The playoffs are almost set. The Wild Card Games are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday next week. Rita and I will be watching those games in Lake Havasu City in Arizona with our friends Larry and Diana Brewer. Havasu’s claim to fame is that it is the home of the original London Bridge built in the 1830’s to cross the Thames. The bridge was dismantled in 1967, shipped in parts to Arizona, and reassembled to cross a channel of the Colorado River. I wonder if we have to drive on the left when crossing the bridge.
As we await the end of the season, here are some idle thoughts on potential scenarios for the 2018 World Series. Calendar note: If it goes seven games, Game 7 will be played on Halloween.
The Cleveland Indians Scenario: I am a broken record on this. Just like last year, I want the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. Why?
The Indians have not won a World Series since they beat the Boston Braves in 1948 – 70 years ago!
That 1948 Cleveland team was so special. Owner Bill Veeck. Larry Doby, the first African-American to play in the AL. Pitchers Bob Feller and Satchel Paige. The crowds of 80,000 in the old Municipal Stadium.
I wrote about the 1948 team last year, as well as Cleveland’s World Series losses in 1954, 1995, 1997 and 2016 (losses attributed by some to the curses of Rocky Colavito and Chief Wahoo). If you want a reminder, see Hot Stove #54 by clicking this link.
There are also two Kansas City-based reasons to favor the Indians. They play in the same division as our Royals – so a parochial bias applies for me. I’m still the person who roots for any original AFL team to win the Super Bowl. The other reason is that John Sherman, Vice Chairman and part owner of the Indians, is a local Kansas City guy. John has had a nice run with his 2016 investment – three straight AL Central Division titles and one World Series trip (losing to the Cubs in 2016). Rita took this photo of John and me when we connected at Progressive Field in Cleveland this summer:
I checked in with John about the upcoming playoffs. His take: “We are incredibly fortunate to be participating in our third straight postseason. One thing that I have learned from my three years of direct involvement with baseball is that the professionals never take it for granted. It is difficult to get there, particularly for small market teams. There is something special about October baseball. We all know from our experience in Kansas City in ’14 and ’15 that going deep in postseason baseball is exciting and can lift an entire community. The Indians have put together a talented group of players led by a two time World Series Champion manager. We will be in Kansas City to play the Royals in the regular season finale, then it will be on to Houston to start the Division Series on October 5. Let the games begin…”
The Boston Red Sox v. Chicago Cubs Scenario: If, sadly, Cleveland does not make it to the Series, this is my next favorite. It would be a rematch of the 1918 World Series – 100 years ago. Just as they were in 1918, the current Cubs and Red Sox have the best season records in their respective leagues. Another cool fact – they play in the same stadiums as they did a century ago. Fenway was built in 1912, Wrigley in 1914. But the stadium story has a twist.
The Cubs played their 1918 regular season home games in Weeghman Park, then the name of Wrigley Field. This was before there were some of the outfield stands and the second deck, so the capacity was only 18,000. Hoping for bigger World Series crowds, the Cubs hosted the three Chicago games at Comiskey Park (capacity 30,000) – rented from the crosstown White Sox.
The 1918 Series was played under the cloud of World War I, prompting a new tradition – playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the games. Babe Ruth pitched two games in the Series for the Red Sox, and it was also the season he began his transition from pitcher to slugger. More details from this Series will be in the next Hot Stove.
The Never-Has-Won Scenario: Although Cleveland has the longest Series drought – 70 years – they have two titles (1920, 1948). There are seven teams that have never won, but their Series droughts are less because they are expansion teams: Washington Senators/Texas (1961), Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (1969), San Diego (1969), Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee (1969), Seattle Mariners (1977), Colorado (1993) and Tampa Bay (1998). Five of these teams have been in the Series, but lost. The Nationals and Mariners have never made the trip.
Only two of these teams have a shot this year. The Rockies and Brewers are battling with the Dodgers and Cardinals for the last three spots in the NL playoffs.
I could easily root for Colorado in support of my high school pals Phil and Janet Clemens and Lynn Carlisle. These Kansas City ex-pats in the mountains have never seen their Rockies win a World Series. The team has won one NL pennant, in 2007, losing the Series to the Red Sox.
My gut reason to root for the Milwaukee Brewers is the one degree of separation from the Royals: Lorenzo Cain in center field and Mike Moustakas at third base.
The Brewers franchise began as the AL expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, but they quickly went into bankruptcy, got bought by Bud Selig and moved to Milwaukee in 1970. In 1982, the Brewers won the American League pennant under manager Harvey Kuenn who led a hard-hitting team known as Harvey’s Wallbangers. The Cardinals won the NL, and Woody Overton and I drove down to St. Louis to see Game 7 at Busch Stadium. It was a fun night to be in St. Louis.
[A Tale of Two Leagues Trivia: Only two franchises have changed leagues. Houston moved to the AL in 2013 and has the distinction of winning a pennant in both leagues, the NL in 2005 and AL in 2017. Milwaukee has the potential to do that. They won the AL pennant in 1982 and moved to the NL in 1998. Will it be this year?]
The Rematch Scenario – Cleveland Indians v. Atlanta Braves. This would be a rematch of the 1948 World Series except for one important difference: the Braves franchise was then in Boston. In the 70 years since, the Braves have moved to Milwaukee (in 1953) and then to Atlanta (in 1966). The teams have already had one rematch. Atlanta beat the Indians in the 1995 Series.
The Braves have the distinction of being the only franchise to win the Series in three different cities: Boston (1914), Milwaukee (1957) and Atlanta (1995). There is not much competition for this. Since the Series started in 1903, there is only one other franchise that has played in three cities: the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics. The Athletics have won the Series nine times, five in Philadelphia and four in Oakland. None in Kansas City. So the Braves record is safe.
The Any AL Team but the Yankees Scenario: I love Aaron Judge. I hate the Yankees. I don’t think I need to explain why.
The St. Louis Cardinals Scenario: While I lean to the never-has-won scenario that would favor the Rockies or Brewers in the NL, I think the Cardinals deserve a shout-out for their comeback this season. Also, I am trying to avoid the wrath of the many Cardinals fans who subscribe to Hot Stove.
In July, just before the All-Star game, the Cardinals fired one Mike and named another as manager. Mike Matheny had been the Cardinals manager since 2012 and had a record of 47-46 for 2018. However, a “tense clubhouse” and “low energy” atmosphere got him fired and replaced by Mike Shildt. Since then, the team has surged and has a good shot at a Wild Card slot. After that, anything can happen – remember, the 2014 World Series was played between two Wild Card teams, the Royals and the Giants. And as any St. Louis fan will be happy to tell you, the Cardinals have won more World Series (11) than anyone but the (hated) Yankees (27).
The Royals Scenario: Made you look. Okay, no such scenario for 2018. So I’ll default to nostalgia.
In 1985, I ran into Kansas City Mayor Dick Berkley at a restaurant in Union Station in St. Louis. We were both in town for the Royals/Cardinals I-70 World Series. As it would turn out, we both went to all seven games, the three in St. Louis and the four in Kansas City. Dick’s passion for baseball and the Royals got a nice acknowledgement from the team last month.
The Royals honor Buck O’Neill’s legacy at each home game by naming a member of the community who embodies an aspect of Buck’s spirit. That person gets to sit in “Buck’s Seat” at the K, and on August 11, it was Dick Berkley. I was watching the game on TV (against those same Cardinals) and there was a crowd shot that showed Berkley and another Hot Stove reader, Kristi Wyatt, Berkley’s chief assistant during his three terms in office. With the magic of DVR, I backed up the video, took a photo of my TV screen and emailed it to Kristi at the game. The four fans were glad to see how they looked on TV. Left to right: Dick, his wife Sandy, Kristi, her husband Jerry.
Lonnie’s Jukebox – Billy Joel: In the 2015 World Series, the Royals beat the Mets four games to one. Mets fans got to smile in Game 3 with their only victory and singing along with Billy Joel to “Piano Man” as shown in this video (the game play-by-play in the background is Kris Medlen of the Royals pitching to Daniel Murphy).
Fast forward to 2018. George Brett, a big fan of Billy Joel, announced earlier this year that the artist would perform at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals cited the parallel career paths of Brett and Joel, starting in 1971 with Brett’s first minor league game and Joel’s first album. Brett became a perennial all-star. Joel kept having number one hits. Brett won batting titles in three different decades (1976, 1980 and 1990), matched by #1 albums by Joel in the same decades. Brett’s last game and Joel’s last album with original songs came in 1993. And in 1999, Brett was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Joel into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Joel is a big baseball fan and has been scheduling many of his tour stops over the last three years at baseball stadiums. Fenway, Wrigley, Safeco, PNC, Petco, etc. He also has used baseball references in his music, most notably in “We Didn’t Start the Fire” where he included DiMaggio, Campanella and Mantle among his 100 headliners and celebrated “Brooklyn’s got a winning team” (their only Series victory, 1955) and lamented “California baseball” (the move of the Dodgers and Giants in 1958). Click on this video which includes the years and lyrics from the rapid-fire delivery.
The Royals promoted the September 21 Joel concert with a bobblehead given out to fans at the September 10 game. The St. Louis Cardinals did the same for Joel’s Busch Stadium concert.
The event went down this past Friday night before a capacity crowd of some 40,000. We did not attend, but several people have told me it was a great evening to be at the K. Per my law partner Mary Jane Judy: “So so fun. And amazing to stand in centerfield with a totally full stadium and look up.”
Rita and I saw Billy Joel long ago at Kemper Arena. I think it was 1994. I was hosting my client Mike Russell and his wife Carol in our law firm’s suite. Fun show.
Bonus Cut: Joel played at Kauffman on September 21, but judging from the setlist in the paper, he did not cover the most relevant song for that date. That would be the Earth, Wind and Fire classic that opens with “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” Enjoy Maurice White and his “ba-dee-ya” refrains here.
Last Word: At noted in Hot Stove #75, Hollis Hanover gave me a heads-up on a term that I might find relevant to some of my obscenely long posts. TL;DR. “Too long; didn’t read.” Well the term is now official. TL;DR and some 840 other words were added this year to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. In the Merriam-Webster announcement, only one of the new words got an illustration:
My humble thanks to those Hot Stove subscribers who are still reading this post. TL;RA. “Too long; read anyway.” Such good people.