Hot Stove, Cool Music, Fenway Park, August 24, 2007
It’s not often one gets an audience with Red Sox GM Theo Epstein and ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons. And it’s rarer still that five-time-Grammy-winning soul singer Jon Legend takes the stage after a 20 minute Q&A marked by queries about whether Dustin Pedroia (the Sox’s diminutive, big-bat wielding second baseman) will be named rookie of the year and what it might take for right fielder J.D. Drew to break out of a batting slump that has him hitting for average but with a noticeable lack of passion. The Gammons remedy for Drew: “He needs to start driving the ball to right center like he did in LA.” Was J.D. listening? The home run he hit Sunday against the White Sox was to left center.
HOT STOVE, COOL MUSIC: Theo talks, then rocks.
That open tête-à-tête was nonetheless one of the highlights of last Friday’s third annual “Hot Stove, Cool Music” summer session, at heart a misnomer since baseball’s real hot-stove league takes place after the regular season has ended, conjuring Norman Rockwell images of grizzled vets huddled around wood-burning furnaces to debate the relative merits of running a suicide squeeze with one out and a man on third when a sacrifice fly would suffice. Indeed, the modern incarnation of “Hot Stove, Cool Music” did begin in the winter months, first with the release of a compilation CD by local Sox fan/label owner Mark Kates on his Fenway Recordings, and then with a show that included several Red Sox players (Bronson Arroyo, for one) and Epstein himself performing on a bill with local heavy hitters like Kay Hanley and Buffalo Tom at the Paradise.
FENWAY LEGEND: Jon Legend takes the field.
The summer session brings on many of the same local artists (including the Gentlemen) to play their sets and then to support Gammons as part of the Hot Stove All Stars, who specialize in garage-band classics like Spirit’s “I Got a Line on You.” This year’s show also included a second stage for bands like the Downbeat Five, who were tucked away in the bowels of Fenway while most of the crowd awaited Legend in the right-field bleachers. It was probably the classiest crowd those seats have seen in decades, and they got what they paid $40 for — an intimate set by a bona fide star. Never mind that no one in Legend’s band wore a Sox cap and that Legend himself may, gasp, be a Yankee fan for all anyone knows. With an ultra-slick backing band pumping out the grooves, he beckoned, “Do you want to take a ride with me. . .” The answer, of course, was a hearty yes.
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