By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave wondering if the Cincinnati Reds will at least get a ‘Participation Trophy’ this year after investing $170 million in player improvement. Watching them, I just want to scream, “Smallball, smallball, smallball.” Doubt if they know what that means.
—Big Red Machine manager Sparky Anderson’s idea of a bullpen was, “All arms on deck.” No special roles. No closers. No set-up guys.
They all did all the jobs and if they did their jobs well they pitched more than one inning. And who pitched when? Whoever was going good and whoever matched up well against the other team’s lineup.
They were characters — Pedro Borbon, Clay Carroll, Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III, Will McEnaney.
Borbon’s arm was built by Goodyear and he never put ice on it. Character? He said he once bit the head off a live chicken. He once ate live cicadas on a bet. When the Reds traded him he put a curse on them. He said he lifted it just one time, 1990, and it appears the curse survives today.
Clay Carroll came to the Reds with zero confidence and no success. Catcher Johnny Bench kept telling him, “You’re the best, you’re the best.” And he believed it and became one of the best.
His nickname was ‘The Hawk’ and he liked to introduce himself to strangers by saying, “Hi, I’m The Hawk. I’m a major-league pitcher.” Indeed, he was. He came to me one day and said, “You are a man of words. What does this platonic mean?”
I said it meant somebody wanted to be friends with no romantic attachments and The Hawk shook his head and said, “That b——.”
Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III was different — and aren’t all relief pitchers. He was an accomplished artist, a student of famed painter Andrew Wyeth. And he once told me there was a second Eastwick, one that flew above him around the stadium when he pitched, giving him advice and taking it all in.
McEnaney, a Springfield native, was The Class Comedian, a prankster. He had an identical twin brother and one Sunday morning he had his brother put on his uniform, sit in his clubhouse seat and give interviews to writers. We never caught on.
All four of those guys didn’t march to the beat of a different drummer. They were the drummers and all were vastly different. And Sparky Anderson knew how to use each one and get the most out of each.
—With all the doubleheaders piling up, some teams are playing in the other team’s ballpark as the home team.
That’s against the rules as stated in the Official Baseball Rulebook. It says, unequivocally, “A team in its home park shall always bat last.”
So MLB is playing games against the rules. What’s new about that during this convoluted season?
—Did you know that the Cincinnati Reds played in the only modern-day tripleheader (three games in one day)? They played three on October 2, 1920 against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds won the first two and the Pirates won the third. It was the last day of the season and they needed those games to determine whether the Reds or Pirates would finish third and get the third-place World Series money.
Not even Ernie Banks ever said, “It’s a great day. Let’s play three.”
Current MLB rules now forbid tripleheaders, but this year. . .
—Found this one on-line. . .the top 40-plus home run seasons. Babe Ruth, naturally, leads the list with 11 seasons of 40 or more home runs.
Then it goes: Hank Aaron (8), Harmon Killebrew (8), Barry Bonds (8), Ken Griffey Jr. (7), Albert Pujols (7), Sammy Sosa (7), Willie Mays (6), Jim Thome (6), Mark McGwire (6), Adam Dunn (6).
Bonds, Sosa and McGwire are not in the Hall of Fame, mostly because of their association with PEDs, although Sosa and McGwire are border-line. Pujols is still active.
That leaves Dunn as the only guy not in ‘The Hall’ without extenuating circumstances, other than he was a one-dimensional player.
—QUOTE: From Adam Dunn: “Cincinnati is perfect for me. I’ve met a lot of good people here who like to fish.” (Dunn always said he’d rather be a professional fisherman rather than a baseball player and he certainly went fishing for a lot of pitches.)
—They say they have de-juiced the major league baseballs this season. Yeah, right.
During a seven-game winning streak the Chicago White Sox hit 27 home runs, a major league record for home runs in a seven-game span.
And home runs are difficult to hit in Dodger Stadium. . .except for Sunday. The Los Angeles Dodgers hit seven home runs Sunday.
Then there are the Slam Diego Padres, five grand slam home runs in a six-game span.
Gimme a bat, Molly.
Said pitcher Gio Gonzalez about the White Sox, “These guys must have been born next to a nuclear power plant. They’re destroying baseballs.”
—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle: “Somebody once asked me if I ever went to the plate trying to hit a home run and I said, ‘Yes, every time.’” (And that’s the objective of every major league hitter these days, except maybe Yadier Molina, who pecks the Reds to death.)
—Somebody paid $3.93 million for a Mike Trout signed rookie card. Let’s hope his mother doesn’t throw it away like my mom threw away my Mickey Mantle rookie card (one sold for $2.88 million).
My Mantle card, which wasn’t special at the time, was buried among about 500 other cards that Dear Mom dumped in the trash while I was in college.
—Baltimore manager Earl Weaver estimated that former pitcher Steve Dalkowski’s fastball was 115 miles an hour. There were no radar guns in those days.
Weaver managed Dalkowski in the minors, where he spent his entire baseball life due to excessive wildness, both on and off the field.
Said Dalkoswki about his fastball, “I threw the ball like any other pitcher. It just got to home plate quicker.”