OBSERVATIONS: The Twisting Tale of Pitcher Tim Fortugno

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, brandishing a new back pack that I ordered November 29 and it arrived December 14. Amazon must have shipped it via the Amazon River. Why is it Nadine orders from Amazon at 8 a.m. and the order arrives at noon? I believe it is because Amazon has a personal truck for her. . .the Amadine.

—FORTUNES OF FORTUGNO: After meandering through the minor leagues with several organizations for seven years, pitcher Tim Fortugno was a 30-year-old rookie when he made his major league debut for th California Angels in August of 1992.

In late September, he gave up George Brett’
s 3,000th hit. Then Fortugno picked him off first base.

If the name sounds vaguely familiar to Cincinnati Reds fans, he pitched briefly for the Reds in 1994.

The Angels released him after the ’92 season. And he was released by the Expos from a Venezuelan team and released by the Mariners.

He refused to give up and wrote letters to every major league team. The Reds offered him $5,000 to pitch in Double-A. He took it and said, “I told them I would have paid them $5,000 a month, that’s how desperate I was to get a chance.”

The Reds eventually called him up and he appeared in 25 games in 1994 and was 1-0 with a 4.20 earned run average.

The story is that Fortugno was once traded for a bag of baseballs. It is only partially true. He was pitching for the Reno Silver Sox in the independent Cal League.

The Milwaukee Brewers noticed him and offered the Silver Sox general manager $2,500 for his contract. The GM thought Fortugno was worth more. So the Brewers included 12 dozen new baseballs and the deal was done.

—QUOTE: From clergyman/social reformer Henry Ward Beecher: “It’s easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.”
—ORIGINAL UNICORN: People often ask, “Who is the best player you ever saw?” Without hesitation, I say, “Roberto Clemente, even though I only saw him for one year before he died in the plane crash on which he was carrying cargo for earhquake victims in Nicaragua.”

And I wasn’t alone, for sure.

**Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew: “When they play the All-Star game in heaven, Roberto Clemente will be in right field.”

Legendary/iconic broadcaster Vin Scully: Roberto Clemente could field a ball in New York and throw out a runner in Pennsylvania.”

**Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal: “The big thing about Roberto Clemente is that he can hit any pitch. I don’t mean only strikes. He can hit a ball off his ankles or off his ear.”

**Former commissioner Bowie Kuhn: “He gave the term complete a new meaning. He made the word superstar seem inadequate. He had about him the touch of royalty.”

**Former teammate/pitcher Steve Blass: “He was the one player that players on other teams didn’t want to miss. They’d run out of the clubhouse to watch him take batting practice. He could make a 10-year veteran act like a 10-year-old kid.”

—GREEN AS IN GRUFF: NBA players invade Draymond Green’s space at their own peril. Be prepared to duck.

Just five weeks after serving a five-game suspension for choking an opponent, Green was ejected from a game this week for punching Jusuf Nurkic of the Phoenix Suns. And the league suspended him indefinitely.

It was the third ejection in the last 23 games for the, shall we say cantankerous, Golden State Warriors player. And he has been suspended seven times during his career. Obviously for Green it is rinse and repeat.

And here I thought only hockey had ‘enforcers.’ As somebody once said, “Hockey is figure skating in a war zone.”

—WHOSE BALL IS IT?: Defense in the NBA is like France’s old Maginot Line. It’s there, but it doesn’t work.

Players scoring 40 and 50 points a game is as routine as pulling on a pair of Nike Air Jordans.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 64 points this week against Indiana. He didn’t score a singe three-pointer. That’s the first time somebody scored more than 60 points without a three-pointer since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2000.

I’ll bet Draymont Green could have stopped him. . .right in his tracks.

The kicker to this story is that the Bucks wanted the game ball for their teammate, but Indiana kept it to give to Oscar Tshiebwe, who scored his first NBA points that night.

So an argument ensued after the game outside the dressing rooms and into the post-game interview room. Everybody wanted to take their ball and go home.

My response? How do you pronounce Antetokounmpo and Tshiebwe? For that matter, how do you pronounce the names of these NBA players: Valanciunas, Mahinmi, Motiejkunas, Sefolosha, Bjelica?

Whatever happened to Byrd, Johnson, West, Russell, Jones, Barry, Lucas and Robertson?

—LOSE, LOSE, LOSE: The one year I worked for the Detroit Free Press, I covered some Detroit Pistons games (1966-67). Amazingly, the team had two players who also pitched in MLB.

Dave DeBusschere was the team’s player-coach and also pitched in the majors, two seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Ron Reed was on the team and also pitched in the majors, 18 years with Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Chicago White Sox.

Guard Dave Bing was the team’s star, a Syracuse University product who is the college basketball Hall of Fame. And the Pistons retired his number 21 jersey.

The team was bad. It finished last in the NBA’s West Division that season with a 20-51 record. But not as putrid as this season’s Pistons.

The Pistons (2-22), playing on one cylinder, have lost 21 straight and are closing fast on the NBA record of 26. The Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers share that dubious record.

The Cavs did it during the 2020-11 season. . .and, yes, LeBron James was on that team.

—QUOTE: From comedian Joe E. Lewis: “I’ve been on such a long losing streak that if I had been around I would have taken General Custer and given the points.”

—AL IS OUT: NBC announced that iconic broadcaster Al Michaels will not be part of the network’s NFL playoff telecasts.

The 79-year-old Michaels caught criticism for a perceived lack of enthusiasm while broadcasting last seasosn’s Jacksonville-Los Angeles Chargers wild card game.

Apparently the network prefers the new breed on-air screamers instead of the steady, non-partial, analytic approach.

Have they forgotten, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes.” Well, that was 43 years ago.

—THE NAME GAME: When it comes to athletic nicknames, high schools can be as boring as Uncle Joe’s jokes. How many Lions, Tigers, Panthers, Bullldogs and Eagles can there be? Way too many.

My school, Akron East, was the Orientals when I attended, but somebody complained and now they are Dragons. Bor-ing.

Be creative, like some of my favorites:

^^^Coloden (Ill.) Apple Knockers.
^^^Blooming (Minn.) Awesome Blossoms.
^^^Yuma (Ariz.) Criminals.
^^^Winter (Tex.) Blizzards.
^^^Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers.
^^^West Plains (Mo.) Zizzers.
^^^Teutonopolis (Ill.) Wooden Shoes.
^^^Watermeet (Mich.) Nimrods.
^^^Williamsport (Pa.) Millionaires.
^^^Benson (Neb.) Mighty Bunnies.
^^^Frankfort (Ind.) Hot Dogs.
^^^Yuba City (Cal.) Honkers.
^^^Hoopeston (Ill.) Cornjerkers.

And my all-time favorite: Poca (W.Va.) Poca Dots.

—QUOTE: From comedian Steve Wright: “Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.”

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