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The Schmooze

Kansas City Jewish Conductor Bets Barbecue on Royals

(JTA) — Kansas City Royals fans are two World Series wins away from a taste of greatness. Yes, the first Major League Baseball championship in a generation. But also, New York bagels.

That’s part of what’s at stake in a wager on the World Series made Sunday between Kansas City Symphony music director Michael Stern, son of the late legendary violinist and conductor Isaac Stern, and his colleagues at the New York Philharmonic.

Before a capacity crowd at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (not to be confused with the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium), and thousands more on YouTube, Stern took to the conductor’s podium, a bright blue Royals jersey over his concert tuxedo.

“So you heard, right?” he said to a wave of applause and cheers, days ahead of the Royals’ championship showdown with the New York Mets. “We’re in the World Series.”

Stern then set the terms of the bet, anteing up “an authentic Kansas City barbecue lunch” for every member of the New York Philharmonic, along with a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “New York, New York” by his symphony — with him conducting in a Mets jersey.

In return, Stern demanded the New York Philharmonic stake bagels, cream cheese and lox for him and his musicians and a rendition of “(Everything’s Up to Date in) Kansas City” lead by their music director Alan Gilbert, Royally attired of course.

“And I’m not talking about the packaged, store-bought kind,” Stern warned regarding the bagels. “I want Murray’s, I want Fine & Schapiro, I want Zabar’s. I want sliced. I want it just nice.”

On Wednesday, Gilbert accepted the bet in a YouTube video of his own. But the New York Philharmonic conductor made one addition to the terms: Should Kansas City lose, Stern must don “Mets headgear”— a hat and wig in the shoulder-length style currently favored by New York’s ace pitchers.

“And I’d like to close just by reminding you, Michael, that you can take the conductor out of New York, but you really can’t take New York out of the conductor,” Gilbert said in the video, referring to Stern’s New York roots.

Stern wouldn’t disagree. “I am a born-and-bred New Yorker, as New York, Manhattan as anyone,” he had told the Kauffman Center crowd. “And I will even confess, among friends, that I was — and might at some point in the future again be — a Mets fan.

“But lest anyone doubt my allegiance, home is where the heart is. And we have heart in Kansas City.”

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