The Royals are coming! The Royals are coming!
Not the 2015 Royals. The only current Royal from that World Champion team is Salvy Perez. According to Royals Review, only four other members of that 2015 team are currently on the 40-man roster of any MLB club: Adalberto Mondesi (Red Sox), Eric Hosmer (Cubs), Johnny Cueto (Marlins) and Scott Alexander (Giants).
We now have the (very young) 2023 Royals. Here are some key dates as the season approaches.
February 12 – The Super Bowl. GO CHIEFS!
February 13 and 14 – The two days in 2023 with no NFL or MLB activity on the playing field
February 15 – First spring training workout for Royals pitchers and catchers
February 20 – First full squad workout for Royals
February 24 – First spring training game (v. Texas, co-tenant of Surprise Stadium)
March 30 – Opening Day (v. Twins at the K at 3:10)
Bally Sports – Royals on Television: John Sherman and his investor group bought the Royals after the 2019 season. A quick recap: 2020 – Covid, short season with no fans allowed; 2021 – Covid adjacent, masks, etc. to start season; 2022 – Lockout of the players. So 2023 gets back to normal, right? Maybe. There is potential trouble in TV land.
The Royals TV package for many years was with Fox Sports which had a nationwide collection of regional sports networks (RSNs). In 2019, Fox sold the RSNs to Diamond Sports Group for $10.6 billion. The RSNs cover 14 MLB teams and many NBA and NHL franchises.
In a separate transaction, casino operator Bally’s Corporation paid Diamond a fee to rebrand the networks as “Bally Sports” and to establish a pipeline of TV viewers to place bets through Bally’s online gaming ventures.
The Bally connection has an interesting side story. Just five years ago, casino branding of sportscasts would have been a scandal. MLB and other leagues were strictly anti-gambling, and they supported federal legislation in 1992 that limited sports gambling nationwide. But the Supreme Court overturned the law in 2018, leaving it to each state to regulate sports gambling. This opened the gates, and the leagues decided to seek a share of the legalized betting – rather than being banned, it would now be monetized as a new revenue stream for the teams.
In 2020, when the Royals TV contract came up for renewal, Diamond raised the annual payment to the Royals from $20 million to an estimated $50 million. That was a nice increase and in line with other small to mid-market teams.
But now that deal is at risk. Diamond is losing money and is expected to soon file for bankruptcy. What does this mean for the teams? For Bally’s? Don’t know. But it could be a mess. Stay tuned.
Bally’s In Atlantic City – Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle: This Bally story begins in New York in 1951 when two sensational rookies entered the major leagues. Willie Mays of the New York Giants and Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. In that rookie season, they faced each other in the World Series.
Mantle and Mays became the two top players of their generation and two of the best in major league history. In Joe Posnanski’s The Baseball 100, Willie was ranked at #1 and Mickey at #11. Mickey would likely have been closer to the top five but for the injuries he suffered.
After their retirement, the two remained famous and popular. But they were not independently wealthy – their playing days were before free agency.
In August of 1979, Willie was inducted into the Hall of Fame. A few months later, he accepted a job offer to be a public relations host at Bally’s Park Place Casino in Atlantic City. It paid him $100,000 a year, double what he was making as a part-time goodwill ambassador for the Mets. His time commitment to Bally’s was 10 days a month. After Willie accepted the offer, the hall-of-famer was promptly banned from baseball by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. So Willie could not keep his part-time job with the Mets.
In 1983, Mickey Mantle took a similar position with the Claridge Casino Hotel, next door to Bally’s. He said the Claridge “brought me to Atlantic City to combat Willie Mays.” Mantle, knowing he would also be banned by Kuhn, could not pass on the $100,000 a year. Below, Mickey on the cover of Gambling Times.
In 1984, Kuhn was replaced by Peter Ueberroth who within a few months lifted the ban on Mantle and Mays. It was a popular move and rated a cover story in Sports Illustrated.
Ueberroth was not softening on the connection of gambling and baseball. But he knew banning two of the biggest names in baseball was not popular with fans.
As for other gambling matters, he was consistent with MLB policy that had existed since the Black Sox scandal of 1919 – gambling and baseball do not mix. The most public example of this was Ueberroth’s initiation of the investigation that led to the permanent banning of Pete Rose for gambling on sports.
Ueberroth and all commissioners before and after him were strongly opposed to legalization of sports betting. But when that battle was lost in the 2018 Supreme Court ruling, MLB deftly pivoted to seeking a share of the betting profits.
Pete Rose Trivia: My main memory of Pete Rose has nothing to do with gambling. In 1980, he was the first baseman for the Phillies when the Royals played in their first World Series. Rose’s key defensive play in the 9th inning of Game 6 is burned into my brain (clip here). It was a superb example of why he was called Charlie Hustle. In other 1980 news…
Kansas City v. Philadelphia (Then and Now): In 1980, the MLB MVPs were third basemen George Brett (Kansas City) and Mike Schmidt (Philadelphia).
Their teams met in the 1980 World Series. The Phillies won in six (games).
In 2023, the cities meet again. In the Super Bowl. The Chiefs win in four (quarters).
Dr. Harry S Jonas, Jr. (1926-2022): Hot Stove lost one of its most loyal subscribers on December 24, 2022. Harry Jonas was 96. Obituary here.
A “Special Tribute” for Harry will be held on Friday, February 10, at 11:00 at the Truman Library.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – James Bond and Ray Webb – Casino Royale and Club Royal: Rita and I recently watched a documentary about the music from the James Bond films, from Dr. No (1962) to No Time To Die (2021). The film includes interviews with the artists, clips from recording sessions and archival footage from the films. The Sound of 007 is very entertaining and currently streaming on Amazon Prime (trailer here).
But before I get to the music selections, I have a Ray Webb story.
I met Ray in law school, and we both became active in the Young Democrats. He ran for state representative in 1970, and I was his campaign manager. He lost in the primary. Two years later, when the new 15-member county legislature was established, he started campaigning for one of the seats (sticker below), but dropped out of the race that would be won by retired Chiefs tight end Fred Arbanas. Fred held the seat for 42 years.
In addition to many nights of campaigning, Ray and I also spent a lot of time together hustling law business as young lawyers. We would often wind down by shooting pool at the Club Royal at 3732 Main (still remember the address). The music was good with honky-tonk bands playing on the other side of the house. Bartender Don became a good friend and a source of referrals. We also met owner Dave Beeman who coincidentally was the step-father of David Woerner, one of my Sigma Nu fraternity brothers from college.
There was an odd feature of the bar. It was commonly referred to as the “Club Royale,” like “Casino Royale.” We did not know why it had that pronunciation. The atmosphere of the country-western bar gave zero hint of any connection to James Bond at the Casino Royale.
Last year, I was reminded of this in a JimmyC post by Jim Fitzpatrick. He was talking about hardware stores and mentioned the old Office Max that “was built at the site of the former Club Royal (which just about everybody mistakenly pronounced Royale, as if it had an ‘e’ on the end).”
This revived my interest, and so I contacted David Woerner who in turn contacted his brother Pat Beeman. In the 1960s, David and Pat had both worked in the Boom Boom Room, a teenage dance venue on the second floor above the Club Royal. Their collective memory is that when Club Royal opened in the mid-1960s, the intended pronunciation was Royal, as in American Royal. In 1967, the movie Casino Royale was released, and some Club Royal customers started using Royale as the name.
Keying off of that, the bar issued give-away casino chips as a marketing program. The pronunciation stuck, but by the time Ray and I were going to the bar in the early 1970s, the casino chips and movie had faded away. So it has taken me 50 years to learn the answer.
The Club Royal building at 3732 Main is long gone, but the Office Max that took its place preserved the façade. The current user is Kansas City Young Audiences. The building will soon have a lot more visibility. It’s on the extended street car route set to open in 2025.
Ray Webb and James Bond both had memorable opening lines. For 007, it was “Bond, James Bond.”
Ray’s was more colorful. “Hi, my name is Ray Webb Perhaps you’ve heard of me.” It was amazing how often people responded to Ray with some variation of “Why yes, I have heard of you.” Because they had – he had an outsized personality well known in the political, legal and drinking-establishment world of Kansas City. RIP my friend (my full tribute to Ray is here).
Now to the music. And some cool Bond videos.
“Dr. No Theme Song” by John Barry and his orchestra (1962). Dr. No was the first James Bond film and the first of 25 Bond films made by Eon Productions. The song was composed by Monty Norman and arranged by John Barry. It became the signature theme music for all of Eon’s James Bond films. John Barry did the score for 11 of them.
“Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey (1964). The documentary shows parts of the recording session when John Barry famously pushed Bassey to hold the last note for a very long time. After several unsuccessful takes, she went behind a screen and removed her bra, freeing her to hold the note on the next take.
Bassey’s Goldfinger recording session is also shown in a 2022 documentary about EMI Studios (later known as Abbey Road Studios). The film is If these Walls Could Sing and features artists who have recorded at the studios, most notably the Beatles. Highly recommended by Rita and me after seeing it at Telluride. Now streaming on Hulu (trailer here).
“The Look of Love” by Dusty Springfield from Casino Royale (1967). When Eon Productions bought the rights for James Bond films, the purchase did not include Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale. Those rights had already been sold and finally were used by Columbia to make a film in 1967. By then, Eon had already produced four Bond films to establish the character (played by Sean Connery). So Columbia produced a parody of Bond, played by a variety of actors, including David Niven, Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. Burt Bacharach did the score which included “The Look of Love” with lyrics by Hal David.
Dusty Springfield Trivia: One of Dusty’s biggest fans was Ray Webb, especially her rendition of “Son-Of-A Preacher Man.”
“Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings (1973). The producers asked Paul McCartney to write a song to capture the feeling of the Ian Fleming novel. Their intent was to have Shirley Bassey or Thelma Houston perform the song for the movie. McCartney’s producer George Martin said they could only use the song if Wings performed the song over the opening credits. The producers relented. Good decision.
“Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). Composed by Marvin Hamlisch with lyrics by Carol Bayer Sager.
This makes me think of a non-Bond song by Carly Simon about a man she thinks should be better.
“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon (1972).
Red and Gold: Rita and I enjoy the Plaza Lights from our condo, usually from Thanksgiving to early January. But this year, as part of the 100th anniversary celebration, the lights will continue until February 19.
Below, my iPhone photo of sunrise over the Plaza Lights. Note that the top of the Giralda Tower is bathed in red light to cheer on the Chiefs.
And the sky is doing the same with red and gold colors for the Chiefs.