Last weekend, Rita and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a staycation at the Crossroads Hotel. It got off to a nice start on Friday evening when we met Richard Martin for drinks in the hotel bar. The Royals were on TV and we saw them score nine runs in the first inning. After winning that game, the Royals were three games over .500 and two games away from a Wild Card slot.
Then came Saturday. It was great for us – a trip down to the very-crowded River Market, poking around the neighborhood in the Crossroads and dinner that night at Lidia’s. We were joined for dinner by Molly Ellison, wife of Rich Ellison (RIP) who was best man at our wedding, and Rita’s maid of honor, Anne Devaney, and her husband Talis Bergmanis.
There was a festive group seated next to us, and they admired Rita’s hat and colorful jacket. They heard that it was our anniversary, and so when the waitress brought our two bottles of wine, they paid for them. The guy paying the bill was from Minneapolis and said he owned the biggest dinner theater there. Nice folks. And it’s good that people like Rita’s hats.
The rest of the weekend was not so good for the Royals. They started a five-game losing streak, and as of this morning, the Royals are a game under .500 and 4.5 games away from a Wild Card. Still 101 games to go.
Maskless at the K: Before our weekend adventure, we took in a game at Kauffman Stadium in its first week of normalcy after Covid protocols – full seating allowed and no masks required for vaccinated fans. A Field of Dreams!
The game we attended was the Tuesday game against the Pirates when Salvy Perez hit two home runs, a feat he repeated in his next game. Below is a photo of Salvy connecting for his first of these homers. It you look just above his helmet, you will see Rita and Lonnie in the first row (thanks to David Block for the tickets and my son Brian for this screenshot from his TV). We attended with Cheryl and Joe Downs who are in the row behind us.
After that first homer, Salvy noticed a boy in the Crown Seats cheering him on. When Salvy came up again, he gave the young fan a fist bump and a bat. Salvy then went to the plate and hit his second home run of the game. Good Karma.
With our seats often being in camera range, several friends saw us and sent texts and emails during the game. One was from Kristi Wyatt who attached a photo of us on her TV screen. There was a sense of déjà vu on this – but with the roles reversed.
In 2018, I was watching the Royals on TV when they showed former mayor Dick Berkley sitting in the Buck O’Neill legacy seat. Also in his row was Kristi who was Berkley’s chief assistant during his three terms in office. With the magic of DVR, I backed up the video, took a photo and emailed it to Kristi at the game. The four fans were glad to see how they looked on TV. Left to right: Dick, his wife Sandy, Kristi, her husband Jerry.
In current news about Dick Berkley, he will turn 90 later this month (June 29). Happy Birthday Mr. Mayor!
Photo by Jason Hanna
Infield Frolics: LateMay of 1974, 1981 and 2021 produced some memorable moments in baseball, and in each case, the ball did not leave the infield.
May 29, 1974: Lenny Randle of the Texas Rangers was at the plate against Cleveland pitcher Milt Wilcox. Randle took offense when Wilcox almost hit him with a pitch. Later in the at bat, Lenny laid down a bunt designed to lure Wilcox near the first base line so Lenny could crash into him. It was not a perfect match, so Lenny had to detour from the baseline to deliver his blow. You have to see the video to feel the impact of the act (click here). It was a perfect example of “Billy Ball” as inspired by the Rangers’ pugnacious manager, Billy Martin.
May 27, 1981: Another Lenny Randle story. The Royals were in Seattle, and Lenny was playing third base for the Mariners. Amos Otis hit a slow roller that inched down the third base line. Lenny knew he would not catch the speedy Otis, so he decided to help the ball go foul by blowing on it. He succeeded in his task, but the umpire ruled that it was improper interference and awarded Otis first base. Video here.
May 28, 2021: There is a good chance that the most viewed clip for the 2021 season will be a botched fielding play. Many of you have probably seen the video, but I’m going to link a version that adds some fun music.
Here’s the setup. The Pirates are in the field and Javy Baez of the Cubs is at the plate. Two out. Willson Contreras of the Cubs is on second base. Baez hits a slow roller to the third baseman who makes a throw that pulls first baseman Will Craig off the bag. Baez has still not reached first, so Craig just needs to step on first base to end the inning. Instead, he elects to try and tag Baez who retreats toward home. While this is going on, Contreras rounds third and heads for home. Craig throws the ball to the catcher whose tag is too late to get Contreras. But Baez still needs to get to first – the run does not count if Baez is out at first. The catcher throws the ball to first, but no one is covering, and Baez ends up at second.
My favorite part is that Baez, while still in the midst of the rundown, took the time to call the runner safe at home.
Timely Box Scores: A common complaint I hear is that the KC Star does not have the previous day’s game recap and box score. This is true if a subscriber only looks at the print edition. But there is a world of sports info on the digital edition via the KC Star app on your phone or iPad. The app looks like this…
Once you are in the app, tap the “BETA” icon at the top to get to the online version of the print edition. You will see sections listed at the top (News, opinion, etc.) taking you through what is in the print edition, followed by many “extras.” At the end of the extras are “Xtra Sports” and “Xtra Stats.” That is where you will find game recaps and box scores for the previous day. Extra tip: Tap on any article to read it in bigger print.
Another good source for box scores is the Score app. It covers almost every sport and provides play-by-play as each game is being played. It has box scores that update during the games, stats on all the players, standings (and wild card status), etc. Click here to sign up. It is FREE!
Back to the Movies: If you have been waiting for the right movie to get you back into the theaters, it has arrived. In the Heights, the musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda before he did Hamilton, opens wide today. Rita and I had the good fortune to see a preview showing on the big screen, and my is it good. It’s also on HBO Max for a month, but we highly recommend the full experience. We are in tune with Joe Morgenstern’s review in the Wall Street Journal:
“How much pleasure can you take? How much joy can you stand? One way to find out is by watching In the Heights, a screen version of the 2008 Broadway musical…Only the big screen can convey the full scope of the event – the hurtling words and soaring melodies of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s supersmart, hip-hoppy score; the percussions and seductions of the Caribbean rhythms, a neighborhood that keeps bursting into dance, city streets chockablock with ardent locals making an irresistible case for urban life…Films that take us to the heights of delight are all too rare these days. Watching this one is like winning the lottery’s jackpot.”
Click here for the trailer.
Walking From the Plaza: It’s been a while since I posted photos from our walking routes. These are from last week.
Loose Park: Ducks, koi, turtle and heron.
Kauffman Memorial Garden: New colorful entrance for 2021.
Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Bob Dylan’s Baseball Playlist: I’m not that well versed on Bob Dylan. But I appreciate his extensive songwriting catalog and certainly like many of the songs, both as sung by him and the covers by other artists. And there are plenty of devoted fans to help fill me in, including these Hot Stove subscribers:
The biggest Dylan fan I know is my friend and former law partner Bob Wehrman. Bob’s favorite artist of all time is Bob Dylan, and I find that to be a perfect music match for the soulful guy we call Wehrm.
Sportswriter Vahe Gregorian sent out a series of daily tweets last year during the initial seven-week lockdown for Covid. These “Gregorian Chants” became part of Lonnie’s Jukebox in a series of Hot Stove posts. Vahe’s playlist included four Dylan songs, one sung by Dylan and three covers (click here for the full playlist).
Author Steve Paul is a serious student of the Dylan world. Last month, he sent out a series of tweets while he was (virtually) attending a three-day symposium tied to Dylan’s 80th birthday. The event was hosted by Tulsa University which is the repository of the Dylan archives. Steve can’t get away from Dylan. A week after the symposium, he was in Louisville and toured the Louisville Slugger Museum. He sent me this photo of one of the celebrity bats on display:
There is a Bob Dylan song that tells a baseball story that had its beginning in Kansas City. Catfish Hunter pitched the first three seasons of his Hall of Fame career for the Kansas City A’s (1965-1967). Charlie Finley then moved the A’s to Oakland, and Catfish was there from 1968 to 1974. But in 1975, Hunter was declared a free agent when Finley refused to provide an annuity as required in Hunter’s contract. In the bidding war for Hunter’s services, the Yankees won, making Catfish the first big-money free agent.
This prompted Dylan to write “Catfish,” and here are some of the lyrics:
Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can
Used to work on Mr. Finley’s farm
But the old man wouldn’t pay
So he packed his glove and took his arm
An’ one day he just ran away
Click here to listen to “Catfish” (recorded by Dylan in 1975, but not released until 1991).
Below, Bob Dylan in a convenience store reading Baseball Weekly.
From 2006 to 2009, Dylan hosted a one-hour satellite radio show called Theme Time Radio Hour. Each episode centered on a theme (weather, money, drinking, etc.), and Dylan picked songs from all genres to tell his stories of “Themes, Dreams and Schemes.” He provided commentary on the music and added jokes, poetry, vintage radio clips and whatever else came to his mind.
One of his episodes had a baseball theme, and the show was introduced with this line: “Tonight we’re going to head out to the field of dreams, schemes and themes.”
The full episode is available online here (about one hour). It’s a good time.
There are some true baseball songs. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” “Heart” from Damn Yankees. Songs about Joe DiMaggio, Ozzie Smith, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson and Don Newcombe. But Dylan also takes some side streets connecting baseball to music.
For example, there is a jazz instrumental by sax player Sonny Rollins. As the story goes, Miles Davis and Rollins were in a cab in New York, and the cab driver thought Rollins was Don Newcombe, the famous pitcher for the Dodgers. They played along with the cab driver, talking about the kind of pitches Newk was going to throw to Stan Musial that night. So Davis, Charlie Parker and others in the jazz world coined the nickname Newk for Rollins. Rollins played on this in a record with a title that linked Newcombe and a baseball pitch.
“Newk’s Fadeaway” by Sonny Rollins (1951).
And the title of his 1957 album is Newk’s Time.
Dylan also featured songs using baseball metaphors, generally as applied to romance.
“Baseball Boogie” by Mabel Scott (1950). Lots of baseball terms in this blues song, but the story is that she’s looking for a pinch hitter to be an improvement over a former lover.
“Three Strikes and You’re Out” by Cowboy Copas (1947). A country song that says love is like a ball game. If you cheat (strike one), walk out (strike two) and get your freedom (strike three), the umpire calls you out.
“The Ball Game” by Sister Wynona Carr (1952). This is a gospel song with a different angle. Solomon is the umpire and Satan is the pitcher trying to strike you out. Jesus is at home plate, and you are trying to get through temptation (first base), sin (second base) and tribulation (third base) so that Jesus can take you in at home. Moses is on the sidelines. Job hits a homer. Daniel and John are there too.
Dylan’s signoff for the episode: “I’m gonna head on back to the dugout, see if I can find myself a relief pitcher.”
Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – Anniversary Edition: Lonnie to Rita at 40 years…
“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder (1972). Perfect title for the occasion.
“Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce (1973). What wonderful lyrics.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you