OBSERVATIONS: A big, big day for Johnny Bench’s back-up

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave on a hot summer morning, sitting on the patio reading Cobra, the lengthy but fascinating autobiography of Dave Parker. He originally asked me to write it for him but I declined because I was writing my own book ‘The Real McCoy.’

—As the Cincinnati Reds punished the St. Louis Cardinals this weekend, it reminded of a day in the distant past, a career day for Bill Plummer.

Bill who?

Plummer was the back-up catcher to Johnny Bench in the early 1970s, which meant he got as much work as a plumber without tools. Plummer had the tools, but Bench never took a day off.

Plummer was so exasperated that he asked me to teach him how to play tennis so he could keep active. I used to play tennis on the road nearly every day and Plummer would go. And he became a decent player with a hard serve.

Somebody once placed an empty tennis can on the corner of the service box and challenged Plummer to hit. He not only hit, he bent the can in half.

On a hot Sunday afternoon, June 6, 1976, a day game after a night game, Bench took the day off and Plummer played. Oh, did he.

He had a home run, a triple and single to drive in six runs in Cincinnati’s 13-2 victory. A week later he had another three-hit game.

Even though he didn’t play much (his career average was .188 with 14 homers), he was an astute observer of the game and later became manager of the Seattle Mariners. He put in 53 years in baseball as a player, coach and manager.

—QUOTE: On the back of Bill Plummer’s 1973 baseball card was John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

—The Cincinnati Reds lost a game last week to the Philadelphia Phillies by the hideous score of 17-3. 17 to 3!

17-3. . .That’s two touchdown, two extra points and a field goal, something the Cincinnati Bengals strive to achieve on some given Sundays.

17-3. . .I don’t think my slo-pitch softball team ever gave up 17 runs. I know my Little League team never did in the two years I played for the Akron Hoskins Olds Giants.

17-3. . .Look soon for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to institute a 10-run mercy rule so downtrodden teams can cry uncle.

And this is what makes baseball so great. After the Phillies imitated a merry-go-round on the basepaths, the Reds gathered their self-respect and won their next three games in St. Louis.

—With Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos putting together a 21-game hitting streak — just 23 shy of Pete Rose’s streak — it reminded me of what Rose said after his 3,000th hit.

“When you play this game 20 years, go to bat 10,000 times and get 3,000 hits, do you know what the means? It means you’ve gone oh-for-7,000,”

—You have to love the guy when Nick Castellanos says this about how he plays the game: “I’m just doing the best I can to emulate the way Barry Larkin and Eric Davis played the game when they were here.” (Now there is a guy who really gets it.)

—This, baseball/pitching fans, is something our children and grandchildren will never see nor comprehend as the term ‘complete game’ comes closer and closer to obsolete.

In 1980, the Oakland A’s had the three top pitchers in complete games in the majors. The leader was Rick Langford with 28, then came Mike Norris with 24, followed by Matt Keough with 20. That’s 72 complete games for the A’s in 162 games.

Members of the Athletics’ bullpen read a few books, played some trivia games and filed their nails. Once in a while they pitched an inning or two.

—The Toddfather is no longer employed by a major league team, but he hasn’t stop swinging. Former Reds infielder Todd Frazier, playing for Team USA, had four hits Saturday in a 4-2 win over Venezuela. The win qualified Team USA for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

—Couldn’t sleep the other night/morning, so I toppled out of bed and clicked on the TV in The Man Cave. There was a women’s college softball game on ESPN, so I watched.

It was UCLA-Washington and UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia pitched 10 scoreless innings and struck out 16. And she threw 179 pitches.

Then in the bottom the 10th, score 0-0, Garcia had enough and with two out and two strikes she hit a three-run walk-off home run.

What I didn’t realize until it was over was that it was an NCAA Women’s College World Series game. . .from 2019.

Still, 179 pitches? They should show the video to every major league pitcher that vacates the mound after 95 to 100 pitches.

—You want to know about a really tough pitcher? On August 24, 1919, Cleveland’s Ray Caldwell owned a 2-1 lead over the Philadelphia Ahtletics with two outs in the ninth inning. One out to get with Joe Dugan at the plate.

That’s when lightning struck. No, not a home run. Real lightning. A lightning bolt struck old League Park. It knocked Caldwell unconscious and he lay on his back for several minutes.

When he recovered, he took the ball and retired Dugan on a ground ball to get his complete-game victory in his first-ever start for the Indians.

After the game, Caldwell told the Cleveland Press that the lightning strike, “Felt just like somebody came up with a board and hit me on top of the head and knocked me down.”

He had slight burns on his chest and it was determined that the lightning hit the metal button on his hat, surged through his body and exited out his metal spikes.

After the game, one of the A’s remarked, “I’ve heard of pitchers with electric stuff, but that was ridiculous.” (I made up that quote.)

—One last contribution to the renaming of the Cleveland Indians. How about the Cleveland Indigos. Indigo is a color that won’t offend anybody. And Indigos is close to Indians. . .as in, let’s go Indians. They can make indigo the team’s primary color.

You’re welcome.

—Speaking of Cleveland, 47 years ago this week, the Indians staged 10-cent beer night. For one thin dime, fans could buy up to six 12-ounce 3.2 beers. There was no limit as to how many times a fan could purchase six beers at a time.

What could go wrong. Well, in the ninth inning inebriated fans stormed the field and a riot broke out. Umpire Nestor Chylak, after he was hit by a flying chair and a bottle, forfeited the game to the Texas Rangers.

Dodging flying chairs, Texas manager Billy Martin grabbed a bat and led his team on a rescue mission to right field.

—So many athletes are recognized by one name like Shaq, Wilt, LeBron, Michael, Kareem, Magic. How many in athletics are known by just one letter?

That’s the case with Duke University basketball’s Coach K, who announced he will retire after next season.

And why is he known merely as Coach K? Because who can remember how to spell Krzyzewski? Yes, I looked it up.

“The bat showed up later and it was broken,” said Rangers player Mike Hargrove.

That was incredible. Even more incredible? A month later the Indians staged another 10-cent beer night. No incidents this time.

—If the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox scheduled a game in Bum’s Rush, Nebraska, ESPN and MLB-TV trucks would be fighting over parking spaces.

4 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: A big, big day for Johnny Bench’s back-up

  • June 6, 2021 at 11:19 pm
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    If I recall correctly many of those A’s pitchers wound up with ruined arms.

    Reply
  • June 7, 2021 at 2:06 pm
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    This has been said many times, but it needs to be said again. It is absolutely stupid to take a pitcher out in the sixth inning when he has a shutout going and only allowed two hits. All of the teams do this but it is still stupid, stupid, and stupider.

    Reply
    • June 7, 2021 at 5:00 pm
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      Thank goodness for the gumption of Winker! Yeah – everybody should carry their load to the max – no earthly reason to leave after 5…

      Reply
  • June 7, 2021 at 6:48 pm
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    …the answer to a trivia question. Didn’t Sparky pinch hit Pat Corrales for JB during a World Series just as a thank you to the backup?…

    Reply

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