Last night, the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros to win the 2021 World Series. Former Royal Jorge Soler was the MVP!
The Braves franchise has now won four World Series – Boston (1914), Milwaukee (1957) and Atlanta (1995 and 2021).
I’ll recap this year’s games below. In addition, as a Royals fanatic, I will weave in some nostalgia from their World Series victories in 1985 and 2015.
Starting with this. Six years ago today, November 3, 2015…
Game 1: Atlanta over Houston, 6-2. The first two games were at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Atlanta’s Jorge Soler, in his first start since his Covid quarantine, led off the game with a homer. It set the tone for the game with Atlanta taking a 5-0 lead after three innings and coasting to a 6-2 victory. Two running plays paralleled the fate of the teams: (i) a cool slide by Dansby Swanson to score for Atlanta (video here) and (ii) a slide made too early by Houston’s Yuli Gurriel who was thrown out by Eddie Rosario (video here).
[Royals Trivia #1: Jorge Soler was the first player in MLB history to homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series (the top of the first). Four leadoff hitters have done this for the home team (the bottom of the first). Royals fans are familiar with one of those – Alcides Escobar’s inside-the-park homer in 2015 (video here).]
[Royals Trivia #2: When Jorge Soler moved to Atlanta this year, he held the Royals season record for homers (48 in 2019). He now shares that record with Salvy Perez (48 in 2021).]
[Royals Trivia #3: On this date (October 26) in 1985, umpire Don Denkinger missed a call at first base that allowed the Royals to come back against the Cardinals and win Game 6 of the World Series.]
Game 1 was a costly victory for Atlanta. In the 3rd inning, starting pitcher Charlie Morton was hit in the leg by a 102.4 mph line drive off the bat of Yuli Gurriel. Not realizing his fibula was broken, Morton continued pitching.
[Fibula Trivia: Pitching with a broken fibula has a precedent. Roger Angell wrote about this in his famous essay on Bob Gibson:
“In July of 1967, while pitching against the Pirates in St. Louis, he was struck just above his right ankle by a line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente. He went down in a heap, but after the Cardinals trainer had treated the injury with a pain-deadening spray, Gibson insisted on staying in the game. He walked Willie Stargell, retired Bill Mazeroski on a pop-up, and then, firing a three-two pitch to Donn Clendenon, came down on the right leg with his characteristic spinning follow-through and snapped the already cracked bone. Del Maxvill, then a Cardinals shortstop…said to me recently, .That was the most extraordinary thing I ever saw in baseball – Gibby pitching to those batters with a broken leg.’”
I’m thinking the same scenario may have happened to Charlie Morton. The bone may have initially been cracked and then been broken on a later pitch.]
Game 2: Houston over Atlanta, 7-2. Game 2 was like Game 1, but with the teams reversed. Houston was up 5-1 after two innings and coasted to a 7-2 victory. Houston did not take as long to win (3:11), a welcome improvement over Game 1 (4:06).
Jose Altuve hit his 22nd career postseason homer which tied him with Bernie Williams for the second-most postseason homers (Manny Ramirez has 29). Update – Altuve hit #23 in Game 4.
[Postseason Record Trivia: Some may wonder how Jose Altuve has more home runs in the postseason than Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and other well-known sluggers. Because the Babe did not have but one round in the postseason – the World Series. There are now multiple rounds creating many additional games. So please be attentive to “World Series” and “Postseason” records. For example, the most World Series homers: Mantle (18), Ruth (15), lots of others down to 5, then Altuve and many others with 4.]
[Royals Trivia: On this date (October 27): (i) In 1985, the Royals won the World Series. Click here for the last out celebration. (ii) In the 2015 World Series, the Mets were two outs away from beating the Royals in Game 1. Alex Gordon tied the game with a homer (video here), sending the game into extra innings. The classic pose (below) is the raising of the arm as Alex rounds first, and surely that will be the model for the future Gordon statue at Kauffman. The Royals won in the 14th inning when Alcides Escobar scored on a sacrifice fly, becoming the first player in World Series history to score on the first and last pitch of the game (his inside-the-park homer on the first pitch started the game).]
Travel Day (Thursday): The Series moved to Truist Park in Atlanta for Games 3, 4 and 5. FYI, Truist is a bank holding company.
With the break between games, the sports news gap was filled by responses to Commissioner Rob Manfred’s statement about the Tomahawk Chop: “It’s important to understand that we have 30 markets around the country…The Native American community in that region is wholly supportive of the Braves’ program, including the chop. For me, that’s kind of the end of the story…We don’t market ourselves on a national basis.”
Manfred is correct about a Native American community expressing approval of the Braves’ program. It is the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) located in western North Carolina, about three hours from Atlanta. EBCI owns two North Carolina casinos that have had a presence at Truist Park – branding for a group hospitality suite (Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos Back Porch) and signage over the Braves bullpen (below).
As for Manfred’s statement that MLB doesn’t market on a nationwide basis, he said this at the World Series where the national pastime is played. Lack of a national marketing presence would be a surprise to advertisers like the internet gambling sites and FTX (the international cryptocurrency exchange with its name on the umpire shirts in all 30 markets). It might also be a surprise to MLB’s marketing section which put out a call to fans around the world to send digital “post cards” saying why they loved baseball. About three days after Manfred’s statement, MLB tweeted a video of a turning globe showing “love” responses from 55 countries in 31 languages (click here).
Manfred got major pushback from Native American organizations and sportswriters, and so his “end of the story” comment is wishful thinking. The controversy will continue.
Apart from that, I was curious how the name was originally selected. I found that it came from…..Tammany Hall. In 1912, the Boston franchise of the National League was purchased by James Gaffney, a New York alderman and construction contractor who intertwined those positions as part of Tammany Hall’s political machine. Tammany Hall had long ago lost its original purpose as a branch of a wider network of Tammany Societies formed in the wake of the Revolution.
The Tammany Societies adopted Native American words and customs, and some of these were retained by Tammany Hall as it evolved into a Democratic Party political machine. The Tammany name was an anglicized version of “Tamanend,” a Native American “Chief of Chiefs” who helped bring peace to the young nation in the late 1700s. He was popularly known as a lover of peace and friendship. Meetings of the Tammany Societies (and Tammany Hall) were in the “wigwam” and the leaders were “sachems.” Other members were “braves.” Gaffney’s Tammany Hall in New York had a Native American statue in the arch at the top of its building on 14th Street (below).
Gaffney decided to rebrand the team, and he and his associates thought it would be fun to call the team the “Braves,” waving the symbol of the Democrats before the rock-ribbed Republicans of the aristocratic Bostonians.
So the Atlanta Braves are named for Tammany Hall politicians, not Native Americans. But the new logo for the team honored Tammany’s namesake:
Gaffney’s team won the World Series in 1914. He built a new stadium that opened in 1915, three years after the Red Sox opened Fenway. Gaffney sold the team in 1916, but the name and Native American imagery survived. The Tammany connection faded.
The team name moved with the franchise to Milwaukee (1953) and then Atlanta (1966). The Tomahawk Chop arrived in 1991.
Some say the chop symbolizes the beating of a tom-tom, a benign reflection of Native Americans (say like Chief Tamanend, the lover of peace and friendship). To others, it represents tomahawk scalping. The Atlanta Braves cleared up any ambiguity by adopting the tomahawk as a logo. This is consistent with the origin of the chop at Florida State where one of the band’s war chant pieces is titled “Massacre” (listen here) and a student group promoting the chop is called the “Scalphunters.”
Game 3: Atlanta over Houston, 2-0. The pregame ceremonies included a glowing tribute to Hank Aaron who died last January (video here; 4:26).
[Chop Trivia: Joe Posnanski and others have suggested that the Braves change their name to the “Hammers,” in honor of Hammerin’ Hank Aaron. It would (i) end the Native American controversy, (ii) honor the biggest hero of Atlanta baseball, and (iii) provide an easy switch from a tomahawk to a hammer that fans can wave in unison. Win, win, win.]
Game 3 was a pitching “duel” among five pitchers for Atlanta and six pitchers for Houston. Atlanta won 2-0.
The big news of the night was that Atlanta starter Ian Anderson pitched five no-hit innings and was then removed from the game. His relievers kept the no-hitter going until a single in the 8th. Houston got another single in the 9th, so the cumulative result was a 2-hit shutout by Atlanta’s pitchers.
There was some flack (e.g. above), but Anderson had already thrown 76 pitches. At that rate, he would have 137 pitches in nine innings. No way. Manager Brian Snitker saw no reason to let Anderson pitch a third time through the Astros lineup.
[Royals Trivia: Royals fans can appreciate a 2-hit shutout. Six years ago, in Game 2 of the 2015 World Series, Johnny Cueto threw a 2-hit complete game to put the Royals up two games to none. Baseball has changed – a complete game is now a rarity.]
The defensive gem of the night was a diving catch by Houston center fielder Kyle Tucker (video here).
Game 4: Atlanta over Houston, 3-2. The Houston starter was Zach Greinke, an 18-season veteran headed to the Hall of Fame. Atlanta did not have an available regular starter, so went to a bullpen game. The first in line was Dylan Lee whose total service in MLB, counting the regular season and the playoffs, added up to 4.2 innings. He only lasted a third of an inning in this game, leaving with one out and the bases loaded. One of those runners scored, but the other two were left stranded, a bad omen for Houston. They left 11 men on base in the game.
Jose Altuve hit a homer in the fourth to stake Houston to a 2-0 lead while Greinke pitched four shutout innings before turning the mound over to a parade of relievers. The game appeared to be a mirror of Game 3 that Atlanta had won 2-0. But the Braves picked up a run in the 6th and then got back-to-back solo homers in the 7th from Dansby Swanson and pinch-hitter Jorge Soler. Atlanta won 3-2.
Two fly balls to left field paralleled the fate of the teams: (i) Soler’s rocket that looked like it might be caught (video here), and (ii) Altuve’s blast that looked like a homer off the bat (and would have been in 26 MLB parks), but ended up in Eddie Rosario’s extended glove just after he took his eye off the ball to see how close he was to the fence (video here; photo below).
Atlanta was just one win away from taking the World Series.
[Royals Trivia #1: With Atlanta leading the Series three games to one, Royals fans will recall the 1985 World Series when the Cardinals held that lead over the Royals. Good memories of Games 5, 6 and 7.]
[Royals Trivia #2: On this date (October 30) of 2015, the Mets experienced false hope by trouncing the Royals 9-3 in Game 3.]
[Babe Ruth Trivia: It seems like there is always some Babe Ruth trivia. In Game 4 of the 1918 World Series, the Babe was the Red Sox pitcher and batted 6th in the lineup. In World Series history, he had been the only pitcher who had not batted 9th. Until Zach Greinke batted 8th in Game 4 of 2021.]
Game 5: Houston over Atlanta, 9-5. After Atlanta’s Adam Duvall hit a grand slam in the first, it looked the Braves would wrap up the Series at home. But over the next eight innings, the Astros hitters awoke from their 2-game slumber and outscored Atlanta 9-1. Not really a surprise since the projected Atlanta starter Charlie Morton was out with his broken leg, forcing the Braves to again rely on an overused bullpen. The unexpected batting star was Houston catcher Martin Maldonado who in the previous game had been relegated to the 9th place in the lineup, batting after pitcher Zack Greinke. Maldonado, back to batting 8th, got three RBIs on a sac fly, a walk with the bases loaded (a no-no, see below) and a single. Final tally, a 9-5 win for Houston.
So the teams headed back to Houston for Game 6 (and maybe Game 7). The celebratory refreshments outside the Braves clubhouse went unused.
[Royals Trivia: On this date (Halloween) in 2015, Daniel Murphy’s error opened the door for a Royals victory in Game 4. Mets in deep trouble.]
Travel Day (Monday): The three games in Atlanta were over, and the drone of the Tomahawk Chop was put on pause. But a coincidence in scheduling gave the chop its fourth straight night of national coverage. The Chiefs were on Monday Night Football, and this meant seeing the Arrowhead Chop at GEHA Field. The Chiefs have attempted to nudge the chop from a scalping motion to beating a tom-tom by having the cheerleaders use a fist rather than an open hand. We’ll see how that works out with the fans. As for the game, the Chiefs struggled, but won.
[Royals Trivia: On this date (November 1) in 2015, the Royals won Game 5 to win their second World Series (celebration here). Key memories: Eric Hosmer’s mad dash in the 9th to tie the game. Christian Colon knocking in the go-ahead run in the 12th. Lorenzo Cain’s bases-loaded double to secure the 7-2 victory.]
Game 6: Atlanta over Houston, 7-0. The teams were back to hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park in Houston. But it was only friendly to the visiting Braves in Game 6. With no score in the top of the third, Jorge Soler hit the shot heard ‘round the world, a three-run blast (video here). It went over the Crawford Boxes and then across the train tracks outside the stadium. Twitter went wild with suggestions of where it landed. Halfway to Austin. Oklahoma. Los Angeles. Kauffman Stadium. In another “Soler” system. But my favorite…
It actually went 446 feet, but felt longer. As he had with his leadoff homer in Game 1, Soler set the tone for the game. With homers added by Dansby Swanson and Freddie Freeman in later innings, the score grew to 7-0.
Starting pitcher Max Fried pitched six shutout innings (mazel tov), and relievers Tyler Matzek and Will Smith added three more. In their four Series wins, Atlanta’s pitchers held the Astros0 celebrated lineup to a total of four runs (6-2, 2-0, 3-2 and 7-0).
Congratulations to MVP Jorge Soler (below, with his Willie Mays trophy). Soler’s three home runs in the Series put Atlanta ahead for good in Games 1, 4 and 6. This was an amazing postseason comeback for Soler who missed parts of the NLDS and NLCS after testing positive for Covid. For a good review of Soler’s rise from his early season woes with the Royals to Series MVP, see last night’s post from Jim Fitzpatrick (JimmyC here).
And congratulations to the 2021 World Champion Atlanta Braves.
Sports Broadcasting and Gambling: The spread of sports betting is the reality. Missouri does not yet have sports betting, but last week, an attorney for the Royals, Cardinals and other sports teams submitted ballot proposals for legalization. How will the pro leagues handle their broadcasting in this new world? MLB gave us some hints in the World Series pregame shows hosted by (from left), sportscaster Kevin Burkhardt and former players Alex Rodriquez, David Ortiz and Frank Thomas.
First, there is the impression that oodles of winnings are available. Above, the hosts display a briefcase of cash, and Alex Rodriguez waves some bills to entice viewers to enter The FOX Bet Super 6. The Super 6 is not a betting game, but instead a sweepstakes game with free entry. It’s the gateway drug. Once you get to the site, you are enticed to head to FOX Bet Sportsbook for gambling action.
Before going further, I want to pause to talk about two of the hosts. A-Rod and David Ortiz will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year. A-Rod has the dubious honor of the longest steroid suspension in baseball (a full season). It will be interesting to see how the voters treat him – Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have failed to make it the last nine years, and this will be their last year on the ballot. Ortiz has a hint of steroids in his past, but is considered to have a better shot. In the meantime, the two Hall of Fame candidates are throwing your easy money into the air.
The coverage then moved to the play-by-play and color broadcasters. Lots of bets to consider.
Most fans are familiar with gambling odds based on the outcome of the games: The odds of winning or losing. The spread. The over/under.
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. There is also proposition betting, usually shortened to prop betting. These are bets stated as a proposition. For example, (i) Will Steph Curry hit ten 3-pointers?; (ii) Will Patrick Mahomes throw more than two touchdown passes? Interceptions?; and (iii) Will Jose Altuve hit a home run?
Prop bets have been around for a long time, but the new ubiquity of sports betting, especially online, has nurtured an explosion of prop betting. And your announcers are here to tell you all about it. I took the screenshot below while Jack Buck was touting that a $10 bet on Kyle Schwarber hitting a homer would net you $38 if he did so (he did not). This was done while Schwarber was at the plate. Jack Buck announces for Fox and the ad on the screen was for Fox Bet Sportsbook.
Over at TBS, same deal. Announcers Brian Anderson and Ron Darling discussed how the bet was going on Walker Buehler’s over/under of 4.5 strikeouts. The advertising partner was DraftKings. For the record, Buehler got knocked out early and got only three strikeouts. You lost if you took the over.
In the 7th inning of Game 3 of the World Series, as the potential no-hitter was progressing, Joe Buck noted that the pre-game over/under bet of 8 runs had dropped to 2.5. So it was not too late to get another bet down at the new odds at Fox Bet Sportsbook. To drive that message home, the revised odds were shown on the screen. With the final score of 2-0, you won that bet if you took the under.
This is the new normal, and not just in baseball. I’ll bet the gambling numbers for the Superbowl, both traditional and prop bets, are astronomical.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Eagles in Kansas City (1976): Forty-five years ago this month, the Eagles were at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. Rita and I were there with my son Brian (then 14) and daughter Stacey (then 12) who were attending their first big concert. With help from a friend, KC rock impresario Stan Plesser, we scored tickets at center stage, 6th row. I don’t know if we realized it at the time, but this was a golden (actually multiple platinum) year for the Eagles.
The year got underway on February 17 when the Eagles released Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Then from March to October of 1976, with new bandmate Joe Walsh, they recorded the tracks for their next album, Hotel California. It was released on December 8. According to most sources, these are two of the top-ten selling albums of all-time (each over 40 million).
After finishing the recording of Hotel California, the Eagles went on tour to promote the album, and our Kemper outing was one of the stops. Via the internet, I found the date (November 24) and a copy of the setlist (click here). This was a couple of weeks before Hotel California was released, and so we were among the first to hear the songs on the album. Two singles from the album went to #1, “New Kid In Town” and the title track, “Hotel California.”
For this edition of Lonnie’s Jukebox, I’ve asked Brian and Stacey to pick two songs from the concert. Click on the song title to listen:
A couple of years later, we saw a live show that featured a third album from the all-time top-ten. Meat Loaf was touring after his megahit album from 1977, Bat Out of Hell. He performed at the Uptown Theater on August 17, 1978. Brian and Stacey sat in the under-21 section in the balcony while Rita and I were at a table on the main floor.
Check out the full list of best-selling albums here.
I’ll close with what I plan to do this month rather than research and write Hot Stove.
“Take It Easy” by the Eagles (their first hit single).