I had a good Wednesday. Inauguration Day for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Got my first vaccine shot. Very optimistic about a return to normal.
It’s been hard to focus on baseball. Insurrection. Impeachment. Inauguration. Patrick Mahomes’ injury. So today’s post is a mixed bag. An opening baseball piece. Some reminiscing about inaugurations I have attended. Then Sam Cooke takes the stage.
Hall of Fame for 2021: Next Tuesday, the Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2021. Which may have no members.
There will be none from the Golden Days and Early Baseball committees. They did not meet because of the pandemic. Among the favorites to gain entry under these committees were Dick Allen and Buck O’Neil.
As for candidates eligible to be voted in by the baseball writers, there will be the annual controversy about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. All three would already be in the HOF if they did not have “character” issues. For Bonds and Clemens, the issue is steroids. For Schilling, it’s his social media rants that have given him a reputation as a major league a**hole.
Approximately 396 writers have submitted ballots, and a player needs to be named on 75% to gain entry. Last year, Schilling had 70% and Bonds and Clemens were barely over 60%. This is the 9th year on the ballot for each of them, leaving only one more year of eligibility.
Below, clockwise from top left, Bonds, Schilling, Scott Rolen, Clemens and Billy Wagner.
When a ballot is submitted to the Hall of Fame, the voter can indicate if the ballot can be made public after the results are announced. Last year, about 20% of the writers elected to keep their ballot secret. That’s why we don’t know the sole person who did not vote for Derek Jeter in 2020.
Many sportswriters also release their ballots publicly before the HOF announcement. For the last several years, these have been tracked by Ryan Thibodaux and reported on his website as they come in. He’s the Steve Kornacki of Hall of Fame voting. You can get his updates by going to this link. As of yesterday, the tracker had processed 39% of the ballots, and these are the top five candidates:
Curt Schilling – 74.4%
Barry Bonds – 71.8%
Roger Clemens – 71.2%
Scott Rolen – 65.4%
Todd Helton – 54.5%
So far, the top three are doing better than their final number last year. But if electoral history is an accurate guide, the later ballots will trend against steroid users and a**holes. Sort of like what Steve Kornacki told us as the returns came in from Georgia and Pennsylvania on November 3rd.
Schilling did catch one break. The ballots were due on December 31, and so the voters would not have considered his January 6 twitter post. He indicated his support for the pro-Trump mob trashing the Capitol, tweeting that people should “sit back, stfu, and watch folks start a confrontation for shit that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption.” A**hole.
If there are no members in the Class of 2021, there will still be an induction ceremony. Last year’s was called off for the pandemic, and so the Class of 2020 still needs a ceremony. Those honorees are Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller.
Inaugurations from 1977 to 2021: I went to my first inauguration in 1977. I had been an advance man in the 1976 VP campaign of Walter Mondale, and so had the benefit of staff invitations for various events during inaugural festivities.
The next Inaugural was in 1981, but I did not attend. It was for Ronald Reagan. But I still had a nice ceremony in 1981. Rita and I were married in June.
The Democrats finally got back to Inaugurals in 1993, and Rita and I were there for the swearing in of Bill Clinton. A highlight was the Inaugural Gala where the performances included Little Richard and Chuck Berry, two of my favorites from high school days.
In 1996, we attended the national convention in Chicago. We were not delegates, but we were able to be on the floor for a while to get a feel for that experience. That’s me in the center foreground.
Clinton won again, so we made the trek to Washington to attend the 1997 inaugural. We attended many events with Congresswoman Karen McCarthy who had come to Congress in 1995. Below, at an inaugural ball, David Basse, Karen, Lonnie and Rita. David, a well-known KC jazz/blues vocalist and drummer, had performed at an inaugural event. David’s unique voice can be heard these days on his syndicated public radio show Jazz with David Basse (click here for links to listen throughout the day and the night, seven days a week).
Another from that 1997 ball. Governor Mel Carnahan.
We (i.e., Democrats) lost the next two elections to President George W. Bush. But in 2009, we were back! And it was spectacular. The significance of the election of Barack Obama pulsated throughout DC. The joy and the size of the crowd cannot be overstated, but who’s counting? Below, at the swearing-in.
For the inaugurals of 1993, 1997 and 2009, we were hosted by Barbara and Joe Reres at their home in Arlington. This photo is from our 2009 visit (with Franklin, as in Franklin Roosevelt; their prior dog was Truman).
Obama won again in 2012, but we did not make it to the 2013 inaugural. Rita was in the midst of chemotherapy for breast cancer. But in the spirit of the inaugural, Rita covered her hairless head with an Obama hat she bought at the 2009 inaugural. Below, she shows off the hat and a 2006 photo of us with a young-looking Senator Obama. While watching the inaugural ball on TV, we joined the Obamas (though not in red gown and tux) in dancing to Jennifer Hudson singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” Richard Martin was at the ball and gave us play-by-play email reports during the evening.
[McCaskill Trivia: The photo Rita is holding was taken at a 2006 fundraiser for Claire McCaskill. Claire went on to win and was re-elected in 2012. In her bid for a third team in 2018, she lost to – I cringe when I type this – Josh Hawley. We knew it was bad when it happened, but it’s now moved to an especially disturbing place. The good news: Claire is thriving in her television gig.]
We were not at the inauguration in 2017.
Nor did we make it in 2021. The pandemic took care of that. But I was thrilled to see President Joe Biden take the oath this week. It was all grand. The inaugural speech. The fire captain who led the Pledge of Allegiance. The entertainers and speakers, both at the inaugural and in the evening. The fireworks show while Katy Perry sang her song “Firework.”
And everybody’s new favorite, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, the first national youth poet laureate.
After Amanda’s reading at the inaugural, Oprah Winfrey tweeted “I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Maya Angelou is cheering – and so am I.”
Amanda’s tweet in response to Oprah: “Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in. While reciting my poem, I wore a ring with a caged bird – a gift from Oprah for the occasion, to symbolize Maya Angelou, a previous inaugural poet. Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”
Inauguration Day 2021. A class act.
Looking Ahead – Sportsmanship: There was a nagging issue under the surface of the celebration. The fact that 147 members of the House and Senate are sticking by their votes to overturn Biden’s election – the votes they cast just hours after the insurrection. They continue marching in lockstep with Donald Trump in his assertion that the election was stolen. It’s not true. And it’s not good sportsmanship.
A few days before the inauguration, sportswriter Vahe Gregorian wrote an article in the Kansas City Star, headlined “In time of crisis, sportsmanship reminds us that grace in defeat is crucial to society.”
Referring to the upcoming inaugural, Vahe wrote: “So here we are, days from what is normally a cherished scene in the United States of America: the peaceful transfer of power – sportsmanship in real-world practice. Instead, alas, a cloud hovers amid fears of further violence in the wake of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 that was stoked by a refusal to accept reality and inflammatory accompanying fabrications.”
Vahe then used some examples of sportsmanship. One was from Patrick Mahomes who likes to tell opponents “good hit” and otherwise reaches across the aisle and graciously accepts defeat (rare as that might be). Patrick told Vahe why: “For me, I just love the game. I respect everybody else just as much as they respect me. And being able to go out there and play the sport we love, I understand everybody’s grind, everybody’s putting everything they have every single time they’re on the field.”
Sports and elections by their nature have winners and losers. Vahe: “Sports would be impossible to conduct if every time a call was replayed and verified – much like the last election – led to a participant’s attack on the integrity of the game, if not an actual riot. Or consider how untenable any sports event would be, the mayhem, if every loser proclaimed themselves the victor over any invented grievance or, as you know, just because of the power vested in them.”
A sport will wither away if the competition is reduced to alternative facts. So will a democracy.
Covid Shots: This week, Rita and I went to Truman Medical Center on Hospital Hill to get our first shots of the vaccine. Paul Donnelly pointed out to me a full-circle moment on this – he got his polio vaccine shot in the early 1950s on Hospital Hill at the old General Hospital. Don’t throw away your chance to get a shot.
Happy Birthdays: Birthday wishes for some Hot Stove readers.
Our friend Jack Schramm turned 89 yesterday. On the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century. Rita, in her first job out of college, ran Jack’s KC campaign office when he ran for Lt. Governor in 1972. It was the year Nixon beat McGovern in Missouri by 450,000 votes and, in the Governor’s race, Kit Bond defeated Ed Dowd by 200,000 votes. Jack lost his race to Bill Phelps by 8,923 votes, an amazing ticket-splitting story, but not quite enough. Below, Jack and Rita on the campaign trail.
Another candidate running in 1972 was Dr. Harry Jonas. Jackson County was transitioning to a charter form of government, and Harry won an at-large seat for the first County Legislature. The other 14 members then elected Harry as the first chairman of the body. Harry has had a distinguished medical and academic career, including stints on Hospital Hill as a professor and then Dean of the UMKC School of Medicine (where Rita worked at the same time). Harry’s time on Hospital Hill goes back to his days as a young doctor when he was part of the volunteer faculty at General Hospital. When he started, the facilities were segregated, and members of the volunteer faculty were allowed to choose where they would be. Harry elected to teach in the building known as General Hospital #2, the one serving the Black population in the city. Harry turned 94 last month. Below, two Harrys, Jonas and Truman (Truman Library Photo).
And now a shout-out to Stan Bushman who turned 92 in November. Irv Blond and I have quarterly lunches with Stan based on the date of his birthday. We unfortunately missed a few this past year. Can’t wait until we all have our Covid shots and can get back to our lunches. If you will pardon my humble-brag, Stan sent Rita and me this note after the Martin Luther King/Buck O’Neil message in last week’s Hot Stove:
“Rita and Lonnie…Hot Stove #152 really needs to be read by everyone…send my message to your entire list to read this Hot Stove several times because there’s so much history…so much good music…and so much love for everyone…with much love and appreciation, thank you. Stan”
Stan Bushman is a mensch of the first order.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Sam Cooke: On election night in 2008, Rita and I were joined by our condo neighbors Irv and Sharyn Blond to watch the returns. Also joining us was former Kansas Citian Paul Edwards who was in town as an election monitor for the Obama-Biden campaign. I met Paul in law school and worked with him in politics back in the 1970s. In 1972, he led the Jack Schramm effort in the KC area and, small world, was the one who hired Rita to run the Schramm campaign office.
A highlight of that evening was watching Barack Obama’s victory speech before a huge crowd at Grant Park in Chicago. Here are three quotes from the speech:
“A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.”
“I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned with his heart…the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.”
“It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”
The first six words of that sentence were borrowed from Sam Cooke’s anthem for the Civil Rights Movement: “A Change is Gonna Come.” The song was often heard during the campaign and as Obama proceeded to his inauguration. And today it can also be found as part of a story arc in a new movie streaming on Amazon Prime. One Night in Miami (see the trailer here).
The night was February 25, 1964, when Cassius Clay knocked out Sonny Liston to win the heavyweight championship. Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and football star Jim Brown were in town for the fight and met with Clay after his victory. That part is true. The movie, using historical statements and themes, dramatizes a fictional meeting of the four men in a motel room that night.
In the movie, Malcolm X gives Sam Cooke a hard time for not using his pop stardom for social commentary. He plays a record and asks Sam why he can’t do something like this white kid from Minnesota. It’s Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind.” This is where the movie takes some dramatic license with the calendar. Sam had already been influenced by Dylan’s song and had recorded “A Change is Gonna Come” for an album that had been released earlier that month. But it would take a while before the song would become more well known.
Viewing Bonus: Sam Cooke is played by Leslie Odom Jr., the actor who played Aaron Burr in the original cast of Hamilton. As for the movie, two thumbs up from Rita and me.
Within a year after that night in Miami, Malcolm X and Sam Cooke were dead. Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Jim Brown appeared in his first movie and would give up football the next year. The Civil Rights Act was passed. The Vietnam War was heating up and in two years would ensnare Ali when he refused to be inducted. The times they were a changin’.
One of the most popular albums on our condo jukebox is Sam Cooke’s Portrait of a Legend: 1951-1964. It has 30 songs that play for 79 minutes. Pure silk, ranging from his gospel roots to ballads to songs that make you want to get up and dance. We sometimes do that. Below are six tracks from the album.
“You Send Me” (1957): After Cooke moved on from gospel singing with the Soul Stirrers, this was his first hit as a solo artist. It was #1 for three weeks in the fall of 1957. I was a junior in high school, and this was a regular play for slow dances at Teen Town.
“Wonderful World” (1962): I was in engineering school in Rolla, then known as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy. This song had some lines that spoke to engineering students. “Don’t know much biology…trigonometry; don’t know much about science books…algebra…Don’t know what a slide rule is for…”. I not only knew what a slide rule was for, I used one constantly. Long, long ago – before pocket calculators and computers.
The link to the song is from a cool scene in the 1985 movie Witness. Harrison Ford plays a detective embedded in an Amish community to protect a widow and her son after the boy witnesses a murder. Among things not favored by the elders of the community are Ford’s guns, dancing and radios. Sam Cooke’s voice tests the widow’s resolve.
“A Change is Gonna Come” (1964): The song was first released in mid-February of 1964 on the album Ain’t That Good News. A slightly edited version was released as a single in December of 1964 – as the B-side (!) of the record. The A-side was …
“Shake” (1964): Since this was promoted as the A-side, it rose to #7 on the Billboard pop chart. “A Change is Gonna Come” peaked at #31, but it endured and became Sam’s greatest accomplishment.
Now let’s project to 2025. Covid is long gone. White supremacists and their ilk are back under their rocks and not emboldened by political rhetoric. The President, Republican or Democrat, has an Inauguration Day without fear. And of course dancing at inaugural balls. Maybe to a couple of Sam Cooke songs.
“Having a Party” (1962)
“Twistin’ the Night Away” (1962)
Two Final Words: Go Chiefs!