OBSERVATIONS: How it all began

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, still laughing at what one man said at one of my speaking engagements: “Every four years I have to pretend that I like soccer.”

—HOW IT STARTED: This is my 60th year as a sports journalist and it will be 50 years covering the Cincinnati Reds when the 2023 season unfolds.

It all began my senior year at Akron East High School, a typing class that I took because it was all girls.

One day the teacher, Mrs. Rose Picciotti, approached and said, “You play on the basketball team, right? I’m the advisor for the school newspaper and we need a story on the team, but have nobody to write it? Would you?”

I told her I had never written a story for publication in my life and she said she would fix it up. So I did it and turned it in. The next day, she said, “Have you considered Journalism? This was really good. I didn’t have to do anything to it.”

I sloughed it off until I enrolled at Kent State and had to declare a major. Remembering what she said, I enrolled in the KSU School of Journalism and fell in love with writing.

The rest is personal history and Rose Picciotti went to her grave not knowing how she directed the path of one of her students. And she taught me how to type.

—SIGN HIM UP: Is Cincinnati Reds general manager Nick Krall serious about one thing he said? He said the team is interested in signing some free agents to one-year contracts as stop-gaps while the team continues its rebuild.

Then why not pursue free agent relief pitcher Craig Stammen? While Stammen prefers to stay with San Diego, the Padres have not re-signed him.

The native of North Star, a graduate of Versailles High School and a University of Dayton product, grew up a mammoth Reds fan and has expressed many times his desire to pitch for the Reds.

He is 38 and wants to pitch one more season. Why not the Reds, where he would be invaluable as a veteran presence in the team’s gosh-awful bullpen?

Stammen was limited to 33 appearances last season due to injury, but in 2021 he was 6-3 with a 3.06 earned run average over 67 appearances.

And he only made $4 million for each of the last three seasons.

It probably won’t happen because the next time the Reds take my advice will be the first time.

—QUOTE: From Satchel Paige on his pitching philosophy: “Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.” (Stammen could do that for the Reds.)

—CATCH YA LATER: It was a catcher-go-round in a trade this week involving Oakland, Atlanta and Milwaukee. All three major league players involved are catchers.

Most noteworthy is that Wright State University and Centerville product Sean Murphy was emancipated from Oakland. He is moving his Gold Glove gear to Atlanta.

As part of the three-way deal, Atlanta sent catcher Will Contreras to Milwaukee and Atlanta sent catcher Manny Pina to Oakland.

The Athletics, in the process of a teardown much like the Cincinnati Reds, also received a fist full of prospects.

When the A’s made it known Murphy was available teams lined up to make offers: Cleveland, Boston, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Minnesota and Atlanta

When Murphy was traded, the catcher dominoes quickly toppled. Minnesota signed Houston free agent catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year $30 million deal. And Minnesota signed Tampa Bay free agent catcher Mike Zunino to a one-year $6 million contract.

The Reds were not in that group, although Murphy would make a good fit. He is only 28, entering his prime, made only $725,000 last season and is entering his first year of salary arbitration eligibility.

Cincinnati could have moved Tyler Stephenson to first base and Joey Votto to designated hitter. And Murphy would fit in the Reds’ rebuild.

—RIGHT RESPONSE: In these days of pampered and ego-driven college athletes, it was refreshing what happened over the weekend with the University of Illinois basketball team.

After the Illini dropped a stink bomb in the arena, losing to Penn State, 74-59, coach Brad Underwood embarked on a post-game rant to the media.

He was asked about the leadership of one of his players, Terrence Shannon, Jr., and Underwood made a fart noise with his lips and said, “That’s what I think about his leadership.”

Did Shannon pout or shoot back or enter the transfer portal? Nope. He tweeted: “We got the best coach in the country, remember that. He’s going to get the best out of his players at all times.”

Now there is a mature young man. . .more mature than his coach.

—VEGAS KNOWS: Nearly all the TV talking heads were agape and aghast when Las Vegas installed the Detroit Lions (5-7) as 1 1/2-point favorites over the Minnesota Vikings (10-2).

They said Vegas was crazy on this one and picked the Vikings to win. Final score: Detroit 34, Minnesota 23. Hey, Vegas knows.

Despite winning 10 of 13 games, the Vikings have been outscored 313-312, the first team in NFL history to be outscored in 13 games when it has 10 wins.

—QUOTE: From former college and NFL coach Lou Holtz: “The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.” (The ball is bouncing Detroit’s way these days and nobody is dropping it.)

——FOURTH AND NOWHERE: Reason number 594 why it is so frustrating rooting for the Cleveland Browns.

During Sunday’s 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns took their first possession quickly down the field until it was third-and-one at Cincinnati’s 25.

Kareem Hunt tried the middle. No gain. Fourth-and-one. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett replaced Deshawn Watson. A sneak? No, he rolled right and overthrew Donovan Peoples-Jones in the end zone.

Meanwhile, running back Nick Chubb, who gains two yards when he falls down, was sitting on the bench, helmeted head bowed as he twiddled his thumbs.

Coach Kevin Stefanski’s play-calling continues to look as if it comes out of a Grimm’s Fairy Tales book.

—THE MOUNT: If you were a football star, would you want to play for a school named Wartburg? What a name.

Wartburg, though, gave Mount Union a mighty scare over the weekend as Mount Union seeks another of its full boat of NCAA Division III championship. And it doesn’t have to be Ohio State-Georgia to provide football thrills.

With 4 1/2 minutes left. Mount Union’s clever quarterback, Braxton Plunk, took his team 83 yards for a touchdown. Mount Union 28, Wartburg 24. Game over? Nope.

Wartburg completed a 58-yard touchdown pass with 3:06 left for a 31-28 lead. Game over? Nope.

Mount Union’s Plunk completed a long fourth-and-9 pass to set up a short touchdown with 31 seconds left. Mount Union 34, Wartburg 31. Game over? Yes. . .finally. And the Purple Raiders advanced to the championship game.

—CUP RUNNETH OVER: The machinations of World Cup Soccer mystifies me. It was heart-warming to see a tiny nation like Croatia make the semifinals.

In their first five games, the Croatians won one match in regulation. They had two draws (ties) in the group stage and won both knockout matches on penalty kicks.

And why do they call them penalty kicks? There is no penalty involved Wouldn’t it be more exciting to play a sudden death overtime?

It even happened in the NCAA finals. Syracuse won its first national soccer title by tying Indiana, 2-2. And, of course, they won it on a penalty kick.

—OH, JOHNNY: For those of us old geezers, one of the best segments on The Johnny Carson show was when he portrayed the Magnificent Carnac.

While wearing a turban and a cape, the Magnificent Carnac (Carson) was provided the answer and he provided the question.

And my all-time favorite:

Answer: El Paso.

Carnac’s question: “What does a Mexican quarterback do when he can’t el runno or el punto?”

3 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: How it all began”

  1. When I joined the DDN as Statehouse Bureau Chief in 1985, there were a few legends at the paper and as Dizzy Dean would have said, you “were among ‘em.”

  2. Stammen made 4 million. Yep, Bob can’t pay that much for a relief pitcher to come to the Reds.. right Bob?? Still sitting back waiting till the other 29 teams settle their rosters, then he can offer a million for one year for what’s left that couldn’t make the other 29 teams . Heck, Kyle Farmer was to much for maybe getting 6 million. Bit Bob has to save face for tge stupid contract to Moose and keep running him out even though he is never in shape and looks like a slow pitch softball player in a Reds uniform.

  3. Pathetic Reds’ front office clowns continue to sound like bad career politicians. Talk, talk, talk….. No action. Actually, better described as LIES!

    It’ll still be so much more convenient to simply turn off the radio when their little group of AA hacks are getting their brains beat out again. That way I won’t have to worry about racing out of Cincy to escape traffic & the embarrassment that is The Dreds. Bet the Bungholes just love watching that drama.

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