Hot Stove #189 – Baseball and Rita Are Back

After the lockout scare…


Thank goodness.

The Royals had the best record in baseball for a moment (2-0). And then not (now 3-5). More on that after an update on Hot Stove’s managing editor.

Hip Hip Hooray!: Rita received her new left hip on Wednesday, March 30, and came home the next day. The following Monday, she renewed her regular five-days-a-week Zoom yoga classes. No, she is not yet doing down-dogs, but is participating in upper body, stretching and breathing exercises. Being reunited with her yoga community puts a big smile on her face. She has also ventured out for some lunches.

Rita is still using her walker, but is gradually graduating to a cane. In a couple of weeks, she should be driving. Since the operation, she has had only occasional pain that is eased by Tylenol – no opioids needed. She follows all of the doctor’s orders. Has a great attitude. A true trophy patient.

As for Rita’s caretaker and amateur “chef” (me), we have plodded along with our three meals a day with lots of help from restaurant take-out and some very nice friends. It is always surprising (to me) how many details are involved in organizing meals. Every morning is like Groundhog Day (the 1993 movie). The alarm goes off. Get dressed. Head to the kitchen to serve up the mixed fruit, milk, cereal, yogurt, toast and sausage. And grind the coffee beans. All with loving micromanaging from Rita.

 groundhog day cover - Columbus on the Cheap

 I have one big advantage over Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. He went through many frustrating repeated days before he evolved into liking Andie McDowell. I knew on day one that I liked Andie…oops, I mean Rita (who has long known that I have a crush on Andie). Trivia plus: Rita is the name of Andie’s character in Groundhog Day.

As for other household chores, I have an enhanced appreciation for modern appliances, especially the microwave, washer, dryer and dishwasher. Cheryl Downs sent Rita this card which nicely captures our experience with this (thankfully) temporary lifestyle.


Groundhog Day Trivia: The wide appeal of the movie Groundhog Day was evident in an April 12 interview of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He told writers for The Atlantic that he often had to answer the same questions, repeated to a maddening degree. “I like new questions. It’s not interesting to answer the questions you already heard. When some leaders ask me what weapons I need, I need a moment to calm myself, because I already told them the week before. It’s Groundhog Day. I feel like Bill Murray.”

Movie Trivia: Groundhog Day is one of those few movies I have watched more than two times. Others in that category: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Moonstruck, The Godfather (I & II), Bull Durham, Shawshank Redemption, Animal House, American Graffiti, The Big Lebowski, This is Spinal Tap and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Rita and Wordle: Rita recently took up the hot new puzzle game Wordle. With a lot of homebound time, she has gone through the full archives of the original series, and is now doing the daily in the New York Times. She has also branched out to add Quordle, a four-tier similar game that is proving more difficult.

Many Wordle players post their scores to show how fast they got to the right answer. One is Jay Jaffe who I follow on Twitter. Jay’s 2017 Cooperstown Casebook is the definitive book on the Hall of Fame, and he is a prolific writer for the baseball stats site FanGraphs. As he approached solving 56 Wordles in a row, he likened it to Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. And then he beat Joe D.

 Tweet by Jay Jaffe on Twitter.png

Royals 2022: Rita and I have not yet attended any Royals games in 2022 – she’s not ready to maneuver in crowds and I’m not ready for cold weather games. But we have Bally in our cable bundle, so have watched a lot on TV.

Royals Game #1 – Zack and Bobby: Opening Day for the Royals was also the first game in which the Cleveland franchise played as the Guardians (nee Indians). The hype for Zack Greinke’s return and Bobby Witt Jr.’s MLB debut was matched by the results. Zach had a quality start and Bobby doubled in the winning run.

Fun Trivia: Witt is the only member of the Royals roster born in the 21st century. Per MLB (below), there were four such major leaguers on Opening Day this year. They were not yet in kindergarten when Zack Greinke first pitched for the Royals in 2004.


Royals Game #2 – The Throw: On Opening Day, Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star wrote an article about Bobby Witt Jr. It included quotes from Bobby Stroupe, the trainer for both Witt and Patrick Mahomes. Troupe: “A candle doesn’t burn out by lighting other candles. And those two guys, they get it. They understand that energy gives energy. And the only way to succeed is to connect with people. Moreover, neither feels constrained by other people’s sense of boundaries or thinks of expectations as burdens. They’re in the moment.” 

Two days after Vahe’s article, Stroupe’s quotes came to life. In the 10th inning of a scoreless game, Witt snagged a ground ball as it went over third base. Then, while airborne, he made a side-arm throw to Salvy to catch the runner at the plate (video here). The side-arm diving throw was reminiscent of a scrambling Patrick Mahomes, and this was not lost on Bobby Stroupe who tweeted out side-by-side videos (click here).

It was easily the best defensive play of the first week of the 2022 season. Kudos also to Salvy for his diving tag. In the bottom of the 10th, the Royals scored for a 1-0 victory (click here for a cool video of the crowd and player reaction to Mondesi’s game-winning hit).

Royals Game #3 – No Comment: Cleveland won 17-3. Well, one comment. I’ve seen worse. I was in Municipal Stadium in 1955 when the White Sox beat the A’s 29-6.

 Royals Game #4 – Joe Blogs: Random Game Time: Joe Posnanski has started a new series in which he will write at random length about a random game featuring random teams. To start the series, he selected this Royals/Guardians game. Joe’s blog is by subscription, but this post is free (click here).

JoeBlogs | Joe Posnanski | Substack

Some highlights from Joe’s piece:

Joe describes Bobby Witt Jr. as experiencing the “Unbearable Burden of Unlimited Expectations.”

 He lamented, as most of us do, that 14 pitchers were used in the game. Neither starter finished five innings, and on average, a pitcher was changed every ten minutes after the starters left. “Baseball has become like a Russian novel with so many characters that you can no longer tell one from another.”

Another interesting subject was raised because Carlos Santana hit a ball 391’ that was caught but would have been a home run in 15 MLB parks. In baseball, the distances to the fences vary widely among the 30 teams. No such case in the NFL which has no fields that are 94 or 106 yards, and no NBA basketball arenas with goals 9.5’ high. Joe and his podcast partner Michael Schur (and Lonnie) agree that it’s one of baseball’s greatest charms. But it tortures Yankee-hater Schur when a Yankee hits a cheap homer in Yankee Stadium that would not be a homer in any other park. Schur posts graphics on this from the Twitter feed of “Would it dong” (click here). For example, the graphic below shows that a home run by Yankee Aaron Hicks would have been a “HR in 1/30 parks,”, the one park being Yankee Stadium.


As for the Royals, their bats came alive for seven runs. The Guardians scored 10.

 Royals Game #5 – Home Run Derby: The Royals traveled cross-state to St. Louis. The teams hit seven home runs to account for 10 of the 11 runs. Cardinals won 6-5.

Salvy had two of the homers. Albert Pujols had a homer and two singles to continue his climb toward second in career total bases. Tweet from sportswriter Derrick Gould of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Tweet by Derrick Goold on Twitter.png

 Royals Game #6 – Old Guys Pitching: Scheduled pitchers – Adam Wainwright (40) and Zack Greinke (38). A “matchup for the ages” as headlined by the Post-Dispatch. Together, over 400 wins. Both with Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. Multiple All-Star games. Each has been in the postseason eight times. Alas, old-guys game was rained out. “Old” is a relative term of course. I’m older than their collective ages.

Next Four Games – Detroit in Kansas City: In the first game of the series, Zach Greinke allowed only two runs in his five-plus innings, but Detroit won 4-2.

The second game was on April 15, the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first MLB game. As has become the tradition on April 15, all players wore #42, and the Kauffman Stadium crowd looked great decked out in the Robinson sweatshirts given to those in attendance. Keller pitched a good game, but lost 2-1 as the offense remained dormant. With so little offense by either team, the game time was 2:18.


KC Star sportswriter Vahe Gregorian was in NY on Jackie Robinson Day and tweeted his “42” photo:



In the third Detroit game, the Royals broke their five-game losing streak. Starter Kris Bubic rebounded after his first loss and got good relief. Hunter Dozier’s 2-run homer provided the margin in the 3-1 win. According to “Would it dong,” Dozier’s blast would have been a homer in all 30 MLB parks (30/30)..

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On Sunday, the Royals and Tigers rested. Game postponed by cold and rainy weather. Minnesota at Kauffman tomorrow night.

Consumer Report – Watching the Royals on TV (or not): When Google announced earlier this year that it was abandoning cable in the KC market, thousands of subscribers (including me) scrambled to find a new TV provider. The replacement would preferably carry Bally which is the regional sports network (RSN) for the Royals. The loss of a popular choice to watch the Royals and lack of streaming alternatives was covered by several local media outlets (for example, this piece from KCUR).

I checked in with some friends who had Google cable and offer this consumer report of my findings:

 Google Internet/YouTube TV (Joe): Joe decided to cut the cord – no more cable TV. He kept Google’s internet service and now streams his TV shows via YouTube TV (no premium channels). The big disadvantage: No Bally, so no Royals. Total cost: $150/month.

There's Never Been A Better Time To 'Cut The Cord'

Google Internet/DirectTV (Irv): Irv also cut the cord. He kept Google’s internet service and streams his TV shows via DirectTV (no premium channels). Advantage – this is the one streaming option that does carry Bally. Total cost: $160/month.

Spectrum Internet/Cable (Lonnie): I did not cut the cord. I signed up for the Silver Level of Spectrum and am also using its internet service. The Silver Level has Bally. And HBO. And Showtime. Total cost: $142/month! Yes, I get Bally AND two premium channels for a lower cost than the cord cutters who get less content. The cost is guaranteed for at least two years. I may have lucked out with some promotional offers to get this price. My prior Google cost had been about $50 higher.

I was always going to stay with cable. I prefer the fast-forward-backup mechanism in the remote for watching shows saved on DVR (like breezing through commercials or recorded sports events). When I try to go forward or back on streaming services, I have a hard time adjusting to where I want to be. Call me picky. So far, we are happy with Spectrum.

But Wait! Not All Royals Games Are On Bally: Bally (and other RSNs) get a minimum number of games out of the total of 162. This leaves some inventory available for national coverage, such as on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Other channels have similar deals (e.g. Fox, TBS and FS1). In those cases, the RSN does not show the game, but most local fans still see them because those other channels are traditionally part of the basic cable (or streaming) bundle.

But now MLB is branching out and selling national games to streamers that are not part of the typical bundle. Here are some samples…

Peacock: This NBC streamer is going to broadcast Sunday morning games. The Royals are slotted for July 3 and July 17, starting at 11 AM (CDT). I have not investigated the cost because I’m in no hurry to add another streaming service just to see two of the Royals’ 162 games. But I have heard good things about Peacock’s Yellowstone series.


Apple TV+: Every Friday night, Apple TV+ will air two games – one early and one late. These are initially free, but since they paid MLB $85 million for the rights, I’m sure there will ultimately be a paywall. We already have Apple TV+ because it carries Ted Lasso, The Morning Show and Oscar-winner CODA. Of the games announced so far, the Royals will be on Apple TV+ on April 29 – the Yankees at Kauffman.

MLB announces deal with AppleTV+ for exclusive slate of games - Sports  Illustrated

Rita and I watched parts of both Apple games on the inaugural Friday night (April 8). We thought the broadcasts were poor for both games, especially the off-topic commentary that repeatedly ignored the game. My Twitter feed during the game supported that view. One tweet came from Hot Stove friend and retired NYT sportswriter George Vecsey:

Tweet by George Vecsey on Twitter.png

Another from one of my trusted sources:

Agrees with you.png

Instead of having a crawl at the bottom of the screen to update scores from other games, Apple runs a gambling-odds feature. For example, Aaron Judge has a 32% chance of an RBI on the next swing. Or 0.67% of hitting a home run. Don’t care. Apple is also actively cross-marketing during the games. Viewers are invited to go to Apple Music for the batter walk-up songs. The announcers give out trivia info after consulting Siri.

This will be a work in progress, and I’m guessing (hoping) that Apple will hear the groans and switch the emphasis to what is going on in the game rather than the latest pop culture buzz. And get off my lawn!

 Home Runs During Interviews: There was one memorable highlight during the first Friday of Apple TV+ coverage. Astros rookie Jeremy Pena was in his first MLB game. In the 7th inning, while his parents were being interviewed in the stands, Pena hit his first career home run. The video is priceless (click here).

Jeremy Peña's first career HR | 04/09/2022 |

Last week, 8-year-old Chloe Grimes, battling cancer for the second time, threw out the opening pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays game. It was caught by her favorite player, Brett Phillips (with the Royals 2018-2020). Below, Chloe giving Brett one of her personalized rubber bracelets (“Rally for Chloe, our Princess Warrior”). In the 3rd inning, Chloe was being interviewed on TV in the stands while Phillips was at the plate (wearing Chloe’s bracelet). You guessed it. Phillips hit a home run. Be ready for misty eyes when you watch this video.

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Phillips had another highlight last week. The Rays were far behind in the 8th inning and did not want to use up another reliver. So outfielder Phillips was recruited to pitch the last two innings. The pitching was not memorable (2 runs), but he will be remembered for a circus catch he made after scrambling from the mound (click here).

Home Run Derby: On April 5, our Home Run Derby crew of ten met via Zoom for this year’s draft, selecting eight players each. Below, a screenshot of my iPad during the draft. Note how most are looking down at their scouting reports. Very serious business. Top row: Lonnie, Bob White, Tom Grimaldi. Next: Joel Poole (our commissioner), Jeb Bayer and David Matson (last year’s winner). Next: Jim Heeter, Tim Sear, Eric Trelz. Last row: Steve Roling. When I sent this photo out to the HRD players, Bob White responded, “With a couple of notable exceptions, it looks like a Zoom seminar for HairClub for Men.” As of this morning, Grimaldi and Poole are tied for the lead with 16 homers.


 Seinfeld – Steinbrenner and the Costanza Family: I still watch Seinfeld reruns, and I’m always glad when George Costanza’s parents are in an episode. George’s mother was played by Estelle Harris who died earlier this month at the age of 93. Jim Fitzpatrick sent me the NYT obituary, and it is as entertaining as a Seinfeld episode. “During her character’s meltdowns, often in response to slights and offenses for propriety, Ms. Harris deployed a screech that had the urgency of a hyena in death throes.” Full obit here.

 Her debut on the show was in the classic episode “The Contest” (if you are a Seinfeld person, you know). One of my favorite episodes was when George Steinbrenner (voiced by Larry David) goes to the Costanza home to mistakenly tell the parents that their son George, a Yankee employee, is dead. The responses are a treat (click here).

Seinfeld: Frank & Estelle Costanza's 10 Best Moments, Ranked

While I was drafting this post, another Seinfeld mother died. Liz Sheridan, who played Jerry’s mother, died last week, also at age 93.

 Lonnie’s Jukebox – Summer of Soul Edition: Academy Awards Trivia Question – What Oscar did Chris Rock hand out after he was slapped by Will Smith. Answer – Best Documentary Feature: Summer of Soul. One of the reasons Rita and I signed up for Hulu was to see this movie. In the bargain, we also got reruns of Cheers and Frasier – stuff I like to watch to get a laugh before nodding off in bed.

 Summer of Soul documents a series of musical acts that appeared at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, the same year as Woodstock. Both events had film crews. The Woodstock footage was used to make the 1970 concert film Woodstock that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Most of the footage for the Harlem concerts sat on the shelf for 50 years until it was finally converted to the 2021 movie Summer of Soul. So in the end, both 1969 events became the subject of Oscar-winning films – just 51 years apart. Click here for the Summer of Soul trailer and here for a CBS Sunday Morning segment on the movie (8:32).

Among the performers for the Harlem event were Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson and the four acts in Lonnie’s Jukebox below.

“Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone. A #1 song for four weeks in early 1969.

“Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the 5th Dimension.

Documentary Review: “Summer of Soul (or When the Revolution Could Not be  Televised”)” remembers Harlem's “Black Woodstock” | Movie Nation

 There is a great background story on this record. In 1968, the 5th Dimension was performing at the Americana Hotel in NY. One of the members left his wallet in a cab, and it was returned by a stranger who was given tickets for the group’s show at the hotel. The stranger went to their show and then reciprocated by giving them tickets to his show – he was a producer for the hottest show on Broadway, Hair. They went to the show and fell in love with the music. That’s how they came to record “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.”

Below, the Billboard Top 10 from April 12, 1969. This was the first of six weeks for the record at #1. Note that “Hair” by the Cowsills is at #8.


 “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips. A #2 hit in 1967. Marvin Gaye’s version went to #1 in 1968.

 “My Girl” by David Ruffin. This link is to a clip from the movie. Ruffin was with the Temptations when they took the song #1 in 1965 (see that one here).

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in, the sunshine in…GO ROYALS!!!