OBSERVATIONS: Some ‘personal’ Joe Morgan stories

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave as I sit with no baseball to watch and nobody can pay me enough to watch The Debate or the New York Football Giants.

—Joe Morgan was afraid he would kill me, or at least maim me. And he was probably right.

There were times on the road when a few of the Cincinnati Reds would arrive very early in the afternoon for extra batting practice. And they always need guys to shag balls.

We were in Philadelphia when Morgan and a couple other Reds took early batting practice at The Vet.

I decided, at age 35, that I would show them my defensive prowess at first base. Broadcaster Bill Brown was at second and athletic trainer Larry Starr was wisely somewhere deep in the outfield.

Morgan, a lefthanded hitter, could pull the ball with the velocity of Superman’s speeding bullet. Spotting me at first base, Morgan hit every ball to left field, refusing to hit the ball my way.

Thanks, Joe. I’m sure, though, that Little Joe was angry that I was there, stunting his chance to pull some balls. But he never said a word.

Brown, Starr and I played tennis nearly every day on the road, playing wherever they would have us. One day we finagled our way into the exclusive Los Angeles Tennis Club. After we finished, the club’s president approached us and said, “Does Joe Morgan play tennis? Y’know we accept his kind here.”

His kind? Are you kidding us? We packed our gear and left, never to return.

During spring training in Tampa, I was standing near the stands when a fan handed me a baseball and a pen. Believing, for some strange reason, the guy wanted my autograph, I started to sign it..

“No, no,” he said. “I want you to give it to Joe Morgan and have him sign it.” I took it to Morgan and said it was for a fan and Joe not only signed it, he walked over to the stands and chatted with the fan.

I never even got a thank you.

—The obscenely rich Los Angeles Dodgers take heavy-punch criticism for the perceived notion that they buy their way into the playoffs every year, that they toss money at free agents like leaves falling off giant oaks.

Not true. The Dodgers do it mostly through developing their own players and participating in astute trades.

Despite the fact the Dodgers always sit low on the draft totem pole because they always finish high in the standings, there are players they drafted and developed within their organization: Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Walker Buehler, Joc Pederson, Will Smith, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Edwin Rios.

And they traded for Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Kike Hernandez, Austin Barnes and Dylan Floro.

They signed Max Muncy after he was released. And they signed Jake McGee after he was released.

Latin players are international free agents and are not subject to a draft and the Dodgers signed Kenley Jansen, Julio Urias, Pedro Baez and Victor Gonzalez with sharp-eyed scouting.

Yes, the Dodgers do sign free agents, but only one signed a big deal: A.J. Pollock, five years, $60 million. The rest: Joe Kelly, four years at $32 million, Blake Treinen, one-year $10 million, Alex Wood, one-year $4 million deal.

Yes, the Dodgers have several banks full of money and own baseball’s second highest payroll. That enables them to pay salaries to keep their best players while the Tampa Bay Rays must trade players on the precipice of making big money or let them stroll into free agency.

—Legendary Syracuse football coach Ben Schwartzwalder has to be gagging in his tomb over the current status of the Orange program.

The Orange lost last week to Liberty University, a school that has played big-time football for about five days. It added new meaning to Patrick Henry’s, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Syracuse got a dose of both.

And now the ‘Cuse travels to Death Valley to play Clemson, a team that beat Georgia Tech last week, 73-7. It was so bad that Clemson permitted its punter, Will Spiers to play some quarterback and he was 2 for 3 for 13 yards. Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney play fullback for one play. . .and he scored a touchdown.

Clemson is a 46-point favorite. Take Clemson and give the points. The ‘Cuse has no excuse.

—QUOTE: From former Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder: “A successful coach is a coach who is still coaching.” (Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel beg to differ.)

—There are those media members (misinformed) who believe the Tampa Bay Rays don’t belong in the World Series. Say what? They had the American League’s best record (40-20). They eliminated Toronto, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros in the playoffs.

Why don’t they belong? Because they have the third lowest payroll in baseball? Because their fans don’t seem to care? Because they sometimes play a four-man outfield. Because they invented The Opener to start games?

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred weighed in with Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times.

“I don’t understand why anyone would ask the question as to whether or why the Rays belong here,” said Manfred. “They had the best record in the American League. They beat the Yankees. They beat the Astros, probably the most dominant team of the last five years. I can’t even imagine why anyone would ask that question.”

—QUOTE: From then Detroit Tigers manager Billy Martin, talking about the 1973 Milwaukee Brewers: “”If they can win the pennant with that club, I’m a Chinese aviator.” (The Brewers didn’t win, but neither did the Tigers and Martin was fired and looking for a job. But China didn’t need any more aviators.)

—Advice to take to heart from country singer Tim McGraw, although most of my readers do not need this reminder: “Always be humble and kind.”

—QUOTE: From singer Tim McGraw’s father, Tug McGraw, former relief pitcher for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies: “I have no trouble with the twelve inches between my elbow and my palm. It’s the seven inches between my ears that’s bent.”

—As somebody once told me: “As you slide down that banister of life you should pray that all the splinters are pointed the other way.” (And beware of that knob at the bottom.)

—Some of my favorite baseball names: Pie Traynor (Apple, please), Coco Crisp (I prefer Cheerios), Puddin’ Head Jones (Chocolate?) Motorboat Jones (His MLB boat sank fast), Razor Shines (Gillette or Schick?), Oil Can Boyd (Never played for the Trash Can Astros), Milton Bradley (Battleship or Yahtzee?)

Boof Bonser (A Batman sound effect: Biff, Boom, Bam), Goose Gossage (And he cooked many), Prince Fielder (A king on the field), Noodles Hahn (A beefy pitcher), Phil Coke (Coke, Pepsi or Royal Crown?). . .and my all-time favorite: Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish (His autograph took up an entire baseball).

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