By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wondering if, like me, the Cincinnati Reds front office is pinching itself to make sure we aren’t dreaming.
—ONE, THE LONELIEST NUMBER: When the season began, it looked as if the Cincinnati Reds were destined to lose nearly every one-run game they played. They lost seven of their first eight one-run games.
But now, with their recent startling success, they are welcoming one-run games like a kid offered an ice cream cone with sprinkles. They won the first two games in Fenway Park over the Boston Red Sox, 9-8 and 5-4, and are now 10-12 in one-run extravaganzas.
Their 10 one-run victories are behind only Miami (16) and Tampa Bay (11) and tied with they New York Yankees (10).
The Tampa Bay Rays are 40-18 and 10 those 18 losses were by one run. On the flip side, 11 of the 40 wins have been by one run. Despite 21 one-run decisions, the Rays have outscored their opponents by 119 runs.
The Miami Marlins are 16-4, on pace to eclipse the all-time best in one-run games, the 2016 Texas Rangers (36-11).
This doesn’t fall into the one-run category, but it is an insane statistic. The Oakland A’s, maybe the worst team in MLB history, are 12-46, Of those 12 wins, five have been walk-offs, tied with the Yankees for most walk-off wins this season.
—QUOTE: From former pitcher/broadcaster Steve Stone: “This game is won 90 feet at a time.” (That’s true, Steve, but as you should know as a former pitcher, there is 60 feet, six inches that wins and loses, too.)
—ON THE CLOCK: The pitch clock is working like clockwork, just the way MLB wanted. The average time of game last season was 3:03. This season it is 2:38, a 25-minute speed-up.
The quickest so far are the Cleveland – – – – dians, 2:33, aided by the fact they’ve played 25 one-run games. The slowest? The agonizingly awful Oakland A’s, who take 2:47 to lose game after game after game.
Cincinnati Reds game average 2:39, the 18th fastest (or slowest, depending upon your viewqoint0. But during their five-game winning streak, the games have taken 3:02, 3:12, 3:15, 2:57 and 2:41. So, it is take your time and win.
—RYAN NEVER DID IT: Former Cincinnati Enquirer sports writer John Erardi has a delightful piece in the latest Hall of Fame magazine, ‘Memories and Dreams.’
The story recounts the 1934 All-Star game when Carl Hubbell used his left-handed screwball to strike out five straight power-packed American Leaguers.
In order, he whiffed Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin, all eventual Hall of Famers.
Later in life, Hubbell was asked if he thought Nolan Ryan might match his feat in an All-Star game. Said Hubbell, “Well, it would be kinda hard to answer that because Nolan won’t be pitching against Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons and Cronin.”
Nolan never whiffed five All-Stars in a row, but Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela did it in the 1986 game in the Houston Astrodome. In order, he struck out Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken, Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker and Teddy Higuera.
Ironically, like Hubbell, Valenzuela featured the difficult screwball, a pitch that took a terrible toll on arms. On the screwball, instead of pronating the wrist to the inside, it is thrown by twisting the wrist outwardly.
Tom Browning featured the screwball and broke his arm throwing the pitch in old San Diego-Jack Murphy Stadium and was never the same.
—HOW FAR DID IT GO?: In the same publication, Steve Wulf wrote about one of baseball’s most famous home runs. . .Reggie Jackson’s down-range rocket in the 1971 All-Star gam in Detroit’s Tiger Stadium. It cleared the second deck and crashed into a light tower that prevented it from landing on Michigan Avenue.
Some Wayne State University professors pulled out their slide rules and said if the ball hadn’t dented the light tower it would have traveled 650 feet. Is that humanly possible?
Jackson was not even supposed to be there. Twins outfielder Tony Oliva hurt his knee and Jackson was asked to get to Detroit to take Oliva’s place. Before Jackson left, his Oakland teammate, Sal Bando, told him, “Whatever you do, don’t embarrass us. I hope you’re not flying 2,000 miles just to strike out.”
Instead, Jackson hit one that could have knocked down an airplane. Actually, Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench was behind the plate and called the pitch that Jackson connected on against Dock Ellis. Said Bench, “You can take all the home runs you’ve ever seen and throw them in a bag. There’s never been one like that one before.”
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson: “Sometimes I underestimate the magnitude of me.” (If there was an Ego Award, Reggie Jackson would have won every year and retired the trophy.)
—ONE WISE FLYER: Somebody, probably his parents, gave DaRon Holmes II some sage advice. On the last day he had to make a decision, Holmes decided to forego the NBA draft and return to the University of Dayton.
He was projected as a second-round draft pick. But those who watched him all year, saw him as a man among boys on the collegiate level, but he would be a boy among men in the NBA.
And nobody is happier than the Flyer Faithful. To them, he couldn’t be a bigger hero than if he found Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster on the same day.
—NASCAR’S ‘BUMPER CARS’: NASCAR drivers seem to think when they race they are in those bumper cars at an amusement park. They don’t think twice, not even once, about purposely wrecking a competitor at 200 miles an hour in fits of childish rage.
They probably feel safe doing it because their stock cars are so safe that even when they disintegrate into bits and pieces after hitting a wall or other cars, the drivers usually walk away unscathed.
Still, grown men purposely wrecking a competitor is head-shaking. Popular driver Chase Elliott drew a one-race suspension for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in retaliation for a Hamlin misdeed earlier in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if manufacturers produced the cars that NASCAR builds that protects drivers like the shell of a turtle?
—QUOTE: From NASCAR driver Chase Elliott: “You have to take whatever situation is thrown at you and make the best decision at the time.” (His decision at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend was to play Demolition Derby with Denny Hamlin.)
—NBA FINALS (HO-HUM): Anybody who is interested in and will watch the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets please raise a hand.
Put your hand down unless you can name two players on the Heat and two players on the Nuggets. Uh, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Jokic. . .hey, where’s LeBron James? That’s what I thought.
And there is the NHL finals between the Florida Panthers and Las Vegas Golden Knights. Tha’ts swamp vs. desert. Where’s the ice?
—QUOTE: From former football coach Lou Holtz: “Nobody ever drowned in sweat.” (And nobody ever drowned in a hockey arena when the ice melted.)