Today is Day 7 of social-distancing by Rita and Lonnie. Not from each other, but almost everyone else (exceptions: Rita’s trips for groceries and those folks we pass while walking Loose Park).
Lee Judge published a cartoon that captures this new reality (and gave me my title for this Hot Stove):
[Lee’s blog is by paid subscription, but he is opening his posts to all for his cabin fever reports. The article that goes with this cartoon is here.]
A similar take came from political journalist Walter Shapiro who has been on the primary campaign trail: “I’m trying to stay home as much as possible. But I’m wondering if I should start checking off my days in captivity on my living room wall like prisoners in a New Yorker cartoon.”
And from Royals pitcher Brad Keller: “This just feels like the longest rain delay in the history of time.”
My previous Hot Stove came out a week ago today. I then headed to self-isolation, not too sure what I could accomplish remotely for the next Hot Stove. Turns out, quite a bit.
Day 1, March 17 (Tuesday): A very different St. Patrick’s Day. No parades. But there is Irish in our condo. Don’t let Rita’s German name (Leifhelm) mislead you. Her maternal grandparents (Rodger Danaher and Mary Walsh) immigrated from Ireland in the early 1900s.
Much of the day was devoted to electronics. After several false starts and phone calls with my sons and the firm’s help desk, my laptop not only worked, it connected to my full-size home monitor and keyboard. It was a magical experience, consistent with what I learned in engineering school some decades ago – electricity is indeed magic. [My logic: Water goes over dams and lights turn on in my home – only magic can explain that.]
In our one break from condo isolation, an electronics serviceman came by and fixed our wayward Amazon Prime connection. This is of course more magic – movies go through the ether and show up on your TV. I won’t go through the long story of how we lost Amazon, but we now can look forward to the new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and see both seasons of “Fleabag.”
On the baseball front, with current news being minimal, trivia and nostalgia are getting a lot of attention. A good example is a tweet by Tyler Kepner. He is a New York Times sportswriter and an author (last year’s excellent book, K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches).
Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner), 3/17/20, 10:16 AM
I’m always good for some baseball nostalgia. Give me your:
1st player you met:
No-hitter you saw in person (or broken up in 9th):
1st favorite player (star):
1st favorite player (non-star):
1st player you saw randomly out of uniform:
First Player I Met: It was Dave Koslo who played in an exhibition game at Blues Stadium on April 11, 1952. I know the date and most of the facts because I found the game story in the archives of the Kansas City Times (the former morning version of the Kansas City Star). [The archives are available free from the Mid-Continent Public Library – just go online to get a card. My thanks to library board member Steve Roling for the heads-up on this.]
Kansas City did not have a major league team in 1952 (the A’s came in 1955), but we had an opportunity to see some major leaguers in an exhibition game. I was a 10-year-old baseball-crazy kid, and my indulgent parents agreed I could leave school early for the 2:00 game. I went with my uncle, Tony Novak, who had played some semipro ball and in later years was the police chief of Sugar Creek.
The game pitted the Cleveland Indians against the New York Giants. Just a few months earlier, the Giants had won the NL pennant on Bobby Thomson’s walk-off homer – “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Three players from that pennant winning team did not play in KC: Willie Mays (going into the army), Eddie Stanky (now managing the Cardinals) and the former Negro League star Monte Irvin (broke a leg in spring training).
Two of the best pitchers in baseball started the game: Early Wynn for the Indians and Sal Maglie for the Giants. Both managers were Hall of Famers – Leo Durocher for the Giants and Al Lopez for the Indians. The Cleveland lineup included Larry Doby, the first black to play in the AL (1947). The Giants’ Hank Thompson had played for the Kansas City Monarchs and was the first black on two MLB teams – the St. Louis Browns (1947) and New York Giants (1949).
The Giants won the game 4-3 in 11 innings. After the game, my uncle Tony and some of his friends lingered in the stands. As the players exited, a few stopped for a little conversation. The name I remember is Dave Koslo who had pitched in relief for the Giants. I remember very little about the game, but I remember knowing it was Koslo because his name was written in marker on his sandals. Mind you, I did not remember the starting pitchers, that Bobby Thomson went 4 for 5, or that Hank Thompson hit a 2-run homer. But I remember Koslo’s sandals.
No-Hitter in Person: The question probably relates to pro ball, but my only in-person no-hitter occurred when I was about 14 and playing 3&2 ball. I led off the game against the very good pitcher Ross Early. I walked, and he promptly picked me off. I was the only base runner for our team that day. Early finished with a no-hitter and faced the minimum number of batters. But my walk spoiled a perfect game.
The only pro league no-hitter that I have seen was on TV’s “Game of the Week” (May 12, 1956). The pitcher was Carl Erskine who no-hit the Giants that day. Erskine was one of the Dodgers chronicled in Roger Kahn’s classic The Boys of Summer. After the game, Erskine was interviewed by former pitching ace Dizzy Dean who famously tortured the English language as a broadcaster on “Game of the Week.”
Dean: “Who signed you?“ Erskine: “Branch Rickey.”
Dean: “Cheapest man who ever lived, I played for him at St. Louis. He paid peanuts, about two bags a week.”
Erskine confessed that he previously received two bonuses from Rickey. Dizzy then turned to the camera, “Folks this here young man deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Not because he pitched two no-hitters but because he got two bonuses out of Branch Rickey!”
First Favorite Player (Star): Easy. Phil Rizzuto. My ninth birthday was in the summer of 1950. That season, Rizzuto was the MVP of the American League. In addition to having a great season, he earned my loyalty for three other reasons: (i) he was 5’6” – a fellow height-challenged human, (ii) he played shortstop, my position on our cub scout team, and (iii) he played for the Yankees, the parent team of our Kansas City Blues. After the A’s moved to Kansas City, I matured into a Yankee-hater.
First Favorite Player (Non-Star): Joe DeMaestri, the starting shortstop for the 1955 Kansas City A’s.
First Player I Saw Randomly Out of Uniform: No clue.
Day 2, March 18 (Wednesday): Organized my tax info for delivery to my accountant (before I knew filing was also part of the extension to July 15). It was a nice enough day to take a walk in Loose Park (koi and waterfowl in abundance).
Our evening TV started with Brockmire, and it looks like a fun season as Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) becomes baseball commissioner. We watched Modern Family in the early years, but not lately. Have taken it up again for this final season (a big shout-out to one of its stars, KC area native Eric Stonestreet who just contributed 200,000 meals through Harvesters). Also watched the first episode of the new HBO series “The Plot Against America,” based on Philip Roth’s novel in which Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt for president in 1940. Intriguing bending of history.
MLB Network has started airing classic games to fill some time until we get back to normal. The first one: The Pine Tar Game. We set our DVR to save for the weekend. More on that below. MLB.com has made all games from 2018 and 2019 available for streaming at no charge.
Day 3, March 19 (Thursday): Clarence “Frogman” Henry turned 83. I missed this fact until Larry Kruse gave me a call. Larry was a year behind me at Van Horn, and a popular record back then was “Ain’t Got No Home” by the Frogman. Larry spotted the birthday mention in the KC Star and went to the Frogman’s website to see if there was any current news. There was a phone number, so he called it. He got a recording from Frogman giving yet another phone number. Larry gave up at that stage, but then he got a call. From the Frogman. The “magic” of caller ID. They chatted and Larry was able to say happy birthday in person. See more on the Frogman in Lonnie’s Jukebox below.
Rita usually goes to Woodside five or six days a week for yoga and water aerobics. Woodside is closed. But one of her yoga instructor Lisa Murphy has set up five days of online sessions through the Zoom app. Rita gave me her extra mat, and we both did the Thursday session. Well I did not finish, but plan to participate maybe three days a week.
The weather was nice (74!), so we walked Loose Park. The sun brought out the turtles. Also Jack and Mary Kilroy, but Rita and I maintained a proper social distance from them.
Day 4, March 20 (Friday): On this date in 1978, Clint Hurdle of the Royals was at spring training and on the cover of Sports Illustrated. On this date in 2020, spring training is suspended. In KC, it was too cold (for wimps like us) to walk outside. Rita attended yoga via Zoom. I took a pass, but will join her on Monday.
Joe Posnanski released his pick for #11 in the countdown of his Top-100 list. It is Mickey Mantle. I’m guessing Joe would like to have placed Mickey at #7 to match his famous uniform number. But when you see who is left for the top ten, it just could not work that way. Joe has taken some license to pick unique slots. Joe DiMaggio is #56, as in the hitting streak. Jackie Robinson is at #42, another well-known uniform number. Same for Rickey Henderson (#24) and Mike Trout (#27).
The countdown to date is below (if you subscribe to The Athletic, you can click on any player to read the corresponding essay). The lone career Royal on the list is George Brett (#35). Carlos Beltran (#98) played seven years for the Royals and also seven for the Mets in his 22-season career. Gaylord Perry (#68) played only the last three months of his 22-year career with the Royals, but he is part of Royals lore. While everyone was on the field arguing about Brett’s bat in the Pine Tar Game, Perry slipped off with the bat and tried to conceal the “evidence” in the clubhouse.
Two players primarily associated with the Kansas City Monarchs will be on the final list: Bullet Rogan (#92) and Satchel Paige (will be in the top-ten). Three others had playing time with the Monarchs: Jackie Robinson (#42), Ernie Banks (#65) and Cool Papa Bell (#84).
No. 100: Ichiro Suzuki
No. 99: Mike Mussina
No. 98: Carlos Beltrán
No. 97: Roberto Alomar
No. 96: Larry Walker
No. 95: Tony Gwynn
No. 94: Roy Campanella
No. 93: Ozzie Smith
No. 92: Bullet Rogan
No. 91: Mariano Rivera
No. 90: Max Scherzer
No. 89: Mike Piazza
No. 88: Curt Schilling
No. 87: Charlie Gehringer
No. 86: Gary Carter
No. 85: Sadaharu Oh
No. 84: Cool Papa Bell
No. 83: Phil Niekro
No. 82: Kid Nichols
No. 81: Ferguson Jenkins
No. 80: Carlton Fisk
No. 79: Derek Jeter
No. 78: Clayton Kershaw
No. 77: Miguel Cabrera
No. 76: Willie McCovey
No. 75: Justin Verlander
No. 74: Frank Thomas
No. 73: Brooks Robinson
No. 72: Robin Roberts
No. 71: Bert Blyleven
No. 70: Sandy Koufax
No. 69: Monte Irvin
No. 68: Gaylord Perry
No. 67: Hank Greenberg
No. 66: Robin Yount
No. 65: Ernie Banks
No. 64: Johnny Mize
No. 63: Steve Carlton
No. 62: Smokey Joe Williams
No. 61: Arky Vaughan
No. 60: Pete Rose
No. 59: Reggie Jackson
No. 58: Jeff Bagwell
No. 57: Rod Carew
No. 56: Joe DiMaggio
No. 55: Bob Feller
No. 54: Chipper Jones
No. 53: Buck Leonard
No. 52: Adrián Beltré
No. 51: Al Kaline
No. 50: Nolan Ryan
No. 49: Warren Spahn
No. 48: Ken Griffey Jr.
No. 47: Wade Boggs
No. 46: Eddie Mathews
No. 45: Bob Gibson
No. 44: Cal Ripken Jr.
No. 43: Yogi Berra
No. 42: Jackie Robinson
No. 41: Tom Seaver
No. 40: Roberto Clemente
No. 39: Nap Lajoie
No. 38: Carl Yastrzemski
No. 37: Pedro Martínez
No. 36: Christy Mathewson
No. 35: George Brett
No. 34: Cy Young
No. 33: Jimmie Foxx
No. 32: Mel Ott
No. 31: Greg Maddux
No. 30: Johnny Bench
No. 29: Eddie Collins
No. 28: Randy Johnson
No. 27: Mike Trout
No. 26: Grover Cleveland Alexander
No. 25: Pop Lloyd
No. 24: Rickey Henderson
No. 23: Albert Pujols
No. 22: Lefty Grove
No. 21: Joe Morgan
No. 20: Frank Robinson
No. 20 (tie): Mike Schmidt
No. 18: Tris Speaker
No. 17: Rogers Hornsby
No. 16: Alex Rodriguez
No. 15: Josh Gibson
No. 14: Lou Gehrig
No. 13: Roger Clemens
No. 12: Honus Wagner
No. 11: Mickey Mantle
Over the next three plus weeks, Joe will be working his way to #1. Most folks commenting on Joe’s website have come to the same conclusion of who will be in the top ten. It’s the specific order that will create debates. The players (in alphabetical order): Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Oscar Charleston, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Satchel Paige, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams
I don’t know about numbers 2 to 10, but Babe Ruth is surely #1. He was one of the greatest hitters (AND pitchers) of all time, as well as baseball’s biggest celebrity. The Tangotiger Twitter feed offered this helpful chart for the final 10, using the WAR stats from FanGraphs and Baseball Reference (Posnanski considers WAR, but it’s not the only factor). Paige and Charleston played in the Negro Leagues, so there are no reliable WAR stats.
[BREAKING NEWS: Before I could hit “send” this morning, Joe Posnanski sent out an early tweet announcing Satchel Paige as #10. Nine more to go.]
Day 5, March 21 (Saturday): One of the first items I saw on my Twitter feed was that Kenny Rogers died (age 81). We fired up Sonos and went to Spotify to play from his extensive catalog. I’ll revisit this in Lonnie’s Jukebox below, but will tease you with his baseball song now: “The Greatest” (click here).
It was a little cold for us (46), but there was sunshine and little wind, so we bundled up and walked Loose Park. It was grand.
Day 6, March 22 (Sunday): This is the only day of the week that starts out feeling normal. It’s Sunday, so that means reading the Sunday New York Times and watching CBS Sunday Morning while drinking a pot of coffee. On the other days of the week, I would normally head to the office and Rita to Woodside. No lingering over coffee. But now, every day is Sunday.
Pine Tar Game: As I was working on this Hot Stove on Sunday, I had the Pine Tar Game on the TV. I remember that it was played on July 24, 1983 – that was my son Brian’s 21st birthday. It was fun to see the relative calm of the eight innings before the storm of George Brett racing from the dugout in the ninth after his home run was disallowed. With Brett being called out, the game was thought to be over. But the Royals protest was upheld and the game was finished on August 18. The Royals lead after Brett’s homer held up as Dan Quisenberry got the save.
In addition to Brett, those 1983 Royals included Willie Wilson, Amos Otis, Frank White, John Wathan, U.L. Washington and Hal McRae. Former Yankee manager Dick Howser was managing the Royals. Two years later, many were part of the 1985 World Championship.
The Yankee lineup included Dave Winfield, Don Baylor, Don Mattingly, Greg Nettles and three players with ties to Kansas City. Lou Piniella was a Royal in 1969 when he was AL Rookie of the Year. Campy Campaneris started in the majors in 1964 with the Kansas City A’s and was now playing his final season. Steve Balboni started with the Yankees, but would be traded to the Royal the next year. Billy Martin was in one of his five stints as Yankee manager.
Phil Rizzuto: There was one other cool thing for me in watching this classic game. Phil Rizzuto, my boyhood favorite, was part of the broadcasting team. He was a very popular broadcaster, known for his malapropisms and “Holy Cow” calls. I got two samples in the Yankee half of the sixth. When Campy came to the plate, Rizzuto was effusive about the good comeback year that “Campanella” was having, hitting .351. He noted his mistake as Campaneris hit a single. Rizzuto can be forgiven for this – he played in four World Series against the Dodgers’ Roy Campanella in the 1950s. Campaneris later scored on a triple by Don Baylor that prompted two “Holy Cow” calls from Rizzuto.
There is a Seinfeld episode that is titled “Holy Cow” because of a key ring that George Steinbrenner gives to Yankee employees, including George Costanza. The key ring displays Rizzuto’s head that, when squeezed, calls out “Holy Cow.” George shows his key ring to Jerry who squeezes it. See the clip here.
To finish this section, here is a Rizzuto call from a day hated by Royals fans. He called the shot as the Royals lost the ALCS in 1976:
“He hits one deep to right-center! That ball is out of here! The Yankees win the pennant! Holy cow, Chris Chambliss on one swing!” [As fans poured onto the field, tearing it up for souvenirs] “And the Yankees win the American League pennant. Unbelievable, what a finish! As dramatic a finish as you’d ever want to see! With all that delay, we told you Littell (Mark Littell, the Royals’ reliever who gave up the homer) had to be a little upset. And holy cow, Chambliss hits one over the fence, he is being mobbed by the fans, and this field will never be the same, but the Yankees have won it in the bottom of the 9th, seven to six!”
Sunday Night: We got tons of laughs watching the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David is a comic genius.
Dr. Anthony Fauci – Point Guard and Baseball Fan: George Vecsey is a retired sportswriter from the New York Times. He still blogs and recently posted this insightful story about Dr. Anthony Fauci. George has been impressed with the good doctor who has shown amazing poise in the chaos of the pandemic, speaking with “scientific knowledge and a gravelly accent.” Vecsey believes Dr. Fauci sounds like Lou Carnesecca, the beloved long-time coach of St. John’s basketball. So George was not surprised to find that this “tiny man” learned to work through large obstacles at an early age – as the captain and starting point guard for Regis High School, a Jesuit school in Manhattan. Running the offense prepared Fauci for what is now going on. See the full story here.
Another article last week (in The Oklahoman) touched on Dr. Fauci and sports. He also played baseball and football while in high school. His passion as a fan is for baseball, and his boyhood heroes included Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider. Although he lived in Brooklyn (the Dodgers were still there), he was a Yankee fan, which he admitted made him “somewhat of a sports outcast among my friends.” Click here for the full article.
Now for an extended edition of Lonnie’s Jukebox. I thought a lot of music might be welcome during the “stay home” order. To play any of the records, just click on the song title.
Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Kenny Rogers: In the mid-60’s, Kenny Rogers and three other members of the New Christy Minstrels formed their own group, The First Edition. Their first hit was “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”. The record went to #5 in 1968 and also got a second life in 1998 as the music for the Dude’s dream sequence in The Big Lebowski (that’s the video I linked). The First Edition charted several records from 1968 to 1972, including “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” and “Something’s Burning.”
Kenny had a #1 hit in a duet with Dolly Parton in 1983: “Islands in the Stream.” They teamed up again 30 years later for the touching “You Can’t Make Old Friends”. The video with this one is especially poignant now that Kenny has died. You may want a tissue.
Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – Frogman: The first pop hit by R&B singer Clarence “Frogman” Henry was in 1956 with the jovial “Ain’t Got No Home.” In 1961, he had two more hits: “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do” and “You Always Hurt the One You Love”. In 1964, he opened 18 concerts for the Beatles on their North America tour. He did not have many more hits, but he has a long history of performing in New Orleans. Proving that the golden oldies are still catchy tunes, his “But I Do” is in a 2019 Expedia ad (click here).
Lonnie’s Jukebox (3) – Salvy Splash: The last Hot Stove had a fun clip of Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive” while washing her hands for the recommended 20 seconds. There is a new gem of this meme by our own Salvy Perez who splashes at the sink while singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” It’s charming. Click here.
Lonnie’s Jukebox (4) – Phil Rizzuto and Meat Loaf: The Scooter had two mentions above, so I would be remiss if I did not play his music hit. One of the biggest selling albums of all-time is Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (1977). The top single from the album was “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” But my favorite cut is “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” It has everything. Great singing by Meat Loaf and his duet partner Ellen Foley. Clever songwriting by Jim Steinman. And Phil Rizzuto calling play-by-play. The version that I have linked is the music video (the woman in the video is Karla DeVito, not Ellen Foley who did the original recording. But it’s still quite the show).
For those not in the know, the song is about a young couple romancing in a car. Rizzuto is heard on the radio screaming out his calls as a batter rounds the bases (first, second…you get it). It’s a little racy, but Rizzuto did not know that when he did his voiceover. The story of Rizzuto’s role is almost as much fun as the record (click here for an entertaining 5-minute interview with songwriter Jim Steinman).
Rita and I saw Meat Loaf at the Uptown Theater during his Bat Out of Hell tour in the late 1970s. Karla DeVito toured with him, and their stage show at the Uptown for “Paradise” was every bit as good as the one linked above.
Lonnie’s Jukebox (5) – Vahe Gregorian and Bob Kendrick: Vahe is one of my favorite sportswriters, and last week he wrote a great piece in the KC Star about President Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Click here, and also play the video with the article. The interview was at the museum – sadly shuttered for an indefinite period because of the pandemic. But as Buck O’Neil could always do, Kendrick looks for the sun in the clouds. “I think once we come out of this thing, and we will, I think we all will gain an appreciation for the simple things in life. And I hope that we all embrace that. Because sometimes it takes these kinds of things to kind of stop, momentarily, to appreciate.”
Vahe followed up his article with a tweet: “After the joy of time spent with Bob, I was further struck by the solace to be found in little things right now. Always have enjoyed this song by the Kinks but heard it differently today. Maybe you will enjoy it too.” Vahe linked the song “Better Things”. The opening lyrics:
Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme
And the very best of choruses, too
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on the way
Vahe, thank you. I was not familiar with your Kinks song, so I’m going to add my favorite from them: “You Really Got Me” .
Another Kinks song is quite appropriate for these days in quarantine. Rita, the words have never been so apt: “Girl, I want to be with you all of the time… “All Day and All of the Night”. When Rita and I get to Day 11 of quarantine, I doubt we come up with something as inventive (and funny) as this couple (click here).
The final selection for today was suggested by my editor Rita and takes a cue from the optimism of Vahe and Bob. Better things are on the way. The clouds will part and the sun will come out. Or as the Beatles say, “Here Comes the Sun.”