McCoy: The Reds’ Two ED’s — Eric and Elly

By Hal McCoy

They both carry the initials E.D. One formerly carried the heavy burden of cloud-high expections. One now carries the same burden.

One reached those burdensome goals, the other is about to see if he can reach those lofty clouds.

They are Eric Davis and Elly De La Cruz. Both own baseball’s version of superstardom — five-tool players.

Despite that, both showed flashes of greatness in their first season with the Cincinnati Reds, but endured their struggles.

Eric Davis arrived in Cincinnati in 1984 and appeared in 57 games with 200 plate appearances. He hit 10 homers, drove in 30, stole 10 base and spliced together a slash line of .224/.320/.420, nothing that made splashy headlines.

Elly De La Cruz debuted last Jume and appeared in 98 gamess with 427 plate appearances. He hit 13 homers, drove in 44 and stole 35 bases. His slash line was .235/.300/.410, somewhat similar to Davis.

And wasn’t it ironic that when De La Cruz hit for the cycle (single, double, triple, home run) in a game last season, he was the first Cincinnati batsman to do it since Davis?

Elly’s early success, though, brought him big, bold headlines and his molten start to his career ended last seaason in dying embers, numbers that included 144 strikeouts for his 427 appearances.

He never saw a low, outside breaking pitch that didn’t look like a New York strip streak dinner. For him it was hamburger meat. Too often he took a dugout seat to rest his strikeouts.

Talk about meat? De La Cruz already has a steak named after him on the menu at the famous Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in downtown Cincinnati.

Davis went on to become the superstar that was wriitten on his ticket, an enduring and endearing player. In 1986 he hit 27 homers, drove in 71 and stole 80 bases. In 1987 he hit 37 homers, drove in 100 and stole 50 bases.

In 1990, Eric the Red was a major piece of manager Lous Piniella’s World Series champions, along with Barry Larkin, Chris Sabo, Billy Hatcher, Joe Oliver, Ron Oester, Hal Morris, Todd Benzinger and the Nasty Boys bullep (Rob Dibble, Norm Charltpn, Randy Myers), Jose Rijo and Tom Browning.

Davis provided 24 hommers, 86 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .281/.367/.541 slaash line.

So it is a neon legacy that Davis left, one fans now expect Elly De La Crus to construct. And is it a coincidenc that Elly wears uniform number 44, the same number worn by Davis.

Is it realistic? After the first month, some folks were dusting out a corner of Cooperstown for De La Cruz’s plaque. Then came his sad September song.

Nevertheless, some of the things he did were above and beyond extraordinary.

He was promoted to the Reds on June 6 when Nick Senzel was injured and the first time first baseman Joey Votto saw him, he said, “He’s the best runner I’ve ever seen and has the most power I’ve ever seen. And he has the strongest arm I’ve ever seen.”

As for speed, Statcast said De La Cruz and Kansas City’s Bobby Witt Jr. were the fastest runners in MLB last season, 30.5 feet per second. They could both win the fourth race at Wheeling Downs greyhound track.

During a July 8 game he stole second, third and home in the same inning, the first Reds’ player to do it since Greasy Neale in 1919. But ol’ Greasy didn’t do it in two pitches. De La Cruz did.

As for power, on June 7 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his first major league home run traveled 458 feet and nearly took down one of the smokestacks on the fake paddle-wheel boat in center field.

As for his arm, his throws to first base averaged 95.6 miles per hour, highest velocity of any major leaguer in 2023.

As for more Davis-De La Cruz comparisons, Davis signed as a shortstop and was shifted to the outfield. At 6-foot-5, some believe Elly is too tall for a shortstop, as if there is a legal limit, and there has been chatter about moving him to the outfield where his speed and arm can be more utilized.

But he struggled mightily in September as teams made adjustments. Now it is up to him to re-adjust.

While expectations remain high, and the talent, makekup and natural ability is all there, it is strongly unfair to mention his name and Cooperstown in the same breath, as it is to mention Davis and De La Cruz in the same sentence.

Adding to De La Cruz’s popularity is his personality. He owns one of those old permanent Pepsodent smiles and it is evident he loves the game. And he survived being the youngest of nine siblings.

But it’s all there for De La Cruz to do it. His career is in the future tense.

OBSERVATIONS: Reds Montas Off On Right Foot

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, overdosing on college basketball and spring training baseball. . .with the best yet to come — March Madness.

—THE MONTAS MONTAGE: His first name is Francelis and his last name is pronounced Moan-Toss. He is 30 years old, was born in Sainagua, Dominican Republic and he’ll carry $14 million away from the Cincinnati Reds this season.

And it the Reds like him and he likes the Reds, there is a $20 million mutual clause is in his contract. Or the Reds can pay him $2 million to go back to where he came from.

He is known in the Reds’ clubhouse as Frankie Montas, a late addition to the pitching rotation, a high-level risk/gamble because he is coming off shoulder surgery after pitching a total of 1 1/3 innings all of last season with the New York Yankees.

But like every other Reds starter so far this spring, Montas looks like Cy Young incarnate. Fans can get excited about it, but don’t get giddy. The long accepted cliche is that pitching is always ahead of hitting the first week or two of spring training.

Nevetheless, Montas threw two perfect innings of no runs, no hits, no walks and two strikeouts this week against the Chicago Cubs in his Reds’ debut.

“I’m getting better, definitely getting better,” he said. “My fastball (which touched 97 miles per hour on the speed gun) is getting better from where I thought it would be.

“It’s been a long time since I was pitching in spring training, so just being back on the mound is exciting, just being happy because of that.”

And the best thing I heard about Montas came from the mouth of catcher Tyler Stephenson: “He’s a Grade-A human being, a really nice guy.”

—A SHORT TURNOVER: Remember when Davey Concepcion and Barry Larkin occupied shorstop for the Cincinnati Reds for about a hundred years? Well, it seemed that way.

My how times change. If Elly De La Cruz is at shortstop for Opening Day this year, he will be the seventh different Reds Opening Day shortstop in seven years.

And if your name is Jose, playing shortstop for the Reds is strictly short term.

The last six: 2017-Zack Cozart, 2018-Jose Peraza, 2019-Jose Iglesias, 2020-Freddy Galvis, 2021-Eugenio Suarez, 2022-Kyle Farmer, 2023-Jose Barrero.

—QUOTE: From former Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley: “Good stockbrokers are a dime a dozen, but good shortstops are hard to find.” (And the Reds keep looking.)

—JOLTIN’ JOE: Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, The Yankee Clipper, is the only player in MLB history to hit more than 300 home runs (361) and strike out fewer than 400 times (369)

For the math challenged, that’s only eight more strikeouts than home runs. Over his 13-year career he averaged 34 strikeouts a season

There are guys playing the game now that strikeout 34 times in three weeks.

—QUOTE: From Joe DiMaggio: “I remember a reporter asking me for a quote. I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it might be some kind of soft drink.” (Hey, it wasn’t me.)

—GRIN AND BARRETT: Everybody remembers Game 6 of the 1986 World Series when the Boston Red Sox were one strike away from winning it. Then the ball went between first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs and the New York Mets won that game and Game 7.

Don’t blame Buckner. Blame the Bosox bats. For example, Boston second baseman Marty Barrett was on base 18 times in the Series, 13 hits and five walks. And how many runs did he score?


—A GREAT PROPOSAL: With UMass leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference after this season, my great friend Tim Brabender proposes a great idea.

He says, “Why not add Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, San Francisco and Pepperdine to the A10. At the same time, get rid of Fordham and LaSalle. Let’s take a page out of the Big 10 playbook?”

Splendid idea. Taking it farther, split the A10 into two divisions, East and West.

EAST: St. Bonaventure, George Mason, Saint Joseph’s, Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Davidson, George Washington, Rhode Island.

WEST: Dayton, Duquesne, Gonzaga, Loyola Chicago, Pepperdine, San Francisco, St. Mary’s, Saint Louis.

That would make one super Division I conference of basketball schools that don’t play Division I football.

—SOME INCREDIBLE HOOPLA: What in the name of Jame Naismith was going on Tuesday night in basketball? Well, just three incredible shots in three different games.

***The Cleveland Cavaliers were down two points with two seconds left when Cleveland’s Max Strus unleashed a 59-footer that swished, giving the Cavs a 121-119 win.

As the ball swished, Dallas TV play-by-play man Mark Followill screamed into his mic, “Oh, no. . .oh, no. . .oh, no!!!” Oh, yes.

***Then there was the half-court bank shot at the buzzer by Jarod Lucas to give Nevada a 77-74 win over Colorado State. It was redemption for Lucas.

Lucas, a 91% free throw shooter, missed three of four in the last minute, enabling Colorado State to come from 70-63 behind to tie it. . .before Lucas maade his game-winning heave with the scored tied, 74-74.

***The topper, though, was a shot made by Destiny Slocum of the Maryland women’s team against West Virginia. Her shot was from the top of her own free throw line, a three-quarters of the floor three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give Maryland a 38-24 lead.

Not as dramatic, but it certainly wins the year’s long-distance trophy.

—THE AIR THAT I BREATHE: For several years I attended something called Wyomania, a gathering of baseball writers and scouts in Laramie, Wyoming for a weekend of ribaldry. . .with a University of Wyoming football game as an excuse.

There is a sign painted on a War Memorial Stadium wall that reads, “Welcome to 7,220 feet.” It is a reminder to the opposition that they are playing in thin air, more than a mile above sea level.

Now the Wyoming basketball team has adopted it. Right above the top of the lanes at each end are the numbers, “7,220.”

Hasn’t bothered the opposition too much. The Cowboys are 13-15, 8-5 at home.

—SOME HAIRY GOALS: The line of the night was delivered by ESPN’s David Lloyd as he talked about the five goals scored by Manchester City’s Erling Haaland in his team’s 6-2 FA Cup win over Luton Town. It fell one goal short of George Best’ six goals in 1970 for Manchester United during an 8-2 win over Northapton Town.

Said Lloyd about Haaland’s five goals, “And he did it all in a man bun.”

—QUICK QUOTES: What they said and how they said it:

From Pete Rose standing at the batting cage during spring training: “I’ll tell you three things that’s gonna happen this summer. . .the grass is gonna get greener, the sun is gonna get hotter and Pete Rose is gonna get 200 hits.”

From baseball writer Charles Dryden, describing the old Washington Senators: “Washington. . .first in war, first in peace and last in the American League.”

From Joe DiMaggio’s successor, Mickey Mantle: “Somebody once asked me if I ever went up to the plate trying to hit a home run. I said, ‘Sure, every time.’”

From Jim Kaat, pitching coach for the Reds when Pete Rose was managing: “A young fellow got called up from Triple-A and I saw him in the batting cage take a few swings and I said to Pete, ‘This kid’s swing looks more like Ted Williams than anybody I’ve ever seen.’ It was Paul O’Neill.”

—STILL LEARNING: This is truly something that proves you are never too old to learn something and I didn’t know this.

What are those two dots above the letters i and j called? They are titters (Insert wise crack here).

—POP QUIZ: On the pudding front: vanilla, chocolate or butterscotch? Naked or with bananas or whipped cream or both?

—PLAYLIST NO. 25: I believe my iPod is ready to cry uncle, but not yet:

Earth Angel (The Platters), Maggie (Rod Stewart), Joanna (Kool & The Gang), All For Love (Bryan Adams), Don’t Pull Your Love (Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds), Mr. Bojangles (Niitty Gritty Dirt Band), Making Love Out Of Nothing At All (Air Supply), Ventura Highway (America). Manic Monday (The Bangles).

My Sweet Lord (George Harrison), So Far Away (Carole King), When Did I Get Old? (Derrick Dove & The Peacekeepers), Dust In The Wind (Kansas), Stuck On You (Lionel Richie), Tears On My Pillow (Little Anthony), November Rain (Guns N ‘ Roses).

**Special note: Did you know that Neil Diamond wrote UB40’s ‘Red, Red Wine,’ and the Monkees’ ‘I’m A Believer?” Me, neither.

OBSERVATIONS: Greene ‘Splitting’ Time With A New Pitch

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, still enjoying the down-the-stretch college basketball season, but happy to see some baseball home runs as well as some swings-and-misses, especially from Hunter Greene.

—GREENE DOES THE ‘SPLIT:’ Hunter Greene, seeking to add a third or fourth pitch to his fastball-slider repertoire, unveiled his new split-fingered pitch Sunday afternoon and a split-squad Los Angeles Angels team didn’t even get a split decision.

Greene pitched 1 2/3s breezy and effortless scoreless innins and gave up one hit while striking out four in his spring debut during a 9-4 Cincinnati Reds victory at Goodyear Ballpark.

“I just want to have an equalizer,” Greene said about his new toy. “The splitter was fantastic today. It was unbelievable. So I’ll continue to work on it and get it ready for Opening Day and the rest of the season.”

Greene was supposed to pitch twoi innings but hit his pitch-count with two outs in the second. He had a long first inning because he walked two and struck out three.

Spencer Steer made his debut in left field and didn’t forget his bat while breaking in his outfielder’s glove.

Stuart Fairchild and Luke Maile also said, “Pay attention to us.”

Steer, battiing leadoff, went 2 for 3 with an RBI. Fairchild, playing right field, was a perfect 3 for 3 with an RBI double. And catcher Luke Maile crushed a three-run home run as the Reds constructed a 5-0 lead after five innings.

Outfieder Conner Capel entered mid-game and was 2 for 2 with a home run. The Reds signed him as a free agent after he played 32 games last season for the Oakland A’s.

Capel’s father, Mike Capel, pitched two seasons in the majors for the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee and Houston.

—KKKKKKKKKKKKKKK: Remember the name Hagen Smith. And you can be certain the Cincinnati Reds have a thick dossier on him tucked in a file cabinet.

Smith is a left-handed pitcher at the University of Arkansas and what he did in a game last week was, well, astonishing.

Facing No. 7 ranked Oregon State, the first 15 outs he recorded were all strikeouts, 12 swinging.

He pitched one more inning and struck out two more — 17 strikeouts out of the 18 outs he recorded while giving up no runs and three hits in his six innings.

Astonishing? You bet. Even more outlandish is that in his high school senior year in Bullock, TX., he threw seven no-hitters. Seven!

Can the Reds sign him right now? Guess not.

—A BALL FOR YOGI: On June 11, 1962, on the day they handed me a diploma from Kent State University and told me, “Get lost,” Yogi Berra stepped into the batter’s box for his 2,000th game.

Umpire Jim Honochick asked Baltimore pitcher Dick Hall for the baseball and he handed it to the New York Yankees catcher.

Berra stuck that ball in his back pocket as Honochick tossed a new ball to Hall. Hall’s first pitch with that ball ended up in the right field bleachers, a game-winning home run for Yogi.

—QUOTE: From Yogi Berra on Bill Dickey teaching him the finer arts of catching: “Bill is learning me his experience.”

—MAKING THE GRADE: Why is that school grades are A, B, C, D and F? Where is E? Why skip E? Is it because people believe E is for excellence?

I know, know baseball folks. It is because E stands for error.

—A REBUTTAL: A quote from former University of Georgia football coach Wally Butts: “An atheist is somebody who lives in Alabama and doesn’t believe in Bear Bryant.” (Or, to update that quote. . .doesn’t believe in Nick Saban.)

—TREADMILL DRUDGERY: Nadine forced me out of my La-Z-Boy recliner in The Man Cave Sunday morning, marched me downstairs and forced me on to the treadmill. Geez, I forgot it was there.

To make the time fly by, I turned on the TV to ESPN. And for the first six minutes and 50 seconds there was an uniinterrupted stream of commercials. Time dragged. . .and so did I.

—QUOTES & WISEQUACKS: Or as Yogi Berra once said, “I didn’t say everything I said:”

From former Cincinnati Reds infielder Phil Gagliano on being a high school teammate of Tim McCarver’s: “We were the Gold Dust Twins. He got the gold and I got the dust.”

—THE NUMBERS GAME: As pointed out by Matt Steinmann: Hall of Famer Chipper Jones reached base 4,256 times during his career. Pete Rose had 4,256 hits.

—Sports columnist Red Smith reported in 1972 that 40 years previously, in 1932, Art Rooney purchased the Pittsburgh Steelers for $2,500.

That’s $52,500 on today’s market, but the Steelers are now worth $4.65 billion.

—IT’S BLOOD MONEY: A nosebleed ticket to the 1978 Super Bowl in the New Orleans Super Bowl cost $30. To get a nosebleed ticket to this year’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas it cost every drop of blood from all the people in the Bellagio casino. . .$5,475.

—A PUFF OF SMOKE: As I sat in the Hara Arena press box in the late 1960s, Dayton Gems general manager Lefty McFadden plopped down next to me.

One could never see McFadden’s lips because they were always blocked by a fat cigar. He pullled one out of his jacket pocket and handed it to me. . .my first cigar.

It’s 60-some years since that day and I can probably count on both hands the day I haven’t puffed at least one cigar — in Lefty’s honor, of course.

And did you know that the Dayton Gems were the first professional hockey team in North America to make helmets on their players mandatory, even before the NHL did it?

—PLAYLIST NO. 24: Is there a limit? Nope. The Eagless say, “Take It To The Limit.”

Tears On My Pillow (Little Anthony), The River (Bruce Springsteen), I Just Want To Be Your Everything (Andy Gibb), Only You (The Platters), Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins), Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet), Ball And Chain (Social Distortion), Refections (The Supremes).

Longer (Dan Fogelberg), Somebody To Love (Jefferson Airplane), Where Do Broken Hearts Go? (Whitney Houston), Got My Heart Set On You (George Harrison), Simply Irresistible (Robert Palmer), I Won’t Let Go (Rascal Flatts), We Didn’t Start The Fire (Billy Joel),

OBSERVATIONS: The One Time A Manager Asked Me For Advice

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while reading a couple of baseball books and wearing a Savannah Bananas cap and a t-shirt that says, “I Act Like I’m OK, But Deep Down I Need Baseball.” Yep, I’m ready.

—WHO, ME???: It was the first day of spring training in 1990 and new Cincinnati Reds manager Lou Piniella called me into his small, sparse Plant City Stadium office for a private chat.

SWEET LOU: “Hal, you’ve covered this team for a very long time. What does it need?”

ME: “A leadoff hitter. I’d suggest Barry Larkin.”

SWEET LOU: “Thanks, I’ll think about that.”

On Opening Day, Chris Sabo batted leadoff. Piniella tinkered. He tried Billy Hatcher. He gave cameos to Herm Winningham and Hal Morris at leadoff for a few games.

Finally, in mid-August I saw the lineup card and it had Barry Larkin leading off. And it mostly stayed that way the rest of the season and Larkin batted leadoff in all four games of the Reds’ World Series sweep of the Oakland A’s.

During the post-game celebration, Piniella took a deep sip of his Dom Perignon and said to me, “Hal, you were right. We needed a leadoff hitter and Barry Larkin was it. I should have done it sooner.”

If I had a hat, it wouldn’t fit my swollen head that day. In 50 years of covering the Reds it was the one and only time any manager asked for my advice.

And I’m one-for-one and won’t ever offer advice again. . .unless I’m asked.

—QUOTE from Lou Piniella: “Statistics and analytics are a lot like bikinis. . .they show a lot but not everything.”

—UH, SAY WHAT?: This head-scratcher is from my favorite contributor, Jeff Singleton, and it is sort of like, “Follow the bouncing ball,” or “Follow the yellow brick road.”

Pitcher Madison Bumgarner had more grand slams than slugger Prince Fielder. Fielder had more inside-the-park home runs than speedster Rickey Henderson. Base-stealer Henderson had
fewer steals of home than Babe Ruth. Ruth, as a pitcher, pitched as many shutouts as Pedro Martinez.

Ah, baseball, love it or. . .love it.

—QUOTE: From former manager Dallas Green when he heard Rickey Henderson might write a tell-all book: “Before you write a book, don’t you have to read one?” (Pete Rose once said when his book came out, “I wrote a book before I ever read one.”)

So there, Dallas. It can be done.”

—THE FEW ‘UNWANTED’: There are enough unsigned free agents to make up a couple of extremely strong teams. Put a franchise in Salt Lake City and call it the Utah Unsigned.

Among those still seeking employment are former Reds Mike Lorenzen, Tommy Pham, Adam Duvall and Donovan Solano

—NO RESPECT: For some reason, MLB-TV is treating the Cincinnati Reds like Rodney Dangerfield. No respect.

The baseball network is televising only 10 Reds’ spring training games, the fewest of the 30 teams. The Los Angeles Angels get 32 telecasts, the Chicago Cubs get 29 and the Toronto Blue Jays get 28.

Even the Oakland A’s, at 11, get more than the Reds.

—QUOTE: From comedian Rodney “No Respect” Dangerfield: “Once on my birthday my old man gave me a bat. The first day I played with it, it flew away.” (And you thought the bat was a Louisville Slugger, right?)

—THE REBOUNDING ARTIS(T): For a brief time in the early 1970s, little Jacksonville University made a mark in college basketball, particularly the 1969-70 season when they made it to the NCAA finals. They lost to John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty, 80-69.

In that title game, Jacksonville was whistled for 38 fouls to five for UCLA. They always said Wooden had the officials in both his back and front pockets.

During that season, Jacksonville’s 7-foot-2 Artis Gilmore averaged 22.7 rebounds a game, a still-standing single season record. And the Dolphins also had 7-foot-0 Pembrooke Burrow. Also on that team was 6-foot-5 Mike Blevins from Springboro. Blevins started at the University of Dayton then transferred to Jacksonville.

—QUOTE: From Jacksonville coach Joe Williams on his keys to success: “When people ask me what I owe being a success in life to, I say, ‘Good luck, hard work and Artis Gilmore.'”

—WITH APOLOGIES: Love this and wish MLB would make its instant replay/review decisions announced to the crowd.

The NHL does it. Referee Garrett Rank made a call against the home team St. Lous Blues that wiped out a goal. It went to review and when the decision was rendered, Rank grabbed the microphone and told the crowd, “You’re not going to like this, but the call on the ice stands. No goal.”

Now how can a crowd boo an honest guy like that?

—QUOTE: From former Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on Instant Replay: “Get rid of the use of instant replay. I miss the human element of trusting the officials to make the calls in the moment. I liked when the officials were just as much a part of the game as the players.” (I’m with you, Pete. I like the human element.)


From Joe Garagiola when they brought long loaves of bread to his banquet table: “I see the New York Mets’ bats have arrived.”

From Tug McGraw when asked if he preferred natural grass or artificial turf: “I don’t know. I never smoked AstroTurf.”

From Dave Parker on what he did to get up for games: “I sit in the clubhouse and tell myself, ‘I’m wall-to-wall and treetop tall.’”

From former Reds pinch-hitter Art Shamsky: “I don’t know anything about hitting. I just close my eyes and swing the bat and sometimes it hits the ball.”

From Casey Stengel on his players missing curfew: “My players got bad watches. They can’t tell the difference between midnight and noon.”

From former 6-foot-10 pitcher Eric Hillman on why he didn’t play basketball: “The ball is too big and there is no chance of a rainout.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 23 — Just how many good songs are in our musical universe?

OId Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine (Tom T. Hall), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Garth Brooks), Remember When (Alan Jackson), Open Arms (Journey), Don’t Get Hooked On Me (Mac Davis), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), Everything I Own (Boy George), Blinded By The Light (Manfred Mann), Don’t Give Up On Us (David Soul).

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (Leo Sayer), Oh Girl (The Chi-Lites), Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress (The Hollies), Take My Breath Away (Berlin), The Final Countdown (Europe), Bye Bye Love (Everly Brothers), An Old-Fashioned Love
Song (Three Dog Night), The River (Bruce Springsteen), Dawn (The Four Seasons).

OBSERVATIONS: Mostly About Baseball. . .But Other Stuff, Too

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave as the excitement and anticipation mounts. . .real baseball Saturday — Reds versus Guardians. And now that I have watched the movie ‘Major League,’ my yearly pre-season ritual, it is time to play ball.

And let’s start this segment with some stuff from Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker.

I thought I’d heard every self-deprecating story former catcher Bob Uecker had to tell on himself — like the time he hit a grand slam and the opposing manager, “Not only came out to take out the pitcher but he brought the pitcher’s suitcase with him.”

Or the time he came up to bat in the bottom of ninth, his team down, 2-1, two outs, bases-loaded, 3-and-2 count, “And I looked in the other team’s dugout and all their players were dressed in their street clothes.”

And he always said, “Yes, I had endorsements. Sporting goods companies paid me not to endorse their stuff.”

Then I heard him tell another one I hadn’t heard about him getting invited back to participate in old-timer’s games. “I haven’t lost a thing,” he said. “I sit in the bullpen and let the fans throw junk at me. Just like old times.”

—IT WAS BUCK’S: Everybody knows it was Hall of Famer Ernie Banks who always said, “It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two.”

Ernie, right? Well, yes, he said it all the time. But he admitted that he stole it. It was something that Negro League legend Buck O’Neill said and Banks ‘borrowed it.’

Ernie even said it before spring exhibtion games. . .and meant every word.

—DOWN GOES VANDY: The University of Dayton basketball team isn’t the only UD athletic entity making noise.

The Flyers baseball team traveled to Nashville Saturday and upset No. 6-ranked Vanderbilt, 8-5, with a seven-run eruption in the eighth inning.

Red-shirt sophomore outfielder Alejandro Cazorla, a native of Okotoka, Alberta, Canada, went 3-foor-3 with a home run. The Flyers were down, 5-1, entering the eighth and Cazorla started the rally with a single, then doubled in the same inning to drive in the winning runs.

It was UD’s first win over a Top Ten team since a win over LSU in 1996.

—MISUNDERSTANDING?: It was the most disrespectul display ever enacted on the UD Arena floor last Saturday before the University of Dayton-Fordham basketball game.

As the Flyers lined up on for the Nationaal Anthem and the color guard marched toward center court, the Fordham team burst through UD’s line for some last-second dunks. Then as the Star Spangled Banner was being played by the UD pep band, the Fordham players were slapping palms and dancing.

It prompted a letter from UD fan Rosie Drummer Miller to Fordham athletic director Edward Kull and it prompted a return letter from Kull:

“Thank you for your messager. On behalf of Fordham University and the men’s basketball team, I apologize for the disruption caused during Saturday’s Presentation of Colors and the national anthem.

“I’ve been in touch with Neil Sulllivan, University of Dayton’s athletic director, the A10 Conference and officials, and we’re all in agreement that Saturday’s incident is a result of a misunderstanding and poor timing as teams transitioned from warm-ups to the national anthem.

“This is certainly a teaching moment for our student athletes. Honoring fallen heros, veterans, active military personnel and our nation during the presentation of colors and the national anthem should never be interrupted.

“Thank you for reaching out to share your concern. Ed Kull.”

Misunderstanding? What’s to misunderstand? The only part of misunderstand that is relevant is the ‘stand’ part of the word. . .stand and be respectful.

The Fordham team was its best behavior Tuesday at Davidson during pre-game festivities, then took a 68-53 beating.

—WSU’S TWO-TIMERS: For a team that is only 15-12, 8-5 at home and fourth place in the Horizon League, Wright State is worthy of attention.

Not only are they the second best shooting team in the country at 58.6%, the Raiders are the only Division I team in the USofA with two 2,000-point career scorers on its roster.

Trey Calvin is at 2,047 and Tanner Holden is at 2,011. Now if the Raiders only could learn that defense is more than a seven-letter word in the dictionary.

—YES, VIRGINIA? UH, NO: The state’s slogan is, “Virginia is for lovers.” Oh, yeah? Well, the University of Dayton basketball team must not be lovers.

Fortunately they don’t have to go back there again this seaason. The Flyers have played three games in Virginia and lost all three — Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason.

They could have scheduled the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Union, Virginia Military, Old Dominin, Liberty, Willliam & Mary, James Madison or even Hampton.

—TIME’S NOT ON YOUR SIDE: This one is no surprise to me as I watch commercial after commercial after commercial flash on my TV screen during NFL games.

If you subtract huddles, replay/reviews, commercials and halftime, there is actually only 18 minutes of real action in the average NFL game that takes three hours to play.

—SQUEEZING THE BENJAMINS: The four most notable free agents still looking for employment are Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell. What does this Baseball Fab Four have in common?

It is not a surprise. They are all represented by agent Scott Boras, who would squeeze Benjamin Franklin’s picture off a 100 dollar bill.

—NEED AN ASSIST?: Ask this question to the most avid NBA fan and they won’t get it. What’s the most unlikely record that won’t be broken?

Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game? Nope.

Bill Russell’s 11 championship rings? Nope.

The LA Lakers’ 30 wins in a row? Nope.

It is a record set by Orlando Magics point guard Scott Skiles. In a game in 1990 Skiles recorded 30 assists. It won’t be broken because nobody in the NBA these days makes that many passes.

—SOME BIG NEWS: With all the things happening in spring training, what makes ESPN and the wire services about the Cincinnati Reds?

A broken window? Yep.

The Reds were taking live batting practice under blue skies and puffy white clouds at their Goodyear, AZ., spring training complex.

It was Hunter Greene pitching and Elly De La Cruz batting. De La Cruz fouled one out of the park and a ker-thunk was heard.

A car window had been hit and everybody laughed and giggled. . .everybody but Greene. It was his car. There was no report on the make and model of Greene’s SUV, but rest assured it was not a Ford Focus.


From Rogers Hornsby: People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I stare out the window waiting for spring.”

From Dave Winfield: “These days you go to spring training to get your legs ready, your arm loose and get your agent and lawyer lined up.”

From author William Zinsser: “The sound of the bat is the music of spring training.”

From country singer Steve Earle: I love baseball. I’ll probably end up one of those old farts who go to spring training every day and drive from game to game all day.”

From Christy Mathewspm: “A young ballplayer looks on his first spring training as a stage struck young woman regards the theatre.”

From pitcher Curt Schilling: “Before I pitch any game, from spring training to Game 7 of the World Series, I’m scared to death.”

From pitcher Jim Palmer: “I’ve been doing Orioles fundamentals forever and do them in my sleep. I hate spring training.”

From Torii Hunter: “Spring training is for getting to know your teammates and forming a chemistry. I don’t like it.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 22: From the far reaches of my iPod:

The Boys Of Summer (Don Henley), Kentucky Woman (Neil Diamond), Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds), I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder), End Of The World (Anne Murray), All Out Of Love (Air Supply), Sweet Baby James (James Taylor).

Time Is On My Side (Rolling Stones), Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool (Connie Francis), We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner), She Loves You (The Beatles), Forever My Darling (Aaron Neville), Breathe Again (Toni Braxton), The Air That I Breathe (The Hollies).Dream On (Aerosmith).

OBSERVATIONS: A ‘Rose’ By Any Other Name. . .Still Pete Rose

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man being very careful. After writing my previous UO I started to post it and deleted it. Gone. Everything. Call me stubborn or dedicated (I didn’t want to re-write it), so I spent 45 minutes searching every nook and corner of my laptop.

Incredibly, despite my laptop idiocy with sheer good fortunte, I found it. I dropped down under ‘File,’ clicked on ‘Return To’ and clicked the drophead that said, ‘Browse All Files.’ Shazam. There it was. Applause appreciated.

—A ROSE IS A ROSE: This is why it was always a hoot to interview Pete Rose. This was his take on faciing Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Don Sutton and Bob Welch.

“Don Sutton? I wore his ass out. Oh, man. Two guys on the Dodgers I wore out, Don Sutton and Bob Welch. I could have gone up blindfolded and got hits off those two guys. I mean, really, Ray Charles could have got hits off Don Sutton.”

And Don Sutton is in the Hall of Fame and Bob Welch won 211 games with a 3.47 earned run average. In addition, Rose hit .307 against Bob Gibson.

It was Pete Rose who saw pitcher Don Gullett’s fastball and said, “He could throw his fastball through a car wash and not get the ball wet.”

Rose once said he wrote a book before he ever read one and also said, “I wish there was some way I could have gotten a college education, but I’m thinking about bv buying a college.”

He could have purchase Rose-Hulman Tech in Terre Haute and he wouldn’t have had to change the name.

—WHO’S AT FAULT: It sounds as if somebody slipped some sour grapes into pitcher Levi Stoudt’s Wheaties.

After the Reds designated him for assignment, the Seattle Mariners signed him. Stoudt started his career in Seattle but was part of the package the Mariners sent to the Reds for pitcher Luis Castillo.

Upon his return to Seattlle, Stoudt aimed criticism at the Reds to the Seattle Times, saying the Reds didn’t handle pitchers very well.

“It was different (with the Reds). It was a little bit of, I’d say, a lack of direction, in my sense. It was kind of not much of a philosophy. It was kind of just go play baseball and we’ll help you along the way. That’s the most exciting thing for me is to get back to that process of them (Seattle) looking at me and saying, ‘All right, this is what we know and what can we do to make you the best version of yourself.’”

In 2022, Stoudt appeared in six games for the Reds and posted a 2.63 earned run average over 24 innings. He made a solid impression.

But in April of last seasson he pitched 10 1/3 innings and gave up 11 runs and eight walks. Off he went to Triple-A Louisville. . .and disaster.

In 25 appearances over 82 1/3 innings he pitched to a 6.23 ERA and issued 50 walks.

Was it his fault or is he correct in his assessment of the help he received in the Reds’ system? Well, now he’s Seattle’s issue and it sounds as if he needs a full-length mirror.

—LEANIN’ ON LENNY: Lenny Dykstra was a down-and-dirty player whose nickname was “Nails” because he played so hard.

After baseball he has been immersed in financial and legal troubles that resulted in incarceration. And last week, the 61-year-old former outfielder suffered a stroke.

Early in 1990 Dysktra flirted with .400, something not done in MLB since Ted Willliams hit .406 in 1941. Dykstra was asked if he or anybody else could hit .400 over the long haul of a season.

“No, not with the split-fingered pitch, relief pitchers, night games and franchises 3,000 miles apart on the schedule. Hey, .350 is a great average today.”

Dykstra proved it. He finished 1990 at .325. And actually, Lenny, a .250 average today will get you a five-year $100 million contract.

—RICKETY RICK: A few of us who sat in a post-game interview at the Charleston Class after Dayton beate St. John’s, 88-81, know that St. John’s coach Rick Pitino’s post-game rant was no shock.

After the Dayton loss, Pitino did everything but call his team human beings, blaming everything on them. It was like, “I coached good, but they played bad.” No credit for UD. It was if Pitino expected to roll a basketball on the floor and his team would roll over the Flyers.

So there he was again this weekend when St. John’s lost to Seton Hall. Again it was a rant against his team. Among many things, he said, “I talk, but they don’t listen.” And he said there were no athletes on his team, they don’t know how to play defense and that this season was the least fun he has ever had.

Cry us a river, Rick, then go jump in it. Those kids deserve better.

—WHAT A WASTE: How many of you watched the NBA All-Star game? Me, neither. Defense was not allowed, not that they ever play much of it during the season. The two teams combined for 397 points — East 211, West 186. Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton scored 15 points in four minutes of the first quarter. . .and not a single hand was put in his face.

The only bigger farce than the NBA All-Star game is the NFL’s Pro Bowl — a game of two-handed touch like my grandkids play on the street.

And the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest is farcical. The superstars don’t compete and for the second year in a row G League player Mac McClung won it.

I’d rather watch a re-run of Petticoat Junction.

—A QUID FOR THE QUOTES: And they keep on saying funny things:

—From pitcher Bob Miller on why he decided to retire: “I got tired of ducking line drives and backing up home plate.”

—From Mitch Webster after he was traded from the Montreal Expos: “It willl be great not to have to listen to two different national anthems.”

—From minor league umpire Jack Lietz after his crew worked an eight-hour extra-inning game: “We went the whole game without going to the bathroom.”

—From George Brett on losing: “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.”

—From pitcher Lefty Gomez: “I was never nervous when I had the ball, but when I let it go I was scared to death.”

—From Frank Robinson, baseball’s first black manager: “I had no trouble communicating. The players just didn’t like what I had to say.”

—From manager Eddie Stanky on denying vice-president Humbert Humphrey a visit to the clubhouse: “What do I need Humphrey for, he can’t hit.”

—From pitcher Trevor Hoffman when he saw in his contract that he couldn’t go spelunking: “The first time I saw the word spelunking I thought it had something to do with pornography.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 22: I fear I’m nearing the bottom of my iPod, but I hope there are some that you like:

We Got Tonight (Bob Seger), In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins), 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton), Without You (Mariah Carey), It Was Almost Like A Song (Ronnie Milsap), You Might Think (The Cars), Will You Still Love Me (Chicago), Two Out Of Three (Meat Loaf), Everything I Own (Bread).

Somewhere In The Night (Helen Reddy), Ride Like The Wind (Christopher Cross), Movin’ Out (Billy Joel), San Francisco (Scott McKenzie), This Ole House (The Statler Brothers), You’re My Best Friend (Queen), Baby I Love Your Way (Peter Frampton), Dancing In The Moonlight (King Harvest), Listen To Your Heart (Roxette).



OBSERVATIONS: Some Baseball Tales. . .And Much Other Stuff

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, looking out the window and seeing three inches of snow and, hey, c’mon, it’s baseball season.

—THAT WAS SPECIAL: More about Don Gullett, the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher who passed away earlier this week. And may I borrow a line from the song, ‘Hall of Fame,’ by The Script.

And the title is apropos because injuries were the only thing that stopped Gullett from baseball’s Hallll of Fame. The script sang, ‘Cause you burn with the brighest flame.’

Mark Schmetzer, a free lancer who writes more than half of each edition of Reds Report, reminded me of a wonderful Sparky Anderson/Don Gullett story.

Gullett was a 19-year-old rookie in 1970 and one day Gullett asked Sparky for a day off, “For a special occasion.”

Anderson thought it might be for a birthday or anniversary. Nope. Gullett’s wife, Cathy, was having her high school graduation.

And this one from Scott Russell, the biographer of former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee.

Before Lee faced Gullett in Game One of the 1975 World Series, Lee said, “They say Don Gullett is going straight to the Hall of Fame. I’m going straight to the Elliot Lounge.”

—A DIFFERENT PITCH COUNT: The 2023 Cincinnati Reds used a staggering 17 different starting pitchers and 40 total pitchers.

Yes, that’s a bunch. But Louisville Bats manager Pat Kelly needed name tags to identify his pitching staff. He used 23 different starters and 55 total pitchers.

Is it no wonder the Bats had the second highest team earned run average in the International League at 6.17? They might have been passing out application forms at the Slugger Field front desk in search of more pitching.

—DRESS ‘EM UP: So what’s the big topic the first week of baseball spring training? It isn’t exit velocity, spin rate or launch angle. It’s worse.

Players are complaining about their uniforms, designed by Nike and manufactured by Fanatics.

They say the jerseys and pants fit poorly, have inconsistent colors, too small lettering and are cheaply designed. Worst of all, they say, is that they can’t alter the pants to their individual styles.

Said Cincinnati Reds catcher Luke Maile about the uniforms, “It’s just like toilet paper. But after a whille it’s just your toilet paper.”

In other words, you know what MLB can do with those duds. Charmin, anybody?

It’s The Great Fashion Flap and they have gone so far as to get the players’ union involved.

Many of the complainers should be thankful they are even given a uniform instead of their walking papers.
—SINGING SIGNALS: The Houston Astros may soon have a catcher who can sing the National Anthem before a game and Take Me Out To The Ball Game in the seventh inning.

And the Cincinnati Reds orginally drafted him in 2019 in the 13th round, then traded him to the Astros for pitcher Cionel Perez. He is Luke Berryhill, ‘The Singing Catcher.’

In 2021 he wrote a song about his life in the minors, ‘Road To The Show,’ and he said, “I literallly just wrote my life and it just flowed out about the bus rides, the good games and bad games, just working my way up.”

He recorded the song and others and now sings and performs professionally in the off-season. And so far he has made it to Triple-A, one step from the majors.

When a batter digs into the box, he might hear a voice behind him singing. . . ‘You Had A Bad Day. . .’

—PAY AND GO AWAY: It is always disconcerting to see a coach lose his job and nobody was stunned when Ohio State fired basketball coach Chris Holtmann.

And it is even more disconcerting when a coach is fired mid-season.

But shed just a tear or two for Holtmann. To sweep him out the door, Ohio State must pay him a buyout of $12.8 million. The next time one sees Holtmann he’ll probably be found fishing off a yacht in The Bahamas.

Where do I sign up?

—HOLMES TO HOLMES: Former boxing heavyweight champion Larry Holmes (1978-85) is not related to University of Dayton basketball wunderkind DaRon Holmes II.

The boxing Holmes, though, has some advice for the hoopster Holmes, who must endure everything from opponents but the opposing coach hiring an ax murderer to take him out.

Said the boxer Holmes, “Don’t take no punches. Prove to them you are a good fighter.”

And while on the subject of UD basketball, I have one question about 5-foot-10, 155-pound point guard Javon Bennett: “How can a kid so small play so big?” Bennett plays as hard as a referee’s heart.

—CEREAL KILLER: Questions: Honey-Nut Cheerios or Frosted Flakes? Bananas on them or not?

—PETE PEEVE: How do you pronounce often? It is not off-ten. It is off-en. The ’t’ is silent. It is like hasten and soften. Now get off my lawn.

—QUANTUM QUOTES: More utterings from baseball people that can be used as quotation devices:

From Mickey Mantle: “Did you hear that Yogi Berra accepted a $1 milllion contract from George Steinbrenner? A dolllar a year for a million years.”

From former catcher/broadcaster Joe Garagiola: “The Chicago Cubs are like the Rush Street bars in Chicago, a lot of singles but no action.”

From former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner about complaints from pitcher Goose Gossage: “Thc Goose should do more pitching and less quackig.”

From columnist Jim Murray on Billy Martin: “Some people carry chips on their shoulders. Billy Martin has a whole lumberyard.”

From Yogi Berra (And maybe he really said it): “Listen up. I have nothing to say and I’m only gonna say it once.”

From pitcher Dan Quisenberry on trouble with his sinker: “The batter still hits a grounder, but the first bounce is 360 feet away.”

From Pete Rose on Philadelphia fans: “Most of them would boo the crack in the Liberty Bell.”

From former catcher/broadcaster Bob Uecker: “I had slumps that lasted until Christmas Eve.”

From Joe Torre while managing the New York Mets: “I’m not sure if I’d rather be managing or testing bullet-proof vests.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 20: The iPod keeps churning them out:

Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen), There’s A Hush (Herman’s Hermits), Bye, Bye Baby (Bay City Rollers), It’s My Party (Lesley Gore), Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals), Against All Odds (Phil Collins), Why Can’t We Be Friends (War), My Eyes Adored You (Frankie Valli), Chariots Of Fire (Vangells), If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Simply Red).

Sea Of Love (Honeydippers), Baby I Love You (Rhonettes), When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge), Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills & Nash), Cracklin’ Rosie (Neil Diamond), I Write The Songs (Barry Manilow), Brandy (Looking Glass), Drive (The Cars), These Eyes (The Guess Who).

OBSERVATIONS: A Sad Day. . .Don Gullett Passes Away

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave and pardon me while I write this with a handkerchief in one hand and tears running down my cheeks.

—GULLY IS GONE: It is the time of my life, at my age (83), when I shudder when the house phone rings. Seldom is it good news. Mostly it is telemarketers. . .and I never answer.

Such was the case today when the phone rang and it was the worst news possible.

Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Don Gullett suffered a stroke, never regained consciousness and passed away at age 73.

Needless to say, he was one of the best pitchers ever to occupy a pitcher’s mound while wearing a Reds uniform — 91-44 with a 3.11 earned run average during his seven-year run.

He and Gary Nolan were the pitching anchors on the 1975 and 1976 World Series champions.

Even more important, though, he was one of the nicest persons ever to wear a Reds uniform. And even though he was a real tough guy, backed down from nobody, he was so quiet as to be almost silent in the clubhouse with zero ego as a player.

I got to know him as a pitcher, but got even closer when he was a pitching coach for the Reds and manager Jack McKeon, and a doggone good one. We spent a lot of time on the road together and trying to get him to talk about himself was not like pulling a tooth, it was like trying to pull an entire mouth full of teeth.

I was always intrigueds by his legendary accomplishments at McKell (Ky.) High School, where he scored 70 points in one football game, 50 points in a basketball game and struck out every batter but one in a baseball game. The last batter bunted.

No matter how often I asked, he just smiled and shrugged. I had heard that his football coach at McKell was mad at the other team’s coach, so he turned Gullett loose on that team.

Was that true, Gully. Smile, shrug.

Injuries prevented him from ever winning the Cy Young Award or be considered for the Hall of Fame.

In 1975 he was 15-4 with a 2.42 ERA, but made only 22 starts due to injuries. He was on his way toward a Cy Young. In 1976, it was worse. He made only 20 starts and was 11-3 with a 3.00 earned run average, also on his way to Cy Young considerations.

After the ’76 season, he signed with the New York Yankees and was 14-4 with a 3.58 ERA, once again with 22 starts.

Then in 1978 he tore his rotator cuff. That was before rotator cuffs could be fixed with Tommy John surgery, so his career was over.

In nine years, he was 109-50 — 59 games over .500 — with a 3.11 earned run average. That definitely was a path to Cooperstown, but the shortened career threw a brick wall in front of him.

He was one of the Good Guys, a really, really Good Guy. Whomever he pitches for in Heaven, that team won’t lose many when he starts. And the football and basketball teams will be blessed, too.

Rest in peace, No. 35, rest in peace. Now pardon me while I take the house phone off the hook.

—FALLING STARS: How fragile is a major league career? Just ask Jesse Winker and Amir Garrett. Remember when both were major pieces on the Cincinnati Reds?

Now both, holding hats in hand, are pretty much on the start-over phases of their careers.

Outfielder Winker signed a minor league contract with an invite to the major league camp of the Washington Nationals. Pitcher Garrett signed a minor league contract with an invite to the major league camp of the San Francisco Giants.

Historically, that makes them long shots to make the Opening Day roster. And Joey Votto? Still jobless.

—READY ALREADY?: It appearss Shohei Ohtani is ready to provide returns on the $750 million investment the Los Angeles Dodgers put into him.

On Day One of spring training, on the first pitch he saw on his first batting practice swing, he dispatched a baseball over the fence. And of his first 21 swings, 10 left the ball park. . .and they aren’t training in Williamsport.

Once upon a time, back in Tampa’s old Al Lopez Field, spring home of the Reds, I saw George Foster hit seven straight over the left field wall, endangering numerous parked cars, including my rental car. Fortunately, it escaped unscathed.

—POINT OF PERSPECTIVE: Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams to Hall of Fame golfer Sam Snead:

TW: “Golf is the easiest sport in the world. You get to hit a ball that isn’t even moving.”

SS: “Oh, yeah. Do you have to hit your foul balls?”

—FLYERS STILL FLYIN’: Many of the Flyer Faithfull were stunned and shocked, in a good way, when the University of Dayton climbed from No. 18 to No. 16 in this week’s Associated Press college basketball poll.

They expected the Flyers to fall, maybe clear out of the Top 25 when they played like a Fifth Street YMCA pick-up team in a 47-45 loss to a not-that-good Virginia Commonwealth team.

It was no shock or even a surprise to me. Of last week’s Top 25 teams, 17 lost at least one game last week. Kentucky and Wisconsin lost twice.

Meanwhile, UD won a big game on the road at Saint Joseph’s before losing on the road to VCU by just two points.

And with their 16-point home win Tuesday over Duquesne, if the Flyers can strongly put away Fordham at UD Arena Saturday afternoon, they should climb even higher in the polls.

—BIRD’S WORD: Larry Bird was impressed, extremely impressed.

After Michael Jordan scored 63 points for the Chicago Bulls in a playoff game agains his Boston Celtics, Bird said, “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

—QUALITY QUOTES: More things said by baseball people that evoke at least a grin:

From pitcher Billy Loes, who once claimed he lost a ground ball in the sun: “I have no intention or desire to ever win 20 games because then they expect it of you.”

From pitcher Jim Lonborg when he struggled: “It has to be physical which is why I’m soaking my arm. If it was mental I’d be soaking my head.”

From umpire Al Clark on why he addressed the former manager formally as George Anderson: “I refused to call a 52-year-old man Sparky.”

From Esther Canseco, after her husband, Jose Canseco, was benched for Game 4 of the 1990 World Series against the Reds: “Let ‘em sweep us. I should have worn a red dress.”

From Reggie Jackson on facing Nolan Ryan: “You just hope to mix in a walk so you just go 0 for 3.”

From Yankee utility player Phil Linz: “You can’t get rich sitting on the bench, but I’m giving it aa try.”

From Mickey Mantle, after his first day as a broadcaster: “You don’t realize how easy this game is until you get up in the broadcast booth.”

From Yogi Berra when Tom Seaver asked him what time it was: “You mean now?”
—PLAYLIST NO. 18: I believe I am close to the end of my iPod’s playlist, but maybe not.

Every Rose Has Its Thorns (Poison), That’s All (Genesis), Jump (Van Halen), When I See You Smile (Bad English), Love Me Tonight (Don Williams), Sarah (Fleetwood Mac), In The Long Run (The Eagles), Seasons In The Sun (Terry Jackson), It’s All In The Game (Tommy Edwards).

Ob La Di, Ob La Da (The Beatles), The Great Pretender (The Platters), Behind Closed Doors (Charlie Rich), Say A Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin), So Much In Love (The Thymes), Light My Fire (The Doors), Whatcha Gonna Do? (Pablo Cruise), Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne), Drift Away (Dobie Gray).

OBERVATIONS: A Book About The Pastoral Cape Cod League

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, giddy as always when it is time for pitchers and catchers to put button on their uniforms, pull on their spikes, grab their gloves and begin working on ther sun tans.

FOLLOWING THE FIREBIRDS: With spring training camps opening their gates this week, how about something from the game’s grass roots?

Pure pastoral baseball can be found in the Cape Cod League, a summer collegiate wooden bat league.

Even a movie, ‘Summer Catch,’ was about the league with a cameo appearance by Ken Griffey Jr., who did not win an Academy Award.

Now there is going to be a book about one team in the Cape Cod League, the Orleans Firebirds.

My wonderful friend and author, Mark Epstein, is going to follow Orleans all summer this year and write a chronology book on the daily grind both on and off the field of the organization, including the many volunteers.

There is no doubt it will be outstanding. Sports fans can check out his work by reading, ‘They Call Me Pathfinder’ and ‘Jack ‘The Shot’ Foley, A Legend For All Time.’

The Foley book is a fascinating, well-written, well-documented piece of work about Foley, a Holy Cross All-American basketball player who could shoot a marble into a tea cup from 30 feet.

Interesting tidbit: The Cape Cod League was formed in 1923 with four teams — Osterville, Hyannis, Chatham and Falmouth. There are now 10 teams with Hyannis, Chatham and Falmouth still in it. And Falmouth, a 1923 charter member, hasn’t won a Cape Cod championship since 1971.

At least they keep trying, hoping to some day re-discover the taste of champagne.

—ICHIRO TO REDS?: Did you hear that the Cincinnati Reds signed Ichiro? Really? Well, not THAT Ichiro, not Ichiro Suzuki.

They signed a 19-year-old switch-hitting third baseman out of Mexico named Ichiro Cano Hernandez. So, he was named after Ichiro Suzuki, right? Wrong.

In an e-mail to the Reds, he explained, “They gave me this name because my dad had a Japanese friend named Ichiiro who was a surfer.”

So Ichiro is a common name in Japan like James or John? Who knew?

—A DOUBTING THOMAS: What was the longest home run in baseball history? How about 3,300 miles?

As the story goes, a guy named Jimmy Ryan, playing for the Chicago Pirates in 1890, hit a ball over the center field wall in a State Island Ball Park. The New York Giants were playing there because the Polo Grounds was being built.

The ball allegedly landed on a schooner in the Atlantic Ocean, striking a fan on the head. He kept the ball and sailed to Liverpool, England, about 3,300 miles.

Some spoil sport researcher debunks the story. He said the ball would have had to travel 610 feet to the boat in the ocean. And he said Ryan never hit a home run in State Island in 1890. He did hit one in 1889 while playing for the Chicago White Stockings, not the Chicago Pirates.

Nothing like spoiling a great story, right?

—THE GRAND MASTER: Before the start of a World Series game in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, old Casey Stengel, the New York Yankees manager, took a young outfielder named Mickey Mantle out to right field.

His mission was to show Mantle how to play caroms off the complex wall in Ebbets Field. After the tutorial was concluded, Mantle asked Stengel, “How do you know so much about playing caroms off this wall?”

Stengel shook his gnarled and wrinkled old head and said, “I used to play right field here for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Do you think I was born old?”

—A GREAT MYSTERY: What’s going on in Lexington, Ky. . .and it has nothing to do with horses or the Kentucky Derby?

The University of Kentucky basketball team certainly has the horses, but UK lost Saturday to Gonzaga, the third straight home loss for the Wildcats.

Three straight home setbacls had never happened to the ‘Cats since Rupp Arena opened in 1976.

And they lost Saturday to coach Mark Few’s worst Gonzaga team. The UK win was the Zags’ first Quad 1 win this season.

While UK is a powerful scoring machine, defense is a dirty word. Despite three 7-footers, the Wildcats were outrebouned by the Zags, 43-31. UK has one of the worst defensive rebounding team in the country.

And the rabid UK fan bases wants to turn coach John Calipari’s head into a basketball to dribble down West Main Street.

—THE REST OF THE STORY: Now that Chip Kelly has left the head coaching job at UCLA to become offensive co-ordinator for Ryan Day at Ohio State, there has to be a back story. And there is.

It is role reversal. Back when Kelly was in his formative years as a coach, he was the offensive co-ordinator at that football powerhouse, the University of New Hampshire. And his quarterback? Ryan Day. And those were the days of two-way players and Day also was a linebacker.

—ROAD GLUTTONS: For some strange reason, the Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt Conference took league play off this weekend and every MAC team played every Sun Belt team.

Why strange. Because in every game, the MAC team went to the Sun Belt team’s gym. As one might expect, the Sun Belt won most games aand mostly by wide margins.

The MAC was 2-and-9 both winners were by one point, Buffalo over Georgia Southern and Central Michigan over Old Dominion.
—STOPING WILT: Former NBAer Charles Barkley has an opinion on everything and is the kind of guy when somebody says, “Good morning,” he says, “What do you mean by that?”

And, of course, he has an opinion on the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks in 1962, 62 years ago.

Barkley says the 7-foot-2 man nicknamed ‘The Stilt’ and ‘The Big Dipper’ would never score 100 against him.

“You know whatl bothers me about that? That team (the Knicks) had no pride. If a guy was roasting me like that, I’d be in the lockerroom because I would have been flagraant fouling him,” said Barkley.

Hey, Sir Charles. The Knicks tried that and Wilt hit 28 of 32 free throws. That means he made 36 baskets. . .and there was no three-point line in 1962. The only way to stop Wilt that night was to deflate the basketball with a needle. . .or hide the basketball.

—THE ‘SPIDA’ MAN: The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have a player of Wilt Chamberlain’s calibre, but apparently they don’t need one.

They have Donovan Mitchell and a strong supporting cast, strong enough that the Cavs are on a nine-game winning streak and have won 17 of their last 18 games.

And for the season, they are17-8 on the road, which in the NBA is like Napolean winning at Waterloo. It just doesn’t happen.

During the last 18 games, Mitchell is averagine 28.5 points a game, 5.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The assists are surprising to me because it looks as if nobody passes the ball in the NBA.

Mitchell, a shooting guard nicknamed ‘Spida,’ was Utah’s No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Louisville. And he is inserting himself as the possible MVP of the NBA.

—QUICKIE QUOTES: Some more utterings from baseball people:

—From Roy Campanella, when told by photographers to smile for the cameras: “I ain’t heard nothin’ funny yet.”

¸—From a player named Birdie McCree on facing Walter Johnson’s fastball: “There is only one way to time it. When you see his arm start forward, swing.”

¸—From catcher Tim McCarver on pitcher Steve Carlton’s preference to pitch with McCarver catching: “When we die, we will be buried 60 feet, 6 inches apart.”

¸—From Joe Grzenda after spending 11 years in the minors riding buses: “I’d like to stay in the majors long enough to make enough money to buy a bus—then I’d set fire to it.”

—From Dale Berra, a son to Yogi Berra, comparing himself to his dad and sounding just like him: “Our similarities are different.”

—From George Brett on umpires favoring Wade Boggs: “A woman will be elected president before Wade Boggs is called out on strikes, I guarantee that.”

—From Joe Dugan, teammate to Babe Ruth: “Born? Hell, Babe Ruth wasn’t born. He fell out of a tree.”

—From broadcaster Hank Greenwald when Dusty Baker came to bat: “Dusty Baker will lead off the ninth and judging by the music, The William Tell Overture, he’ll be followed by The Lone Ranger and Tonto.”

—From manager Whitey Herzog: “I’m not buddy-buddy with my players. If they want a buddy, let them buy a dog.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 18: Some songs from the deep recesses of my iPod:

As Good As I Once Was (Toby Keith), In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley), Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton), Baby Come Back (Player), Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty), I’m A Believer (The Monkees), Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars), How Do I Live (LeAnn Rimes), Hey Jude (The Beatles), Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes).

Tonight’s The Night (Rod Stewart), Let’s Get It On (Marvin Gaye), Another One Bites The Dust (Queen), Night Fever (The BeeGees), Dream Lover (Bobby Darriin), What About Love? (Heart), Money For Nothing (Dire Straits), There Goes My Baby (The Drifters), Lean On Me (Bill Wiithers), Somewhere Out There (Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram).

—Oh, yeah. The Stupor Bowl is over. Did the Kansas City Swifts win? Yes, the underdog Swifts beat the 49ers, 25-22, in overtime.

And KC QB Patrick Mahomes had the best post-game quote: “Just remember, the Kansas City Chiefs are never underdogs. . .never.”