There was the year Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon took the Paradise stage, ripped off his shirt, tossed it to the rafters, and dove into the crowd as 20-plus musicians rocked through Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” Terry Francona and Kevin Millar stood side-stage, shaking their heads. And the time Jonathan Papelbon joined the gang and belted out the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock and Roll.”
You never quite know what’s going to happen at the multi-act, annual January Hot Stove Cool Music concert fundraiser, which takes place at the usual haunt, the Paradise on the 9th. (Bonus: Patriots hae a bye week and do not play that night, as they have in the past meaning the crowd was bopping between the front room with the flat screens and the concert hall area.) But this we know about this year’s charity shindig, the 16th: More ballplayers are involved. Over the years, the show has been more rock and less jock – and that’s fine – but part of the magic of the early years had to do with, well, what I wrote above.
This year’s lineup includes: Retired Yankees outfielder/Latin guitarist Bernie Williams, ex-Red Sox hurler/Pearl Jam-like singer Bronson Arroyo, ex-Sox pitcher Jake Peavy playing with Duane Trucks (brother of Derek, son of Butch), ex-Sox third basemen Kevin Youkilis. (I do not know what Youk plays) and ex-Sox hurler Lenny DiNardo who reports, “as far as songs I’m pretty sure I’ll be on ‘Driver 8’ and ‘I Am Superman’ (R.E.M.) and possibly ‘Porch’ (Pearl Jam) with Bronson.”
Musicians on the bill include: Belly’s Tanya Donelly and Gail Greenwood, the Gigolo Aunts, Cheap Trick’s Daxx Nielsen (Bun E. Carlos’ replacement, Rick’s son), Scott Lucas from Local H, former Black Crowes guitarist Jackie Greene and former Blake Baby Freda Love Smith.)
Baseball analyst Peter Gammons and ex-Sox/now Cubs v.p. started this whole thing along with former Herald sportswriter Jeff Horrigan. (Mike O’Malley has been the MC forever, but this year Joel Murray, Bill’s brother, is stepping in.)
Hot Stove was popular from the get-go, but it really amped up in 2005 after the Red Sox won the World Series.
“It’s grown a bit over the years,” Epstein told me, “and we’ve been able to raise more and more money. But I think the feeling in the room is still the same – people getting together to have a good time, listen to music, talk baseball.”
Hot Stove Cool Music is a fundraiser for Epstein and his brother Paul’s umbrella charity organization, A Foundation to be Named Later. It’s raised more than $3.5 million over the years. The money is distributed to local charities.
The basic idea: Mixing music with baseball chat from the stage and in the crowd. Gammons and Epstein will take questions between sets. Epstein said he’d talk to people at the bar, too.
“None of us would have jobs in baseball if it weren’t for the fans,” Epstein said, “so it’s important literally and figuratively. These are our main constituents and I can provide a little insight.”
Who’s in the Gammons All-Stars – the house band – this year? Usual suspects Bill Janovitz and Kay Hanley can’t make it this year, but joining guitarist Gammons will be Red Sox organist Josh Kantor, ace of bass Ed Valauskas, Buffalo Tom keyboardist Phil Aiken and former Letters to Cleo drummer Tom Polce.
And now, some bits from Gammons:
His favorite baseball song: “I was fascinated originally by the fact that Bob Dylan would do ‘Catfish,’ [about A’s-Yankees pitcher Jim ‘Catfish Hunter]. At the same time, it’s not a great song. I tried to do it a year ago [at Hot Stove] for weeks, to take that song and make in playable in concert. Mike Gent said, ‘We appreciate it, but it’s not gonna work.’”
Why an older baseball guy can relate to the kids (and them to him): I think it’s because they like my stories. Bryce Harper [now with the Washington Nationals] was still 17 years old, he’d been the number one pick in the country but he hadn’t done any long interviews so I went down for the MLB network [to do a piece.] He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16, but I had no idea what to expect. People said you’ll love this guy; he works so hard.’ We were doing this interview, and he kept following me around, asking, ‘What about this guy? What about that guy? He wanted to know about different people. He looked at me and said, ‘Give me a George Brett story!’ And I said, ‘Every time George Brettt hit a ball and left the batter’s box he thought “Double.” And then last year, Harper hit a ball, an infield pop-up the wind blew and the second baseman, shortstop and left fielder let it drop and it rolled away to the foul line and he ended up on third on the play. And he texted me later, and said, ‘George Brett would have been proud of me last night.’ People care about things like that. They respect it. It’s what made those guys so great. I told George and he said, ‘He’s got to be the only 17-year-old in the country who’s ever heard of me.’ That’s why he’s going to be really great. He so respects what went before.
Giancarlo Stanton of Florida [Miami Marlins] is like that. He has worked more than any player in the game. He is worth more than any player in the game. He’s one of the greatest young players and greatest people. I love the game and I love the people too. It doesn’t change. People say, ‘Oh this generation … ‘ but I think there’s so much out there. The work ethic, it’s really fun to see. I’m still very much of a fan. And just to know people who are so great and so intense, it’s hard not to be a baseball fan when Dustin Pedroia is in your universe.”