By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, where I have been accused of living in the past with my old stories. And maybe I am, but I love ‘em and hope you do, too.
—OH, NO-NO: It was an era in major league baseball when pitchers threw hard, harder and hardest — Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Sudden Sam McDowell and Bob Veale.
Most hitters back then say that Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney threw hardest of them all, including New York Mets right fielder Johnny Lewis.
“I never saw a pitcher throw harder than Jim Maloney,” he said.
Why quote Lewis? Well, on June 14, 1965, Lewis hit a home run in Crosley Field in the 11th inning to break up Maloney’s no-hitter.
The incident comes to mind after the Milwaukee Brewers held the New York Yankees to no hits for 10 1/3 innings but lost in 13 innings. Maloney lost, too, 1-0.
For his 11 innings, Maloney walked one and struck out 18. He had struck out Lewis three times before Lewis led the 11th by driving a 2-and-1 fastball over the center field wall. In four major-league seasons, Lewis hit 22 home runs.
In a strange twist, Maloney’s bosom buddy and road roommate, catcher Johnny Edwards, led the 10th inning with a single and manager Dick Sisler sent in pinch-runner Chico Ruiz.
So back-up catcher Don Pavletich was behind the plate for the 11th and Edwards was livid and said, “You just don’t take a catcher or a pitcher out when they are working on a no-hitter.”
Said Maloney, “I was trying to keep the ball in on him and it leaked out just a little bit.”
—LIGHTS OUT: Former New York Yankee Hank Bauer said that manager Casey Stengel, “Once pinch-hit for me in the first inning before I even took the field. And once I had two home runs and a double in a game and he pinch-hit for me in the eighth.”
That jogged my memory to a game the Cincinnati Reds played in Dodger Stadium in 1975. John Vukovich was in the lineup for the Reds, batting eighth.
The Reds mounted a first-inning rally and manager Sparky Anderson pinch-hit for Vukovich before he even took the field.
Vukovich took his unused bat up the tunnel from the dugout to the clubhouse and broke out every light bulb on his way up the tunnel.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson: “The great thing about baseball is when you’re done, you’ll only tell your grandkids the good things. If they ask me about 1989, I’ll tell them I had amnesia.” (His Detroit Tigers lost 103 games in 1989, their first losing seaosn since 1977.)
—BILLY THE KID: Did you know that Billy Martin’s real name was Alfred Manuel Pesano? He was fired as manager nine times, all in the American League. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who changed managers like an automotive shop changes tires, got him five times.
And he was fired in Detroit, Texas, Minnesota and Oakland.
Martin thought he was bantamweight boxing champion of the world, but chose his opponents carefully. He punched out one of his relief pitchers, punched out a team traveling secretary and punched out a marshmallow salesmam.
When he managed in Detroit, he had the team in first place until it lost five of six to fall to second place.
Before a doubleheader after the losing streak, he wrote the names of nine players and had his star player, Al Kaline, draw the names out of Martin’s hat. The batting order was compiled sequentially as the names came out of the hat. The Tigers won, 3-2.
For the second game, Martin made out his lineup the convential way and the Tigers lost. Said general manager John Fetzer, “I’m going to fire Martin and hire his hat.”
—SPEED DEMON: Dizzy Dean, who really was dizzy, once said of his teammate and Hall of Famer Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals that he was so fast he could spot a jackrabbit five yards and beat the bunny in the 100-yard dash running backwards.
A writer once asked him how he ran so fast and Pepper said, “Well, sir, I grew up in Oklahoma and once you start runnin’ out there, there ain’t nothin’ to stop you.”
—BETTING WITH A ‘B’: A fellow named Shing Mon Chung laid some numbers on me that staggered me, even though I was sitting down.
Since sports betting became legal in the Buckeye State at the start of the year, Ohioans have wagered $3.5 billion (that’s billion with a ‘B’) on sporting events.
And that’s before the NFL season began and bettors go bonkers on the NFL.
I don’t wager on sports, but for those who do, take the Cleveland Browns tonight and give the 2 1/2 points to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
—BROAD-LY SPEAKING: The Chicago Cubs, under manager Leo Durocher, had a big lead late in the season but they struggled for wins in September and blew the lead.
Durocher was famously married to movie star Laraine Day, but that didn’t stop Leo the Lip from being politically incorrect.
Said Durocher of that team, “I could have dressed nine broads up as ballplayers and they would have beaten the Cubs.”
—NO LONG BUS RIDES: Before the interstate system was completed, it took 5 1/2-hours for a charter bus to cover the mileage between Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
At the time, the New York Yankees trained in Fort Lauderdale and the Washington Senators trained in Orlando.
Said Yankees manager Casey Stengel, every time we had a game in Orlando and had to make a bus trip, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford would come up with headaches, sore throats or stomach aches. Those guys never saw Orlando.”
—PRIME TIME MAYHEM: The Colorado State-Colorado football game Saturday night might have been the most violent college game ever witnessed. There were more elbows thrown and kicks taken than in a pro wrestling match, but these were for real.
Coach Deoin Sanders’ Colorado team was down eight points, as a 25 1/2 point favorite, with four minutes to go. The Buffaloes went 98 yards in four minutes, tied the game, then won in double overtime.
Colorado is 3-and-0 with an awful defense, a defense that couldn’t stop a blind gentelman from crossing the street. And Coach Prime’s team plays Oregon next Saturday, which should set off every air raid alarm in the Great Northwest.
—PRESSURE COOKER: I once asked Reds manager Sparky Anderson, “With this team, do you feel the pressure to win?”
Said Sparky, “Hell, you’re under pressure if you can’t write.”
I don’t think that was a compliment.