OBSERVATIONS: Some things I learned from baseball players

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, missing baseball news as much as I miss Clark Bars. . .and I loved Clark Bars.

—Baseball continues to commit errors, balks and is striking out with fans this winter. There are no serious negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

By ownership decree, there are no trades and no free agent signings. Baseball is not shooting itself in the foot, it is shooting itself in the heart.

No news is not good news on this front. So in order to keep baseball in mind, I was thinking the other day about some things baseball players turned me on to as a young, naive writer:

*Jose Rijo turned me in to Padron cigars, once affordable but now one has to choose between the house mortgage or a box of Padrons. While we were in Miami, Rijo took me on a tour of the Padron warehouse. He grabbed a couple of boxes and walked out. Jose Rijo doesn’t have to pay for anything in Miami. And he has his own cigar brand in The Dominican.

*Former relief pitcher Chuck McElroy introduced me to Tony Lama cowboys boots. I always wanted a pair. McElroy saw me in the clubhouse one day wearing a hat he admired.

He offered me a new pair of size 13 (my size) Tony Lama ostrich boots for the hat. I jumped at it — a $30 hat for a pair of $200 boots. Nadine, though, hates cowboy boots, so guess how often I got to wear them before they disappeared. And I never got my hat back.

*Jay Bruce introduced me to Tito’s vodka and it was before it became popular around here. He heard me chatting with Adam Dunn about Absolut and Ketel One. Bruce, a Texan, said, “Hey, you should try this vodka made in Texas called Tito’s.” I did. I liked it. And, no, it is not named after Tito Francona or Tito Fuentes or Tito Landrum.

*Relief pitcher Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III introduced me to artist Andrew Wyeth. And, yes, Rawlins Jackson Eastwick III sounds like an impressionist painter. Wyeth was a realist artist and I believe Eastwick took lessons from him and is an extraordinary artist himself and sold paintings to the players. Too expensive for me, though.

*Pitcher Homer Bailey introduced me to Shiner Bock beer. Like Bruce, Bailey is from Texas, and like Tito’s, Shiner Bock is brewed in Texas. Even though it is a bock, it tastes a lot like Yuengling Lager. Shiner and Yuengling are in a tie for first place in my beer league

—Without looking it up (as I did), who was the purest all-around hitter, Wade Boggs or Henry Aaron?

My guess would be Boggs but that answer bogs me down. Amazingly, even if you subtract his 755 home runs, Aaron had more career hits that Boggs.

Without the home runs, Aaron had 3,016 hits. With his home runs, Boggs had 3,010 hits.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Wade Boggs: “I haven’t been really superstitious once I left baseball, actually.” (Boggs superstitiously ate chicken before every game and by the end of his career he had eaten so much poultry he should have clucked on every swing.)

—How in the name of Eddie Rickenbacker can the Air Force Academy football team refuse to advance the ball through the air? No passing. Hardly any.

In fact, in its last game of the regular season, Air Force defeated UNLV, 48-14, and did not attempt a single pass.

The Falcons (even the nickname implies up in the air) ran 69 plays, all rushes, for 511 yards. Somewhere, Woody Hayes has an ear-to-ear grin.

Entering this week’s First Responder Bowl against Louisville, Air Force had run the ball 91 straight times.

So I decided to check out this phenomenon. And wouldn’t you know it, Air Force quarterback Haaziq Daniels completed five straight passes in the first quarter, two for long touchdowns.

Figures. How many quarterbacks can you name with a ‘z’ and a ‘q’ in his first name? Or middle name? Or last name?

—Am I color blind, or does it seem the teams wearing red win all the bowl games. Hint on upcoming games: Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia all wear red. Cincinnati sometimes wears red, but the Bearcats are wearing black against Alabama. Bad idea.

Teams with reds in their schemes that have won bowl games: Western Kentucky, Miami (O.), Louisiana, Houston, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Minnesota (maroon counts).

—Speaking of colors, it seems as if a school has to have ‘State’ in its name in play in the FCS Division I championship. Montana State plays perennial champion North Dakota State next week for the championship.

With all the yawner bowl games, I tuned in to the FCS Division I semifinals between Montana State and South Dakota State. It was played in Bozeman, Montana, one exit south of the North Pole.

There was an over-capacity crowd in Bobcat Stadium of 20,257, which meant three-fourths of the state of Montana was at the game.

And exciting. A freshman quarterback, Tommy Mellott started his first game, in the national semifinals, no less. He carried the ball 34 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns and hit 10 of 15 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win.

Montana State coach Brent Vigen must have been hiding Mellott from Ohio State all season.

—In what may be the most incredulous quote of the year, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson said his team should be the underdog against Cincinnati.

“I feel like we’re the underdogs in this game. All year, we’ve been disrespected,” he said. Sounds as if his helmet has been twisted sideways on his head too often.

That’s like saying a Great White Shark is the underdog to a striped bass, that a cheetah is the underdog to a rhesus monkey, that an F-15E is the underdog to a Piper Cub, that Budweiser is the underdog to Warped Wing Brewing Company.

—Not long ago, the shockingly good (and shockingly surprising) Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Toronto Raptors, 144-99, their largest margin of victory in their history.

Just a few days later, they led New Orleans by 27 points. . .and lost, 108-104. And the Pelicans were without Zion Williamson. Nevertheless, the Cavs are a totally unexpected and giddy 20-15.

—QUOTE: From legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach: “If you want to be a champion, you’ve got to feel like one, you’ve got to act like one, you’ve got to look like one.” (Who knows what a champion looks like? Red Auerbach does. It looks like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Satch Sanders, Sam Jones, John Havlicek and Dave Cowens. And that added up to nine NBA titles.

—Do you think anybody ever beat the snot out of Booger McFarland?

—See if you spot a trend here on what I like to put on my food:

*Hot dogs (Ketchup & onions).
*Hamburgers (Ketchup & onions).
*Strip steak (Ketchup).
*Scrambled eggs/omelets (Ketchup).
*French fries/onion rings (Ketchup).
*Breakfast sausage/bacon (Ketchup).
*Meat Loaf (Ketchup.)

I’m considering changing my name. Hal Heinz has a succinct ring to it.

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