By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, jinxing the Oakland Athletics by wearing a green A’s cap while watching the game. But I’m happy for Houston manager Dusty Baker. Wonder how much the Atlanta Braves would pay me to keep my Braves cap in the closet?
—This memory popped into my mind while watching a steady parade of post-season baseball games — and my La-Z-Boy needs a new cushion.
There were three rainouts in Boston during the 1975 World Series. On one of the nights, Hall of Fame baseball writer Earl Lawson of the Cincinnati Post & Times Star, my mentor, convinced me to take a walk.
We mistakenly (and I’m sticking to that part of the story) wandered into Boston’s Combat Zone, the adult entertainment section of the city. As we nonchalantly walked down Washington Street, admiring the view, three Ladies of the Night suddenly surrounded Lawson. Two grabbed his arms and one went for his wallet.
Fortunately, displaying Joe Morgan’s athleticism, Lawson squirmed free, wallet intact. And we hailed a cab and vacated the premises.
It was the next day, still raining, when the team scheduled a workout inside the Tufts University fieldhouse. And thus unfolded manager Sparky Anderson’s famous exchange with a gas station attendant.
The bus driver got lost and was wandering the streets of Medford, Mass. Finally, the frustrated Sparky ordered the driver to stop at a gas station. Anderson, wearing his uniform with his name and No. 10 on the back, approached the attendant and said, “My good man, I’m sure you’ve been asked this question many times, but where is Tufts?”
The guy didn’t know.
And you thought the 1975 World Series was all about Carlton Fisk, Bill Lee, Tony Perez and George Foster, didn’t you?
—Trevor Bauer is strumming every baseball fan base like a Tiny Tim ukulele.
The free agent pitcher, soon-to-be an ex-Cincinnati Reds pitcher, recently tweeted to a Reds fan, “Who said I won’t be back?”
Then after he watched the New York Yankees lose Game 3 of the ALDS to Tampa Bay, 8-4, he tweeted, “Kinda looks like the Yankees could use some more starting pitching. Interesting.”
Flip open a copy of a Merriam-Webster dictionary, look up the word mercenary and there is a picture of Trevor Bauer, with a sub-title, “Gun for hire.”
Baseball author Robert Smith could have been talking about hitters facing Trevor Bauer, or maybe Joey Votto, when he wrote, “Cardinal rule for all hitters with two strikes: Never trust the umpire.”
—QUOTE: From former Yankees pitcher and Cincinnati Reds radio broadcaster Waite Hoyt: “The secret of success as a pitcher lies in getting a job with the Yankees.” (That must be what Bauer is thinking.)
—The post-season always brings an unsung star to the surface. Such was the case with Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the Braves’ big run producer during their three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins.
d’Arnaud was a first-round compensatory pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007. He was traded to Toronto in 2009, then shipped to the New York Mets in 2012. The Mets gave him all of 23 at bats before releasing him.
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him and kept him for about five minutes before trading him to Tampa Bay.
While at Tampa Bay he ran across his former batting instructor at Toronto, Chad Mottola, the Reds No. 1 draft pick in 1992, ahead of Derek Jeter.
Mottola noticed d’Arnaud’s swing was all out of whack and fixed him. He resurrected his career at Tampa Bay, became a free agent after last season and the Braves signed him to a two-year $16 million deal.
And he tore up the Marlins — two home runs, seven RBI in the three-game sweep.
—QUOTE: From New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel when he called player Bob Cerv into his office: “No one knows this yet, but one of us has just been traded to Kansas City.”
—When Cactus Jack Billingham pitched, The Big Red Machine usually scored him a lot of runs — and didn’t they for everybody?
Billingham had a little saying about how many runs he wanted: “Seven is heaven, eight we skate, nine is divine, ten we win.”
—Once again, the Oakland Moneyballs are on the outside looking in. It was way back in 2003 when Michael Lewis came out with his baseball bible of analytics, ‘Moneyball.’
It began the game’s trend toward computer algorithms as practiced by A’s general manager Billy Beane. And what has it accomplished for the A’s?
Since 2000 the A’s have been to the postseason 11 times and have never won an ALCS game. In fact, they only advanced to the ALCS in 2006 and lost four straight to the Detroit Tigers.
Obviously, the Oakland computers need new hard drives for the playoffs. True, Oakland competes with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and plays in MLB’s worst stadium, so give them credit for at least making the post-season.
—QUOTE: From Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane: “The idea that I should trust my eyes more than the stats, I don’t buy that because I’ve seen magicians pull rabbits out of hats and I know that the rabbit’s not in there.” (The A’s need some magic, rabbits or no rabbits, to find their way into an ALCS some year.)
—QUOTE: From former MLB manager Bobby Bragan on statistics, but he could have been talking about analytics: “Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket. According to the percentage people, you should be perfectly comfortable.”
—Should something be done about the baseball shifts? How often do we see a left handed hitter line one into right field, only to see a roving infielder playing short right field intercept the ball and throw the guy out at first base?
Oh, about six times a game, when they aren’t striking out.
Former MLB manager Buck Showalter has a plan. He wants a rule that says a team must have two defenders on each side of second base. And he says every infielder should have at least one foot on the dirt skin of the infield.
Everybody says players should adjust and hit the ball the other way. Easily said. It is difficult enough to hit a 90 miles an hour slider, let alone hit it where you want.
—QUOTE: From Dusty Baker, a feared hitter before he became a manager: “Sometimes when I look down at that little white golf ball, I just wish it was moving.”
—Even in a short, convoluted, statistics-out-of-whack 60-game season, the best teams emerge triumphant. It is why we get Los Angeles-Atlanta in the NLCS and Houston-New York Yankees (probably) in the ALCS.
—Some of my favorite live animal college mascots:
Vic and Tory (Get it? Vic-tory), the two Greyhound mascots of the University of Eastern New Mexico; Boomer & Sooner, the two Welsh ponies that pull the University of Oklahoma schooner wagon (when it doesn’t tip over); Renegade, the horse Chief Osceola rides to plant a flaming spear at mid-field for Florida State (the flame on FSU football went out several years ago).
Navy’s Billy the Goat (Get it? Billy Goat); Sir Big Spur, the rooster mascot at South Carolina (the only bird with a $10,000 cage); Traveler, the white steed with a Trojan aboard at Southern California (the only living thing that covers yardage these days at USC), UGA, the University of George bulldog (UGA/University of Georgia. Get it?).