By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after the usual great meal at The Oakwood Club, happy that I no longer travel because three of my favorite restaurants on the road are no more — The Saloon in Chicago, Donovan’s Steakhouse in Phoenix and the Original Old Bookbinder’s in Philadelphia.
—Another in the lengthy list of baseball icons left us last week when Bob Gibson died after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer.
You can be certain Gibson fired a high hard one at the dastardly disease and never gave up.
When asked who I believe is the best pitcher I ever saw, I always list two — left hander Sandy Koufax and right hander Bob Gibson.
Gibson was as mean as a stepped-on rattlesnake on the mound, and not always to the opposition. His catcher, Tim McCarver once felt Gibson’s sting when he arrived at the mound to check on Gibson.
With one of my favorite all-time quotes, Gibson said to McCarver, “What are you doing out here? The only thing you know about pitching is that you can’t hit it.”
Gibson, along with Detroit pitcher Denny McLain, is the main reason the mound was lowered after the 1968 season. Gibson posted an unbelievable 1.12 earned run average while going 22-9. McLain, who drank Coca-Cola like an elephant drinks water, was 31-7 with a 1.95 ERA, baseball’s last 30-game winner.
Did lowering the mound the next season slow down Gibson and McLain? Well, a little. In 1969 Gibson was 20-13 with a 2.18 ERA. McLain was 24-9 with a 2.80 ERA.
A quote once uttered by Gibson describes him perfectly (and pardon the earthy words): “Have you ever thrown a ball 100 miles an hour? Everything hurts. Even your ass hurts. I see pictures of my face and say, ‘Holy shit,’ but that’s the strain you feel when you throw. I had one of those faces you look at it, man, and say, ‘Man he’s an ass-hole.’ Could be, depends on if you pissed me off or not.”
Gibson was foreboding to writers, too. The first time I approached him, I said, “Mr. Gibson. . .” and he stopped me.
“Do you call all ballplayers Mister, or do you call them by their first names?” he said.
“First names,” I said.
“OK, the next time you call me Mr. Gibson I’ll take that fancy Mont Blanc pen you’re holding and stick it where the sun don’t shine.”
“Yes, uh, Bob.” And I just knew he meant it.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame umpire Doug Harvey, who watched Barry Bonds hit home runs and stand at home plate and admire them: “I’ll tell you what. If he hit a home run off Bob Gibson and stood and admired it, Gibby would knock that ear ring out of his ear his next time up.”
—Speaking of rascals, I once penned a line about USAC stock car driver Jack Bowsher, a Springfield native: “He would run over his mother to win a race.” It was an intended compliment. He didn’t think so.
A few days later, at a race at the old Tri-County Speedway in West Chester, I was seated in the press box when Bowsher stormed in, carrying a tire iron.
“Where’s Hal McCoy? My mother is very upset,” he said with an angry tone.
I quickly and pleadingly convinced him it was an intended compliment before he divided my head in half. Fortunately, he left quietly with the tire iron unbloodied.
—Criag Stammen is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, unless you are wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform.
Stammen, a Versailles High School and University of Dayton product, made his first major league start in 10 years last week in the deciding game of the first-round playoffs.
Injuries devastated the Padres starting staff, including Mike Clevinger. So the Padres decided to go with a ‘bullpen day’ and Stammen was picked to start it.
“It was maybe not something I probably expected,” Stammen said. “I thought it could happen. When I was told I was starting, I was pretty excited. It was a little bit of an adrenaline rush. I was trying to think back to when I was a starter when I was 25 or 26 years old and trying to remember how not to do it.”
He remembered how to do it — 1 2/3 innings, no runs, one hit. The Padres then used eight more pitchers and they combined for a 4-0 victory.
Every winter, Stammen hosts an always overflowing banquet to benefit the Versailles baseball team and auctions some nifty baseball memorabilia.
—What do all these Major League ballplayers have in common? Ozzie Smith, Willie McCovey, Greg Maddux, Rickey Henderson, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, Gaylord Perry, Dave Winfield, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Fred Lynn, Fred McGriff, Steve Garvey and Fernando Valenzuela.
Believe it or not, they all played for the San Diego Padres at one time or another. The Padres were born in 1969 and are looking for their first World Series trophy. They lost to the Detroit Tigers in 1984 and the New York Yankees in 1998, their only two World Series appearances.
—From Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman during a Padres game: “On the mound for San Diego is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.” (Yes, he meant Harpo Marx. And Coleman once said on the air, “A day without newspapers is like walking around without your pants on.” I couldn’t agree more.)
—Trevor Bauer never fails to entertain — or enrage, depending upon your team perspective. Several times this season, after ending innings with a strikeout, he did the Connor McGregor strut from the mound to the dugout. After striking out 12 in 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves, he did ‘The Chop’ to the empty stands as he left the mound.
And he posted this tweet a day after the Reds season ended: “To the fans in my mentions right now: @Reds fans: I love you all. Thanks for an amazing season! Wish you could’ve been at the ballpark!
“Braves fans: Seems like y’all hate me and I wouldn’t be embraced here! What a shame.
“Astros fans: LOL, why are y’all here? Stay mad.”
Thanks, Trevor, for a great semi-season. Happy landings wherever you go. . .and it isn’t likely to be Atlanta or Houston.
But wait. Bauer tweeted this weekend that he will consider any team that comes calling. . .and most likely will sign with the team carrying the biggest money bag.
—Four of the five National League Central teams qualified for the playoffs, even the under .500 Milwaukee Brewers. Only the Patheticburgh Pirates were left out.
Maybe the Pirates should have been given a chance, too. They couldn’t have done worse. The Chicago Cubs lost in three to Miami. The St. Louis Cardinals lost in three to San Diego. The Brewers lost in two to the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the Cincinnati Reds. . .well, we all know.
To me, the Reds lost the series in Game 1 in the 13th inning of a 0-0 tie. With two on and one out, the Reds decided to pitch to Freddie Freeman, soon to be the National League MVP.
A strikeout or double play was needed. Freeman had struck out 37 times in 262 at bats. The next hitter, Marcell Ozuna, owned 60 strikeouts in 267 at bats.
Freeman singled, game over. . .and as I said right then to my dog, The Mighty Quinn, “Series over.”
—For those who missed the Cleveland Browns-Dallas Cowboys game Sunday, you missed the biggest shootout since The Alamo.
The Browns were down early, 14-7, then scored 34 straight points to take a 41-14 lead late in the third quarter. Dallas then scored 24 straight to pull within 41-38 with 3 1/2 minutes left.
Cleveland survived the furious Dallas comeback, 49-38, despite Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott throwing for 502 yards and four touchdowns on 41 for 58.
As usual, Cleveland’s ground game covered more ground than the Russian army. Star running back Nick Chubb was injured early. Didn’t matter. For the first time in team history, the Browns had three players rush for more than 70 yards — third-string runningback D’Ernest Johnson (95), Odell Beckham (73) and Kareem Hunt (71).
The Browns are 3-and-1 for the first time since 2005, so pigs can fly.
—QUOTE: From former New York Giants linebacker Sam Huff: “You can run on a football field, but you can’t hide.” (Then why couldn’t the Cowboys find the Browns running backs?)
—Ordered a Reds Post-Season t-shirt the day they clinched a spot. They were out of the playoffs before the shirt arrived. In fact, it hasn’t arrived yet.
Also ordered a ‘Respect Cleveland’ t-shirt. It arrived the day after the Tribe was eliminated by the Yankees.
They’ll make good mop-up rags.