By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave wondering how Tampa Bay is going to win a game after watching their dismantling by the potent Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1. But, as they say, that was only one game. . .but a real strong statement.
—Once upon a time, back in baseball’s dark ages, if a pitcher was carving out a no-hitter, it was verboten to mention it on the radio.
Superstition ruled baseball and it was considered bad luck for a broadcaster to say, “Homer Bailey is pitching a no-hitter,” or to say, “The San Francisco Giants do not have a hit through seven innings.”
And it carried into the dugout. If a pitcher was en route to a no-hitter, he say by himself in a corner of a dugout, contemplating his finger nails. Nobody talked to him. Nobody came close to him. It was if he was in quarantine.
Times, though, they do change. and legendary Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Waite Hoyt, the magical rain delay story-teller, discovered it in an unusual manner.
—This is from Hoyt’s biography by William A. Cook and shows how old-school the iconic Cincinnati broadcaster was.
It was firm superstition in Hoyt’s time that broadcasters didn’t mention it on the air when a pitcher was throwing a no-hitter. And Waite, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Yankees in the days of Babe Ruth, adhered to that in 1965 when Jim Maloney was throwing a no-hitter against the New York Mets, a no-hitter he lost in the 11th inning on a home run by Johnny Lewis.
Late in the game, when Hoyt hadn’t mentioned that the Mets had no hits, he heard that the Mets broadcasters kept saying, “Maloney is pitching a no-hitter.”
A hot-under-the-collar Hoyt told his color man, Claude Sullivan, to take over the mic. Hoyt bolted from his booth into the Mets booth to confront Mets broadcasters Lindsey Nelson, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy. Kiner told Hoyt that the listeners deserved to be told everything that was going on.
Hoyt told his biographer that’s when he knew the game was changing , “In ways I never thought possible.” And he retired after that season.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame New York Yankees pitcher and Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Waite Hoyt: “Wives of baseball players, when they teach their children their prayers, should instruct them to say: ‘God bless mommy, God bless daddy, and God bless Babe Ruth.’ The Babe upped daddy’s paycheck by 40 percent.”
—So may things happened in the 1990 World Series, most of them positive events for the Cincinnati Reds, there was one incident that was jaw-dropping.
It was a mere swing-and-a-miss on a 1-and-1 count on Reds outfielder Glenn Braggs, a guy who could model for every Greek statue ever sculpted.
It was Game 4 and Braggs had just entered the game after Eric Davis made a diving catch and lacerated his kidney. Braggs, with his mighty swing, broke his bat on his follow-through, broke his bat in half on his muscle-packed shoulder.
‘The Sporting News’ did an entire story this week on that one massive, incredulous swing, a swing that meant nothing in the game.
Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Don Slaught said in the piece, “There are four people who, when they would swing, you could just hear the bat go through the strike zone: Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis and Glenn Braggs. When you’re catching, you could just hear this audible swish of the bat. It’s just like, ‘Holy cow.’” (I played baseball on various levels from the time I was 11 until I was 21. . .and never once broke a bat in any manner.)
—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Stan Musial: “When we played the Dodgers in St. Louis, they had to come through our dugout and our bat rack was right there where they had to walk. My bats kept disappearing and I couldn’t figure it out. Turns out, PeeWee Reese was stealing my bats. I found that out later, after we got out of baseball.” (That’s funny, because after he retired from baseball, PeeWee Reese was a bat representative for Louisville Slugger and gave players all the bats they wanted. None, though, belonged to Stan Musial.)
—In baseball, the small market Tampa Bay Way is to draft wisely, development smartly and use those players until they become too expensive to keep.
Then they either let them go through free agency or trade budding stars for a package of low-level minor leaguers. It invariably works in Tampa Bay’s favor. If I’m a general manager and my personal assistant tells me, “It’s Tampa Bay on line one,” I hang up.
The Rays don’t draw flies, but they sure can catch them. The near-empty ball park for the World Series works in their favor. While the Dodgers are accustomed to drawing 3 million fans a year, the Rays don’t draw enough fans to a game in Tropicana Field to start a good bar brawl.
—Was reminded of the wit and intelligence of former Reds pitcher Kent Mercker when he was one of several former Reds to wish me a happy big 8-0 birthday. Two examples.
“You know it is time to retire when you run in from the bullpen and your breasts jiggle,” said Mercker.
And when asked what he planned to do upon his retirement, he said, “A new vocation. I plan to turn vodka into urine.”
—Will the expanded playoffs, the designated hitter in the National League and the runner on second base to start extra innings carry over to 2021?
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, the architect of all these rule changes, wants to see it, although he believes 12 post-season qualifiers might be better than this year’s 16, which saw a losing team, the Houston Astros nearly qualify for the World Series with a 29-31 record.
“People were wildly unenthusiastic about the changes,” Manfred told The Associated Press this week. “And then when they saw them in action, they were much more positive.”
Who are the people to whom you refer, Mr. Commissioner.
But, as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” Tony Clark of the players union injected his $1.98 worth.
“We made a number of one-year changes this season under unique circumstances,” said Clark. “We are gathering feedback from players and we’ll bring that to the league at the appropriate time.”
What Clark is saying is that the current basic agreement expires after the 2021 season and negotiations will be on-going next summer. If those changes are approved, it won’t happen until after next season.
—This one, from my good friend Tom Melzoni, makes you stop and think, for just a second or two: “The trouble with quotes on the internet these days is that it is difficult to determine whether or not they are genuine.” — Abraham Lincoln.
—When you turn 80, as I did this week, there are three thing you learn. One is that your memory goes. . .and I can’t remember the other two.