This is Day 63 of our self-quarantine (started St. Patrick’s Day, March 17). But we are no longer under Kansas City’s Stay-At-Home order which expired last Friday.
Going to stay at home anyway – we didn’t get any younger since this started and so remain in a high-risk category. I recommend an excellent primer on measuring risk for your activities – click here (but read your Hot Stove first and then come back to this). The good news – walking outside is virtually risk free. Whatever we do, let’s be careful out there (as Sgt. Esterhaus would say).
When I sent out Hot Stove #122 on March 16 (“Baseball in the Time of Coronavirus”), I did not realize it would be the first of ten consecutive Monday posts (#122 to #131). That’s enough at that pace. For you and me. So back to a more casual posting schedule. Also, I need some time to read the new Yogi Berra bio that Jill and Leland Shurin sent to me. It’s 566 pages.
Happy Birthday Aunt Ellen: In the early 1900s, my maternal grandparents immigrated to the United States from a small town near Lviv (then in Austria-Hungary; now part of Ukraine). The Lukomskis had ten children, including my mother Katie. Mom’s sister Ellen Novak is the sole survivor of that generation and still lives in her family home in Sugar Creek.
Today is Aunt Ellen’s 96th birthday! Below, from left, sisters Katie and Ellen in 1942.
The 2020 Baseball Season (?): No firm news yet. There is a lot of talk about the players and owners arguing over money, but those are not the numbers to watch. Washington Post sportswriter Tom Boswell probably has it right: “For once, the fans can ignore the squabbles between billionaires and millionaires. They are both in a tough spot. If it looks as if a July 4 opening date is possible, they will race to fold their bluffs. Neither even has the jacks to open. They know it…In four more weeks, if the stats continue to improve at this sluggish pace, it’s doubtful the public mind will be focused on any sport. If, as Fauci warned…”premature openings”…lead to new outbreaks, new fears and more bad stats, you can kiss MLB in 2020, in any form, goodbye.”
So watch the pandemic stats. The players and owners will find a way if the virus is contained.
In the meantime, a nice gesture by the Red Sox grounds crew at Fenway Park:
With no games being played yet, I’m going to default to nostalgia about the Royals.
MLB.com: Jeffrey Flanagan, the Royals beat writer for MLB.com (a free site), posted a couple of items I am passing along.
As depicted in the “Trade Chain” below, Flanagan traces the trade by the Royals of Mike MacDougal to the White Sox in 2006 to the acquisition ten years later of Jorge Soler. The trades in between were instrumental to the Royals winning two pennants and a World Series (Cain, Shields, Escobar, Davis). And last season, Soler broke the franchise record for home runs. So thank you Mike MacDougal. For the details, click here for Flanagan’s column.
In a series of posts, Flanagan is picking the top five Royals at each position. For center field, that was not an easy task when you look at the possibilities. Flanagan puts Amos Otis at the top, followed by Willie Wilson, Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon. Beltran has the best career in the group, but some of his biggest years were with other teams. Cain and Damon also moved on to other teams. So A.O. sounds right to me. Click here.
Axios Sports: Not to be confused with Aixois, the French restaurant on 55th Street in Crestwood. The Axios news website has a daily newsletter on sports. I signed up after Paul Donnelly and Joe Hiersteiner sent me a link featuring an all-time roster for the Royals. Axios Sports is rolling these out day-to-day to cover all 30 teams.
- DH Johnny Damon (17.3 bWAR with team)
- OF Lorenzo Cain (24.1)
- 3B George Brett (88.6)
- OF Carlos Beltrán (24.8)
- C Salvador Pérez (22.1)
- 1B John Mayberry (21.4)
- OF Alex Gordon (35)
- SS Freddie Patek (20.5)
- 2B Frank White (34.8)
On the mound: SP Bret Saberhagen (40.7).
Sabes and Brett after the last out in Game 7 of 1985 World Series.
- Infield: 1B Mike Sweeney (23.3), 2B Whit Merrifield (13.3), 3B Kevin Seitzer (17.3), SS Alcides Escobar (8.6), C Darrell Porter (16.8)
- Outfield: Amos Otis (44.8), Willie Wilson (42.4), Hal McRae (27.6)
- Utility: Danny Tartabull (12.8)
- Rotation: Kevin Appier (47), Zack Greinke (26.3), Mark Gubicza (38), Dennis Leonard (25.7)
- Bullpen: Dan Quisenberry (25.3), Jeff Montgomery (20.9), Joakim Soria (14.3)
If you want to subscribe to this newsletter (it’s free), click here.
Jerry Stiller – RIP: Jerry Stiller died last week at the age of 92. As Hot Stove readers have no doubt picked up, I am a big Seinfeld fan. One of the best recurring characters in the show was Stiller playing Frank Costanza, the grouchy father of his under-achieving son George. Stiller was in about 30 of the 180 episodes of Seinfeld’s nine seasons (Stiller joined the cast in Season 5).
I probably saw Stiller and his wife Anne Meara on Ed Sullivan in the 1960s. But my first specific memory is from their series of Blue Nun radio ads in the 1970s. Having evolved little from my beer drinking days of college, some of my early entry into wine was trying Blue Nun. Advertising works (until you turn about 60; then not so much). Rita and I eventually toured Napa, Sonoma, etc. and started paying more for wine. But nobody made better ads than Stiller and Meara (listen to one here).
In December of 1994, I had a real estate closing in New York. Rita went along for the trip, and we paid an enhanced price for two tickets to the hottest show on Broadway – Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard. The real estate closing was supposed to be over the morning of the show, but it dragged into the early evening. It looked like I would miss the show and Rita headed to the theater on her own. We thought the legal issues were resolved, and so my NY co-counsel said he’d finish up, so I hurried over and joined Rita at the last minute. We had good seats, and sitting directly behind us were Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. After the first act, we spoke with them, and I’m guessing we talked about Blue Nun and Seinfeld. After the show, Rita and I went back to the hotel and ordered room service. I checked in with the closing, assuming (hoping) no one was there. But they were, and I had to go back, and we finished up in the middle of the night.
Three of my favorite Frank Costanza story arcs:
Pool Game: Frank converted George’s old bedroom into a cramped billiards parlor. Frank and Kramer start a game and are joined by the “Maestro,” Kramer’s friend who is an orchestra conductor and dressed for a performance later that evening. As is the Maestro’s custom before a performance, he removes his tuxedo pants so they won’t have any wrinkling that would be seen by his audience. Frank and Kramer find the idea good for their pool game. I’ll let the video take it from there (click here; note that the wallpaper is baseball-themed).
Steinbrenner: George Costanza works for the Yankees and disappears under suspicious circumstances. The team mistakenly believes George is dead, and owner George Steinbrenner goes to the home of Frank and Estelle Costanza to tell them the bad news. The reaction by Frank is priceless. He interrupts the discussion of the possible death of his son to deliver a diatribe to Steinbrenner about the horrible Yankees trade of Jay Buhner to Seattle. Click here. For many baseball scenes of the two Georges (Steinbrenner and Costanza), see Hot Stove #112.
Festivus: Tired of the commercialization of the holidays, Frank created “Festivus” – for the rest of us. Instead of a tree, he uses an unadorned aluminum pole (in his hand below). The Festivus dinner is for the airing of grievances, followed by feats of strength. Click here and be prepared to laugh. Probably the most classic Frank Costanza episode. Check out this Google page to appreciate the notoriety of the holiday. It’s always marked on my calendar. December 23.
Hamilton: The big news in the world of Hamilton is that the “live-capture” recording of the original cast on Broadway, shot in 2016, will arrive on Disney+ on July 3. It had been scheduled to open in theaters on October 15, 2021, but the pandemic prompted Disney to stream this summer – a quarantine surprise. And no doubt will lead to millions of new Disney+ subscribers. Like Rita and me.
Lin-Manuel Miranda says that director Thomas Kail has “basically given everyone at home the best seat in the house…He really threads the needle between these cinematic close-ups and widening out and seeing the show from the center aisle of the Richard Rogers Theatre.” It won’t be the same as being in the room where it happens, but Rita and I would not miss another chance to see the original cast. For more on our obsession about this musical, and suggestions for preparing to watch, see the Hamilton tag of Lonnie’s Jukebox.
In other Hamilton news – the lyrics from the musical have become a regular part of our life…
Birthday House Call – Part One: Earlier this month, granddaughter Emersyn turned 18. Rita and I made a house call to deliver our socially-distanced “Happy Birthday!” message. My son Brian had given us a heads-up on a good time to be there. At 3:00, some 20 cars paraded by. Lots of honking and good wishes from her school friends.
Emersyn is part of the class of 2020 of Blue Valley North and is headed to the University of Arkansas this fall (hopefully for in-person classes). These 2020 graduates have had a unique life. They were born during the year after 9/11 and are finishing high school in the midst of a pandemic. Graduation was scheduled for yesterday, but has been postponed. Emersyn’s summer job as a life guard – delayed, but a maybe. This is the first time since 2010 that she will not be part of the Big Slick event at Kauffman Stadium (cancelled this year). My son Brian is part of the volunteer staff of Big Slick, and so Emersyn has had the opportunity to meet many of the celebrities that come in for this Children’s Mercy fundraiser. Below, Emersyn with one of the celebrities at last year’s event.
Emersyn will be fine. Our parents lived through the Depression and became the Greatest Generation. Emersyn is bright, poised, kind and has many friends and devoted parents (and grandparents). This is a big bump in the road, but I am confident of her future (and that of the country).
Birthday House Call – Part Two: Each year, Jack Kilroy, Irv Blond and I take Bert Bates to lunch on or about his birthday (April 14). He always points out the date is best known for Lincoln being shot (1865), the Titanic hitting the iceberg (1912) and Bert being born (1926). Another important fact – Bert is one week older than Queen Elizabeth.
If you did the math, you know that Bert and the Queen are now 94. Not quite as vintage as Aunt Ellen, but pretty impressive.
Rita and I were able to do an in-person socially-distanced happy birthday to Bert while on one of our walks. We coaxed him to come out on his balcony, and he gave a friendly wave. And many more Bert.
Birdhouse Call: One of our regular walking routes is from the Plaza to the Kauffman Foundation. We then walk around the lake and through the adjacent conservation area. There are several birdhouses that attract a good number of birds. But many of our feathered friends are failing to follow social-distancing guidelines.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Gregorian Chants (Week 8): KC Star sportswriter Vahe Gregorian continues his daily tweets of shelter/home/quarantine songs. Click on the song title to listen.
Day 50 (May 12) of Stay-At-Home Order: “Hawaii Five-0” by Morton Stevens. Vahe selected this “for some get-up-and-go and, you know, 50 days and all.” Trivia: The “0” is a zero, not the letter “O” – for the 50th state, but pronounced like the letter. The original series ran from 1968 to 1980. Stevens was the composer for the theme used on the TV show, but the hit record was a cover by the Ventures that went to #4 in 1969. My favorite by the Ventures was “Walk Don’t Run” which went to #2 in the summer of 1960.
Day 51: “Changes” by David Bowie. COVID-19 has made major changes in our lives. Some will linger beyond the pandemic.
Day 52: “Rose in the Garden” by Karla Bonoff. Vahe: “Pay close attention, but leave it room.”
Day 53 (May 15, 2020, Stay-At-Home order ends): “Out in the Street” by Bruce Springsteen.
My thanks to Vahe for his string of 53 theme songs for the days of the Stay-At-Home order.
Bonus Pick: I’ll add one from my high school days:
“Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” by Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns. This was a mild hit (#52) in 1957. Those in high school in the 1970s likely remember the 1972 version by Johnny Rivers (#6; click here).
Please stay safe.