthood. We loved the show, as did the critics. Many, many laughs.
Why am I telling you about this? Because a taped version of The New One is now running on Netflix. So Rita and I watched it again. This guy is funny. Highly recommended to you Netflix subscribers out there.
Bonus Track – Little Richard: He had me at “Wop-bop-a-loo-mop a-lop-bom-bom!“. It was the fall of 1955. I was in my freshman year in high school when I heard this opening shout by Little Richard in “Tutti-Frutti.” He had several more hits during my high school years and is on my personal Mount Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll giants. The other three: Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.
Little Richard is the sole survivor of that group. The rocker with the trademark pencil mustache turned 87 last Thursday. I saw a tweet on his birthday that attached a video of a live performance of him singing a song made famous by another early rocker, Jerry Lee Lewis. Click here for Little Richard singing “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” (6:24).
[Another way to reminisce about the 1950s – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is back for its third season on Amazon Prime.]
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Raindrops: As we await this year’s nominees for best picture, I’m going to look back to a nominee from 50 years ago – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, released on September 23, 1969.
Paul Newman was set to play Butch Cassidy, but the sidekick slot was open for a while. The Sundance Kid role was turned down by Jack Lemmon (didn’t like riding horses), Warren Beatty (thought it was too much like Bonnie and Clyde), and Steve McQueen (wanted top billing over Newman). Joanne Woodward, Newman’s wife, suggested Robert Redford who was not yet the star he would become. It worked like a charm, and the duo did it again in 1977 in The Sting (on my personal top ten movie list).
The movie was a big hit and was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It lost the best picture Oscar to Midnight Cowboy. Newman and Redford were not nominated, but another cowboy took the best actor Oscar – John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Butch Cassidy won four Oscars: cinematography, screenwriting, score and…your Lonnie’s Jukebox selection, best song.
There are two scenes that I clearly remember from the movie: (i) the final shootout and (ii) Paul Newman’s bicycle riding with “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” playing in the background. Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote the score for the movie and specifically wrote the Oscar-winning song “Raindrops…” for the bicycle scene. Click here to listen to B. J. Thomas sing the song and to watch Paul Newman perform Butch Cassidy’s bicycle stunts. Newman had to do them himself after a stunt man kept falling down.
The actress in the scene is Katherine Ross who plays the girl-friend of Sundance. Two years earlier, Ross played Mrs. Robinson’s daughter in The Graduate (also in my top ten list).
The song was also released as a single, but it had two major differences from the movie version: (i) There is a long instrumental in the movie while Newman shows off his riding skills; and (ii) B. J. Thomas was recovering from laryngitis when he did the movie soundtrack, giving his voice a scratchy sound. The record distributed as a single has a clear-voiced Thomas. It was released about the same time as the movie, giving it a sales boost that led to four weeks at number one in January of 1970. In 2004, the single had a nice cameo in a Tobey Maguire scene in Spider-Man 2 (click here).
This post will finish as it started. With a mustache. This time on The Sundance Kid.