By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, gazing at some old Cincinnati Reds media guides for a large doze of baseball nostalgia.
—Does anybody make the news more often, for no apparent reason, than Peter Edward Rose? And that’s even though he sits in Las Vegas, minding his own business, signing autographs and posing for photos.
Joe Capozzi, a sports writer and good friend from the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, spent a day recently in the Jupiter, Fla. garage of a guy named Bryan Greenberg, inspecting an old Black & Decker power drill.
Greenberg, a former woodworking carpenter in Montreal, said he implanted cork in a couple dozen of Rose’s Mizuno bats in early 1984, when Rose played for the Expos.
Greenberg said he did it at Rose’s request and Rose nicknamed him ‘Corky.’ He said Rose paid him, but wouldn’t say how much. He also said Rose only used the corked bats in batting practice.
Two dozen of them?
It wasn’t the first time The Hit King was accused of corking his bats. Rose’s body-building/hanger-on ‘friend,’ Tommy Gioiosa, told Vanity Fair in 2001 that Rose used corked bats with the Reds in 1985.
Greenberg told a better story about Rose in Capozzi’s excellent piece. He said Rose owned one of Ty Cobb’s original bats and planned to use it to get his 4,000th hit.
After he got 3,999, Rose used the Ty Cobb bat in batting practice and broke it. But he didn’t ask the batboy to pick out a bat for him, as Robert Redford did in the movie ‘The Natural.” The Expos batboy might have handed him a corker.
—QUOTE: From Pete Rose, The Hit King: “I’m almost like everybody else. I have two arms, two legs and 4,256 hits.”
—Before he hurt his arm and re-invented himself as a control artiste, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Gary Nolan threw black smoke. Just ask Willie Mays. In a 1968 game, Nolan struck out Mays four times.
It was the only time Mays whiffed four times in a game and it happened in the 635th game of his career.
Speaking of four, there was a night in Milwaukee in 1961 when he hit four home runs in one game, a game a nearly didn’t play. On the night before, he ate some ribs and it knocked him on his posterior. He was up all night. The next morning he told manager Alvin Dark he couldn’t play.
Earlier in the season Mays gave teammate Joey Amalfitano (later a Reds third base coach) some of his bats that were too light.
During batting practice, he used one of those lighter bats, “And everything I hit went out of the park,” said Mays. So he put himself back in the lineup and, using the lighter bat, he hit four home runs.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Willie Mays on his approach to the game: “They throw the ball, I hit it. They hit the ball, I catch it.” (And to paraphrase Carly Simon, “Nobody did it better.”)
—All Cincinnati Reds fan know that Tom Browning pitched a perfect game in September of 1988 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
What most don’t know is that Mr. Perfect nearly pitched a no-hitter earlier that season. It was in June of 1988 and he had one-out in the ninth and hadn’t given up a hit to the San Diego Padres at old San Diego-Jack Murphy Stadium.
He retired Roberto Alomar for the first out, then Tony Gwynn punched a single to left, ending it. Browning retired the next two for a one-hitter.
Browning was asked if he still had the ball with which he struck out LA’s Tracy Woodson to finish the perfect game.
“Nope,” he said. “My kids took it off a mantel and played with it and knocked it down a sewer.”
—QUOTE: From Tom Browning, about his perfect game: ”If everybody who has told me they were at that game, there would have been 300,000 in the stadium.” (Announced attendance was 16,591, but due to rain the game didn’t start until 10 p.m. and less than 5,000 were in the seats.)
—During this same week in 1998, Springfield native Dave Burba became the first Cleveland Indians pitcher in 26 years to hit a home run. Remember, the American League has the dreaded DH, so Burba only hit during interleague games.
He did it against the Cincinnati Reds. One day before the season began, when Burba was scheduled to pitch Opening Day for the Reds, he was traded to the Indians for Sean Casey.
Burba, a fun-loving guy, kept a photo of The Three Stooges in his locker. One night in Cincinnati, when he was knocked out early, he said, “Now I can go home and watch two episodes of The Three Stooges.”
—What’s the latest on ‘negotiations’ between MLB and the MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association)? These are not negotiations, they are childish, stick-out-your-tongues toy-grabbing playground spats. And it is fast becoming, “Who cares?”