OBSERVATIONS: Has MLB and the players lost their minds?

By HAL McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching live harness racing from Sweden. How desperate am I? Extremely.

—Some cockeyed optimist in New York suggested that the Major League baseball season could resume on May 1. If that’s true, they would need to re-start spring training in the next week or so.

It is more than a pipe dream. It is an Alaskan pipe-line dream.

They say it would be held in Arizona with no fans. There would be no home plate umpire. They’d use an electronic robot to call balls and strikes. Players wouldn’t sit in dugouts, they would sit in the stands, far apart.

But…wouldn’t the catcher be within six feet of the batter? Wouldn’t the first baseman have to hold runners on base? Won’t infielders have to apply tags to sliding runners?

All the games would be televised, but would they pipe in fan noise sound tracts to make games seem like more than a beer league softball game?

Nice idea, but not too well thought through. Won’t happen and shouldn’t happen. Are the players that much in need of paychecks when the world is unemployed. Does MLB really need the revenue so much it defies a pandemic that hasn’t reached it peak in most states?

Response: Nobody loves baseball more than I and nobody misses it more than I. One word reaction: Absurd.

—QUOTE: From quotemaster Yogi Berra: “Little League is a great thing because it keeps parents off the streets.” (Unfortunately, something else these days keeps nearly everybody off the streets.)

—Baseball lost an icon this week when Hall of Famer Al Kaline died. He was Mr. Tiger. And he was one of the kindest men I ever met.

I worked at the Detroit Free Press in 1966. The baseball beat writer called in sick one day and the sports editor looked around the office and spotted me and said, “You’re covering the Tigers tonight.”

I sputtered something like, “But I’ve never covered a major league game.” He said, “Just go see No. 6, he’ll take care of you.”
I had to look up who wore No. 6 and it was Al Kaline. I approached him trepidatiously and introduced myself. He could not have been more kind, more cooperative or more forthcoming. He gave me a great story, one that my sports editor complimented. When I told him a few months later I was returning to Dayton, he said, “If I give you the baseball beat, will you stay?” I said no.

And the next time I saw Al Kaline, he looked up and said, “Hi, Hal. (I couldn’t believe he remembered my name.) And then he added, “Very nice story you did on me. Thank you.”

There is class, there is upper class, there is first class and then there is Kaline Klass.

—QUOTE: From Al Kaline, on being compared when he was a young player to Ty Cobb: “It hurt me a great deal. It put a lot of pressure on me because I was at a young age and the writers started comparing me to Cobb. It put a lot of pressure on me.” (But who is Mr. Tiger? Not Ty Cobb. It ws Al Kaline.)

—Geez, I didn’t intend to start a national phenomenon, but what I did last week is being copied all over Facebook.

Last week I listed 12 athletes and said I had interviewed all but one and asked which one I didn’t interview.

Now several writers have picked up on it and asked the same question. I am awaiting their checks.

The athletes I listed: Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente, Jim Brown, Joe Namath, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe.

I received 130 answers and, amazingly, many got it right. For those who didn’t see it:

In the 1960s, I covered the NFL, the NBA, pro golf and auto racing. That enabled me to interview Brown, Namath, Chamberlain, Robertson, Palmer, Nicklaus, Foyt and Petty.

I worked one year for the Detroit Press, which is where I interviewed Ali and Howe. That left Musial and Clemente.

I interviewed Musial several times at Cooperstown. I never interviewed Clemente, to my great dismay because to me he was the greatest player I ever saw. But he died in a plane crash after the 1972 season. I started covering baseball in 1973, so I missed interviewing Clemente.

—QUOTE: From Roberto Clemente: “I am from the poor people and I represent the poor people. I like workers. I like people that suffer because these people have a different approach to life.” (Clemente died on an airplane that he had filled with supplies for the poor people of Nicaragua devastated by an earthquake.)

—Apply this to the Solid Rock  Church near the Miami Valley Racino in Monroe, which is still conducting in-house services. This comes from good friend Tom Melzoni: “They say you can’t fix stupid. Turns out you can’t quarantine it, either.”

—This is from old friend Jack Walker, former Dayton new car icon now hunkered down in Florida.

He said he had a salad for dinner. It was a fruit salad, he said. Actually, it was mostly grapes. Well, it was all grapes. It was a bottle of wine. Then he couldn’t find his bedroom.

—I haven’t shaved in nearly a week and my razor is filing for unemployment.

—QUOTE from noted baseball fan/despot Fidel Castro: “If you calculate 15 minutes a day to shave that is 5,000 minutes shaving.” (That’s 5,000 minutes he could spend rounding up dissidents.)

—Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher deluxe Jose Rijo called this week, just to check on my health and well-being.

That’s three times he has called since his retirement. Only three other players ever called me at home — Sean Casey, Ken Griffey Jr., and Aaron Boone.

Casey called the day Nadine and I got married. Griffey called the day after he retired and was driving by himself from Seattle to Orlando, Fla, “just to hear a voice.” Boone called the day I was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and said, “Congratulations. They’ll let anybody in, won’t they?”

When things went wrong for the Reds, Rijo would smile and say, “Blame it on Rijo.” For the young, there was a movie, ‘Blame it on Rio.’ And did you know his full name is Jose Antonio Rijo Abreu.

Demi Moore starred in ‘Blame it on Rio.’ To steal a phrase from one of my favorite sports journalists, Paul Daugherty, “I’d watch Demi Moore filing her nails or taking out the trash.”

—Long ago advice from cigar-chomping Winston Churchill that applies right now: “If you are going through hell, just keep going.”

—From Facebook friend Jim Trageser: “I used to spin the toilet paper like I was on Wheel of Fortune. Now I turn it like I’m cracking a safe.”

Wear masks in public and wash your hands.

6 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: Has MLB and the players lost their minds?”

  1. Hal, regards, and great memories — you and I in doubles tennis in Montreal. mid-70s.
    How nice to see your byline. Keep typing.
    The dream of a goofus season has sustained me for a few minutes today.
    Great list. I was never in the company of Palmer or Foyt. Was around Nicklaus, didn’t speak with him.
    King Richard gave me one of his hats, and signed it. A piece of work.
    The guy you missed? He would have busted on you for one thing or another, with guys in adjacent lockers enjoying it mightily. And you would have loved it,
    How nice to see your site. Apparently from Murray Cook, wherever, to Lee Lowenfish on Upper West Side, to me on Long Island. Double play. Be well. George Vecsey

  2. During the 70s and eeven being a Reds fan I actually bought a Pittsburgh Pirates hat for one reason.Roberto Clemente.He was not only a great player but he related to the working class that we now call blue collar.My favorites were of course the Big Red Machine but I don’t think they would mind adding Roberto to our favorites list.
    Best to you and yours Hal

  3. Hello Hal, I recently texted Coach Nisch when I heard Al Kaline passed. As you know Coaches “call up” year was 1961. I asked him what was the best play Kaline ever made when He was pitching: the reply; The best for me was taking a double away from Yogi Berra in right Center for an out. He added: The Saturday before Labor Day 1961 I think Don Mossi was pitching and we were fighting the Yankees for first place.
    Kaline dove, caught a line drive and broke his collar bone
    We came home from 10 game road trip 10 games out of 1st. Yankees win World Series versus Reds in 61. Epic of Maris-Mantle *61 home run season

  4. The remark by Tom Malzoni made me laugh out loud for the first time in at least a week. Thanks dear writerman.

  5. Hal;

    Yes and Yes to answer the question.

    I suppose the team owners biggest fear is if this goes on much longer the paying fans will have simply moved on. Frankly, I’m not sure I am far from that myself.

    I do feel for Reds ownership aka what if you spent 160-million for a party and no one came.

    RIP Mr. Kaline. Memories of wanting to watch the Tigers when they were scheduled for the NBC Saturday Game of the Week on the black and white console with Gowdy and Kubek, the only chance to watch American league teams were those Saturday games. Kaline, Cash, McAuliffe, Lolich and McClain.

  6. Catching up – love the glimpses of Rijo, Casey, Junior & Boone. What a great line: “just to hear a voice”. Rijo really brightened up the town!

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