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Hot Stove Cool Music steps up to the plate for charity once again

Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein (right) embraces Red Sox president Sam Kennedy at the 2020 Hot Stove Cool Music show at the Paradise Rock Club.
Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein (right) embraces Red Sox president Sam Kennedy at the 2020 Hot Stove Cool Music show at the Paradise Rock Club.Blake Nissen For The Boston Globe

For Red Sox fans, two big things happened during the “hot stove” offseason in February 2020. The team traded Mookie Betts to the Dodgers, and the baseball-themed Hot Stove Cool Music fundraising event celebrated its 20th anniversary.

If you haven’t forgiven the Sox for letting go of a generational talent, don’t look now, but this year’s team is currently enjoying the best record in baseball. Zealous fan Kay Hanley says the 2021 Sox remind her a little of the curse-breaking “Idiots” of 2004.

“Some teams are jet-fueled by attitude,” she says, “and this seems like one of those teams.”

From the beginning, Hanley and her friends and colleagues at the Foundation To Be Named Later — the benefit organization launched by former Sox GM Theo Epstein and his brother Paul — have been jet-fueled by their mission. This year’s pre-recorded concert, featuring Bill Janovitz, Juliana Hatfield, Will Dailey, and a couple of “bananas” guest stars, as Hanley puts it — Yo-Yo Ma and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder — will take place virtually on May 18.

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck will play drums with his classic rock covers band, French Lick. Hanley says this will be her first time hearing them perform.


“I do know that our music director, Ed Valauskas, loves them,” she says. “I love how people who are really high-level in different fields, this is their chance to do what they really want, which is to be a rock star.”

Uncharacteristically, the Hot Stove team was running on fumes after last year’s anniversary show at the Paradise. Several of the participants got sick; they joked that they’d all come down with the “Hot Stove Flu.” In retrospect, it was probably coronavirus.

“We still don’t know,” says Hanley, who will emcee this year’s show. “Anecdotally, it makes sense.”

After Epstein left Boston in 2011 to run the Chicago Cubs, Hot Stove began hosting a second event each June. Because of the COVID-19 shutdown, last year the organization had to shift its Chicago fundraiser to a virtual setting. In hindsight, says Hanley, it was the most rewarding event since the nonpareil baseball writer (and former Globie) Peter Gammons co-created the original Hot Stove Cool Music concept back in 2000.


“It became painfully obvious within days that the communities the foundation serves were in desperate need of help,” says Hanley, the Dorchester native who now lives in LA, writing music for animated TV shows. Last year her beloved ’90s band Letters to Cleo headlined the show at the Paradise.

For Hanley, the virtual Chicago show “was the most important Hot Stove we’ve ever done. It changed everything for me, the way I see what it is we do out there.”

To date, the foundation has raised $13.5 million for several nonprofit community groups, including Roxbury Youthworks, the West End House Boys & Girls Club, and, in both Boston and Chicago, the BASE, which provides coaching and mentorship for underprivileged student-athlete ballplayers. Additionally, the number of students chosen as “Peter Gammons Scholars,” who get cash scholarships for the college of their choice, recently surpassed 200.

For the show next week, Gammons’s All-Stars have pre-recorded a song they’re aptly calling this year’s anthem.

It’s a spunky version of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.”


May 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets from $10, ftbnl.org