By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave at 6:15 a.m., watching MLB-TV’s Quick Pitch, not because I want to, but because my hyperactive Havanese, The Mighty Quinn, has a built-in clock that goes off every morning at 6 a.m.
—Mickey Mantle and I have something in common and it has nothing to do with hitting home runs. It had to do with taking a chance on facing pitcher Dean Chance.
Mantle once said famously about Dean Chance, “Every time I saw his name on the lineup card I felt like throwing up.”
I know the feeling, Mick. Dean Chance once struck me out four times in a high school game and I still haven’t seen a single pitch.)
Mantle was 13 for 53, a .245 average against Chance when ‘The Dean’ pitched for the California Angels. But Mantle did hit three home runs. It was the entire New York Yankees team that felt like regurgitating when they saw Chance.
In five starts against the Yankees in 1964, Chance was 4-and-0 with an 0.18 earned run average.
That was when CBS owned the Yankees and it proved that networks should stick with Lawrence Welk and Cheers on cameras and leave cheers in the stands to baseball people.
Mantle, as it turns out, was full of as many good quotes as he was of home run swings. Mantle and pitcher Whitey Ford, watching Pete Rose in spring training, came up with the nickname Charlie Hustle.
And Mantle was no fan of Rose’s hitting style. In his book, ‘The Mick,’ Mantle wrote, “If I had played my career hitting singles like Pete Rose, I’d wear a dress.”
And Mantle was ahead of his time when it comes to talking about the lively baseball. When asked about hitting his home runs in the live ball era, he said, “Maybe the players are livelier now.”
Mantle, of course, was frequently asked to attend dinners and banquets in his honor and after one rubber chicken dinner he said, “I’ve often thought that a lot of awards you get are made up deals so you’ll come to the dinners.”
—Former Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee asked this one: “Which is more rare in today’s game, a no-hitter or a game in which a team does not once strike out?”
Well, in little more than a month, there have been four recognized no-hitters this season and Madison Bumgarner’s non-recognized seven-inning no-hitter.
And the last time a team went an entire game without striking out was probably the 1959 Go Go White Sox. I’d say a team not striking out is as rare as spike heels on Daisy Mae.
—QUOTE: From former catcher/broadcaster Bob Uecker’s Hall of Fame speech: “Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. To last as long as I did with the skills I had, with the numbers I produced, was a triumph of the human spirit.”
—Speaking of catchers, during this same week in 1986, Robby Thompson of the San Francisco Giants showed the stubbornness of Douglas MacArthur (“I shall return.”
Thompson tried to ‘return’ to second base on steal attempts four times in one game and Cincinnati catcher Bo Diaz threw him out all four times. That’s still a record for a catcher throwing out one player trying to steal and a record for a runner getting thrown out stealing in one game.
Diaz was a proud man. He was charged with a passed ball that let in the winning run during a game in the Astrodome. Immediately after the game, a Cincinnati writer barged up to Diaz, sitting forlornly at his locker, and said, “How could you miss that ball?”
From that point, Diaz would not talk to the media. . .and who could blame him. Weeks later I encountered Diaz sitting on a wall in downtown Philadelphia, chewing on a sandwich. Knowing how much he loved his son, and I stopped and asked, “How’s Little Bo?” We engaged in a long conversation and from that moment on I was the only member of the media to whom he would talk.
In this job, it is all about knowing how to approach players and each one is different. Unfortunately, Diaz died young when he was struck by lightning while on his roof installing a TV dish.
—A leftover and long ago quote from from Hall of Fame player and Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner, the king of malaprops. He said this on the air on Mother’s Day: “It’s Mother’s Day, so to all you moms out there, happy birthday.” (As somebody once told me, if you want to live until Father’s Day, don’t forget Mother’s Day.)
—Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jeff Hoffman watched Wade Miley’s no-hitter with awe. He has never pitched a no-hitter at any level.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like that,” Hoffman said of Miley’s no-hitter. “When a guy is going good like that, I just basically stay out of his way and try not to trip over him in the dugout. I was close in a high school summer league travel game once.
“I had it broken up with a bunt single in the bottom of the seventh,” he said. And, yeah, I drilled the next guy. Yeah, I did, even though it was a high school summer league game. I haven’t come close since, but that is a bucket-lister.
When former Reds pitcher Don Gullett pitched at McKell (Ky.) High School, he pitched a perfect seven-inning game and struck out 20 of the 21 hitters. The guy he didn’t strikeout tried to bunt his way on.
That guy should have been forced to wear a medallion that read, “I’m the coward who ruined an immaculate game.”
I once broke up a no-hitter, in a bad way. It was in American Legion ball and I was playing left field. One of my best friends and neighbor, Joe Nielsen, was pitching a no-hitter in the last inning.
A lazy fly ball was hit by way, one I should have caught, but it dropped in front of me for the only hit he gave up. My coach, Paul Rife, asked me, “Why did you let the ball fall in front of you?”
My sheepish reply was, “I didn’t want to let it get behind me for a double.” He shook his head, spat on the ground and walked away. The next game I was playing first base.
—Speaking of no-hitters, what was the toughest thing Wade Miley had to endure concerning his no-hitter? It was after the last out, when catcher Tucker Barnhart charged him like a bull in Pamplona.
“My chest still hurts from when Tucker, like a linebacker, tried to tackle me,” said Miley. “I’m very proud that I stayed on my feet and took the hit.”