OBSERVATIONS: A tale from the streets of New York

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, mesmerized in front of the TV watching The Masters, missing Tiger’s roaring gallery but thankful they aren’t piping in fake noise.

—There are times when a baseball writer deserves combat pay and a Kevlar vest.

After a night game in the junkyard they called Shea Stadium, I partook of the world’s best and largest salami omelette at the famous Carnegie Deli in Manhattan.

As I emerged from the deli, my stomach bloated and my heart content, I was approached by a well-groomed man wearing a Columbia University hoodie.

He politely asked if I knew how to get to Carnegie Hall, seemingly a strange question at 2 a.m. And I resisted answering with the old wisecrack, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”

Instead, I said, “You are so close you can see it from here. It is right across the street.” That’s when he reached into the hand-warmer pocket of his hoodie and withdrew a shiny Glock 19 and said, “I’ll take you wallet and that big, fat ring on your finger.”

The ring was my 1975 World Series ring that was so graciously give to the beat writers by Cincinnati Reds chief executive Bob Howsam and my prized possession.

It was the same ring that once fell off my finger in the press box at Dodger Stadium and plummeted into the lower deck. I leaned over and witnessed fans passing it down a row, examining it with awe.

I scrambled down two levels to the row I had last seen fans passing it around and located the one who was ogling it. It only cost me $20 to retrieve it.

And now some hoodlum wanted it. I knew that my former sports editor, Ritter Collett, had once been mugged in New York. So had former Columbus Citizen-Journal sports writer Kaye Kessler, who was pistol-whipped. And a few years ago two writers were robbed after a night game outside Gate 3 at Great American Ball Park.

Not wishing to lose my life over the few dollars in the wallet and a finger trinket, I was reaching for my back pocket and wondering, “Car 54, where are you?”

And at that wondrous moment, an NYPD squad car turned the corner off 59th Street. My assailant turned on his heels and bolted down Seventh Avenue with the speed of Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt.

The police, unaware of what was happening, cruised right on by, but my ring and wallet and life were all intact. Usually, I walked to the team hotel from the Carnegie Deli, but this time I hailed a cab.

As an aside, the walls at the Carnegie Deli were plastered with black-and-white signed photographs of celebrities. I always tried to sit at a community-style picnic table that had a photo of movie star Helen Hunt hanging close by. I had this crush on the young Helen Hunt. One night I was eating my omelette, the size of a truck tire, staring at Hunt’s photo. Then I looked at the end of the table and there was Helen Hunt, in the flesh.

—QUOTE: From comedian Mitch Hedberg: “I hate sandwiches at New York delis. Too much meat on the sandwich. It’s like a cow with a cracker on either side.” (He’s right. And that’s why they charged $22 for a pastrami on rye. But you got a pickle with it.)

—From former New York Mets executive Sandy Alderson on Trevor Bauer: “I actually believe that Trevor Bauer would be a great personality in New York. The kind of guy New York fans would endorse. We’re in the entertaining business.”

To which Bauer replied via Twitter (perhaps with tongue deeply embedded): “Nah. . .baseball isn’t entertaining. It’s boring and personality isn’t allowed. And this Bauer guy is going to be terrible in the New York media. Big head case. Couldn’t handle it.”

—Reds fans that are all giddy about the Cleveland Indians saying shortstop Francisco Lindor will be traded this winter. . .tone it down. Lindor will land in New York (Yankees or Mets), Toronto, Philadelphia or (gasp) St. Louis.

—QUOTE: From Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor: “You are what you repeatedly do. Then excellence is not an act, it is a habit.” (Yes, it certainly would be a nice habit to see in Great American Ball Park.)

—Wichita State is expected to fire long-time basketball coach Gregg Marshall this week after it was alleged he has punched players, choked an assistant coach and aimed verbal abuse.

The University of Dayton was scheduled to play Wichita State in the Bad Boys Mowers tournament in Rapid City, S.D., until the Flyers pulled out.

While I don’t condone physical and verbal abuse, the times they are a-changing.

When I played basketball at Akron East High School, coach Russ Estey always held a basketball during practice. If a player screwed up, he was likely to take a well-aimed basketball to the back of the head. And we thought nothing of it. We laughed. . .until he made us all run 50 laps around the gym.

One day Coach Estey aimed one my way (he often did), but I saw it coming and ducked. The ball hit our star player and broke his nose. Blood was everywhere. And nobody complained. Our star player practiced on.

—Chapter 9 of Scott Russell’s highly entertaining book, ‘The Spaceman Chronicles,’ is hilarious. The book is an autobiography of former pitcher Bill Lee, the most eccentric of eccentric left handers.

As a preface to those who don’t know, or don’t remember, the great Ted Williams wore No. 9.

So here is the entirety of Chapter 9. “Chapter Nine has been retired to honor Ted Williams, an unlikely but good friend of the Spaceman. ‘Ted Williams was the greatest hitter of all time. In fact, he hit on all three of my wives.’ — Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee.

—Some of my favorite songs played by college football bands:

*Ohio State, ‘Hang on Sloopy,’ and I had to pick this one because the song was done by The McCoys. And add ‘Fight the Team Across the Field’ and the song the band plays while doing ‘Script Ohio.’

*USC, the Tribute to Troy sounds like Roman soldiers on the march. And I love it when they play ‘Tusk.’

*University of Wyoming’s ‘Rag-time Cowboy Joe. I have sat in a bar in Laramie, Wyoming when the band marched through rattling the rafters with this rousing song.

*University of Michigan’s ‘Hail to the Victors,’ even though TTUN doesn’t have many victors to hail these days.

*University of Tennessee’s ‘Rocky Top,’ although the way the Vols have played in recent years it should be ‘Peace in the Valley.’

*University of Arkansas ‘Fight Song,’ which is identical to Wright State University’s fight song. Hmm. Wonder who had it first?

*Notre Dame’s ‘Cheers, Cheers for Old Notre Dame,’ the most famous fight song of them all. A catchy tune that we all have hummed at some point in our lives.

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