Happy birthday to Willie Mays. The Say Hey Kid is 90 years old today.
How about those Royals? A month into the season, they had the best record in baseball. The last week has been a little rocky, but the high TV ratings and expanded seating at the K point to a fun (and full) season for Royals fans.
The fast start has also been good for the business side. The new owners deserve some better luck after their first year morphed into the Covid season. In an interview with the Kansas City Business Journal, lead owner John Sherman commented on this:
“Yeah, good on-field performance definitely helps the business. It helps with ticket sales. It helps with sponsorships and with game-day food, beverage and merchandise sales. When the team’s winning, all those things tend to go up. So it seems when the team is winning that the beer is colder and the hot dogs taste better.”
While Rita and I were watching the game on TV last night, we saw John Sherman sitting in the section behind home plate, applauding after Jorge Soler knocked in two runs with a double to put the Royals ahead 4-0 (screenshot below). Sherman also had a ringside seat when manager Mike Matheny, pitching coach Cal Eldred and pitcher Brady Singer were ejected after a long and contentious confrontation with the home plate umpire.
The ejections weren’t the only bad news. Cleveland came back to win the game 5-4. The Royals dropped into a 3-way tie for first in the Central Division with Cleveland and Chicago.
Keep the faith. Danny Duffy pitching this afternoon. Go Royals!
Satchel Paige and Joe Biden: Baseball card enthusiasts are taking delight in this photo from the Oval Office. In the family photos behind the President, there is a Satchel Paige baseball card propped up against one of the frames.
The photo also caught the attention of the “Room Rater,” a Twitter account started after the pandemic began last year. The site rates (from 1 to 10) backdrops behind newsmakers and celebrities as they Zoom from homes and offices. For the above: “Room Rater Oval Office Update. Our investigative unit has learned that POTUS has a Satchel Paige baseball card behind the Resolute Desk. 10/10.”
Topps issued its first set of baseball cards in 1952. Although Satch had played for the St. Louis Browns in 1951 and 1952, he was not included in the inaugural set. Topps did issue a card for Paige in 1953, but misspelled his nickname as “Satchell.” His given name was “Leroy,” but the only person in baseball who called him that was Bill Veeck, the owner of both of Satch’s major league teams (Cleveland Indians in 1948 and 1949; St. Louis Browns from 1951 to 1953).
Now for the rest of the story. One of Joe Biden’s favorite quotes comes from Satchel Paige:
Satchel’s age was always a matter of speculation, partially because he found little reason to be consistent on the subject. When he signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1948, his entry in their yearbook said he was born “on either July 17, Sept. 11, Sept. 18 or Sept. 22, somewhere between 1900 and 1908.” A Newsweek article said that Satchel “saved the day at Waterloo, when the dangerous pull-hitter, Bonaparte, came to bat with the bases full.”
I’m not sure when (or if) Satch said “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”. But the quote has been attributed to him for decades and certainly sounds like something he would say.
One story, often told by Joe Biden, is that Satch made the statement in a locker room conversation in 1953. He was responding to a reporter who asked how it felt to still be playing in the big leagues at his age (then probably 47). It’s easy see why Biden likes the story. If Satch could pitch in the majors at 47, why not be elected president at 78?
Just as Satch gave different dates for his age, Biden has done the same on how old he would be using Satchel’s test.
2014: Biden, then the 71-year-old Vice President, dropped in via live video to NBC’s Today show to wish Al Roker a happy 60th birthday. He told Roker, “Let me tell you something, age is not a number, it’s an attitude pal…Satchel Paige…on his 47th birthday, Al, when sportswriters went into the locker room and said ‘Satch, what’s it like pitching in the bigs at 47?’ He said ‘Fellas, let me tell you how I look at it. I think of it this way, how old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?’”
Biden then told Roker “I’m 42, you’re 37. So let’s get that straight at the outset here.”
2014: On November 20, Biden’s 72nd birthday, he was in Morocco speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Conference. An audience member called out a happy birthday to him. He responded with his Satchel Paige story and then told the audience “I am 42.”
2015: At a fund raiser tied to the 60th birthday of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, Biden noted that Paige played for the St. Louis Browns at age 47. Using Satchel’s quote, Biden (then 72) quipped: “Well…Mr. Mayor, I think you’re about 40, I’m 42.”
2017: Biden was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. He repeated his Satchel story, adding that Paige had pitched and won the game on his birthday. Biden then said to Terry Gross, “I’m 42.” Same age he claimed in 2014 and 2015.
2020: In an interview with the New York Times, just before he became the Democratic nominee, Biden said he’d “adopted Satchel Paige’s attitude toward age.” Under that test, he concluded that he was 50 rather than 77.
2020: In June, at a fundraiser hosted by Barack Obama, the two joked about Biden’s age. As reported in Vogue, Biden invoked the mantra of Satchel Paige. “I agree with Satchel…I’m 50.”
2021: When Tom Brady played in Super Bowl LV at the age of 43, Biden revisited his Satchel Paige story and concluded that Brady was 22 (not 43) and Biden was 45 (not 78). Click here for the audio.
Fact check: Most researchers agree that that Satch was born on July 7, 1906, as recorded in the registrar’s office in Mobile, Alabama (misspelled as “Leroy Page”). But Satch paid no mind to that. As Bill Veeck wrote in Veeck – As in Wreck, “Satch’s age has always been the subject of lively debate, a debate he did not go out of his way to discourage. It could even be said that he dished out his age the way he dished out his pitches, mixing his figures up nicely and always keeping his interviewers off balance.”
So what about Joe Biden’s story that Satch gave his quote after winning a game on his 47th birthday. I checked the box score for July 7, 1953. No Satch. But wait. Remember that the Cleveland yearbook in 1948 listed four potential days and a span of years for his birthdate. I checked the other days in 1953, and sure enough, Satch started and won a game on one of his alternative birthdays. See the box score here for September 22.
So I dug a little deeper and found a SABR article on that game. It confirmed that the Browns considered September 22 to be Satch’s birthday and they were giving the old pitcher a birthday start. The game has some other interesting trivia.
Satch pitched into the 8th inning and was relieved by a 24-year-old rookie who finished out the 7-3 victory. I’m betting the sportswriters talked to Satch after the game and asked him how it felt to win a game on his birthday at such an advanced age. And he no doubt said something like “How old would you be if you did not know how old you are?”.
The rookie who relieved Satch was Don Larsen. Three years later, Larsen was playing for the Yankees and threw the only perfect game in World Series history.
It was the last win in the 52-year history of the St. Louis Browns. Bill Veeck sold the team to a group that moved the team to Baltimore and changed the name to the Orioles.
It was Satch’s last win in the majors. This was effectively the end of his MLB play. He continued pitching a few more years by barnstorming and playing for Bill Veeck’s minor league Miami Marlins. He had a three-inning cameo with Charlie Finley’s KC A’s in 1965 (at age 59).
Writing in the Wall Street Journal on June 30, 2020, political reporter Gerald Seib opened a column with this:
“For Joe Biden, the immortal words of baseball pitcher and all-purpose sage Satchel Paige apply right now: ‘Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.’”
Seib was offering this in the context that Biden was leading in the polls, but that Trump might start reducing the gap.
Many baseball fans will recognize the quote as one of Satchel’s rules for staying young. Avoid fried meats. Go light on the vices. Avoid running. And others.
But his most famous rule for staying young is about not looking back. In Paige’s 1962 autobiography (Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever), Satchel explained what this meant to him:
“When you look back, you know how long you’ve been going and that just might stop you from going any farther. And with me, there was an awful lot to look back on. So I didn’t. That let me keep on going, and keeping going more than anything else made Ol’ Satch the reputation he had.”
Now please read that again, but picture Joe Biden who became a U.S. Senator 48 years ago.
One last Satch quote for today. “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
It’s easy to see why President Biden likes taking advice from Satchel Paige.
Deuces are Wild: The first sportscaster I remember is Larry Ray who became the radio voice of the Kansas City Blues in 1949. By the time I was 10 in 1951, I was baseball crazy and listening to lots of games.
To this day, I remember one of Ray’s favorite calls: “Deuces on the Scoreboard.” He would invariably say this when the scoreboard showed two strikes, two balls and two outs. Whenever I see this situation at the park or on the TV screen, my mind says “Deuces on the scoreboard.” Sometimes I say it out loud. Ask Rita.
In 1950, Vin Scully began his storied broadcasting career with the Dodgers (then in Brooklyn). He also had a deuces call, but with an added stat: “And the deuces are wild, two balls, two strikes, two on and two out.”
With the many numbers flashed on stadium and TV scoreboards today, the Larry Ray/Vin Scully deuces can readily expand. While Rita and I were watching one of the recent Dodgers/Padres games, the full Vin Scully came on the screen plus some bonus deuces. Two balls, two strikes, two on, two outs, two–two score and three deuces in the batter’s line (1 for 2 and .220 average). Nine deuces on the scoreboard. So I of course took a screen shot for Hot Stove readers.
In another Padres/Dodgers game, a different set of deuces came into play for the Padre’s superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
On April 23, 1999, his father, Fernando Tatis Sr. hit two home runs. Both were grand slams, in the same inning, a feat unmatched in baseball history. At the time, Fernando Tatis Jr. was three months old.
Exactly 22 years later, on April 23, 2021, Fernando Tatis Jr. – he’s 22 years old – hit two home runs (not grand slams).
Senior was playing for the Cardinals and Junior for the Padres. Both games were against the Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium. See all four homers in the second video at this link (1:11).
Two more deuces. The Dodger pitcher who gave up the two homers to Junior:
40 Years Ago – George and Mike: During the 1981 season, Sports Illustrated ran a cover with George Brett and Mike Schmidt. When I recently saw this online, I thought I might still have my copy. Went through my stack of old magazines and found it, mailing label still in place:
Brett and Schmidt were the reigning MVPs from the 1980 season, and they had faced each other in the World Series. In the 1980 regular season, Brett chased .400, finishing at .390 and leading the Royals to their first trip to the World Series (just 11 years after their creation). Schmidt led the NL in homers (48) and RBIs (121). They may be the two best third basemen in the history of the game.
The middle three games of the 1980 Series were in KC, and my ticket stubs (not memory) indicate I went to all three. The Royals fell behind 3 games to 2 and headed to Philadelphia for Game 6. I saw that game on TV and have a clear memory of one play in the game – Pete Rose alertly catching Frank White’s popup after it bounced out of catcher Bob Boone’s glove (click here). The Phillies went on to win the game and take the Series, 4 games to 2. It was the first World Series Championship for Philadelphia.
Another fan in the stands in KC for that World Series, Satchel Paige.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – 1980 World Series Edition: I’m going to play some hit songs from the Royals’ 1980 pennant-winning season. In each case, I’m using a live concert version rather than the original record. With the lack of concerts this past year, it’s sure fun to see how it used to be. And will soon be again.
“Heartache Tonight” by the Eagles. Not a heartache for the fans in this 2005 video. No masks. No social distancing.
“One Fine Day” by Carole King. Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote this song for the Chiffons who took it to #5 in 1963. Carole covered her own song in 1980 and charted at #12 (her last Top-40 hit).
“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel. At Nassau Coliseum in Long Island.
“Fame” by Irene Cara. Not a concert, but on the crowded streets of New York. Irene Cara played Coco in the movie Fame. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen. Live at Wembley Stadium in 1986.
One more time. Go Royals!