Are you ready for some baseball? Looks like the clouds are parting.
Play Ball: Spring training 2.0 started this week at the home parks of the 30 teams. The season of 60 games will start on July 23. No fans at the games, but that may change if the pandemic recedes.
There are two major rule changes. The DH will be used in the NL. In games tied at the end of 9 innings, each half inning thereafter will begin with a man on second base.
Due to the pandemic, the significant changes to the game this year relate to the new health and safety protocols. For example, The Red Sox have masked the statues of the “Teammates” at Fenway Park.
Just kidding. The masking of ballpark statues is not in the new protocols. But the “no spitting” rule is. The protocols are detailed in a 101-page “2020 Operations Manual” which also covers new game rules, roster details, spring training, the season and the postseason. I estimate that about 80% of the manual relates to the medical/safety protocols. Many are very specific, such as the seating arrangement in the dugout (below). The manual is online (click here).
Here’s hoping that any postponed games are because of rain, not COVID-19. Below, (i) Norman Rockwell’s “Tough Call,” a 1949 Saturday Evening Post cover, and (ii) a 2020 update.
The Royals: The Royals were ready with a promo video as soon as the revised season was announced. If the season is as good as the video, the team could win the World Series. It is narrated by President Bob Kendrick of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Click here.
Back in February, FanGraphs provided this look at the Royals for the 2020 season. For the fans of other teams, you can find similar info on your team at this link.
As for how the Royals will do in the Central Division in the 60-game season, the FanGraphs analysis is below. For the full article on this and the other divisions, click here.
|Chicago White Sox||31||29||4||.517||19.5%||16.8%||36.2%||3.4%|
|Kansas City Royals||26||34||9||.433||5.8%||8.3%||14.2%||0.9%|
Best of luck to John Sherman and his band of local owners. They got a rough start for their first year, but have shown a lot of class as 2020 has unfolded.
Tip Your Cap to the Negro Leagues: As reported in the last Hot Stove, NLBM President Bob Kendrick and Athletic sportswriter Joe Posnanski have launched a campaign to publicize the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro Leagues. Fans are asked to send a cap-tipping photo or video to the campaign website (and if so inclined, make a donation).
How is the campaign going? It’s an unqualified success!
Please click this link to the website and see photos and videos from fans, Hall of Famers, celebrities, etc. In a fine bipartisan move, all four living former presidents have joined in:
My favorite is an “out of this world” cap (helmet) tip from astronaut Chris Cassidy in the space station.
At the end of Meet the Press this past Sunday, Chuck Todd ended his show with a tip of his cap (video here).
In my tribute, I am holding my copy of Kadir Nelson’s We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. When Rube Foster founded the first Negro League in 1920 at a meeting in Kansas City, he proclaimed “We are the ship, all else the sea,” a quote borrowed from Frederick Douglas. So I tip my Monarchs cap to Rube Foster and all those players who joined him on that voyage.
In the spirit of the “Dress to the Nines” crowds at Negro League games, Rita tips one of her many hats in honor of the Negro League Centennial.
Joe Posnanski – 60 Moments: As covered in several Hot Stoves this spring, Joe Posnanski counted down the top 100 players of all time in a series of essays in the Athletic. He has followed up with another countdown: 60 Moments: Revisiting the memorable, remarkable and joyous scenes of baseball. As of today, he has worked his way to #22 (see the list here).
Moment No. 60: Joe kicked off his new series with Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash. It was Game 7 of the 1946 World Series. Cardinals v. Red Sox. Bottom of the 8th, 3-3 tie, two out, the Cards Enos Slaughter on first, Harry Walker batting. With Slaughter running on the pitch, Walker got a hit which everyone assumed would get Slaughter to third. But Slaughter never stopped, and he scored the go-ahead run on his “mad dash” (has its own Wikipedia page). The run held up and the Cards won 4-3 to take the Series. [Trivia: It was the only World Series for Ted Williams.]
My Royals-centric brain takes me to Lorenzo Cain who replicated Slaughter’s mad dash in Game 6 of the 2015 ALCS. The Royals were leading Toronto three games to two. In the bottom of the 8th, with the game tied 3-3, Lorenzo Cain walked. Hosmer followed with a single, and Cain never stopped until he slid into home to score the go-ahead run. The run held up and the Royals won 4-3 to take the ALCS and move on to the Series.
Joe’s “Moments” with a Kansas City touch include #51 – Zack Greinke hitting his first big-league home run; #46 – Buck O’Neil hearing “the sound” again (more on that below); #44 – The Pine Tar Game; #32 – Eric Hosmer’s dash from third to home to tie Game 5 in the 9th inning of the 2015 World Series (click here); #30 – Satchel Paige striking out Josh Gibson; and #29 – Jim Edmonds’ spectacular catch at Kauffman Stadium in 1997 (I was at the game; see the catch here).
I should explain the Buck O’Neil moment. The first time Buck heard “the sound” was in the 1920s when he was a teenager living in Sarasota. The Giants trained in Sarasota, and the Yankees were in town for a game. Buck and his friends were behind the outfield fence hoping to get baseballs hit out during batting practice. That day, Buck heard something different – “like a stick of dynamite” going off. He looked through a knothole in the fence and saw that it was Babe Ruth. In Buck’s first year with the Kansas City Monarchs, he was in the locker room and heard that sound again. He rushed to the dugout and saw that it was Josh Gibson taking batting practice. A half-century later, while a scout for the Cubs, Buck was on the field during batting practice at what was then called Royals Stadium. He heard that dynamite sound for the third time in his life. It was Bo Jackson.
Other moments feature Joe DiMaggio, Minnie Minoso, Reggie Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Yogi Berra, etc. Posnanski also includes non-game moments like Topps baseball cards and hot dogs/peanuts. As always, wonderful essays, but you need a subscription to the Athletic to read them.
A Ken Burns Moment: On CBS Sunday Morning this past week, Ken Burns invoked the power of baseball to help us through difficult times. War, integration, 9/11 and now a pandemic. Click here.
Segments of CBS Sunday Morning often end with a variation of the show’s sun logo. For the Burns segment, it was this:
Carl Reiner Baseball Moments: The great comedian, writer, producer and director Carl Reiner died this past Monday. He was 98. As a kid he dreamed of a career as a major leaguer. Thankfully for us, that did not happen.
Reiner’s interest in baseball was fueled by thousands of stickball games on the streets. He said he was a “three sewer hitter” – “ I could belt the ball three sewer covers away, which is quite an accomplishment when you’re playing stickball on a Bronx street.” Below, Carl (#29) with son Rob at a Hollywood Stars game at Dodger Stadium in 1972.
Reiner had his own baseball-like card. From 1950 to 1955, the Bowman Gum Company was one of the primary distributors of baseball cards. The company also printed sets of non-sports cards and was commissioned by NBC to print a series featuring NBC’s TV and radio stars. The front of each card had a photo of the star and the back had a bio similar to a baseball card format. Note the “QUESTION” is about Reiner’s childhood ambition. The “ANSWER” is “To be a big league pitcher.”
I cannot mention Carl Reiner without thinking of his wife Estelle who died in 2008. She had one of the best one-liners in movie history. It was in When Harry Met Sally, directed by their son Rob Reiner. It’s the restaurant scene that ends with Estelle saying “I’ll have what she’s having.” Click here for a good laugh (not safe to play at work).
A Broadway Moment: With the pandemic, Rita and I have had little on our calendar. But we have a big date tomorrow night – in front of our TV, newly enhanced with Disney Plus. It’s the opening night to stream Hamilton performed by the original cast.
We were fortunate to see the original cast soon after the musical opened on Broadway in 2015. We got a second chance the next year when we stopped in New York for two nights during our East Coast baseball stadium tour. On our first night, we took in a Mets game at Citi Field. Our dilemma for the second night: Should we go to Yankee Stadium with our group or see Hamilton again (the original cast was leaving soon)? It was a no-brainer. Hamilton won. So did the Yankees, but we did not see that. No regrets.
That second show we saw was in June of 2016, the same month the producers were taping the musical to preserve the show as performed by the original cast. The intent was to have a theatrical release in 2021, but the pandemic accelerated the timetable to go straight to streaming (and no doubt to increase subscriptions for Disney Plus). We can’t wait to see that cast again. Even though this time we will not actually be in the room where it happens. Check out the trailer here.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – 39th Anniversary: Last month, Rita and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. We did not eat out, but we did carry out – from Room 39, a fine local restaurant on 39th Street. I wish I could tell you that we picked the restaurant for the name matching our anniversary year. But no, we did not think of that until later that night.
Two years ago, when I mentioned our 37th anniversary in a Hot Stove, Bill Wakefield sent a unique anniversary e-card. It was the Google link to images showing Casey Stengel and his uniform number. Casey wore #37 during much of his career.
This year, Hollis Hanover took a stab in a Google hunt for something with #39 – and he did pretty good. He knows Rita is a big Beatles fan, and he came across this drawing which purportedly has clues to the titles of 39 songs by the Beatles. Not that Rita and I came close to finding all 39.
Hollis pointed out that we would easily identify the “uniformed pretty lady writing a parking ticket.” She is in the left upper corner, at the foot of the ladder. That would be “Lovely Rita” – that meter maid.
For this edition of Lonnie’s Jukebox, here are three songs from the drawing. Click on the title to play.
But over the years, it’s not a Beatles song that has endured as “our” song. For that, we turn to singer-songwriter Jim Croce for “Time in a Bottle.”