By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from St. Simons Island, where I fled for a week’s vacation just hours after the Cincinnati Reds were kicked out of the playoffs. . .and now what? Please don’t make me watch the St. Louis Cardinals. Oh yeah, college football and the NFL. Bring ‘em on.
—It was fun while it lasted, until September when the Reds did baseball’s version of the Deep Six.
For the first time in years, the Reds were fun to watch. It was obvious they were having fun and they all got along and pulled for one another.
Still, it was another failed season, unless fans are content with the team finishing above .500.
What is disconcerting is that the Reds haven’t played in a World Series in 31 years and an entire generation of Reds’ fans have witnessed mostly failures.
When the Reds fired general manager Wayne Krivsky, who did some good things like acquiring pitcher Bronson Arroyo, second baseman Brandon Phillips and catcher David Ross, all for next-to-nothing, and all in a two-week span in late spring training, I asked owner Bob Castellini when the team was going to show some stability.
He looked me in the eye and said, “We’re just not going to lose any more.”
How has that worked out? And now both Nick Castellanos and Tucker Barnhart have vacated their Cincinnati residences, perhaps meaning they know they are gone — Castellanos by choice and Barnhart by the team’s choice.
Frankly, things don’t look that good for next year, unless Castellini decides to spend some money after the payroll was slashed before last season.
—Most fans remember Joe Nuxhall as Marty Brennaman’s folksy, lovable partner on Cincinnati Reds radio broadcast, a guy who fractured the English language and fans loved it. . .and him.
Former Cincinnati Enquirer TV/Entertainer writer John Kiesewetter has a book out called, ‘Joe Nuxhall, The Old Lefthander & Me.’ It’s a must-read for all of us who listened to Hamilton Joe unashamedly root hard for the Reds and call home runs by yelling, “Get up, get up, get up, get outta here.”
Kiesewetter recalls slipping one past the Enquirer editors when he wrote, “Joe Nuxhall interviewed Tony Perez on The Star of the Game show. Neither spoke English.”
While Nuxhall became an icon while sitting in the booth, some fan forget and some fans never knew that Nuxy was a darn good pitcher for the Reds.
Nuxhall was on the mound for the Reds when Henry Aaron made his major league debut. He went 0 for 3 against Nuxy.
Nuxhall, though, gave up 10 career home runs to Willie Mays. Big deal. Mays hit his most home runs off Hall of Famer Warren Spahn with 15. He hit 13 of Pittsburgh’s Bob Friend and 11 off Hall of Famer Don Drysdale.
—QUESTION: It is basic baseball knowledge that Joe Nuxhall was the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game at 15.
But who was the youngest before Nuxhall’s appearance on June 10, 1944? It was a pitcher named Carl Scheib and he was 16 years old when he made his debut for the Philadelphia Athletics on September 6, 1943.
Lots of good stuff like that in Kiesewetter’s book. Check it out. Great pool-side reading as Nuxhall would have put it, “You talk about a great book and this certainly is one.
—There was an outfielder for the New York Yankees in the 1930s named Sammy Byrd. He was Babe Ruth’s caddy. He entered games late as Ruth’s defensive replacement or started games when Ruth had one of his monumental belly aches.
But he turned from caddy to pro golfer. He spent his last two years in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds, but quit at age 28 to go on the PGA tour.
He lost in the PGA Match Play tournament in 1945 to Byron Nelson 4 and 3. And he finished third in the 1941 Masters.
Byrd is the only man ever to play in the World Series and the Masters.
—QUOTE: From former PGA tour golfer Paul Azinger on playing in the Masters: “This place always seems to have some kind of a ghost waiting around a pine tree or something for me. I remember all the places I don’t want to be.” (I played Augusta National twice, Paul, and my shots landed in places you never set foot on.)
—Speaking of Babe Ruth, whose name is synonymous with home runs, how about this one?
If you’ve seen old black-and-white film of Ruth and his barrel-shaped body, and watched him waddle around the bases, consider this. Ruth had 136 career triples, 13 in 1923.
Some say it was because he hit balls over the outfielder’s head in the cavernous acreage of Yankee Stadium’s center field. OK, then riddle me this one? How in the name of Rickey Henderson did he steal 123 bases? Well, he was thrown out 117 times.
—QUOTE: From the home run king, Henry Aaron (Barry who?): “The triple is the most exciting play in baseball. Home runs win a lot of games, but I never understood why fans are so obsessed with them.” (Hammerin’ Hank hit 755 home runs and excited himself with triples 98 times.)
—QUOTE: From home run hitter Reggie Jackson: “There will never be another Babe Ruth. He was the greatest home run hitter who ever lived. They named a candy bar after him.” (Actually, the Baby Ruth candy bar was named after Ruth Cleveland, a daughter to President Grover Cleveland. They did name one after you, Reggie, the Reggie Bar. And it tasted like wet cardboard.)
—Things you learn while on vacation. Two years go, a huge cargo ship, more than two football fields long and seven stories high, carrying 4,200 vehicles, capsized on St. Simons Sound after leaving the Port of Brunswick, Ga.
Incorrect ballast placement was the cause when the Golden Ray rolled over as it made a starboard turn from the sound into the Atlantic Ocean.
They’ve spent two years on the salvaging project, plucking ship parts and car parts (Dodge Ram pickups, GM crossovers and Mercedes SUVs) out of St. Simons Sound.
Not far from the wreckage is a fishing pier. I encountered a gentleman fishing off the pier and asked for what he was fishing and he said, “Flounder.”
I asked if he caught anything big lately and he said, “Yes, a car bumper.”
—Mispronunciations I’ve heard that make my teeth hurt:
*It is not simular. It is similar. There is no ‘u’ in similar.
*It is especially, nor expecially. There is no ‘x’ in especially.
*Often is pronounced off-en. It is not off-ten. The ’t’ is silent. (And now I’ll be silent.)