OBSERVATIONS: The ‘Longest Day’ in Milwaukee County Stadium

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, still embarrassed after Joey Votto spotted me wearing a Washington Nationals hat on a Zoom interview. (Author’s Defense: I have hats for nearly every MLB team and interchange them daily.)

—The current Cincinnati Reds-Milwaukee Brewers Showdown Series takes me back 22 years to the day I developed the worst case of indigestion of my life.

It was a day when I did a weak imitation of Joey Chestnut and ate eight hot dogs in old Milwaukee County Stadium.

Why? well, the box score says the game lasted 2:36. What a lie. We were in the stadium for more than six hours because of rain delays.

It was October 3, 1999, the last game of the season. They had to finish it because of its importance. If the Reds won, it would be their 96th victory and force a one-game playoff with the New York Mets for the National League wild card.

It was 45 degrees with a howling 13 miles an hour wind blowing in off Lake Michigan. The rains came twice, causing long delays, and I munched and munched and munches those great free hot dogs in the press box.

When play resumed for the last time, right field resembled a tributary of Lake Michigan. Dmitri Young made a diving catch and nearly slid on his belly into second bases, rooster tail behind him. It was as if he was on a slip-and-slide.

Greg Vaughn, the best clubhouse leader I ever saw, hit a three-run home run during a five-run third inning and the Reds won, 7-1.

Undaunted, nine writers and I decided to eat at Milwaukee’s best Italian restaurant after the game. There was a two-hour wait.

“No, there isn’t,” said Tom Archdeacon, my talented columnist friend at the Dayton Daily News. “Just wait.”

We waited until the hostess said, “Mr. Brown, table for four.” When she said it for the third time and nobody responded, Archdeacon went to the hostess  stand and said, “I’m Mr. Brown. But I asked for a table for 10.” And within two minutes we were seated as the hostess apologize for getting the number wrong.

POSTSCRIPT: The Reds lost the playoff game to the Mets in Cincinnati the next day and I limited my hot dog intake to two.

—There is a cure for what ails Eugenio Suarez in the batter’s box. He needs to add ‘Jr.’ to the back of his uniform. Hey, it is working for Vladimir Guerrero, Ronald Acuna and Fernando Tatis.

Even Houston manager Dusty Baker has added ‘Jr.’ to the back of his Houston uniform. And look where the Astros are, without any tub-thumping.

This was penned before Suarez hit one 3 1/2 miles this week against Kansas City, a three-run game-winning home run. But he also struck out and hit into two double plays. He is hitting .177 with 103 strikeouts in 347 plate appearances.

—QUOTE: Changing the name from a quote in Jim Bouton’s book, Ball Four, talking about Commissioner Bowie Kuhn: “Rob Manfred is the best commissioner we have today.”

—Washington’s Trea Turner hit for the cycle last week (single, double, triple, home run), the third time he has done it.

Now that’s a rarity. Most players never do it once and Turner is only the fourth player in MLB history to do it three times.

How rare is it? Well, the last Cincinnati Reds player to hit for the cycle was Eric Davis in 1989. And the last player to do it before Eric the Red was Frank Robinson in 1959.

Turner did it this year on his 28th birthday, the first to do it on his birthday. And the triple that completed the cycle was his 100th hit this season.

—Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper leads the field for the Toby Keith ‘Red Solo Cup’ award. Harper’s first 14 homers this season were all solo shots. His 15th home run this week finally came with two men on.

The Phillies thought they would get more bang for their bucks when they presented Harper with a 13-year $330 million contract.

—QUOTE: From Phillies slugger Bryce Harper on the state of baseball: “I think you come to watch baseball, and if you’re a true fan, then you enjoy watching baseball. MLB tries to change this and change that, speed up the games, but baseball’s baseball. You can’t change it. It’s America’s pastime. It’s the greatest game on earth. I don’t really want to change it that much.” (Unfortunately, commissar Rob Manfred doesn’t seem to listen to the guys who play the game.)

—Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley is a proud Mississippi State University alumnus. The Bulldogs won the NCAA national championship. Not only was it Mississippi State’s first NCAA baseball title, it was the school’s first national championship in any sport.

It’s surprising that MSU never won before. Brantley, Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro played there at the same time. And other alumni include former Reds pitcher Sammy Ellis, former Big Red Machine coach Alex Grammas, plus Del Unser, Bobby Thigpen and Jonathan Papelbon.

—For the first game when they were permitted full capacity, the Oakland Athletics drew an announced crowd of 4,739. And some who were there believe the total was padded.

I’ve seen more people lined up at an airport TSA check-in. Let’s see, they’ve been the Philadelphia A’s, the Kansas City A’s and the Oakland A’s. How does the Las Vegas A’s sound?

—QUOTE: From legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice’s book, ‘The Tumult and the Shouting,’ published in 1954: “It is a sure thing that Ty Cobb’s mark of 4,191 base hits will never be approached.” (Hey, Granny, it is not who won or lost that counts, but whether you’ve seen Pete Rose play the game.)

—From Joe Posnanski’s excellent book, ‘The Soul of the Game,’ featuring Negro League legend Buck O’Neill:

Players, fans, manager, coaches, writers and mice hated the old Metrodome in Minneapolis that featured a gigantic Baggie for an outfield wall and led the universe in fly balls lost from view by outfielders peering up at a white canvas roof.

The first time Kansas City closer Dan Quisenberry walked into the place he said, “I don’t know if there’s a good use for nuclear weapons, but this might be one.”

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