Remember the headlines about the Royals in mid-July?
From July 14 to 17, the Royals played a four-game series in Toronto. Ten of their players (an MLB record) could not make the trip because they did not have their Covid shots. The public response and the headlines were disastrous, and ten minor leaguers had to be called up to fill out the roster. Maybe that last part was not so bad. From the Hot Stove posted on July 18…
“If there is a silver lining in all of this, several players made their first appearance in ‘the show.’…In the first game in Toronto, the betting lines established the Royals as the biggest underdog in a game this season. The Royals won. Take that bookies. The next three games were losses, but the replacement players showed some entertaining spunk. Pitcher Angel Zerpa recorded the only victory. Nate Eaton and Nick Pratto got their first big league home runs. Michael Massey had three hits. Remember those names.”
The silver lining was real. Three veterans were traded away, making way for call-ups from the minors. When Rita and I attended the game on August 13, the lineup included three of the Toronto replacements.
Six of the hitters in that lineup are new to the Royals this season. Add to this rookie Vinnie Pasquantino who was promoted to the Royals when Carlos Santana was traded in late June. Vinnie was recently AL Player-of-the-Week.
Support for playing the rookies has also come from a persuasive outsider – Mike from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. For those who have not followed those TV series, Mike is the deadly efficient fixer/enforcer for the drug cartel. You don’t mess with Mike.
Rookies now make up one-half of the active roster (13/26). All of this youthful activity has created a positive buzz in the clubhouse and in the stands. Bally has reported a 6% increase in the TV audience since the Toronto series.
This does not mean the team will suddenly become a big winner. The rookies need seasoning. Mistakes will be made. After an impressive 7-4 home stand in August, the Royals hit the road last week and went 1-6. Ouch.
But the big news is that the fans have returned to talking about baseball on the field. There is optimism for the future.
And the talk about Covid and vaccinations has disappeared.
What a difference a month makes. Go Royals.
Salute to the Negro Leagues: August 13 was a big day for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM). LA Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a large contingent of his players toured the museum. Later that day at Kauffman Stadium, Buck O’Neil’s Hall of Fame plaque was on hand, shown below with Mookie Betts and NLBM President Bob Kendrick.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of the season Jackie Robinson broke the color line, the Royals wore 1945 Monarchs home uniforms (Jackie’s year with the team) and the Dodgers wore Brooklyn’s 1955 away uniforms (the year Jackie and the Dodgers won the World Series).
The ceremonial first pitch was a windmill-windup throw by Bob Kendrick to left-handed catcher Kiona Sinks (the Community Engagement Manager of the museum). They were both “dressed-to-the-nines” (video here).
The tone of the game was established early when Mookie Betts led off with a homer (video here). The screenshot below is from the beginning of that video, and the fans on the right are Rita and Lonnie in the front row and sons Brian and Jason behind us. Seats courtesy of David Block.
Mookie’s helmet has the traditional form of “B” for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but his uniform has a blatant anachronism. There was no Nike swoosh in 1955. So the Royals easily won the fashion segment of the night. As modeled by MJ Melendez in the lineup poster above, the Monarchs uniforms rocked. The game, not so much. The K looked and sounded like it was half full of Dodger fans, and they had a lot to cheer about – the Nike Dodgers won 13-3. Biggest crowd of the year – 29,689.
Wiffle Ball At the Hollow: I went to an earlier game on August 13 – a Wiffle ball charity event played on the baseball diamond at 52nd and Wornall (across the street from the Loose Park pond). The diamond is the brainchild of Joe Ungashick who lives in the adjacent home. Joe has for several years hosted an annual fundraiser for The Battle Within, a nonprofit organization that benefits veterans and first responders with PTSD.
In 2020, the field was upgraded under the guidance of legendary groundskeeper George Toma. The park is now called the George P. Toma Field, and Toma continues to oversee the preparation of the field for the event. Below, Joe Ungashick welcomed the sprightly 93-year-old Toma to this year’s game.
The festivities included a home run derby, followed by a game played by three teams in a round-robin format. A fun way to raise money for a good cause.
Home Run Record Chases: In the non-steroids section of the Hot Stove Record Book (HSRB), the most home runs in an MLB season is 61 – Roger Maris in 1961. He has been topped only by steroid users Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.
Maris broke the record of Babe Ruth who hit 60 homers in 1927. Both played for the Yankees, and now a third Yankee is shooting for the record. Aaron Judge has 46 homers so far this year, putting him on a pace to hit 61. Stay tuned.
I’m also keeping an eye on 42-year-old Albert Pujols who is currently in 3rd place for career home runs in the non-steroid section of the HSRB. He has 692, getting closer to Babe Ruth’s 714. The only one higher is the great Henry Aaron (755). As you guessed, this conversation does not include Alex Rodriguez (696*) and Barry Bonds (762*). Pujols has announced that 2022 is his last season, but his recent surge could change his mind. He may get to the 700 milestone this year, but he’ll need another season to reach Ruth’s magical number of 714.
Outtakes: It may surprise some of you, but these Hot Stove posts could be longer. I often cut items, either on my own or with the wise counsel of Hot Stove Managing Editor Rita. It feels like I have some space today, so I’m resurrecting some of the outtakes.
Cleveland and Kansas City Guardians: This year, the Cleveland franchise changed its team name from Indians to Guardians. The new name is derived from the landmark “Guardian” statues on the Hope Bridge in Cleveland, and the new logo is inspired by the helmets and wings on the Guardians.
Kansas City also has a set of Guardian statues, located atop the tower of the World War I Memorial Museum. Below, a view of one of the KC statues during the lunar eclipse in May this year. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel.
Deuces on the Scoreboard: As Hot Stove readers know, I can be obsessive about deuces on the scoreboard. During a Royals game last month, I took this screenshot of a great “deuces wild” moment (as Vin Scully would call it). 2nd inning. 2-2 score. 2 outs. 2 on. 2-2 count. Heaven.
28 to 5 Game: In my last post, I wrote about the drubbing of Boston by Toronto (28-5), but failed to include Raimel Tapia’s inside-the-park grand slam (with a lot of help from the sun). Video here. Don’t miss the platinum blonde dreadlocks.
Shades of Secretariat: In women’s hurdles at the big Oregon meet last month – Sydney McLaughlin (video here).
National Anthem: Powerful performance by a 7-year-old (video here).
Randy Rainbow and the Beatles: Randy’s parodies are usually based on Broadway shows, but he branched out to the Beatles for this one. Warning, political and not suitable content for election-deniers (video here).
Humphrey Bogart on Baseball: Video here.
Royals Photographer Jason Hanna: On a June night at the K.
Wordle and Golf: Rita is into Wordle and exchanges results daily with family members. My only contribution has been to pass along a clever scoring approach that I heard from Michael Schur on Joe Posnanski’s “Poscast.” There are six chances to get the right answer, and this matches up with golf scoring. When Rita gets the answer in four, she reports that she shot a par that day. She’s never had a hole in one, but has a few eagles. I hear cheers of delight on eagles and birdies, and groans when she suffers a bogey or double bogey.
Wordle golfers may want to compete 18 days in a row to get in a round of golf (par would be 72). What next, a handicapping system?
Movies – The Rescue Trilogy: Rita and I head to the Telluride Film Festival next week. The Hot Stove Telluride report will be posted in September. In the meantime, for your consideration…
1. At last year’s festival, we saw The Rescue, a documentary about the rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. We thought it was an excellent movie, and it is currently streaming on Disney+ (trailer here).
2. A very good dramatization of that rescue is now streaming on Amazon Prime – Thirteen Lives. Trailer here.
3. Those two movies primarily featured the cave divers who bravely rescued the kids and their coach. The story rights from the kids perspective were purchased by Netflix, and that will be a six-episode series titled Thai Cave Rescue. Release date is September 22 (more info here).
Lonnie’s Jukebox (1) – Aussies Edition: Two singers out of Australia died earlier this month, Judith Durham (at age 79) and Olivia Newton-John (at age 73).
I didn’t remember the name Judith Durham, but I sure know her voice. She was the lead singer of the Seekers who had two Top 10 hits: “I’ll Never Find Another You“ (1966) and the earworm “Georgy Girl” (the title song for the 1966 movie). My memory of the movie is Lynn Redgrave window shopping while the Oscar-nominated song played during the opening titles (clip here).
Lonnie’s Jukebox (2) – The H-D-H Edition: To Royals fans, H-D-H is shorthand for relievers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. They owned the 7th, 8th and 9th innings when the 2014 Royals won the AL pennant, the ALDS, the ALCS and almost the World Series.
H-D-H is also shorthand for Holland-Dozier-Holland. Not Greg Holland. And not Hunter Dozier. But Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, the hugely successful songwriting and record production team for Motown Records. This edition of Lonnie’s Jukebox was prompted by the recent death of Lamont Dozier at age 81. Brian (81) and Eddie (82) Holland are still with us.
The three songwriters were under contract with Motown Records from 1963 to 1968. They continued for many years after that, as a team and individually, but this edition of the Jukebox will feature just the Motown years. H-D-H wrote for many of the big Motown acts and were a major influence on the Motown sound.
The Supremes had 12 #1 songs, and 10 of those were written by H-D-H. I’ll play three of my favorites:
“Baby Love” by the Supremes (1964).
“Stop! In the Name Of Love” by the Supremes (1965).
“The Happening” by the Supremes (1967).
Below, the Supremes in the studio with H-D-H.
H-D-H had scores of hits for other artists at Motown. A small sample:
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” by the Four Tops (1965). On the record below, note the “Holland, Dozier, Holland” below the song title (reflecting songwriting credit) and on the right for production credit (reflecting working with the artists in the recording process).
In 1990, Holland, Dozier and Holland were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Heron(s) of Loose Park: For the last several summers, a great blue heron has taken up residence in the pond at Loose Park. I was unsure if it was a gray or blue heron – similar coloration – so I got confirmation from Hot Stove Zoology Editor Ralph Waterhouse.
Ralph was the director of the Kansas City Zoo back in the 1980s, and he led a Friends of the Zoo trip on an African safari. Rita and I went and were hooked. Ralph moved on to the Fresno Zoo, but we stayed in touch and have gone on four more safaris with him and his wife Cheryl. Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Travelogues for two of these are posted on the Lonnie’s Jukebox website (click here).
Over the years, I have assumed that the Loose Park heron is a female who comes back to nest each season. Maybe in the tree on the island of the pond. I have never seen a mate, but this year Rita and I spoke with some other Loose Park walkers who have seen two herons fishing together early in the morning (lots of koi in the pond).
A couple of weeks ago, I got lucky with the framing for a photo of the resident heron.
Then I really got lucky. The heron flew toward the fountain. Thank you Steve Jobs.
Last week, I saw a smaller heron-like bird, first on a branch in the water and then after it flew up into a tree. I thought it might be a young blue heron, but Ralph is pretty certain this is an American bittern (a member of the heron family).
This concludes the nature segment of today’s Hot Stove.
Talk to you again after we return from Telluride.