Hot Stove #128 – The Baseball 100, Willie Mays, Beards and Roger Angell

This is Day 42 of our self-quarantine and Day 35 of KC’s Stay-At-Home order (currently set to end on May 15).

Dishwasher Pod update. The mystery has been solved. The woman in the red car who left us the two tubs of dishwasher pods has admitted to her good deed. But the admission was “off the record,” and so Hot Stove will not reveal the source.

Opening day for the Royals was scheduled for March 26 in Chicago. One month ago as of yesterday, and no replacement date is in sight.

One of the things that has helped me through this baseball purgatory is the reading of Joe Posnanski’s essays in his countdown of the 100 best players of all time. In three recent Hot Stoves, I counted along with him from #10 to #2.

#10 – Satchel Paige

#9 – Stan Musial

#8 – Ty Cobb

#7 – Walter Johnson

#6 – Ted Williams

#5 – Oscar Charleston

#4 – Hank Aaron

#3 – Barry Bonds

#2 – Babe Ruth

Many, including me, thought Babe Ruth would be #1. But Joe’s choice is the “Say Hey Kid”

Baseball 100 – Willie Mays (#1): The complete list of 100 is at the end of this post. Posnanski has said that his picks relied on a mix of stats and subjective factors (and as you will see, some whimsy). He gave strong consideration to WAR, multi-dimensional talent, the player’s era and certain bonus values (postseason performance, sportsmanship, impact on the game as a whole, years lost to war, etc.).

One of my favorite picks was Joe DiMaggio at #56. DiMaggio could have probably been #46 or #66, so why not match it with the hitting streak? Gary Carter is at #86 for his role with the 1986 Mets. Several players were slotted at their uniform number if that was within the arc of where they would be on the list. That was the case for Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Jimmy Foxx, Greg Maddux, Jackie Robinson, Frank Robinson and Mike Schmidt. The last two wore #20 and tied for that position on Joe’s list. This permitted him to skip #19 and not have to think about the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Joe admits “I don’t know who the greatest ballplayer is.” But then he makes a pretty good case for Willie. The batting and base running stats are spectacular across the board. Joe poses this question: “How many players have hit 400 doubles, 100 triples, 330 home runs and stolen 250 bases? Only one. Willie Mays.” Joe set a low bar to make this comparison. Willie’s actual numbers are even better: 523 doubles, 140 triples, 660 homers and 338 stolen bases. Wow.

And Willie was an elite center fielder. Range, instincts, arm and a cap flying off his head. He has great hitting stats, but the play he is most known for is as a fielder – his catch in the 1954 World Series. Everyone has seen it many times, but we never tire of it. Click here to see it again.

Joe found another quality that guided him to Willie Mays – the joy Willie brought to baseball. “What do you love most about baseball? Mays did that. To watch him play, to read the stories about how he played, to look at his glorious statistics, to hear what people say about him is to be reminded of why we love this odd and ancient game in the first place. Yes, Willie Mays has always made kids feel like grown-ups and grown-ups feel like kids. And in the end, isn’t that the whole point of baseball?”

 Hard to argue with that. Thanks for this countdown ride Joe.

Negro League Players: Joe’s list gave deserved recognition to 14 players from the Negro Leagues, several of whom went on to big MLB careers. Satchel Paige and Bullet Rogan played a good part of their careers with the Kansas City Monarchs, and that team also provided the first pro experience for Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks. Satchel didn’t get his opportunity in the majors until he was 41, but he made the most of it by helping the Cleveland Indians win the 1948 AL pennant. The team went on to win the World Series, the last time the Indians have done so. They need a new Satchel.

#1 – Willie Mays

#4 – Hank Aaron

#5 – Oscar Charleston

#10 – Satchel Paige

#15 – Josh Gibson

#25 – Pop Lloyd

#42 – Jackie Robinson

#53 – Buck Leonard

#62 – Smoky Joe Williams

#65 – Ernie Banks

#69 – Monte Irvin

#84 – Cool Papa Bell

#92 – Bullet Rogan

#94 – Roy Campanella


One other person on the Baseball 100 played pro ball for an all-black team before getting to the major leagues. Bob Gibson (#45) played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters between his first two minor league seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Poscast on Baseball 100: Posnanski’s essays on the 100 players are behind the paywall at The Athletic (a bargain). But for free, you can listen to Joe’s discussion of the list on his “Poscast” (#163) with Michael Schur (baseball expert and sitcom creator – Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place). They are knowledgeable and funny. Get the Poscast wherever you get your podcasts.


[Michael Schur Trivia: This coming Thursday night (4/30), Schur is presenting a scripted 30-minute episode of Parks and Recreation. The show ended five years ago, but the entire original cast is returning for a quarantine episode. It is a fund raiser for Feeding America and will be on NBC at 7:30 in KC.]

 House Call Update: On one of our walks, Rita and I went a few blocks south of Loose Park and made a house call on Loren Rea. The day was chilly as you can tell by my layers of clothing. Rita and I are wimps about cold weather, in contrast to Loren who came out in a short sleeve shirt and bare feet and seemed quite comfortable. The book Loren is holding is the best-seller Just Mercy. He bought it for his wife’s birthday (to be the next day), but he was breaking it in for Judy by reading it first.

Two other things about this pic. I’m wearing a Kansas City Monarchs cap. And facial hair. About that…

Chinny-Chin-Chin: It’s my quarantine beard. I haven’t shaved since St. Patrick’s Day, our first day on this journey. It remains scruffy after six weeks, which reminds me of a baseball story by Roger Angell of the New Yorker.

Roger Angell | Society for American Baseball Research

In 2013, at the age of 93, Angell was covering the World Series pitting the Boston Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals. In his column after Game 4, he briefly describes the Sox victory, including Jonny Gomes’ three-run homer. He then devotes the balance of his piece to the other big topic of the Series, the beards adorning the Red Sox players.

His opening shot is that “Beards are kudzu.” He then gives some prime examples.

How Did Kudzu Make It to the United States? -

“Jonny Gomes’s beard – a brown frigate bird’s nest – is among the uglier supported by the hairy Sox this year…he’s shaved his head now, too, which doesn’t help, unless you’re eager to join the crowding recent hordes of the undead…Gomes isn’t the worst Sox beard – the title goes to backup catcher David Ross, whose unkempt cabbage includes a clashing streak of white that cascades over his chin…the other catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, has a raggedy garden-border growth, in keeping with the encircling back-yard shrubbery of his hair…Dustin Pedroia’s the weirdest, since it comes with its desert-saint stare and that repeated on-deck or between pitch mannerism of opening and stretching his mouth into a silent O: a screech owl with laryngitis.”

Angell says he’s a gentle fellow and intends no lasting hurts. And gives credit where it is due. “I admire Big Papi’s plunging mid-cheek parenthesis” and “the angle-iron jawline wool supported by…Jon Lester.” But Angell has questions for the significant others of the Sox players.

“Where are the Red Sox wives or sweetie pies in all this? Have none of them spoken up – privately or in the Globe or in a thousand tweets – to protest this office fad. How does it feel to wake up, night after night, in immediate proximity to a crazed Pomeranian or a Malamute or an Old English sheepdog stubbornly adhering to the once caressable jaw of the guy on the nearest pillow? Doesn’t it scratch? Doesn’t it itch? Doesn’t it smell, however faintly of tonight’s boeuf en daube or yesterday’s last pinch of Red Man?”

 [Personal Note: My wife (AND sweetie pie) Rita has encouraged this whisker growth, at least for now. We’ll see.]

 Band of bearded brothers leads Boston Red Sox to World Series ...

In 2015, when Angell was 95, he covered the World Series between the Mets and Royals. He had either mellowed on beards or maybe just appreciated the well-trimmed versions on the Royals players. Although he was rooting for his hometown Mets, he saw why people “fell in love with these Royals in their near-thing debut in the World Series last fall…there’s a collective élan to them, a bearded joy in their work, that you want to be part of.” What a beautiful way to describe our team.

 Moustakas on facing Hosmer: 'It's just weird seeing him over there ...

 [Facial Hair Trivia: Over the decades, players have gone from mustaches and beards to clean-shaven. Club policy has ranged from George Steinbrenner prohibiting facial hair to Charlie Finley paying bonuses to his 1972 A’s to grow mustaches. That went well – the A’s won the World Series three straight years. Steinbrenner also did not allow long hair, meaning Oscar Gamble’s trademark afro had to go when he was traded to the Yankees. All of this and more on baseball whiskers in Hot Stove #68.]

[Roger Angell Trivia: I have seven Roger Angell books. One is his book on David Cone (A Pitcher’s Story). Five are compilations of his New Yorker essays that primarily cover spring training and the post-season of each year No doubt some of the best baseball writing ever. The seventh is This Old Man, a book gifted to me by Stan Bushman when it came out in 2015. It is a compilation of essays and other Angell writings from over the years. One is “Chinny-Chin-Chin,” the article on beards quoted above. Another shares the book title and is a non-baseball essay on the limitations and discoveries of great age. The last entry in the book is “The Silence of the Fans.” It is from April of 2015 when Angell covered the Orioles/White Sox game played before no fans because of security concerns after civil unrest in Baltimore arising from the death of Freddie Gray who was injured in police custody. This is the only time a major league game was played with no fans. Until maybe this year. Roger Angell is now 99. One of my hopes for this fall is that there will be baseball being played on September 19 when Angell turns 100.]

1985 in Kansas City Sports – The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat: Let’s drop back to April of 1985, 35 years ago. The Royals home opener was on April 8 (my ticket stub below). As KC fans will happily remember, the team went on to win the World Series. The thrill of victory.

At Kemper Arena on April 14, a very different atmosphere prevailed. The Kings played their last NBA game in Kansas City. The crowd gave a standing ovation to the players, but then heavily booed GM Joe Axelson and hung him in effigy from the upper deck. Joe was the local face of new ownership that was relocating the team to Sacramento after 13 seasons in KC. That last Kings game was against the Los Angeles Lakers who left their stars Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in L.A. to rest for the playoffs. The Lakers won anyway. The agony of defeat. In every way. But I still have my ticket stub.

My fondest memory of the Kings is the play of Nate “Tiny” Archibald. He was a whirlwind on the court and in 1972-73 led the league in scoring (34 PPG) and assists (11.4 APG). He is the only NBA player to ever win both titles in the same season. He was not a great shooter, but his quickness and speed led to a lot of layups. Below, Tiny in the days of short shorts on the courts. The Kings were in KC from 1972 to 1985, and Tiny was here for the first four seasons.

[Team Name Trivia: Before the team moved to Kansas City, it was in Rochester and then Cincinnati. In those two cites, the team name was the Royals. Since KC already a Royals team, the NBA franchise became the Kings.]

 On the Small Screen: Two of the shows we have been watching had their season finales this past week. Homeland signed off for good after eight seasons of Carrie Mathison and Saul Berenson saving the world. Better Call Saul, the prequel to Breaking Bad, finished its fifth season. One more to go. As Rita and I were watching, we saw Kim wearing a Royals shirt. So we hit pause and took a screenshot. In the show, Kim is from a town on the Kansas/Nebraska border (Royals country) and has worn this shirt in at least one prior season (TV season, not baseball).

We also finished The Plot Against America, an HBO mini-series created by David Simon (The Wire). It is based on Philip Roth’s book that tells the story of a Jewish family living in New Jersey during the 1940 presidential campaign. In a bending of history, the “America First” candidate Charles Lindbergh defeats Franklin Roosevelt, turning the nation toward fascism and antisemitism. On a tip from Bill Carr, we also listened to the podcast that Simon did after each of the six episodes. Simon discusses the relevant history and  points out the parallels to today. History has a way of repeating itself – see Hot Stove #50 (“Hitler, the Klan and Baseball”).

A big treat this past week was Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince, a gathering of major artists performing the music of Prince who died four years ago. Amazing body of work. I’m guessing many sports fans remember 2007 when Prince headlined what Joe Posnanski has called the best-ever Super Bowl half-time show (see more on that in Hot Stove #15, “Prince of Baseball”). One of my favorite tribute clips from four years ago was by one genius (Lin Manuel-Miranda) honoring another (Prince) with a joyful rendition of “Let’s Go Crazy” by the cast of Hamilton after a performance on Broadway. Click here (1:25).

Billions and the New York Mets: Rita and I have watched the first four seasons of Showtime’s Billions. Season 5 starts this coming Sunday (May 3). Paul Giamatti plays Chuck Rhoades, a ruthless and ambitious New York DA and AG (think Eliot Spitzer) who wants to take down Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis), an unscrupulous hedge fund owner. Axelrod’s brokers are motivated to work at an intense level by in-house performance coach, psychiatrist Wendy Rhoades (Maggie Siff). Key point: performance coach Wendy is married to DA Chuck. Strange bedfellows (in other ways too). Great acting throughout the cast.


What does that have to do with the New York Mets? The show is loosely based on the legal battles of Preet Bharara (former U.S. Attorney for NY; the one fired by Trump) and hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. Cohen was known for using a performance coach for many years to help his brokers work at a high level under extreme pressure. Unlike Wendy in Billions, Cohen’s performance coach was not married to the DA.

In 2012, Cohen bought a small stake in the New York Mets. Earlier this year, it was announced that he was buying out the Wilpons and would become the majority owner of the team. The “Joy in Metville” headline below reflects the unpopularity of the “woeful Wilpons” among Mets fans. The deal has since blown up. [In art imitating life, Bobby Axelrod in Billions failed in his attempt to buy an NFL team.]

Image result for mogul wilpons new york post front page

The Wilpons still want to sell, and it was announced last week that Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez have retained JP Morgan Chase to help raise capital to buy the team.

On the Big Screen: Rita and I have our condo rental, flights and passes for the Telluride Film Festival scheduled for Labor Day Weekend. If we go, it would be our tenth year. There is some doubt that it will be held. Events with long lines and packed seating may still have a low priority in September. Also, many movie productions are on hold and might not be completed in time for festival season. So it’s wait and see.

The Trolley Trail: We noticed a new addition on this walking route. Central United Methodist Church adjoins the trail, and the church has installed a series of signs for the times. Here are a couple:

Loose Park: The tennis courts, parking lot and playground have been shut down for some time. A good number of people are still on the walking trails. Rita and her friend Anne Devaney met there at a social distance before taking a walk in the nearby neighborhood. They are sporting Anne’s custom made masks.

After I took their photo, I went a few doors away and lured Beth Nay out of her house for a pic. It was a nice day, and so anyone who knows Randy will tell you why he was not home – he was on the golf course.

Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Gregorian Chants (Week 5): KC Star sportswriter Vahe Gregorian continues his daily tweets of quarantine songs.  Click on the song title to listen.

Day 29 (April 21) of Stay-At-Home Order: “Trapped” by Bruce Springsteen. A rock ‘n’ roll cover of Jimmy Cliff’s original reggae song. “I’ll teach my eyes to see beyond these walls in front of me/And someday I’ll walk out of here again.” Compare and contrast – listen to Jimmy Cliff’s version here.

Day 30: “Two of Us” by the Beatles. Fits for Lonnie and Rita.

 Day 31: “Sitting” by Cat Stevens (now known as Yusaf Islam). Yes, lots of sitting these days, but also a lot of walking. So I’m going to give equal time by adding “I’m Walkin’” by Fats Domino.

I can’t listen to a Cat Stevens song without thinking of the cult classic Harold and Maude, a charming 1971 dark comedy starring Ruth Gordon and Bud Kort. The movie soundtrack has ten songs by Cat Stevens (“Sitting” is not one of them). Rita and I have seen the movie several times, and when I saw Vahe’s pick, I fired up Spotify to play the soundtrack. This prompted warm memories and also some dancing.

Harold and Maude Movie Poster 11x17 – BananaRoad

Day 32:  “Who’ll Stop the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. An apt pick for a rainy Friday in Kansas City.

The song was written by John Fogerty and released in 1970 when he was with CCR. Fogerty moved on to a solo career and in 1985 released “Centerfield,” a staple in baseball stadiums to this day. The video for the song is nostalgic baseball footage that includes Willie Mays, the catch and Fogerty singing “So ‘Say Hey’ Willie, tell the Cobb, and Joe DiMaggio…”.

 Day 33: “Into the Fire” by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. Vahe: “With love and gratitude for those brave souls risking their lives for us all.”

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

 Day 34: “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles. Another pick that matched the local weather – a sunny Sunday. This George Harrison song of renewal is being used by some hospitals to bolster morale. In Long Island at Mount Sinai South Nassau, the song is played over the public address system every time a COVID-19 patient is discharged.

Little darling
The smiles returning to the faces
Little darling
It seems like years since it’s been here

 Day 35: “Good Day”by the Kinks.

 Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – Brian’s Pick: My son Brian continues to keep the Lonnie’s Jukebox website updated and organized. He also sent along a social-distancing song. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by the Georgia Satellites.

Baseball 100 – The Full List:

1. Willie Mays
2. Babe Ruth
3. Barry Bonds
4. Hank Aaron
5. Oscar Charleston
6. Ted Williams
7. Walter Johnson
8. Ty Cobb
9. Stan Musial
10. Satchel Paige
11. Mickey Mantle
12. Honus Wagner
13. Roger Clemens
14. Lou Gehrig
15. Josh Gibson
16. Alex Rodriguez
17. Rogers Hornsby
18. Tris Speaker
20. Mike Schmidt
20. Frank Robinson
21. Joe Morgan
22. Lefty Grove
23. Albert Pujols
24. Rickey Henderson
25. Pop Lloyd
26. Pete Alexander
27. Mike Trout
28. Randy Johnson
29. Eddie Collins
30. Johnny Bench
31. Greg Maddux
32. Mel Ott
33. Jimmie Foxx
34. Cy Young
35. George Brett
36. Christy Mathewson
37. Pedro Martinez
38. Carl Yastrzemski
39. Nap Lajoie
40. Roberto Clemente
41. Tom Seaver
42. Jackie Robinson
43. Yogi Berra
44. Cal Ripken
45. Bob Gibson
46. Eddie Mathews
47. Wade Boggs
48. Ken Griffey Jr.
49. Warren Spahn
50. Nolan Ryan
51. Al Kaline
52. Adrian Beltre
53. Buck Leonard
54. Chipper Jones
55. Bob Feller
56. Joe DiMaggio
57. Rod Carew
58. Jeff Bagwell
59. Reggie Jackson
60. Pete Rose
61. Arky Vaughan
62. Smoky Joe Williams
63. Steve Carlton
64. Johnny Mize
65. Ernie Banks
66. Robin Yount
67. Hank Greenberg
68. Gaylord Perry
69. Monte Irvin
70. Sandy Koufax
71. Bert Blyleven
72. Robin Roberts
73. Brooks Robinson
74. Frank Thomas
75. Justin Verlander
76. Willie McCovey
77. Miguel Cabrera
78. Clayton Kershaw
79. Derek Jeter
80. Carlton Fisk
81. Fergie Jenkins
82. Kid Nichols
83. Phil Niekro
84. Cool Papa Bell
85. Sadaharu Oh
86. Gary Carter
87. Charlie Gehringer
88. Curt Schilling
89. Mike Piazza
90. Max Scherzer
91. Mariano Rivera
92. Bullet Rogan
93. Ozzie Smith
94. Roy Campanella
95. Tony Gwynn
96. Larry Walker
97. Roberto Alomar
98. Carlos Beltran
99. Mike Mussina
100. Ichiro Suzuki