Hot Stove #234 – 2023 Postseason Begins

The 2023 MLB regular season came down to the last day to finalize the division winners and Wild Card seeding. Let’s start with…

Saturday, September 30 – Penultimate Day of the Regular Season: On the next to the last day of the season, eight teams were still battling to determine where they would finish in the final standings. Three would be eliminated. Here is a graphic describing how the Saturday MLB games would matter (from blogger Jay Cuda posted on X, f/k/a Twitter):


As luck would have it, Rita and I were in Phoenix to attend one of the games that mattered to both teams. We were in town to visit our friends Larry and Diana Brewer and timed the trip to catch a game at Chase Field, the 25th MLB stadium in our quest to see all 30 MLB franchises in their home parks. We have five remaining on the bucket list: two in Texas, two in Florida and Seattle.

Below, Rita at the entrance to Chase Field. As the signage behind her indicates, the team is celebrating its 25th year. The city was granted an MLB franchise in 1995, but not to commence play until 1998. This allowed time for the stadium to be built by opening day of 1998. Three years later, the expansion Diamondbacks stunned the MLB community by beating the powerhouse Yankees in the 2001 World Series.


Chase Field has a sliding roof and discolored artificial turf. Not my ideal for a baseball stadium, and most rankings for “best stadiums” show Chase at the low end. It’s not the Diamondbacks fault – air conditioning is a must in the desert heat (which is getting worse), and the initial attempt with natural grass failed. Currently, there are cable/pulley issues that keep the roof closed even if the weather cooperates.

When we entered the stadium, we found it was rally towel giveaway night – see them unfurled below.


The Diamondbacks could clinch a Wild Card slot with a win over Houston or with a Cincinnati loss to the Cardinals. In the 8th inning of our game, word came that the Cardinals had defeated the Reds. The crowd exploded with glee as the scoreboard displayed the news.


So, the Diamondbacks could lose and still be in the postseason. And that’s what they did. The rally towels led to zero runs as Justin Verlander and four relievers pitched a shutout for the Astros.

This was a big win for the Astros who were in a tight race for the AL West with the Rangers and Mariners who were playing each other. The Rangers won, eliminating Seattle from the postseason, and setting up Sunday’s game to see which Texas team would win the AL West.

Although the Diamondbacks lost the game, they still celebrated clinching the Wild Card slot, beginning with champagne in the clubhouse and then the pool in right-center field. Video here.

Final five MLB playoff spots clinched - Taipei Times

Sunday, October 1 – Last Day of the Regular Season: The Saturday games eliminated the Mariners, Cubs and Reds who joined 15 other teams who would need to “wait till next year.” A Jay Cuda graphic showed the next time the 30 teams would play a game that counts:


There was still a big piece of unfinished business for Sunday. Texas led Houston by a game in the AL West. If Texas beat Seattle or Houston lost to Arizona, Texas would win the title. But Houston won and Texas lost, giving them both a 90-72 record. Since Houston had won more regular season games against Texas, the tiebreaker went to Houston, awarding them the division title AND a bye in the Wild Card round. The Rangers settled for a Wild Card slot.

Tuesday to Thursday, October 3-5 – Wild Card Round: The four Wild Card matchups had the feel of a lightning round. These best-of-three series are played on consecutive days in the stadiums of the higher seeds (no travel day necessary). As it turned out, there were sweeps in all four series and no third games were played.

2023 MLB Wild Card Series Exclusively on ESPN Platforms - ESPN Press Room  U.S.

Texas over Tampa Bay (2-0): I was rooting for Texas in solidarity with my friends Bob Moxham (a KC native living in Dallas) and Richard Martin (a Dallas native living in KC). The Rangers not only beat the favored Rays, but made it look easy. In Game 1, the Rays committed four errors and were shut out 4-0. A newspaper headline said it all: “Rays didn’t show up for Game 1, and neither did their fans.” The attendance for Game 1 at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field was 19,704, the smallest MLB postseason crowd in over a hundred years. The Rays avoided a shutout in Game 2, losing 7-1, playing before the second smallest MLB postseason crowd in a hundred years (20,198). Go Rangers! Downside: Will miss seeing Randy Arozarena in the postseason.

Minnesota over Toronto (2-0): In 2004, Minnesota won the first game in its ALDS series against the Yankees. They then lost the next 18 postseason games they played. That sad streak ended this year when the Twins defeated Toronto in Game 1. The hero was Royce Lewis who hit two home runs to lead the Twins to a 3-1 victory. Minnesota won Game 2 with a 2-0 shutout. The poor offense of the Blue Jays was highlighted by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being picked off second base when the Jays were in the middle of a rally (video here).

Arizona over Milwaukee (2-0): When Rita and I saw the Diamondbacks last Saturday, their offense was absent. They lost 1-0, repeatedly failing to drive in runners in scoring position. Three days later in Milwaukee, in Game 1 of their Will Card series, Arizona fell behind 3-0. And then they woke up, scoring six unanswered runs for a 6-3 victory. In Game 2, the Brewers took a 2-0 lead, but the Diamondbacks again came back to win 5-2. Long-time Milwaukee broadcaster Bob Uecker posted a photo of how he felt, saying “When you win 92 games but your ‘playoff run’ lasts 27 hours.”


Philadelphia over Florida (2-0): No contest. The Marlins lost 4-1 and 7-1. My favorite video from this series is one without any broadcasters, just the crowd noise of the joyful Phillies fans when Bryson Stott hit a grand slam in Game 2 (click here).

Next Up – NLDS and ALDS: Tomorrow, the next round begins. Here is the current bracket:

2023 MLB playoff and World Series schedule

For the first time in 30 years, the postseason does not include the Yankees, Red Sox or Cardinals.

My favorite is Texas, and not just because of Moxham and Martin. The Rangers are the only remaining postseason team that has never won a World Series. The franchise was founded in Washington in 1961 and moved to Texas in 1972. They have won two pennants (2010 and 2011), but never a World Series. Fans of the Royals have had a tough 2023, but our newer franchise (1969) has won four pennants and two World Series. It’s time for Rangers fans to feel this joy.

The negative side is that Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz would be preening before the cameras. But I’d rather it be for the Rangers than the Astros. Remember when Governor Abbott posted this tweet in 2015?

Did Texas Governor Greg Abbott Just Jinx The Astros? | HuffPost Canada  Politics

This tweet was sent in the 7th inning of Game 4 of the 2015 ALDS between the Astros and Royals. The Astros were leading the series, two games to one, and had taken a lead 6-2 in the 7th inning of Game 4. That’s what prompted Governor Abbott’s act of premature celebration. The Royals roared back with seven runs to win 9-6. The Royals won Game 5 the next day to advance to the ALCS on their way to winning the World Series. Good times.

The 2023 Kansas City Royals: The final 2023 record of 56-106 tied the Royals team record for losses (also 56-106 in 2005).

The Royals escaped being last among MLB teams because Oakland finished 50-112. The last time the A’s had the worst record in the majors was in 1960 – when they were playing in Kanas City.

Is there a positive note here (other than celebrating Bobby Witt Jr.)? At the risk of being labeled a Pollyanna…

In 2021: Baltimore lost 110 games. Arizona lost 110 games. Texas lost 102 games.

In 2023: All three of these teams made the postseason and are still playing after the Wild Card round.

So…a trend to be followed by the Royals? Stay tuned.

Bob Wehrman Celebration of Life: This coming Sunday (Oct. 8), there will be a celebration of the life of Bob Wehrman. Noon to 3 pm at the Mill Room, 1201 W. Main St., Blue Springs, Missouri.

From 1994: Bob, Peggy, Lonnie and Rita in Vancouver.

From 2015: A reunion of Polsinelli law partners from the 1980s. Seated, from left: Paul Vardeman (RIP), Bob Wehrman (RIP), Hal Goss, Fuzzy White, Jim Bowers and Dale Schulte. Standing, Mike White, David Welte, Lonnie Shalton and Jim Polsinelli.

FW Vardeman Dinner (85.5) - Photos.png

Lonnie’s Jukebox – 1950s High School Edition: Some of the stories below have been in prior Hot Stoves, but a confluence of September events put me in a mood to reminisce.

I grew up in an area of Independence which was then in the Kansas City School District. In the 8th grade (1954-55), I took a 4-mile bus each school day to Northeast Junior High School. For my last four years of high school, I switched to the newly-built Van Horn, just three blocks from my home.

By luck of the draw, a good amount of my classes at Northeast included Jasper DeSimone, Shirley Maycock and Diana Sullivan. Shirley was my first date. Jasper dated Diana. The dating was short lived, but still good memories.

Jasper and I were baseball fanatics and cut school together on opening day (April 12, 1955) for the first major league game played in KC by the relocated Philadelphia Athletics. We went to several A’s games that summer, but then lost contact. Jasper lived in the Northeast area and continued high school there. Diana, Shirley and I went to Van Horn and graduated together in 1959.

In 2009, in planning for the 50th Van Horn reunion, I wrote a memoir about my high school years, mostly to feature the rock ‘n’ roll records we heard during those years. I included a mention of the A’s opening game and thought I’d see if I could find Jasper to send him a copy. He was in the phone book, now going by Jay, and he had a good idea – “let’s go to a Royals game.” We did and have almost every year since. Below, from September 20 this year, two octogenarians on our annual pilgrimage to the K.

After high school, I went to engineering school at Rolla. One of my fraternity brothers was Larry Brewer, and I fixed him up with Diana Sullivan. They have been married over 50 years. Rita and I have traveled to many parts of the world with them, and we often visit them in Phoenix. Diana and I have stayed in touch with Shirley who a few years ago moved to Tucson, as did two other 1959 Van Horn classmates, Janet (Pavola) and Phil Clemens. This makes it convenient for mini reunions when Rita and I are in Phoenix. Below, at lunch last weekend in Florence, Arizona, midway between Phoenix and Tucson.


On the left side, from front, Gary Nuss, Shirley (Maycock) Nuss (my first date), Diana (Sullivan) Brewer and Janet (Pavola) Clemens. On the right, Rita Leifhelm (my last date), Lonnie, Larry Brewer and Phil Clemens.

While in the 8th grade at Northeast, we started getting vibes about a new music genre – rock ‘n’ roll. A mix of country, folk, gospel and jazz powered by rhythm and blues. The first purveyor of rock for many of us was Bill Haley and His Comets who hit the charts in 1954/1955 with Shake, Rattle and Roll; Dim, Dim the Lights; Birth of the Boogie; Mambo Rock; and “Rock Around the Clock.”

“Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Bill Haley and His Comets (1954). A cover of the R&B hit by Kansas City’s Big Joe Turner (Joe’s version here).

“Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets (1954). This record did not hit the charts when first released but jumped to #1 when it was used to start and end the movie Blackboard Jungle.

During the summer 1955 and into our freshman year at Van Horn, the rock ‘n’ roll revolution was in full force. Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard came into our lives. And have never left.

little richard — THIS WEEK IN ROCKABILLY HISTORY — Let's Go Rockabilly!

“Maybellene” by Chuck Berry (1955).

“Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino (1955).

“Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard (1955).

In the spring and summer of 1956, Elvis Presley had his first four #1 records. My favorite was…

“Don’t Be Cruel” by Elvis Presley (1956)

“Don’t Be Cruel” (Chicken version). Video is not from Teen Town at Van Horn. For more cute dancing to Elvis, click here.

Rita and I were reminded of the ongoing iconic status of Elvis while strolling through a park in Warsaw, Poland, in 2018.


As we entered our junior year, the class of ’59 was introduced to Buddy Holly.

“That’ll Be the Day” by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1957). Sadly, Buddy would be killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, “the day the music died.” It was a dark day at Van Horn. Buddy, Little Richard, Fats and Chuck make up my Mount Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll.

Three final selections…

“Party Doll” by Buddy Knox (1957). Shirley and Lonnie’s favorite for dancing at Teen Town. Below, Diana, Janet, Lonnie, Shirley and Phil.

FW Van Horn '59.png

Thanks to the patient spouses who listened to our reminiscing. Larry, Rita and Gary.


“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry (1958).


“Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison (1959). For the last two weeks of May in 1959, the #1 record in the country was “Kansas City.” A perfect graduation farewell to the Van Horn class of 1959.

Performance: Kansas City by Wilbert Harrison | SecondHandSongs

My high school memoir was the original “Lonnie’s Jukebox,” using 50 of my 45 rpm records to tell the story. The full version is on the website (click here), and my son Brian has put the playlist on Spotify (click here).

It’s been over 60 years since this music entertained our teenage world. How has it held up? “Kansas City” is still played at the end of all Royals games (Wilbert Harrison after losses and the Beatles version after wins). This past Sunday, Bob Dylan was at the Midland Theater in Kansas City to debut a new leg of his “Rough and Rowdy Ways” tour. I was not there (watching the Chiefs/Jets game), but Steve Paul was and tweeted that Dylan had kicked off the show with “Kansas City.” Two nights ago, the tour was in St. Louis, and Dylan started that show by honoring St. Louis native Chuck Berry, playing “Johnny B. Goode.” Holding up well.

A Closing Royals Note: Another all-star season for Royals photographer Jason Hanna.