Back in 1984 as a brash, thirty-two-year-old, I was in my second year as general manager of a floundering greyhound racing track in Tucson, Arizona. Casting directors don’t normally place a restless NYer in the sleepy Wild West. We had just finished major renovations at the aging racing facility, but it was really nothing more than Revlon on a pig. The track was located in an area of Tucson that was treacherous to your nighttime safety. Actually, midday too. As racetrack attendance continued to wane, I generated an idea of a series of early evening spring concerts: bring a blanket or lawn chair, spread out in the track’s infield area and enjoy the desert stars before the summer heat really became oppressive. It was intended to maybe make a few dollars and introduce the track to people who wouldn’t come otherwise. We featured throwback entertainment, 1984 style. Merle Haggard did well with about 1,500 paid. Tony Bennett, then a has-been, sold about 50 tickets at $20 a ducat a week before his Father’s Day concert. We canceled him. He didn’t take kindly to it and sued the track and me personally as the concert bookers for half of his $15,000 guarantee. We wrote him a check. His career rebound was still years away. He didn’t pay us back when it finally happened. The middle show on the May calendar was the ‘Happy Together Tour’ featuring The Turtles, The Association, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap and Spanky, Elaine McFarlane, of Spanky and Our Gang. No cover acts here. The show was good except for maybe Mr. Puckett doing some pre-concert refreshments and forgetting the words to Young Girl. He started over a couple of times finally getting her out of his mind before his love got way out of line. I’m not sure he had any idea where he was. When the Association sang Windy, and I’m not making this up, a windstorm blew right through the facility. And The Turtles, who were the tour’s organizer and namesake, were the stars of their own show with Mark Volman and Howard Kayman, who later become the touring act called Flo and Eddie. The next year, 1985, the tour disbanded.
Like a piece of moldy bread stuck in the bowels of the pantry, The Turtles resurrected the ‘Happy Together Tour’ in 2010, and it has been feel-good entertainment around the country every summer since. They were in Vegas a week ago Friday. What’s left of The Turtles headlined; Gary Puckett and The Association were still on the bill. They were joined by the remaining three (of the original seven family member) Cowsills. Also The Buckinghams and The Vogues. Two hours of good-time, throwback memories with just about everyone, including the sellout audience of 3,000, struggling to have a voice and stay in tune. No cover band with the Cowsills or Buckinghams with at least two original members each. The Cowsills still Love The Flower Girl, Indian Lake and reminded us of the Hair we all used to have. The Buckinghams gave us Kind of a Drag, Don’t You Care and Hey Baby. Their best line of the night was when they sang, as they called it, “our most recent hit” which was Susan from 1968. There were no founding Vogues which meant total cover and restroom time. Puckett didn’t have his Union Gap but remembered all his words to not only Young Girl but Woman, Woman, Over You and Lady Willpower. Recovery is a wonderful thing. The three Association originals were fun with Never My Love, Cherish, Along Comes Mary and Windy, on what was a calm night. The only Turtle remaining is Mark Volman, seriously challenged by health issues, making him a non-factor. Sad to see. His partner for the night was Ron Dante, former lead singer of the Archies who replaced Howard Kalyan, which in effect made The Turtles a cover band, too. However, Dante’s Sugar, Sugar gave us some bonus Archies. Fifty-five to sixty years after their prime, to be upright and at times sound like they almost did, makes Happy Together a fun two hours. On second thought maybe the bread is just stale and not moldy.
My mid-season baseball wagering report card gets me a B+. I have the Yankees over 91.5 wins; through Saturday they’ve won 65 with 66 games remaining. The Mets at over 88.5; 58 in the bank and 67 games left. The Nationals at under 70.5 wins which means they have to lose 91 games and with 65 losses already are well on their way with 66 games to be played. I know the dog days of the season are still ahead but I’m comfortable with them all. The only play keeping my report card from a strong A are the Pirates. I have over 64.5 wins; they have 40 so far and 67 left to go. That one may come down to the last weekend of the season.
Baseball is struggling at the box office as fans have not returned since 2019, the last pre-Covid interrupted season. Attendance is down 5.4% this year from 2019 at the halfway point. Leading the dip is Oakland, off 55% through the All-Star break compared to the same point of 2019. Oakland’s stadium is a dump and the team just as bad. Other places that are fairly easy to walk up and grab a beer and brat are Arizona -26.7%; Pittsburgh -20.8%; Washington -19.7%. Conversely, restroom lines are a little longer in Toronto up 48.5%; San Diego +29.4%; Miami up 23.3% and the Braves celebrating a 2020 World Championship up 19.1%.
Of course a big part of baseball’s woes are the games are too slow and too long. This year’s average game takes 3:07 to play, which is actually four minutes faster than a year ago. By comparison last Saturday night, I went out to Allegiant Stadium for a Vegas hosted international soccer match pitting Chelsea of the English Premier League against Mexico’s Club America of the top tier Liga MX. The contest was played in a crisp and entertaining one hour, fifty minutes, running time, with no timeouts. Over 47,000 raucous supporters were on hand in an atmosphere completely different than any American sport.
You think so? Tokyo police acknowledged “possible” security lapses that allowed an assassin to walk up right behind former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 8 while he was addressing a campaign rally and shoot him in the back and neck.
You probably aren’t sleeping too well at night thinking about the most even and most lopsided rivalries in professional sports. Well, let the recent Sports Illustrated be your Ambien. In baseball the Tigers and Guardians (nee Indians) have played 2,270 games over the last 121 years with each team winning 1,135. In football Green Bay and the Rams are 46-46-2. In hoops, Detroit and Sacramento have equally split the 348 games they’ve played. Nobody gives a damn. The most lopsided in baseball is Houston’s 110-67 record over Seattle. Yankees fans say ‘what about our record against the Royals?’ Almost- the Yankees are 307-201 for a winning percentage of .604, just behind Houston’s .621 against the Mariners. In the NFL, Indianapolis has beaten Atlanta 15 of the 17 games they’ve played. The Steelers would have the same advantage over the Falcons except for one game that finished in a tie. In the NBA, San Antonio holds a commanding 132-48 lead over the Clippers. Now flip the pillow and go to sleep.
On July 12 the New York Yankees, the best team in baseball, had a 49-0 record when leading a game after eight innings. The Cincinnati Reds, one of the worst, were 0-48 when trailing after eight innings. So that night, when the Yankees took a 3-0 into the ninth inning against the Reds, you couldn’t blame the Yankee Stadium crowd for heading to the D train or grabbing an early Uber. The Yankees had ace closer Clay Holmes on the mound and this one was all but over. Final score: Cincy 4-New York 3. Yes, Joe Garagiola, baseball is a funny game.
And speaking of the Yankees, money may not be able to buy you love nor can it get you a sure W. Thanks to my UMiami colleague and friend Roy Firestone for this tidbit: On Saturday night when the Yankees played Baltimore, Gerrit Cole pitched for the Yanks. Cole makes $36 million this season. The entire Orioles roster is paid $30 million. The O’s won 6-3.
Braggin’ about my son. Scott, 38, is the general manager of L’Ermitage hotel in Beverly Hills. On July 12 Travel + Leisure magazine ranked L’Ermitage the top hotel in Los Angeles. Additionally, it was number seven in the United States and 78th in the world. Atta boy!
Gotta give my iPhone credit. It knows when to ditch a bad thing. Inexplicably my stock market indices icon disappeared from my phone last week.
Happy 95th birthday to Doc Severinsen.
Good Netflix television watching are the remake of Lincoln Lawyer by David E. Kelley, very entertaining. Also, I’m a big fan of British police/crime stories and Harlan Corbin’s Staying Close was terrific as was Kelley’s Anatomy of a Scandal.
My Rodney Dangerfield hole-in-one a couple of weeks ago keeps disrespecting. Not only did my playing partners not give a damn about my perfection; preferring a deep conversation about The Cheesecake Factory’s salmon (https://royberger.com/sunday-morning-coffee-july-10-2022-a-hio-fish-story/) but Mr. Salmon himself, Jim Nettles, offered to take me out for that incomparable miso salmon. We ordered it, three minutes later the server sheepishly returned and said they were out of salmon. Obviously, word travels fast. Instead, a scrumptious chicken club sandwich, hold the miso. Then Andi orders me a golf ball holder and plaque for my June 28 perfection but inscribed the wrong date- July 28, 2022, which won’t even happen for four more days.
Happy 72nd birthday to Romania’s Ilie Nastase. Longtime tennis fans who watched Nick Kyrgious march to the Wimbledon final two weeks ago were reminded of Nastase. Nasty was the first bad-boy of the 70s, when the game became mainstream. His on-court antics and complaints were a horror for tennis traditionalists but entertainment that brought millions of others to the sport, including me. Nastase was number one in the world in 1973-74 winning the US Open in 1972 and the French in 1973 earning him induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Today’s players may not remember him but should thank him every day as Nastase was the first professional sports figure, in any sport, to sign an endorsement deal with Nike.
With homelessness and hunger rampant in not only Nevada but across the world, think of what a difference a couple of hundred thousand dollars could make to the cause. Instead Reno attorney Joey Gilbert had other ideas on how best to donate cash. Gilbert finished second in the recent Nevada Republican primary for governor. He lost to Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo by only 28,341 votes: 57,816-29,475. That was close enough for the Trump-ally to cry foul; there had to be vote tampering. Gilbert called for a recount, which was granted, but only if Gilbert funded it to the tune of $191,000. He did and he was right. The totals were incorrect. The revised numbers were 57,808-29,468, the margin now 28,340, bringing Gilbert one vote closer to victory. Imagine how much further those monies could have gone for Nevada citizens in need. Irresponsible.
And finally, staying in the benevolency mode, why would anyone spend $39.99 for the upcoming July 30 pay-per-view boxing match between former NFL running backs Adrian Peterson and Le’Veon Bell? In the name of fiscal responsibility if you are even considering it, instead please write a check to your favorite charity. It will go a whole lot further and you’ll feel a whole lot better.