By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave with some off-the-cuff non-newsy stuff on a snowbound Friday afternoon.
—‘JASON’ JACKSON: When Danny Jackson pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, a 23-game winner in 1988 and a runner-up to Orel Hershiser for the Cy Young, his temper was legendary.
There was a game when left fielder Kal
Danies misplayed a fly ball. After the game, writers saw that Jackson had turned his wooden dresing stall into matchsticks and splinters with a baseball bat.
A writer, not me, asked Jackson, “Do you think the missed fly ball cost you the game?”
Jackson stared at the scribe with fire lighting up his eyes and said, “Well, first of all, I’d like to unscrew your head and sh – – down your neck.”
When Jackson pitched for the Chicago Cubs, first baseman Mark Grace said, “Every fifth day Danny would destroy a TV or a telephone. That’s why we called him Jason.”
Jason? Jason Voorhees was the slasher in the string of Friday the 13th horror movies. While Jackson should have worn jersey number 13, he wore eight different numbers (15, 20, 25, 27, 29, 32, 34, 45), but never 13.
—WHICH BO IS WHICH?: In baseball, when it come to Bo it is all about Bo Jackson, Bo Belinsky and now Bo Bichette. Bo Schembechler? Naw.
In the late 1960s, I covered Miami University football when the legendary Bo Schembechler was coach and forged a good friendship.
After he moved to Michigan, I visited him for a story in 1972 and told him, “Next year I’m going to become a baseball beat writer, covering the Cincinnati Reds.”
Bo gave me a quizzical glance and said, “Baseball? Baseball? That’ a sissy sport.”
Fast forward to 1990. I went to Detroit to do a story on former Reds manager Sparky Anderson, then managing the Detroit Tigers.
And guess who was the Tigers’ club president? Yep. Bo Schembechler.
“I thought you said baseball is a sissy sport,” I said to Bo.
“Hey, I ain’t playing it or coaching it. I’m just running it,” said Bo.
Speaking of Sparky Anderson, while he was a successful manager, his playing career was a mere cameo, just 152 games at second base for the 1959 Philadelphia Phillies. He hit .218 with no homers.
Not knowing the answer, I once asked Sparky, “How many home runs did you hit with the Phillies?”
Said Sparky, “Home runs? I never even hit the wall.”
—A PITCH FOR FIRST PITCH: All baseball fans need to contact Wright State University and purchase tickets to the annual First Pitch baseball dinner. It’s Saturday, February 3 at the Nutter Center.
Why? It’s a good cause…for the highly successful WSU baseball program under coach Alex Sogard.
Another why? The keynote speaker is long-time MLB coach Rich Donnelly, mostly with Jim Leyland when he managed Pittsburgh, the Florida Marlins and Colorado.
Donnelly is an outstanding speaker and a tremendously funny guy. He also managed in the minors and once said, “I managed a team that was so bad we considered a 2-and-0 count on the batter as a rally.”
—DEAD ON DEADLINE: As we all know, newspapers are mostly on life support these days, disappearing faster than shrimp cocktails at an office Christmas parties.
Afternoon papers began disappearing at the turn of the century and I was privy to one on a personal note.
It was December 8, 1991, and I was attending the winter baseball meetings at the Fountainbleu Hotel on Miami Beach, where it was tough to leave the sand and the water to interview managers and general managers.
I was seated next to Dallas Times-Herald sportwriter Kevin Sherrington in the media press room. He was writing a story when his phone rang. He answered, hung up, but didn’t continue writing. He put his head down and I thought I saw tears.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“My paper just folded,” he said.
Interviewing manager Lou Piniella and general manager Bob Quinn didn’t mean much that day. Fortunately, Sherrington hooked on with the rival Dallas Morning News.
—ONE MAN’S QUOTES: One of the funniest baseball guys I ever encountered, Bob Uecker and Yogi Berra not withstanding, was former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andy Van Slyke.
In the off-season Van Slyke worked at his father’s funeral home in New England. At the start of one season I struck up a conversation with Van Slyke behind the batting cage and asked how his off-seaon went.
“Well, it was so cold this winter and the ground was so hard that we had to bury some folks so shallow that they might scratch their way out.”
Other Van Dyke-isms:
—On leaving a lot of runners on base in a game: “I couldn’t have driven home Miss Daisy today.”
—On being in a slump: “I have an Alka-Seltzer bat. . .plop, plop, fizz, fizz. . .and when pitchers sees me coming to the plate they think, ‘Oh what a relief it is.’”
—On observing stains on the Veterans Stadium AstroTurf in Philadelphiia: “There is so much tobacco juice on that rug that you can get cancer just standing on it. It’s like a toxic waste dump.”
—After gettiing robbed of hits by Otis Nixon and Claudell Washington: “Get the U.S. presidents out of the game. If I come up and Joe Carter is out there, I’ll just give up.”
—On being asked if he would ever play baseball in Japan: “I would for the right amount of sushi.”
—On how to hit a knuckleball pitcher: “It isn’t something you can practice. It’s like practicing javevlin-catching.”
—On his doddering Pirates trying to catch the first-place Philadelphia Phillies: “You can’t ask Mr. Ed to keep up with Secretariat.”
—On the difference between playing at home and on the road: “On the road, if you go downstaris for coffee in your underwear, they throw you out of the kitchen.”
—On hearing advice from fans on how to get out of a slump: “Most of them giving me advice would have trouble filling out application forms to work at 7-Eleven.”
—PLAYLIST NO. 10 (Some of my mid-level picks:
Another Day in Paradise (Phil Collins), Center Field (Credence Clearwater Revival), Hurts So Good (John Cougar), Are You Lonesome Tonight (Elvis Presley), Just Want To Be Your Everything (Andy Gibb), How Do I Live (LeAnn Rimes).
Centerfold (J. Geils Band), Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes), You’re So Vain (Carly Simon), Say You, Say Me (Lionel Ritchie), Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot), Right Here Waiting (Richard Marx), Air That I Breathe (The Hollies).