As the Royals made their way to winning the World Series in 2015, I emailed friends with coverage of the playoffs and mixed in some trivia and nostalgia. After the last World Series game, I could have stopped and followed the lead of Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby.
But I did not stop. Posting continued through the winter, which in baseball circles is known as the “Hot Stove Season.” Hence the name of this newsletter. And then spring training arrived. Did not stop posting. Hot Stove was now seasonally incorrect, but the grammar police let it go. Now at #214 and counting, Hot Stove is beginning its 8th year.
Now to an event that takes place in the middle of the traditional Hot Stove Season…
Baseball Solstice: The “baseball solstice” occurred this year on December 19, two days before the winter solstice. According to a tweet I saw (so it must be true), December 19 was the halfway point between the last pitch of the World Series and the first pitch of spring training. It was also Managing Editor Rita’s birthday. Born in 1949. You can do the math.
Gaylord Perry and the Royals: Hall of Famer and spitball master Gaylord Perry died earlier this month at age 84. In his 22-year career (1962-1983), he won 314 games. Did he use a spitball to help him get those wins? There’s a hint in the title of his “autobiographical confession”:
Perry began his final season (1983) with Seattle, but was released in June. He was picked up by the Royals in July and finished out his career with a 4-4 record for Kansas City.
His short time with the Royals is most remembered for the role he played in the pine tar incident on July 24, 1983 (my son Brian’s 21st birthday; easy for me to remember). As many fans will recall, George Brett hit a 9th inning homer against the Yankees to put the Royals in the lead. But umpire Tim McClelland called Brett out for excessive pine tar on his bat. George’s reaction to the call is one of the most viewed video clips in MLB history (click here).
As shown above, umpire McClelland was holding the suspect bat when George came out to state his case. In the Royals dugout was spit-baller Gaylord Perry who knew a few things about concealing evidence from umpires. So he took action. As recounted in a Sports Illustrated interview:
McClelland: “Gaylord Perry, being the man of foreign substance that he is, got the bat and took it out of my hands. He threw it to Rocky Colavito. I went to grab it from Rocky, and he held it up over his head like he was going to hit me with it.”
Perry: “It’s something that had to be done. We had to take control of the evidence.”
McClelland: “We had to go get the bat. The players were trying to take it in the clubhouse. A security officer got it for us.”
It made no difference. The league ruled that the remedy was to object to the bat, not call the batter out. The last four outs of the game were played at a later date and the Royals finished off the victory.
Although Perry retired after the 1983 season, he was included on one of the cards in Fleer’s team set for the 1984 Royals. The one with George applying pine tar to his bat.
Cryptocurrency Update: In Hot Stove #178 posted about a year ago (11/29/21), I wrote about sports marketing by cryptocurrency exchanges FTX and Crypto:com.
I had been paying little attention to crypto. Don’t understand it. Don’t want to. But it was hard to ignore when the FTX logo showed up on MLB umpire uniforms. And sports celebrities began hawking FTX. Tom Brady. Steph Curry. Shohei Ohtani who took all of his endorsement fee in cryptocurrency and FTX equity. FTX also had naming rights for the Miami arena, home of the NBA’s Heat.
In Los Angeles, Crypto:com bought the naming rights for the Staples Center after Staples took bankruptcy.
In that Hot Stove of a year ago, I finished my comments with this:
A cautionary tale: Cryptocurrency is a high-flying but volatile industry. In 2000, the high-flying Enron Corporation committed $100 million for 30-year naming rights for the Houston Astros stadium. The 30-year deal was reduced to two years when Enron went out of business. That’s how Enron Field became Minute Maid Park.
Last month, FTX filed for bankruptcy. The founder has been extradited to the U.S. from the Bahamas. The Miami arena will soon be changing names, maybe even faster than Enron became Minute Maid.
What about Crypto:com? They still seem to be going strong if their sports advertising budget is a legitimate measure. I was watching the final of the World Cup when Lionel Messi scored the first goal for Argentina. As the team celebrated on the pitch, you could not miss the advertising (screenshot below).
I have not seen any indication that Crypto:com is riddled with corruption like FTX (or say FIFA). So the Lakers may be playing in Crypto:com Arena for many years, even after LeBron retires.
Home Run Derby: Yesterday, our Home Run Derby (HRD) group met at Chappell’s for the annual awards ceremony. Tim Sear easily won this year with his roster of eight players hitting 238 homers. Not known for his modesty, Tim has been signing his emails as FirstPlaceSear. David Matson and I split 2nd and 3rd place money, each getting 212 homers. The player (to be indirectly named later) who finished last (10th) had 138 homers, exactly 100 fewer than Tim’s team.
David Matson, last year’s winner, came in from Portland to hand over the “Rolling Trophy” to FirstPlaceSear. The trophy is named after Steve Roling, a three-time winner, but the engraver misspelled his name. Below, from left: Matson, Roling, Sear, Tom Grimaldi and Jeb Bayer. In his left hand, Sear is holding his prize possession, a ball signed by his hero Roberto Clemente. Tim has made arrangements to travel to Pittsburgh this summer to donate the ball to the Roberto Clemente Museum.
Not at the ceremony: Bob White (a conflict) and out of towners Jim Heeter, Eric Trelz and 2022 HRD commissioner Joel Poole. Joel won the privilege of being commissioner by finishing last in 2021. His duties included updating the numbers each week and supplying witty and insightful comments. And he delivered on all counts. For the upcoming season, Jeb Bayer will be commissioner.
I was not at the ceremony because I have been exposed to Covid. After almost three years of dodging Covid, Rita tested positive this week. She is well on the road to recovery. I have a cough and keep waiting to test positive, but three tests have said no. Be it Covid or a cold, I’m not socializing at the moment.
In my absence, stringer Steve Roling sent this report to Hot Stove: “Big celebration today…the media coverage was amazing…Chappell’s was full of adoring fans. In his acceptance speech Tim graciously shared the ENTIRE baseball history of Roberto Clemente. We got to see and touch Tim’s baseball signed by Clemente. Tim is retiring from Polsinelli tomorrow…good thing he won the first place award…so he can live without financial worries. I am happy to report that Commissioner Bayer is excited to assume the awesome responsibilities of being the HRD Commissioner! Looking forward to the MLB season in 2023!!!”
Late breaking news!! There are rumors that FirstPlaceSear was on steroids when he picked his team. Commissioner Bayer will investigate.
Fifty Years Ago – Immaculate Reception (12/23/72): Last week, Franco Harris died at the age of 72, just three days before the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception,” the catch Harris made when a pass ricocheted off a defender into the hands of Franco who ran it in for a touchdown. It was the winning score in the divisional playoff game between his Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. The video clip of the catch played constantly last week on sports stations and social media (click here).
For a great read from the perspective of a fan at the game, click here for a guest column by Tom Butch in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Butch is a retired KC business executive who has returned to his native Pennsylvania. Thanks to Crosby Kemper for the heads-up on this.
And thanks to Lisa and Bob White who sent the photo below. Lisa grew up near Pittsburgh in a Steelers household and has her own story of the Immaculate Reception:
“I was 10 years old. My uncle called earlier in the day to ask my dad if he could come watch the Steelers game and bring a few friends because their ‘cable’ wasn’t carrying the game. We had one TV in the house. My mom sent me upstairs and said stay there! It was very loud, there was a cloud of smoke hanging in the air and a lot of alcohol. I remember peering through the stair railing, trying to get a glimpse of the action. One of my uncle’s friends said to my dad, ‘Bill, if I throw a beer bottle at your TV, I promise to replace it!’ Only years later did I learn that was the day of the Immaculate Reception.”
Two Hall of Fame legends who died this year. RIP Len Dawson and Franco Harris.
The extensive coverage of Franco’s catch over the years reminds me of another great moment in sports: Carlton Fisk’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. That’s the one where Fisk used body language to wave his ball fair (click here). The rest of the story in both cases? The teams lost their next game. Fisk’s home run only extended the Series for the Red Sox – they lost Game 7 and the World Series to the Big Red Machine (the Cincinnati Reds).
As for the Steelers, they lost in the next round to the Miami Dolphins who moved on to the Super Bowl at the LA Memorial Coliseum. I was at that game, the only Super Bowl I have attended. I was in Los Angeles on business and Chiefs ticket-head Ken Young arranged tickets for me. Ticket price – $15! My ticket stub:
The Dolphins played Washington (then known as the Redskins). Although not as famous as the Immaculate Reception, this game also featured a memorable pass and catch. The Dolphins were leading 14-0 in the 4th quarter, and their placekicker Garo Yepremian lined up for a field goal. The kick was blocked, and Garo picked up the loose ball and attempted a pass. But the ball was batted up into the air fell into the hands of Washington’s Mike Bass who ran it back for a touchdown. Instead of a 17-0 lead for the Dolphins, the game was suddenly close at 14-7. The game ended with no more scoring, and so Garo’s gaffe did not cost the Dolphins the game. But the play remains high on any NFL bloopers list (video here).
The story of those 1972 Dolphins started for me on Christmas Day in 1971. I had season tickets in those days and was at KC’s Municipal Stadium for the first round of the playoffs. In a terrific game, the Dolphins defeated the Chiefs 27-24 in two overtimes – the longest NFL game in history (82 minutes). The winning field goal was kicked by Garo Yepremian. The Chiefs moved to Arrowhead the next year, and the first regular season game was against the Dolphins. The Chiefs lost, and the 1972 Dolphins kept on winning until they won the Super Bowl. So by the luck of the draw, I was present for the first and last wins of the Dolphins perfect season, the only one in NFL history.
Fast Forward 50 Years – Immaculate Connection (12/24/22): Another miracle from Patrick Mahomes. A tip-of-the-hat to @jaredKCTV5 for pairing these photos in a tweet.
Now a segue from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to fine art in Kansas City…
Lindsay Hughes Cooper, Dizzy Dean and Lou Gehrig: In 1932, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art was under construction. Paul Gardner was tasked with staffing the museum which would open in 1933. Lindsay Hughes, just out of college, applied and was rejected because Gardner said women “shirk.” Hughes persisted over many months, Gardner finally relented, and Hughes became integral to the opening and growth of the museum. She worked closely with Gardner who became the first director of the museum, and with Lawrence Sickman who developed the Nelson’s renowned Asian collection.
This story is told in an excellent 2021 biography written by Lindsay Major, the niece and namesake of Lindsay Hughes Cooper. I admit to some bias because I have known the author since the 1960s – she is married to my UMKC Law School classmate Lee Major. For an unbiased opinion, see this glowing review in KC Studio. The book is available at Rainy Day Books, Amazon and the Nelson.
Now the baseball part. There are hints in the book that Lindsay Hughes Cooper was a baseball fan. She not only saw Dizzy Dean play, she gave a scouting report: “The movement flows through his body from toe to finger and keeps right on going in the ball.”
In her diary entry dated June 12, 1939: “Took P.G. [Gardner] and Larry [Sickman] to the Yankees-Blues ball game.” This jumped out at me. I’ve written about that game (Hot Stove #21). The Yankees annually came to Kansas City to play an exhibition game with their Blues farm team. The game in 1939 was memorable because it was the last game played by Lou Gehrig. His consecutive game streak had ended in May, and he had not played since. He still suited up and traveled with the team. Not wanting to disappoint the KC fans, Gehrig played three innings in what became his last game. The next day, he left KC’s Union Station to go to the Mayo Clinic where he was diagnosed with ALS (to become known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Matisse and Baseball: While I am on the subject of fine art…
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Eclectic Edition: A truly mixed tape for this edition of Lonnie’s Jukebox.
Petula Clark and the Royals New Stadium. Petula Clark turned 90 on November 15. I’m thinking her biggest hit could be a theme song to promote a downtown stadium for the Royals.
The light’s so much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re
No finer place for sure
Everything’s waiting for you (downtown, downtown)
“Downtown” by Petula Clark (1965). This link is to the original version, and she must be lip-syncing. The orchestra and backup singers are missing.
[Lip-Syncing Trivia: Click here for delightful lip-syncing by celebrities ranging from Biden to Putin to the Pope. Two minutes.]
“Sweet Caroline” at Fenway and on Broadway. Neil Diamond released “Sweet Caroline” in 1969. The song has been an 8th inning staple at Fenway Park for many years, and fans happily join in for what one pundit calls Pavlovian singalongs. Rita and I participated in this tradition at Fenway during our East Coast stadium tour in 2016.
Diamond has been at Fenway at least two times to sing in person. One was five days after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 (click here). The other was this past summer when he was in Boston for the previews of A Beautiful Noise, a new musical about his life (click here).
When the musical opened on Broadway on December 4, Neil was there to sing his signature song with the cast during the curtain call after the show…
“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond at the Broadhurst Theater (2022). Diamond’s personal appearances have been limited since 2018 when he announced he was retiring from touring because he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Another Form of “A Beautiful Noise.” The name for the Neil Diamond musical is derived from the title track of his 1976 album Beautiful Noise. In 2020, a different song with a similar title was written by eight women to inspire voting in the presidential election and to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage). The song was first publicly performed on CBS’ Every Vote Counts: A Celebration of Democracy. The lyrics are reminiscent of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” (1972).
I have a voice
Started out a whisper, turned into a scream
Made a beautiful noise
Shoulder to shoulder, marching in the street
When you’re all alone, it’s a quiet breeze
But when you band together, it’s a choir
Of thunder and rain
Now we have a choice
‘Cause I have a voice
“A Beautiful Noise” by Alicia Keys and Brandi Carlile (2020). The two artists sat across from each other at separate pianos to perform the song without any other musical accompaniment.
Salute to Paul Simon. Rita and I watched last week’s CBS telecast of Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon. A star-studded lineup of artists took turns singing from Simon’s lengthy songbook.
At the end of the show, Simon came to the stage for three final songs. He sang two and played guitar for the third which was sung by Rhiannon Giddens. Rita and I were pleased because Giddens is a favorite of ours. We have seen her perform live twice, at the Folly as part of Bill Shapiro’s Cyprus Avenue Series and at the Kennedy Center.
CBS has not posted full clips of the songs from the telecast, so the links below are to prior recordings of the three songs.
“Graceland” by Paul Simon (1986). This link is to the original, backed by musicians from South Africa and vocals of the Everly Brothers. Rita and I joined our friends Bob Morantz and Marsha Murphy at Sandstone in 1991 to see Simon sing this as part of the setlist of the Rhythm of the Saints tour.
“American Tune” by Rhiannon Giddens with Paul Simon on guitar at the Newport Folk Festival (2022). Simon drafted new lyrics for Giddens to reflect her Black and Indigenous roots. For example, where Simon had originally sung “We come on the ship they called the Mayflower,” he wrote for Giddens, “We didn’t come here on the Mayflower.” Two awesome talents.
“The Sound of Silence” (1964). Original version with Art Garfunkel (who was not part of the Grammy salute). The Graduate is in my all-time Top 10 movie list, partially because of the Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack. “The Sound of Silence” is played in the beginning and ending scenes of the movie.
Below, Garfunkel joins Simon throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in 1969.
2022 to 2023: With a bat flip in celebration, Lonnie and Rita shout out to the Hot Stove Village…
Happy New Year!