Hot Stove #239 – The World Series – 25, 50, 75 and 100 Years Ago

On November 30, 2015 – eight years ago today – the inaugural Hot Stove was posted. It had been preceded by a series of emails during the playoffs that ended with the Royals winning the World Series. In the afterglow of that victory, my intent was to send a few posts during the “Hot Stove Season,” the months between the end of the World Series and the beginning of spring training. But I got addicted. Now at 239 posts and counting. With no two-term limit, Hot Stove is going into its 9th year.

In this edition, I’m going for nostalgia, taking a look at the World Series championship teams of 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. Three of the teams were enjoying a multi-season arc of dominance (a/k/a dynasty). The fourth team, the Cleveland Indians/Guardians, not.

Special Mention: For those not into nerdy baseball trivia, please still be sure to read the Luke Epplin/Bobby Knight and Karen Ball stories. And a hit-filled 1973 playlist in Lonnie’s Jukebox.

100 Years Ago – 1923 World Series: Babe Ruth’s first season with the Yankees was 1920. The team had never won a pennant since its founding in 1903. Ruth’s astounding 54 home runs gave them a shot in 1920, but they finished three games behind the Cleveland Indians who went on to win their first World Series. In 1921 and 1922, with Ruth again leading the way, the Yankees won the AL pennant but then lost each time to John McGraw’s Giants in the World Series.

 1923 World Series - Wikipedia

 In 1923, the new Yankee Stadium opened. The Giants and Yankees again faced each other in the World Series, but the result changed. The Yankees won their first World Series. And it became a habit.

From the 1920s through the 1960s, the Yankees won at least five AL pennants in each decade. From 1923 to 1962, they won the World Series 20 times.

 Casey Stengel Trivia: The Giants center fielder in the 1923 Series was 33-year-old Casey Stengel. In the 9th inning of Game 1, Casey hit an inside-the-park homer for the winning margin in a 5-4 win. In Game 3, Casey hit an outside-the-park homer for the only run in a 1-0 victory. Those were the only two games won by the Giants. Casey managed the Yankees from 1949 to 1960, leading the team to ten pennants and seven World Series Championships.

 75 Years Ago – 1948 World Series: As noted above, Cleveland won the World Series in 1920, Ruth’s first year with the Yankees. After that, and through today, Cleveland has only one other World Series Championship – in 1948, when owner Bill Veeck got the jump on the other American League teams by integrating the AL with the signing of Larry Doby in 1947 and adding Satchel Paige in 1948. Doby was the first Black player to hit a home run in a World Series, and Paige was the first Black player to pitch in one.

Cleveland won four games to two over the Boston Braves. Reports on that 1948 storied season are in Hot Stoves 195 and 228.

1948 World Series Poster 11X17 -  Indians vs. Braves - Picture 1 of 4

 Politically Incorrect Trivia: In 1970, Fleer issued a set of World Series cards. For 1948, they depicted the Indians scalping the Boston Braves in the “War of tribes won by Cleveland.” In 2022, Cleveland dropped the Indians team name and became the Guardians. The Braves are still the Braves after moving from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta.

 1968 Fleer Baseball #45 1948 World Series Cleveland Indians Vs ...

 World Series Drought Trivia: Cleveland has not won a World Series for the last 75 years (and counting) – the longest active drought in MLB. But they are a long way from the record. The Chicago Cubs went through a 108-year drought between their World Series wins in 1908 and 2016.

 Luke Epplin, Bobby Knight (RIP) and the 1948 Cleveland Indians: The story of the 1948 Indians is well told by Luke Epplin in his book, Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series That Changed Baseball. The four men were Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, Larry Doby and Bill Veeck. Soon after the book was published in 2021, Epplin was interviewed by curator Ray Doswell of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

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A chance remark from Ray after that interview led to Epplin sending a copy of Our Team to coach Bobby Knight. After Knight died earlier this month at age 83, Epplin told the poignant story (via 12 tweets) of what happened after Knight received the book. The first tweet:

 Post by Luke Epplin on X.png

 [The next ten tweets from Epplin, slightly edited]

So I got Knight’s address, mailed him a copy of Our Team and included my contact info. One week later, my phone rang…I picked up and heard an unmistakable voice: “Luke, this is Coach Knight.” His voice was fainter than I remembered, but I figured that he’d simply gotten older.

 He thanked me for the book…I asked if he’d ever seen any of the players in Our Team in person. He paused and said, “No, I didn’t see them. I’m reading about them.” I said, “I know, but did you see them as a kid in Cleveland.” Again, he replied, “No, I didn’t see them, I’m reading about them.” Something felt wrong, so I thanked him for the call…

 A few days later, I got another call…a guy who said he’d been friends with Bobby Knight for decades…He told me that Bobby Knight was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, and it’d become so advanced that he really didn’t remember much at all about being the head coach of Indiana University, that he didn’t remember players…However, Knight could remember everything about the Cleveland Indian teams from his youth. If you held up a picture of a baseball diamond, pointed at third base, and asked, “Bobby, who played here during the 1948 season,” he could shoot back “Ken Keltner” in an instant.

 So this guy told me that [when visiting Bobby from week to week] he read the entirety of Our Team aloud, and Bobby would stop him at times to say that he remembered that specific moment or game or event…the book had given comfort not only to Bobby Knight but to him, to recover, if only momentarily, the conversation with the friend he’d known for decades.

 I grew up in Illinois…Bobby Knight was the enemy…But…just knowing that in Knight’s last years, he was finding meaning in a book that I’d written, that it gave him and those around him comfort…it was the first time that I understood the book as something larger than me.

[The closing tweet…]

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 Three days after Epplin posted his tweets, New York Times reporter Remy Tumin turned the tweet thread into an article headlined “For a Chair-Throwing Basketball Coach, Baseball Was a Comforting Coda.” She interviewed Bob Hammel, the Knight friend who had called Epplin, and he said that just a year ago (at 82), Knight could recite the starting lineup of his boyhood Cleveland team of 1948 (the year Knight turned seven).

Tumin’s article also notes Knight’s connection to Tony La Russa. In 1988, La Russa was coaching for the A’s when he got a call from Knight who had heard La Russa was using a Knight quote as a motivation to his players. Knight was concerned that he was being misquoted, so La Russa invited Knight to spring training so he could talk directly to the players. Knight continued to visit each of La Russa’s spring trainings through 2011. Below, from spring training in 2008, Knight standing behind Cardinals manager La Russa.

 Bobby Knight watches over Tony La Russa’s shoulder as he prepares to hit a baseball.

 Epplin was of course pleased to see his story in the NYT.

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The first response to Luke’s tweet was this one:

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 Why do I include Walter’s tweet? It’s a small world story. Walter is a New York-based political journalist, currently at The New Republic. He has covered every presidential campaign since 1980, which means 2024 will be his 12th. Rita and I met Walter during the 1996 campaign through our mutual friend, Congresswoman Karen McCarthy. Walter is a big baseball fan and has been a Hot Stove subscriber since the inaugural issue. He’s an Orioles fan, but his backup favorite is Kansas City. He has been to Kauffman Stadium, and he rooted for the Royals in those World Series games in 2014 and 2015.

 Luke Epplin at NLBM (2023): In September of this year – to honor the 75th anniversary of the 1948 World Series – Luke Epplin came to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum for an interview about his book with President Bob Kendrick. Photos by NLBM photographer Jerry Lockett.


This gave me the chance to meet Luke and get my book signed. Below, Bob and Lonnie with Kiona Sinks, Community Engagement Manager of the NLBM.

1948 Negro League World Series: The year 1948 hosted another World Series. The Homestead Grays beat the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro League World Series.

sailor (@sailor643) / X

This turned out to be the last Negro League World Series. Teams began disbanding as the better Negro League players were being signed by the AL and NL. A good example was 17-year-old Willie Mays who starred for the Barons in the 1948 Series. As soon as Willie graduated from high school, he signed with the New York Giants.

50 Years Ago – 1973 World Series: The Yankees and the A’s are the only franchises that have won three or more consecutive World Series. The Yankees from 1936-1939 (4), 1949-1953 (5) and 1998-2000 (3). Oakland had a three-peat with World Series victories in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Royals fans with long memories know that those 1972-1974 teams were developed in Kansas City. A good number of the players were either on the Kansas City roster or in the minor league system when the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968.

In the 1973 Series, the Mets took the lead three games to two. But the A’s bounced back to win the final two games with the big hits coming from two former Kansas City A’s players. Campy Campaneris who famously played all nine positions for Kansas City in 1965. And Reggie Jackson who was the MVP of the 1973 Series, on his way to becoming known as “Mr. October.”


 A’s World Series Trivia: The Yankees have won the most World Series – 27. The Cardinals are next with 11 (all in St. Louis). Tied for third with nine each are the Red Sox (all in Boston) and the A’s (five in Philadelphia and four in Oakland).

 A’s Relocation Trivia: The Philadelphia A’s were founded in 1901 and played 54 seasons in the City of Brotherly Love. In 1955, the franchise moved to Kansas City where they played for 13 seasons. In 1968, restless owner Charlie Finley moved the team to Oakland where it has so far played 56 seasons. Two weeks ago, the American League approved yet another relocation of the A’s, giving restless owner John Fisher the right to move the team to Las Vegas on a date to be determined.

A group of East Bay fans is forming a new team, the Oakland Ballers, that will play in the independent Pioneer League. The team nickname will be the B’s, as in after the A’s.

25 Years Ago – 1998 World Series: The Yankees dominance dropped off after they won the 1962 World Series. With the help of Reggie Jackson, they next won it all in 1977 and 1978 (both times after beating the Royals in the ALCS). They then suffered an 18-year drought before fielding a new dynasty-level team that won six pennants and four World Series from 1996 to 2003.

The 1998 Yankees won 114 games in the regular season and then another 11 in the playoffs, finishing with a sweep of the Padres in the World Series. Many consider this season to be the best by a team in MLB history (even over the Ruth-Gehrig Yankees of 1927).

That was the first of a three-peat as the Yankees won it all in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The biggest names were Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but the teams were loaded with many other good hitters and pitchers. Owner George Steinbrenner was a happy man.

 1998 World Series - Wikipedia

 Over the last 20 years (2004-2023), the Yankees have returned to the World Series only one time, winning in 2009. George Steinbrenner (RIP 2010) would not be happy.

George Steinbrenner Trivia: My favorite version of the Yankees owner is of course the one voiced by Larry David on Seinfeld (click here).

Karen Ball (1961-2023): Last week, Kansas City lost one of its most passionate baseball fans. Karen Ball (obituary here) was a celebrated journalist whose coverage included political campaigns, the White House and Capitol Hill. Her full-time reporting career was cut short by multiple sclerosis, but she remained active as a writer, wife, mother of four and civic activist. In 2007, her family returned to her hometown of Kansas City.

Karen Janene Ball Obituary - Kansas City, MO

Karen’s husband, David Von Drehle, is a Kansas City-based columnist and editor for the Washington Post (and an occasional contributor to Hot Stove). In a Facebook post, David said, “Karen lived for her family, her Missouri Tigers, a good bargain and the thrill of a breaking news story.”

The obituary notes that Karen was proud that she was one of relatively few girls in her generation who knew how to keep a scorecard. This was put to good use in 1985. As Karen wrote in an article about her career:

“I transferred to the AP’s Kansas City bureau for a year, and what a year it was for a lifelong baseball fan. I jumped at the chance to help cover the AL playoffs and the World Series. While I was shagging quotes in the locker room, most of the players – including the great George Brett – were dignified and kept their clothes on.”

She also treasured memories as a Royals fan attending the World Series in 2015.

Fittingly, Karen’s memorial celebration will be held at Kauffman Stadium. Karen’s friend, Royals owner John Sherman, said, “Karen was a great baseball fan and a great sports fan. I spent time with her at the K and Arrowhead. Her knowledge of the game and the athletes was impressive. She never hesitated to give me feedback on the Royals. I will miss her advice when Opening Day rolls around.”

RIP Karen.

Dick Berkley (1931-2023): Late yesterday, I started seeing tweets that another avid Royals fan had died. Three-term mayor Richard “Dick” Berkley was 92. Below, from 2018, Berkley sitting in the Buck O’Neil legacy seat at Kauffman Stadium. From left, Dick, his wife Sandy, Kristi Wyatt (Dick’s chief assistant during his terms as mayor) and Jerry Wyatt.

RIP Mr. Mayor

 Visions of America – Crosby Kemper: The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and PBS Books are producing “Visions of America: All Stories, All People, All Places,” a series of videos exploring our nation in celebration of the upcoming semiquincentennial anniversary (2026) of America’s independence.

The third episode in the series was released last night and is titled “Discovering 18th & Vine in Kansas City.” It is hosted by the Director of IMLS, Crosby Kemper, formerly the long-time leader of the Kansas City Public Library (and Hot Stove subscriber). Crosby’s interviews include NLBM’s Bob Kendrick, sportswriter Joe Posnanski, Marr Archives Sound Director Chuck Haddix, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and 91-year-old barbecue baron Ollie Gates. Below, a screenshot of Crosby and Bob in the video.


It’s a superb tribute to our city. Full video here (27 minutes) and trailer here.

Visions of America: Discovering 18th & Vine in Kansas City – Stories of  African American History - YouTube

Lonnie’s Jukebox – 1973 Edition: I thought about a setlist of songs from 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago. Those from 75 and 100 were too old for me. Those from 25 years ago were too new for me. So, I’m going with the familiar, records from the Billboard charts of 1973. It was a very good year.

There were 27 #1 songs during 1973, ranging from one week to five weeks in the top spot. Click here to hear snippets of all 27 in a 2-minute medley.

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon, live at Martha’s Vineyard. This classic held the #1 spot for the first three weeks of 1973. Taylor Swift has said “You’re So Vain” is the “best song ever written.” Swift is known for her expertise in break-up songs. Carly joined Taylor on stage for a duet of the song during the Red Tour in 2013 (click here).

Carly Simon No Secrets Fleece Blanket by Robert VanDerWal - Pixels

“Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack. This record had the longest run at #1 in 1973. Five weeks.

“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder, live at the White House. When I hum this song (I can’t carry a tune), it’s about my managing editor.

“My Love” by Paul McCartney and Wings. Written by Paul as a love song to his wife and Wings bandmate Linda. Two other former Beatles had #1 hits in 1973: “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)” by George Harrison and “Photograph” by Ringo Starr.

“Big Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce on the Midnight Special on June 15, 1973. This record hit #1 in July. Croce hit #1 again in December, but tragically, “Time in a Bottle” was a posthumous success. Croce died in a plane crash on September 20, 1973. One of our greatest troubadours.

Who was Jim Croce? | The US Sun

“Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross. Diana’s second #1 as a solo artist (the first was “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”).

“Delta Dawn” by Helen Reddy. A favorite of Ray Webb’s. Coincidentally, today is Roz Webb’s birthday. Happy Birthday Roz!! And same to Dan Margolies!!

“The Most Beautiful Girl” by Charlie Rich. This song was #1 on three Billboard charts – Pop, country and adult contemporary. The song was covered by George Costanza on Seinfeld (click here).

“Will It Go Round in Circles“ by Billy Preston and “Love Train” by the O’Jays (on Soul Train). Get up and dance!

The O'Jays - Give The People What They Want (Official Soul Train Video) -  YouTube