Episode 4: At Long Last – The Cavaliers, the Warriors and the Cubs

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LeBron James
LeBron James (Photo: Keith Allison/CC BY-SA 2.0)

You spend a lifetime as the long-suffering fan of a losing team. It shapes who you are. And then: They win it all! Authors Scott Raab (The Whore of Akron, You’re Welcome Cleveland) on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Barry Gifford (The Neighborhood of Baseball, Wild at Heart) on the Chicago Cubs. Plus: Host King Kaufman visits yet another championship parade for his once-hapless Golden State Warriors.

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Read a transcript. (Coming shortly)

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Scott Raab
Scott Raab
Barry Gifford
Barry Gifford, 2006

I interviewed Barry Gifford at his writing studio in Berkeley, Calif., the in-law apartment of a house he owns there, and Scott Raab in the attic of his house in Glen Ridge, N.J. In both cases, I made the rookie podcaster mistake of forgetting to ask if I could take a photo. I had a quick selfie Raab had texted me so I would recognize him when he picked me up at the train station. I told him I realized that probably wasn’t for public consumption and asked if he wanted to send me a different photo. So he sent me a different quick selfie. The Gifford photo is by Tabercil (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0).

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Warriors Championship Parade

Warriors parade
A vendor at the Golden State Warriors championship parade in Oakland, June 15, 2017. Click for a gallery of photos from the parade.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other songs used

Cavaliers
“On My Life” by Letter Box
“Walking the Dog” by Silent Partner
“Bluebird” by E’s Jammy Jams
“Down n’ Dirty” and “Right to Be” by Jingle Punks
Cubs
“Sing Swing Bada Bing” by Doug Maxwell, Media Right Productions
“Bar Crawl” by JR Tundra

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Episode 3: Casey Stengel — How to Learn By Losing

Casey Stengel
With the Yankees in the ’50s, he had the greatest run in managerial history. But before that, Casey Stengel skippered a series of relentlessly terrible teams. Host King Kaufman asks: Did the Old Perfessor learn to win by losing? Plus: What if the worst player on the worst team in a league met the best player on the best team in that league 40 years later? And what if one of those guys was the host of a podcast about losing?

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Read a transcript.

Casey Stengel
Stengel in 1935, his second year as manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. They finished fifth.
Casey Stengel
Stengel in 1938, his first year as manager of the Boston Bees. They finished fifth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Casey Stengel managed the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1934-36 and the Boston Braves from 1938-43. The Braves were known as the Bees from 1936-40. Stengel’s teams in Boston and Brooklyn went 581-742, a .439 winning percentage, and never finished higher than fifth in the eight-team National League.

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People in the story

Steven GoldmanSteven Goldman is a baseball columnist for FanRag Sports and the author of Forging Genius: The Making of Casey Stengel. He is also the host of The Infinite Inning podcast. He was a pioneer of the blog format with his long-running The Pinstriped Bible, and was the editor and co-writer of the books Mind Game, It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over and Extra Innings: More Baseball Between the Numbers. He was editor in chief of Baseball Prospectus and edited seven editions of the Baseball Prospectus annual.

Marty AppelMarty Appel is a longtime baseball author, publicist and historian and the author of the 2017 biography Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character. He was George Steinbrenner’s first public relations director with the Yankees, the youngest person ever to hold that position for a major league team. He’s also led public relations for WPIX in New York and the Atlanta Olympic Committee. His many other books include Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss and Slide, Kelly, Slide, a biography of Mike “King” Kelly, who was mentioned in Episode 1.

Steve JacobsonSteve Jacobson was a reporter and columnist for Newsday for four decades. He covered Stengel when the Old Perfessor was manager of both the Yankees and the Mets. He’s the author of several books, the most recent of which is All Bets Are Off with Arnie Wexler, about Wexler’s life as a gambler.

2nd story: Extreme Little League

Vince Beringhele
Vince Beringhele.

At 7, I was the worst player on the worst team at North Venice Little League in Los Angeles. I’ve told this story before, including the part about how the funky rules forced me to play as officially one year older than I really was. The dominant player in that league was a kid named Vince Beringhele. When he was 11, coaches around the league were talking about how he’d probably play pro ball someday. We were the extremes of the league.

He did play pro ball. He spent three years in the Dodgers organization before knee injuries ended his career. I decided to try to talk to him. He’s the head baseball coach at Cal State Los Angeles, and I caught up with him as he was getting his team ready for the 2017 conference tournament in Stockton, California. He was a lot less scary than when I was trying to hit against him!

We talked about how in sports, everybody, even the best player in the league, loses eventually.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Other songs used

“Aces Hight” and “AcidJazz” by Kevin McLeod (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Bonus Episode: The Stanley Can Interviews


Washington Post storyFull interviews with three members of the 1974-75 Washington Capitals, the worst team in NHL history, and the only one that ever took a twirl with the Stanley Can. Goalie Ron Low, center Ron Lalonde and defenseman Jack Lynch remember a “tough, tough” year. Listen to the bonus episode.

Listen to Episode 2: The Stanley Can—The Washington Capitals and the Worst Season Ever.

See the Episode 2 show notes.

Here’s that photo of Chuck Wepner’s “knockdown” of Muhammad Ali. Chuck Wepner, Muhammad Ali

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Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records.

Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page. His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

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Episode 2: The Stanley Can—The Washington Capitals and the Worst Season Ever

Washington Capitals goalie Ron Low
Ron Low

The Washington Capitals were the worst team in NHL history in their inaugural year. By late March they’d played 37 road games without earning so much as a point, and they’d lost 17 straight overall. Then they got a win. “The reaction was totally frickin’ crazy,” says goalie Ron Low, who with teammates Ron Lalonde and Jack Lynch helps tell the story of the Stanley Can Caps. Plus: The No Whine Timeline lets you know when it’s OK to complain about your lousy team.

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Read a transcript.

People in the story

Ron LowRon Low was the starting goalie for the 1974-75 Capitals. His record was 8-36-2 with a 5.45 goals against average, more than two goals above league average. “If that would have ever bothered me,” he says about that figure, “I would have liked to quit hockey.” Low, who was in his second year in ’74-75, spent 13 years in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils. He had a long career as an assistant coach and scout and was the head coach of the Oilers from 1994-99, and the New York Rangers from 2000-02.

Ron LalondeRon Lalonde was a third-year center who was traded from the Red Wings to the Capitals on Dec. 14, 1974. He played that season and four more for the Caps before winning an American Hockey League title with the Hershey Bears in his last year as a player. He’s been a financial planner and investment counselor for 36 years.

Jack LynchJack Lynch was a defenseman in his second year in the league when he was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Caps on Feb. 8, 1975. He sustained a devastating knee injury in 1977 and was never the same player. Like Lalonde, he played with the Capitals through 1979. He is now retired after a long career in public and media relations with the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation.

Career stats: Low | Lalonde | Lynch — (Courtesy Hockey-Reference)

Historical Figures

Milt SchmidtMilt Schmidt was the general manager of the expansion Washington Capitals. He had been a Hall of Fame center for the Boston Bruins, a member of the famed Kraut Line. He won Stanley Cups in 1939 and ’41 and the Hart Trophy, the NHL’s Most Valuable Player award, in 1951. He coached the Bruins for 11 seasons before becoming general manager in 1967. He was the architect of two Stanley Cup-winning teams in Boston before taking the Capitals job in 1974. He died in January 2017 at the age of 98.

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Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

Other songs used

“D.J.” by Jahzzar (CC BY-SA 4.0)
“Disco High” by UltraCat (CC BY-SA 3.0)
“Hustle” by Kevin McLeod (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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Awful Announcing on CW4L: Kaufman pivots to audio

King Kaufman talks pivoting to audio documentaries with new Can’t Win 4 Losing podcast

A nice long feature by AA’s Andrew Bucholtz, who was always fair to me and Bleacher Report in his coverage while I was there.

For those unfamiliar with Awful Announcing and wondering about the name, it began as a blog, a hobby for a guy named Brian Powell to critique sports announcers. It soon became a respected site for its coverage of sports media and is now owned by the Bloguin Network.

Enjoy! I’m proud of my “pivot to audio” line, and the one about violin lessons.

Bonus Episode: There Is Joy in Mudville


John Thorn and friendGo deeper on this week’s episode, “The Mighty Casey,” with longer interviews and behind-the-scenes stories. Guests are official MLB historian John Thorn and Joanne Hulbert, the town historian of Holliston, Mass. — aka the “real” Mudville.

At right, John Thorn poses in his Catskill, N.Y., house with a figure he calls George Wood, “after the 1880s outfielder.” The figure was a gift from the staff of Total Sports Publishing, a publishing house Thorn ran in the late ’90s and early ’00s. “I suppose I could call him Mini Me.”

In this bonus episode, hear longer versions of host King Kaufman’s interviews with Thorn and Hulbert about “Casey at the Bat.” Also: King reads some poetry! Two highlights from the many parodies and sequels that followed the publication of “Casey at the Bat” in 1888. It’s not so bad, really. And: Learn more about Thorn’s house, and King’s plan for it.

For more on the historical figures in the “Casey at the Bat” story, see the Episode 1 show notes.

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Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

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Episode 1: The Mighty Casey — Casey at the Bat, striking out for over a century

Man in Casey at the Bat costume
Tim Wiles of the Baseball Hall of Fame in costume as Casey.

It appeared on Page 4 of the San Francisco Examiner one day in 1888, and yet, somehow, Casey at the Bat survived to become one of the few 19th century American poems most Americans have even heard of. CW4L host King Kaufman goes in search of the story behind the remarkable staying power of a poem about a guy who (spoiler alert) struck out, written by a guy who wanted nothing to do with it after it was published. 

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Read a transcript.

Note: All links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links, meaning we get a fee if you use the link to make a purchase. 

People in the story

John Thorn
Thorn with a pennant from the 19th century Knickerbocker Baseball Club.

John Thorn is the official historian of Major League Baseball. He is also an author, commentator and the proprietor of the Our Game blog, a treasure trove of baseball history and art. His most recent book is Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game, which goes back way further than you probably think, and has nothing to do with Abner Doubleday. He also co-wrote the seminal sabermetrics book The Hidden Game of Baseball: A Revolutionary Approach to Baseball and its Statistics with Pete Palmer.

Joanne HulbertJoanne Hulbert is an emergency-room nurse and baseball poetry researcher, and the town historian of Holliston, Mass., which, along with Stockton, Calif., lays claim to being the “real” Mudville. Poet Ernest Thayer was from nearby Worcester. She wrote about DeWolf Hopper at The National Pastime Museum.

Hal BushHal Bush is a professor of English at Saint Louis University and a writer of criticism, biography, history and fiction. His most recent book is the novel The Hemingway Files.

The recital of Casey at the Bat is by Neil Rogers.

Historical figures

DeWolf HopperDeWolf Hopper (1858-1935) was a musical-theater star who made Casey at the Bat famous by performing it with members of the New York Giants and Chicago White Stockings in the audience in 1888, causing a sensation. It became his signature piece, and he claimed to have performed it more than 10,000 times. His 1927 autobiography, quoted in the episode, was Once a Clown, Always a Clown. Voice impersonation: Jonathan Luhmann. Hopper’s real voice is also heard.

Ernest ThayerErnest Thayer (1863-1940) was the author of Casey at the Bat. The Marky Mark of poetry, a one-hit wonder. A brilliant student at Harvard and the editor of the Harvard Lampoon, he was invited to San Francisco to write humorous pieces and verse for the Examiner by his classmate, William Randolph Hearst. Casey at the Bat was his last submission. He’d already gone back to Massachusetts to run the family woolen-mill business and wanted little to do with his famous poem. Voice impersonation: Joe Goffeney.

King KellyMike “King” Kelly (1857-1894) was baseball’s first superstar. He played every position but was mostly an outfielder and catcher. He was a batting champion and great base-stealer. Kelly was the subject of “Slide, Kelly, Slide,” the first pop song to become a hit record, and his (ghostwritten) autobiography was the first by a baseball player. He was convinced Casey at the Bat was about him, and he performed it — by most accounts very badly — as Kelly at the Bat. He died suddenly of pneumonia at the age of 36 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945. He’s shown here in his Boston Beaneaters uniform, possibly in 1888, the year Casey at the Bat was published.

Music

Opening Theme: “Big Swing Band” by Audionautix. (CC by 3.0)
Closing Theme: “Can’t Win For Losing” by Johnny Rawls, courtesy of Deep South Soul Records. Visit Johnny Rawls’ website and Facebook page.

His latest album is called Waiting For the Train.

The old-timey piano music throughout this episode is from old player-piano or pianola rolls. The music at the very beginning is “Old-Fashioned Auto Piano” by Razzvio. Similar music elsewhere is from a medley called “Follies” by Daveincamas. The artists here did the recording and manipulated the pianolas. The actual musicianship happened 100 or more years ago. The sad piano music is “Movie Piano Theme” by EK Velika. All of these songs are from FreeSound.org and are used under the CC BY 3.0 Creative Commons license.

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