By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the 20th time and laughing all the way, despite knowing every funny line, especially everything that come from the mouth of Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid).
Baseball uniform No. 24 has some special meanings. . .Tony Perez to Cincinnati Reds fans and Ken Griffey Jr. to Seattle Mariners fans.
But ’24’ is, and should be, the personal property of Willie Mays. Babe Ruth and Roberto Clemente are national treasures, but to me Mays was the best all-around player in baseball history.
At one time, New York had the three best center fielders in the game playing at the same time — Mickey Mantle for the New York Yankees, Duke Snider for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Willie Mays for the New York Giants. Each team’s fans thought their guy was the best and the debate raged for years.
Just before the Dodgers fled Brooklyn for Los Angeles, they had a special day at Ebbets Field and the three iconic center fielders attended.
Perhaps Mantle settled the debate when he turned to Mays and said, “You were the best. And I’m proud to be tied for second (with Snider.)”
In San Francisco, there is nine-foot statue outside the ball park on 24 Willie Mays Plaza. The right field wall in the ball park is 24 feet tall. And the city dedicated cable car No. 24 to Mays.
There is a fantastic book about The Say Hey Kid that came out recently written by long-time Giants beat writer John Shea. It is titled, ’24,’ What else?
—QUOTE: From Willie Mays: “Every time I look at my pocketbook, I see Jackie Robinson. I think I was the best baseball player I ever saw.”
—All baseball fans recognize the Indianapolis Clowns as one of the iconic franchises in the Negro American League. What most don’t know is that the franchise started out as the Cincinnati Clowns.
And, as Bob Crotty points out, a 20-year-old outfielder named Hank Aaron played for the 1952 Clowns and was paid $200 a month. That’s $1,800 in today’s money.
Also little-known is that while Aaron played shortstop for the Clowns he batted cross-handed — left hand on top, right hand on bottom. Using that unorthodox method, he hit .467 until the Milwaukee Braves signed him in mid-season — and changed his batting grip to the accepted manner.
—QUOTE: From Hank Aaron: “It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.” (Did anybody tell him you can’t play golf cross handed?)
—At least one national columnist agrees with me. With Notre Dame looking more like just Dame against Clemson and with Texas A&M’s massive loss to Alabama, why not unbeaten Cincinnati?
USA Today columnist Dan Woken wrote: “Rather than look at this choice for the final spot in your playoff as a lesser of two evils (Notre Dame, Texas A&M), you have the opportunity to do something great for the sport, and frankly, for America.
“Dare to do what you predecessors were able to avoid for the last six years. Have the courage to tell the establishment programs that they didn’t do enough to earn their place. Throw a bone to the little guy for once. Pick Cincinnati.
Of course, the committee, also known as The Elite Power Five Group, totally dismissed the Bearcats and didn’t even include them in their Top Six.
There is a push to expand the playoffs to eight team. You know what that would mean? The Elite Power Five Group would just add four more Power Five teams to the playoffs.
—If I’m on vacation for a week, I want University of Dayton basketball player Rodney Chatman to guard my house. The kid could take a T-bone away from a Rottweiler and not get bitten.
His unappreciated (except from his coaches and teammates) lockdown defense is a major reason the Flyers are 4-and-1.
It was displayed again Saturday when the Flyers scored a take notice victory over Mississippi, 65-62. And the Ole Miss basketball team, 4-and-0 when it arrived in Dayton, is more physical than the Ole Miss football team.
Chatman harassed Devontae Shuler, Ole Miss’s leading scorer into a 4 of 16 shooting night. As exhausting as all-out defense is, Chatman also scored 21 points, 10 down the stretch when the game was there for the taking for both teams.
—QUOTE: From UD guard Rodney Chatman: “I’m very capable in a lot of areas. Whatever I feel like the team needs to win, that’s what I’m going to do. I don’t consider myself a scorer, but I can.” (If you re-arrange some of the letters in RodnEy, ChaTMAn, you can find ‘team,’ and that’s what this kid is all about. Refreshing.)
—If Rodney Chatman is busy and I need a body guard, give me Wright State’s Loudon Love. The Raiders visited Detroit Mercy this weekend and showed them no Mercy, but a lot of Love.
WSU beat Detroit Saturday and Sunday and during Sunday’s second half the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Love ripped his way to the basket like a rhinoceros through the weeds.
After scoring only four in the first half, Love scored 22 in the second half. Oh, and add 13 rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots as the Raiders won, 85-72.
And Detroit’s Antoine Davis, one of the nation’s leading scorers the last two years, had to peel WSU’s Jaylen Hall off his uniform when he undressed. Davis, a song to Detroit coach Mike Davis, made 4 of 18 shots (0 for 7 on 3s), had Hall in his face like a medical mask.
—What is going on in Cincinnati? Rumors are just rumors. But when baseball writer Jon Heyman reports them there is more than a kernel of truth.
His latest is that not only are the Reds listening to offers for pitcher Sonny Gray with one ear, but they are listening to offers for pitcher Luis Castillo in the other ear.
Per Heyman: “Luis Castillo as well as Sonny Gray is being discussed in trades. Asks are appropriately for young front-line starters.”
—While speaking about trades, add to the list of Reds bonehead trades the four-for-one deal with San Diego. The Reds traded Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Mat Latos. As it turned out, he wasn’t worth Boxberger straight up.
And after listing the trades of Frank Robinson, Tony Perez and Paul O’Neill as awful deals, I heard from former Reds pitcher Brett Tomko.
He asked, “How about the deal that sent Brett Tomko and Mike Cameron to Seattle for Ken Griffey Jr.?” Tomko always did have a great sense of humor.
—Just one thing to say about Ohio State runningback Trey “Sunday” Sermon. He gave his sermon on Saturday with 331 yards against Northwestern.
And a question: Why did it take OSU coach Ryan Day and his staff so long to realize the passing game was kaput and that Sermon could run through Northwestern like a rabbit through the back forty?