OBSERVATIONS: The character of all characters — Kevin Mitchell

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave on a day off from Reds baseball, wondering how they’ll fare in their last nine games against the Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins. To paraphrase a cliche, “Their backs are against the wall, but the blindfolds haven’t been applied.”

—If Reader’s Digest ever asked me to write a piece on ‘The Most Interesting Character I Ever Met,” Kevin Mitchell might be my subject.

Mitchell, the man who once made a bare-handed catch of a long fly ball near the wall, often wore a white outfit, top and bottom, that resembled pajamas.

His manager, Davey Johnson, smiled and said, “Yeah, they look like pajamas and that’s OK because that man can roll out of bed and hit.”

Mitchell was a hulk, a massive man who looked like a professional mugger. But he was as placid as a spoiled housecat. . .most of the time.

Mitchell was born in San Diego and when the Reds played there a legion of friends, some would call them hangers-on, would greet Mitchell in the San Diego-Jack Murphy Stadium parking lot. He could be seen passing out $20 bills, if not more.

Some were gang bangers. Mitchell admitted they were, but said he never was one, although he was shot in the back twice as a youth during a gang banger shootout. Mitchell said he was an innocent kid standing on a curb.

One of those friends was a guy Mitchell called, “Big Fat Stinky Mike.” Said Mitchell, he was so big he took the front seat out of his Cadillac and drove it from the back seat.”

Mitch was a humorous guy and regaled writers with his stories. I found them so interesting that every day when I wrote my pre-game notes column I concluded it with ‘Kevin’s Korner,’ including his latest funny quote or event.

He caught on but didn’t get the name right. I would walk into the clubhouse and he would call me over and say, “I’ve got something for you for Mitch’s Corner. I never corrected him.

His reputation was as a bad guy, a bad actor, but he never displayed it with the Reds. . .well, except for a couple of fisticuff sessions with manager Davey Johnson in the clubhouse. Both men took equal blame for the skirmishes and no grudges were held.

When one season ended, the Cincinnati baseball writers voted him ‘The Good Guy Award.” When we gave it to him, he cried and said, “Nobody has ever given me anything like this.”

In 1994, Mitchell hit .326 with 30 home runs and 77 RBI in only 95 games, due to injuries and a shortened season due to a strike. As Johnson said, the guy could roll out of bed and hit immediately. . .and many times he did.

—QUOTE: From Kevin Mitchell’s former Mets teammate Lenny Dykstra: “Mitch found God during spring training. Then every night he went out looking for a Goddess.” (It was OK, though. Mitchell was not married.)

—thorocap.com related a Pete Rose story, one that I heard him retell many times.

It happened on a Friday the 13th at Turfway Park, one of Rose’s favorite haunts. Before one race, Rose put down a big bet on a horse named Top Booking.

Down the back stretch Top Booking was leading by 6 1/2 lengths. Suddenly, two deer bolted across the track. Top Booking tripped over the second deer and went down, sending jockey Brian Peck flying toward a fractured arm that required surgery.

The horse was OK, the deer was OK, but Rose was not, although he laughs about it now. As it turned out, the animals were OK but the humans weren’t.

—QUOTE: From The Hit King, Pete Rose: “I’m just like everybody else. I have two arms, two legs and more than 4,000 hits.” (Well, as Meat Loaf tells us. “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

—From my good friend Kevin Kernan at ballnine.com (check him out, his stuff is highly entertaining): “If teams can score 29 runs (Atlanta) and 19 runs (Milwaukee) on the same day and the Mets can score 18 two days later in the juiced and aerodynamics Manfred ball era, why in the world does MLB need a fake runner on second base in extra innings?”

And retired front office baseball lifer Tony Siegle has the perfect answer: “Why not? Today’s game runs on fake. (It’s) a far cry from the game we loved.”

Siegle should know. He worked in the front offices of the Phillies, Astros, Montreal Expos, Giants, Angels, Brewers and Padres, working under 22 different general managers.

—Former Cincinnati Reds draftee and Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius speaks four languages. And he hits in all four, too.

He speaks English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamentu (Curacao). He can curse an umpire in three languages and not get ejected. He can call him ‘gilipollas’ in Spanish. He can call him ‘stommeling’ in Dutch. He can call him ‘pendew’ in Papiamentu. It would be best, though, if he smiled when he said them.

As Casey Stengel liked to say, “You can look it up.”

—Where they are now department: In case you wondered where long-time Reds coach Billy Hatcher landed, he is coaching first base for the Miami Marlins.

Former Reds manager Bryan Price is pitching coach for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Remember when Turner Ward, with much fanfare, was brought to the Reds from the Los Angeles Dodgers as hitting coach for 2019. He was not retained for 2020. Whereabouts? Unknown.

Ward replaced Don Long when Ward came to the Reds. Long? He is not the hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles.

Meanwhile — and can you believe this? — Trader Jack McKeon, 89, is a senior advisor to Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. Hope Rizzo likes cigar smoke.

McKeon, a former minor league catcher, spent his first spring training in New Orleans — in 1949. “I’ve been in baseball in some fashion ever since and I still don’t know what to do with myself without baseball,” he said.

He is still sharper than a freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil and he doesn’t need an eraser.

—Obnoxious Commercial IV: Are they still playing that ear-assaulting Facebook kazoo commercial? Please tell me I am having a nightmare when I hear it and it still isn’t playing on TV.

2 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: The character of all characters — Kevin Mitchell

  • September 17, 2020 at 6:25 pm
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    I’ve always wondered what might result from Greg Vaughn as Reds bench coach, and Kevin Mitchell as a coach minus the laptop computer.

    Melted snowflakes ?

    Reply
  • September 17, 2020 at 8:14 pm
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    Super as usual, Hal. I chuckled through the whole column. Never stop put good stories out. I’ve lived allover the Midwest after growing up hear. I’ve read many of great writers, but you’re the best!

    Reply

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