OBSERVATIONS: Chris Sabo was a special breed

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave enjoying some cantaloupe grown in Covington, OH by Sonny Fulks, farmer/photographer/Gettysburg aficionado and mastermind behind PressProsMagazine.com

—Chris Sabo, one of the all-time best competitors to put on a Cincinnati Reds uniform, was also one of my favorite characters.

Manager Pete Rose dubbed him Spuds McKenzie because Sabo wore those awful-looking goggles and he resembled the dog, Spuds McKenzie on an old Budweiser commercial.

One Sunday morning I walked into the clubhouse and Spuds was sitting at his locker, a forlorn look on his face.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh, they are trading all my friends,” he said. I asked to whom he was referring and he said, “Paulie,” meaning Paul O’Neill, who had been traded to the New York Yankees two year previous.

Sabo was nearly always the first player to arrive in the clubhouse before games. He attended the University of Michigan and would put ‘Hail to the Victors’ at loud volume on the stereo system. The next player to arrive would turn if off and Sabo would say, “Why’d you do that? It’s a great song.”

Sabo was always rummaging in a dusty and dank storeroom in the Riverfront Stadium. He found an old bat he liked and used it in a game. He connected with a pitch and the bat shattered, spreading cork and super balls all over the infield. He claimed the bat belonged to Hal Morris, who never used the bat in a game.

Then there was the time he was riding in a cab from the team’s Pittsburgh hotel to Three Rivers Stadium. The cabbie was smoking and Spuds asked him to extinguish the cigarette. The cabbie refused, so Sabo vacated the cab, without paying, and walked the rest of the way.

Spuds sported a flat-top cut, that was a decade out of style. He walked into a mall barbershop and asked the barber if he knew how to trim a flat-top. The barber said yes, but halfway through the haircut Spuds didn’t like what he saw in the mirror. He bolted from the chair, without paying, and was walking through the mall with half a flat-top.

Sabo was upset with something I wrote one time and avoided me. Oh, did he avoid me. We were in Philadelphia and I was walking up Broad Street and saw Sabes coming the other way. He saw me from half-a-block away and ducked into a parking garage to avoid me.

We made up a few days later and I’m glad. He was always fun to be around and I would take nine Chris Sabos to play on my team. And not just for entertainment purposes.

—QUOTE: From Chris Sabo on Fountain Square during a rainy day celebration after sweeping the Oakland A’s in the 1990 World Series: “Nobody gave us a chance and we won four straight. We kicked their asses. We got the rings, we got the money, we got everything.” (Sabo hit .563 with two homers in the 1990 World Series and could have been the MVP, but Jose Rijo won it with his two pitching victories.)

—Where has the COVID-19 pandemic hit the hardest on college athletics? I propose it is my alma mater, Kent State.

The Golden Flushes (er, Flashes) were supposed to play Penn State, Alabama and Kentucky in football this year. They would have been black-and-blue all over, but they would have been $5 million richer. (That’s probably why they keep calling me for donations.)

—QUOTE: From former NFL coach Bill Parcells: “A coach wouldn’t throw you to the wolves if he didn’t think you had some wolf in you.” (I fear Kent State would have been sheep in wolf clothing if they played those three games, but very rich sheep.)

—Do you think the Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen is putrid. Well, yes, it is. But it is not, by far, the worst in baseball.

As of this scanning, the Reds bullpen had given up 16 home runs. That’s only the third worst in the majors.

Batters are hitting .321 against the Reds’ ‘pen with runners in scoring position. That’s only the fifth worst. Hitters have a .376 on-base percentage against the Reds bullpen. That’s only the fifth worst. (Take your positives where you find them.)

—QUOTE: From former pitcher Bob Lemon: “The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen.” (Hopefully, the Reds bullpenners have a lot of good friends.)

—Humorous quote from an anonymous minor league manager, as related by Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh. When a player asked his manager why he was batting ninth, the manager said, “Because I can’t bat you 10th.”

—LA’s Mookie Betts hit three home runs against the San Diego Padres this week, the sixth time he has hit three homers in a game. Only two other players have that many, Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa.

And with we know about Sosa, should his even count?

—Speaking of three-homer games, Babe Ruth hit three homers in two separate World Series games.

Cincinnati native Tuffy Rhodes, playing for the Chicago Cubs, hit three against the Reds on Opening Day, 1994. And former Reds player Dmitri Young hit three on Opening Day, 2004, for the Detroit Tigers.

Just this week Dmitri Young was named head baseball coach at Camarillo High School in Ventura County (California).

Major leaguers seem to gravitate to high school coaching in Ventura County (Jack Wilson, Thousand Oaks; Royce Clayton, Oaks Christian; Jerry Royster, Sierra Canyon and Young).

Young and Clayton both played for the Reds at one point in their careers.

—QUOTE: From Dmitri Young, who bleached his hair blond for the 1999 season: “I wasn’t exactly God’s gift to hair bleach. You have to go through the ugly stage before you get to the cute stage.”

Young holds a special place in my heart. When I lost most of my vision in 2003, Young played for the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers played an exhibition game against the Reds in Sarasota and Young was not on the travel squad.

But he drove by himself from Lakeland to Sarasota just to see me and give me a hug and ask me how I was doing.

That is pure class.

—They named the media work room/dining room after me at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium, the Reds spring training home at the time. There was a picture of me over the door and a sign that said, “Hal McCoy Media Dining Room.”

I was sitting in my corner work space one day when a Toronto writer entered the room and I heard him say to somebody, “I didn’t know Hal McCoy died.”

Still alive, still kicking.

6 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: Chris Sabo was a special breed”

  1. Chris Sabo played his first game in the majors on Opening Day. I was at work but I recorded Opening Day. Chris got his first hit that day. While I was watching the replay that night, it occurred to me that he might like to have to tape. I called the Red’s office the next day. I offered the tape for an autographed ball. He r3turned my call and his only question was, Who’s autograph? I made the trade for his autograph and I still have the ball. Two years later, I named my son after him.

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