OBSERVATIONS: The day I told a manager he was fired’

By HAL McCOY

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave where I was asked what day it is and I said, “Everyday.”

—One of the things I am not proud of is that I am probably the only baseball writer in history to tell a manager that he was fired.

It was 1984. . .and purely accidental.

It involved Cincinnati Reds manager Vern Rapp. The Reds fired popular life-long baseball man Russ Nixon, who was 74-87 in 1983.

The Reds decided they needed a no-nonsense, tough-guy, disciplinarian. Rapp had managed in the Reds system, but left to manage the St. Louis Cardinals.

But the Cardinals fired Rapp in 1978 after only 17 games (6-and-11), which should have been a throbbing clue to the Reds. It wasn’t.

He lost the Reds players quickly. The clubhouse was like a high school locker room with ‘inspirational’ signs hanging all over the walls. One example: “When in doubt, slide.”

Rapp would sit in the dugout late in games scribbling on index cards. The cards were for his post-game media scrum and he would read the cards to writers.

It was so bad that writers began skipping stops into his office after games and go directly into the clubhouse to talk to players.

It led to a rule that the media must talk to the manager before entering the clubhouse proper, a rule that still exists.

Anyway, it was late August, a hot day in St. Louis, and the team was 51-70 and near mutiny.

Rumors were floating about Rapp’s demise, so I called Bill Williams, one of the team’s co-owners. I asked him about the rumors and he told me, “We have already removed Mr. Rapp.”

As I hung up the phone, I looked down on the field from the Busch Stadium pressbox and saw Rapp leaning on the batting cage during batting practice.

Believing he had been told of his dismissal, I went down to the field, approached Rapp, and said, “I’m sorry you have been fired.”

He looked at me as if I’d just told him his only child had been kidnapped and sputtered, “What?” He immediately called the team off the field and into the clubhouse and told them, “I just heard I’ve been fired, but I haven’t been told and I’m still your manager.”

In the back of the room, a couple of players pumped their fists and whispered, “Yes.”

A few minutes later, Rapp received the “You’re fired” phone call and I felt about the size of a thin dime.

—QUOTE: From legendary manager Sparky Anderson: “A baseball manager is a necessary evil.” (In the case of Vern Rapp, that might have been true. In Anderson’s case, it was a ‘necessary leadership.’)

—It sounds as if University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is the kind of guy who turns out his porch light on ‘Beggars’ Night’ so he doesn’t have to pass out Reese’s Cups.

The NCAA granted another year of eligibility to seniors who had their sport canceled this spring. Ohio State and Indiana already said they will honor that.

Not Wisconsin. Alvarez said on a radio show, “What we tried to do is encourage our seniors to go ahead and if you are going to graduate, graduate and move on with your life. Move forward. The future is in question and we can’t promise you anything.”

In other words, don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

—From Pat Murtaugh, one of baseball’s best Major League scouts and an even better man:

“April Expenses: Entertainment $0, Gas $0, Gifts $0, Clothes $0, Sports $0, Food $2,799.”

—QUOTE: From former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott: “Why do we need scouts? All they do is sit and watch baseball games.”

—And this, too, from Murtaugh, who obviously misses baseball as much as I do: “Where is home? Take three left turns and you can’t miss it.” (However, there used to be a Bench that sometimes blocked it.)

—It was not uncommon, back in the day, when cattle raised on The Great Plain would gain four pounds a day. During this quarantine, where I am on speaking terms with the refrigerator, I can match that.

—The XFL has disbanded and will not be resurrected. All players and team personnel have been given pink slips.

TV ratings were poor and attendance was poor and even without the pandemic the league probably would not have survived.

Did anybody notice? It was sort of like the question, “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it make a sound.”

The XFL didn’t even make a whisper. Some of their uniforms were pretty cool, but it was like putting lipstick on a pig.

—There is a good read available if you want to read about another defunct football league, the old United States Football League (USFL).

It is a book called ‘Football For a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. The book is written by talented sports journalist and long-time friend Jeff Pearlman. And, no, I don’t get residuals, not even a free book.

Speaking of the USFL, Dayton Meadowdale graduate Irv Eatman was the first-ever pick of the Philadelphia Stars for 1983, the league’s first season — four years $1 million.

Eatman, an offensive tackled out of UCLA, played the three seasons the USFL survived, then 11 seasons in the NFL. When the USFL folded, Eatman was named to the league’s ‘All-Time Team.’

Isn’t that like being named one of the top all-time owners of an Edsel? (I’m on that list. . .a 1958 Edsel Citation.)

—From friend Dave Parr, who made Nadine and I a snazzy cornhole set, complete with University of
Dayton logos on each target: “The casino are offering curb-side service. Just call ahead and they’ll come out and take your money right from your car.” (Hey, as much money as I’ve donated to casinos I should be able to drive up and get a withdrawal.”)

One thought on “OBSERVATIONS: The day I told a manager he was fired’

  • April 16, 2020 at 5:03 pm
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    Hal;

    Russ Nixon, Dave Johnson, Tony Perez, Pete Machannon and Jim Riggleman…Reds managers who got hosed in my book.

    I’d add Dave Bristol too but we know how it turned out for his replacement.

    Reply

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