10.13.2014

Saturday Night Live recap: Bill Hader

So I just finished watching Saturday’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Bill Hader ranks as one of my all-time favorite SNL cast members, and his hosting gig over the weekend easily goes as the best episode of the season. … I could barely stand to watch the first two weeks’ episodes.

I loved seeing Hader play Herb Welch, Stefon and the veteran ventriloquist again – all favorite SNL characters of mine. And the three appearances shaped arguably my favorite sketches of the night.




Here’s EW’s review, and yes, the cold open was plain awful.

10.12.2014

Royal times in Nashville

Sunday night, and the Royals have a night off. But I’ll get to them.

I’m back home today after experiencing a bit of Nashville during the last couple days.

The university photographer and I boarded a plane and flew over Thursday evening. The reason for our trip was to gather information and photos for our cover story in the university’s spring alumni magazine – a child psychiatrist who teaches at Vanderbilt and recently authored a book about child anxiety.

When we arrived at our hotel Thursday night near downtown Nashville, some live music was pouring out of a bar across the street, and it was obvious then and there how much of a music capital it is.

Friday morning, we met our cover subject for breakfast at Marche, a cozy little corner diner with a retro vibe in East Nashville. We hit it off with some good conversation there before heading to her place – a beautifully restored and decorated 1910 home – for the extended interview. We continued the day with a photo shoot on the Vanderbilt campus, a visit to her private practice, lunch at Desano Pizzeria, some basketball at the YMCA and then sat in on one of her Vanderbilt classes Friday evening. It was a fun, stimulating day, and once again I’m struck by the wonderful things the alumni of my university are doing.

Our work complete for the day, The Photographer and I began looking for a good place to eat and watch the Royals game Friday night. After driving aimlessly for several minutes we pulled up to Broadway and stumbled on The District. Again, music was blaring from every corner and it was very apparent that that was the place to be.

We parked the car and found the game at Bailey’s Sports Grille. A nice hostess standing at the door directed us to an elevator and the second floor, where the game was playing on multiple big screens – with sound. There were a few Baltimore fans, but mostly the room was filled with Royals fans. And we hooped and hollered with every play that went the Royals’ way. It was a great environment to watch the game.



Here’s a good read from The New York Times
The Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals, two cornerstones of the American League, had never played each other in the postseason, despite distinct periods of success in both towns, especially in the 1970s.
In the first 17 years after the playoff format was introduced in 1969, one or the other team was in the American League Championship Series in all but four of those years, though neither had been to the Championship Series in a very long time.
So, on a cool night that provided a fitting backdrop for a playoff game, the teams finally engaged in a battle worthy of the wait. The Royals took an early four-run lead, and the Orioles fought back to even the score after six innings.
Having downed some tacos and beverages, The Photographer and I decided around the fifth inning to head back to our hotel and catch the rest of the game there. When we exited the bar, however, we were greeted with a torrential rain and thunderstorm outside. It had been raining on and off all day. … We walked a few bars down before turning back and returning to the second floor of Bailey’s, in our wet clothes, until the storm passed.

We were back at our hotel for the ninth. I had begun dozing off during the 10th inning, but my eyes burst wide open when Alex Gordon launched his game winner to right field at Camden Yards. … I dozed off again for the bottom of the 10th inning and re-awoke to see the postgame playing on the TV. I could tell by the commentary the Royals had won, turned off the TV and lights and went to sleep for good. Game 1 of the ALCS was in the books for the Royals.

Saturday, The Photographer and I got going around 9 a.m. and had a free day to explore more of Nashville before catching a late afternoon flight. … My first goal was to explore a bit of Music Row and find Ben Folds' studio, which has been the subject of a little controversy recently. We found it …



We continued to take some time walking the neighborhood, which was amusing and underwhelming at the same time. The streets are lined with squatty, understated office buildings and old houses that have been converted into studios. Banners promoting music artists line the front yards like political signs.



Next we headed to see the Parthenon replica in Nashville’s Centennial Park …



And we wandered around a vintage locomotive in the park as well …



From there was headed a few blocks over to walk around Vanderbilt’s athletic facilities and explore the campus a bit more …



For lunch we headed Burger Republic, which had been a recommendation from one of my students. She was right on – awesome burgers. And delicious shakes, too. I went with the signature Burger Republic – Vermont white cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Guinness-braised onions, Burger Republic sauce – and a chocolate peanut butter shake. Wow.



Next up, Union Station. Nashville’s version has been transformed to a high-class hotel.



We walked from there to re-explore downtown Nashville during the daylight hours.



I’m convinced the music never stops there. Inside the door of every bar or club were scenes like this one …



As we passed by, we heard musicians of all kinds playing originals and classic covers from Steve Miller Band, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and – arguably the most memorable soundDave Mason’s “We Just Disagree,” to name a few. If only I had a few more nights there – and the Royals weren’t progressing through a magical postseason run – I would have loved to spend some time taking in more music.

Around 2:30 p.m. we were heading to the Nashville airport and caught the first leg of our flight to St. Louis. … I always enjoy flying Southwest Airlines, and their extremely pleasant flight crew is one reason for that. The lead flight attendant, in addition to making it known she was Cardinals fan, humored us prior to the takeoff by saying the flight was headed to Hawaii. Later, as the flight crew was preparing for the landing, the captain misspoke and said we were approaching Nashville – to which the flight attendant interrupted, “We’re going to St. Louis, Tim. … Or Hawaii.”

In St. Louis, the Royals game was playing on a TV at the gate, and several fans were cheering them on again. We watched Baltimore tie the game, and an older gentleman said to another, “We better get control of this game.” The other gentleman chuckled and replied, “Well, at least we’re not behind. As long as we’re tied or ahead, we’re doing ok.” … As we boarded the plane, several passengers asked the flight crew for score updates, and the Southwest crew obliged, announcing the score a couple times although it remained tied throughout the flight.

We got off the plane and headed for baggage claim as I worked to get the live stream of the game going on my phone. I pulled it up in the top of the ninth inning as we grabbed our bags from the carousel and saw Mike Moustaskas lay down the bunt to move Terrance Gore to second. Then I watched Alcides Escobar drive in Gore for the lead run as we made our way outside to flag down a shuttle.



When we got on the shuttle, I still had the game going on my phone and started to turn down the volume out of respect for the others on board. But a woman quickly stopped me, saying, “No, no, turn it up! We want to hear it!” And there we were – a loaded shuttle bus – huddled together and watching Game 2 of the American League Championship on my iPhone. We cheered as Jerrod Dyson got on base and then Lorenzo Cain singled to push in the insurance run before Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler struck out to end the inning. Here are the game’s highlights.

How is this happening!? The Kansas City Royals are playing deep in the postseason. People are hanging on to every at-bat in sports bars and airports. The Royals! They’re asking for score updates in-flight and then watching the game on some random guy’s iPhone in an airport shuttle! For the Royals! I’m in complete awe.

The shuttle dropped us at our car and we managed to keep the game going on my phone for most of the bottom of the ninth until we lost the signal. We listened to the conclusion and the postgame on the radio.

From The New York Times ...
The Royals also extended their postseason winning streak to nine games, dating from the 1985 World Series, their last appearance in the postseason before this year. The last time they lost was Oct. 23, 1985, when John Tudor of the St. Louis Cardinals tossed a five-hit shutout in Game 4 of that memorable series.
Back in The’Ville, we began unloaded our bags and equipment outside our office building and I discovered that I didn’t have my suitcase. In fact, I had a woman’s suitcase that was identical to mine. In the excitement of the Royals game at baggage claim, I grabbed the bag and failed to check the ID tag and confirm it was mine.

So before the night was over, I made the 90-minute drive back to the airport. Exchanged the suitcase I picked up for my own. And got back in my car to make the 90-minute drive home for good.

But, hey, the Royals are leading the American League Championship Series, 2-0!

Some good reads …

The sport’s best story keeps getting better, one late-inning win at a time, in a way that somehow makes it feel both more and less real with every wild night. They are supposed to be nervous here, on this stage, the little upstart not used to playing with the baseball world’s full attention but instead they’re treating it like a bachelor party. ...

This Royals season has always been like a movie. The characters are all there, from the backup outfielder who shaved ZOOM into the side of his head to the faux-hawked first baseman who invited fans to drink on what ended up a $15,000 bar tab.

The drama has been there, too. Bad enough in May to fire the hitting coach, good enough in August to be the hottest team in baseball, and now the group that ended the longest playoff drought in North American sports and captivating the baseball world with six of the wildest playoff wins you’ll ever see. So this has always had the parts of some kind of movie, but now this is less an underdog story and more like the kind of movie with nothing but explosions and chase scenes.

10.09.2014

Is it Friday yet?

Two men on, two men out, playoff game tied in the sixth, All Star-caliber hitter at the plate. Crowd on its feet, ball in the air, the outfielders go back ... back ... and with a single stab of his glove, Kansas City rightfielder Norichika Aoki quiets everyone at Angel Stadium, sending the visitors to the dugout still tied at two. Aoki's circus catch of Howie Kendrick's long fly ball in Game 1 of the ALDS is another in a string of clip'n'save moments that help the underdog Royals sweep the Angels and duck and dodge their way to becoming the best story of the 2014 postseason. ~Joe Sheehan, Sports Illustrated, Oct. 13, 2014, edition

After all of the Royals excitement I barely had enough energy left to watch the remaining National League Division Series games ... Besides I'm so tired of watching the winning ways of those pesky Cardinals.

I'm now counting the hours until tomorrow night's Game 1 of the ALCS, and it can't get here fast enough for us Royals folks. Kates and I are negotiating a potential ticket purchase for Games 3 or 4 in Kansas City. At this point, the StubHub app on my phone is getting far more attention than any other.

* * *

So here are some click'n'save media bits in the aftermath and lead up to tomorrow's big game ...  

According to a SportsNation poll 67 percent of the country is rooting for the Royals, with the majorities living in only Maryland and Virginia rooting for the Orioles.


* * *

Kansas City got a shout out from President Obama last week ...




* * *

Good reads I've collected surrounding the Royals' and Orioles' respective resurgences.




* * *

Meanwhile, the rebuilding process in Chicago continues. I still have mixed feelings about the renovations coming to Wrigley Field, but it's good to know the Cubs are taking a serious look at preserving historic parts of the stadium.

Did you know the initial plans for Kauffman Stadium and the Truman Sports Complex -- in the early 1970s! -- called for a rolling retractable roof and an observation tower? I did. ... Check this out

10.06.2014

A Royal sweep

They say pitching and defense win championships. Those parts were never in question for the Royals this season … It was the hitting that had us fans concerned for most of the year. They had the lowest home run total in the league, but as long as the boys in blue could put four runs on the board, the odds were in our favor.

Then, they came back from four down Tuesday night and won the wild card game with nine runs. Mike Moustakas hit a home run to win Game 1 against the Angels. Eric Hosmer won Game 2 with a home run.

Make no mistake, these guys could go far.
There are no perfect teams in baseball, and the Royals are a wonderful example of that truism. They generally lack power, most obviously, and often need to bunt and turn base paths into runways to score.

But the Royals are also showing how playoff baseball can make their weaknesses blend in, and their strengths shine.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/sam-mellinger/article2512593.html#storylink=cpy
There were no extra innings needed tonight.

Tonight the Royals knocked two home runs and scored eight runs to sweep the Anaheim Angelswho supposedly had the best record in baseball this season – and earn the right to play the Baltimore Orioles for the American League Championship.

After Greg Holland struck out Mike Trout – who supposedly was the best player in baseball this year – for the final out, I could only sit on our coffee table and smile. This is all so unreal.
The fans reveled in what this team is, a well-oiled defensive machine fortified by its fielding and stout pitching staff. They dreamed about what this team may become, a sudden juggernaut now equipped with power at the plate, a group steaming into a showdown with Baltimore.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/mlb/kansas-city-royals/article2526969.html#storylink=cpy
Hearing “Kansas City” play in the background and seeing George Brett take it in while the Royals celebrated on the field? Priceless.



I was amped for tonight’s game, for sure.

This morning, Kates convinced me, on a whim, to drive the family to St. Joseph for an afternoon at the park and some shopping. I had envisioned a relaxed day at home and some yard work before the big game tonight. ... And yes, I had stayed up to watch all of last night's 18-inning epic between the Giants and the Nationals

But I bought in, and we ended up having a glorious time at Krug Park. The fall color is starting to come on. The girls had a grand time playing on a jungle gym. And we enjoyed some time watching the ducks and geese honk and play at the lagoon …



We got our necessary shopping done, too, and arrived home around 6 – with 30 minutes to spare before the start of the Royals game. We watched the Baltimore Orioles put away the Detroit Tigers while Kates made supper. And Phoebe recited her favorite Royals players, nearly naming the entire Kansas City starting lineup. She forgot only Alcides Escobar.

Now, for the record, I could have – should have – been at Kauffman Stadium tonight. After the Royals clinched a postseason spot, I said I’d wait to see the outcome of the Wild Card Game and then seek tickets for the American League Division Series. I was more than happy to settle for standing-room only tickets.

The Royals, of course, won that game. And I jumped on the Royals website to check on ALDS tickets within minutes after it ended. Standing room only tickets were available for $35. … I texted my friend Tom to see if he wanted in with me, and he said he would get back to me in the morning.

I should have bought this tickets then and there.

Because by the time I received a reply from Tom Wednesday morning, we got out act together and I was able to log in to the Royals website and make the purchase, they were gone. Sold out. … I honestly didn’t think standing room only would go so quickly.

American League Championship Series tickets went even more quickly Friday. … It’s World Series or bust now for me. By scanning Facebook alone, I had more than a dozen friends and acquaintances at Kauffman tonight.

But here’s how it played out for me at home …

Mike Trout homered in the first inning to give the Angels their first of the series. I thought, Ok, he’s due. The Angels may take this one tonight. No big deal.

The Royals came up in the bottom half the inning. Nori Aoki singled. Lorenzo Cain singled. Billy Butler walked to load the bases.

Then, Alex Gordon crushed a ball to left center field that I thought was going to be a home run. Instead it bounced off the bottom of the wall – and I hopped off the couch, landing on my knees on the floor in front of the TV, screaming and pumping my fists as Aoki and Cain came around to score … When I saw Butler wheeling around third base …

No way … Billy, too!? … He’s gonna make it … The throw … Safe!



The Royals had moved ahead 3-1, and the game – and the series – were, in effect, over.





C.J. Wilson didn’t even make it out of the first inning. …




In the bottom of the third inning, Aoki walked and Hosmer hit a home run. 5-1, Royals.






As if things couldn’t get any dreamier for the Royals. ... Billy Butler walked. The Angels were paying no attention to him and … la di da di da … he took off and stole second base!















Albert Pujolsour Kansas City native – a homered in the top of the fourth inning … But Moustakas matched it with a home run of his own in the bottom of the fourth. I had done so much cheering and shouting that I was hoarse by that point.

In the fifth inning, now with the Royals leading 7-2 and two runners on for the Angels, Lorenzo Cain sent down Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick on back-to-back diving catches in center field …





Everything from then on was icing on the cake and counting down the outs …

And trying to get Faye to bed while missing as little of the action as possible. Admittedly I scoffed at Kates tonight when she noted it was my turn to put Faye to bed – which can take more than an hour to do. But I got a huge break tonight when Faye asked me to tuck her in her bed rather than have me rock her to sleep as she usually prefers. She gave me the OK to leave, I kissed her on the cheek and I returned to watching the game. … Though I was called back several more times to bring extra blankets, locate missing stuffed animals and provide some more reassurance that she would be safe if she just closed her eyes and went to sleep.

I didn’t hear a peep out of her after the seventh inning. Sigh.

When the Royals won, bliss.

Here are the highlights from mlb.com.

Here’s some great Royals memes spotted throughout the game – including some good ones related to Billy Butler’s base-running skills …

And a video of the Royals celebrating with fans after the game …




Good reads ... 
Greg Holland’s 2,000-mile trip to the mound
Remember Bret Saberhagen, a World Series hero in 1985? The night before he shut out the Cardinals in Game 7 to clinch the crown, then-21-year-old Saberhagen became a father for the first time. The birth of Drew William became part of the series media coverage.
Drew Saberhagen became a college baseball player, first at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., but after playing summer league baseball with players from Western Carolina University, he decided to transfer to the school in Cullowhee, N.C.
One of his teammates was Greg Holland.

Royals' Rusty Kuntz is baseball's best base-running coach ... and looks like Robert Redford
We see a Royals base stealer swipe a bag and never think of a coach sitting for hours, watching video to make that stolen base possible. But as Rusty points out; he may have used up 90 minutes of his life finding the key to one pitcher, but he’s got that pitcher for life. His base runners will be able to steal bags off that pitcher forever— unless someone tells the pitcher what he’s doing wrong. Then Rusty’s right back in the video room, finding a new key that will make stealing a base possible.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/judging-the-royals/article2518671.html#storylink=cpy