OBSERVATIONS: The One Time A Manager Asked Me For Advice

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while reading a couple of baseball books and wearing a Savannah Bananas cap and a t-shirt that says, “I Act Like I’m OK, But Deep Down I Need Baseball.” Yep, I’m ready.

—WHO, ME???: It was the first day of spring training in 1990 and new Cincinnati Reds manager Lou Piniella called me into his small, sparse Plant City Stadium office for a private chat.

SWEET LOU: “Hal, you’ve covered this team for a very long time. What does it need?”

ME: “A leadoff hitter. I’d suggest Barry Larkin.”

SWEET LOU: “Thanks, I’ll think about that.”

On Opening Day, Chris Sabo batted leadoff. Piniella tinkered. He tried Billy Hatcher. He gave cameos to Herm Winningham and Hal Morris at leadoff for a few games.

Finally, in mid-August I saw the lineup card and it had Barry Larkin leading off. And it mostly stayed that way the rest of the season and Larkin batted leadoff in all four games of the Reds’ World Series sweep of the Oakland A’s.

During the post-game celebration, Piniella took a deep sip of his Dom Perignon and said to me, “Hal, you were right. We needed a leadoff hitter and Barry Larkin was it. I should have done it sooner.”

If I had a hat, it wouldn’t fit my swollen head that day. In 50 years of covering the Reds it was the one and only time any manager asked for my advice.

And I’m one-for-one and won’t ever offer advice again. . .unless I’m asked.

—QUOTE from Lou Piniella: “Statistics and analytics are a lot like bikinis. . .they show a lot but not everything.”

—UH, SAY WHAT?: This head-scratcher is from my favorite contributor, Jeff Singleton, and it is sort of like, “Follow the bouncing ball,” or “Follow the yellow brick road.”

Pitcher Madison Bumgarner had more grand slams than slugger Prince Fielder. Fielder had more inside-the-park home runs than speedster Rickey Henderson. Base-stealer Henderson had
fewer steals of home than Babe Ruth. Ruth, as a pitcher, pitched as many shutouts as Pedro Martinez.

Ah, baseball, love it or. . .love it.

—QUOTE: From former manager Dallas Green when he heard Rickey Henderson might write a tell-all book: “Before you write a book, don’t you have to read one?” (Pete Rose once said when his book came out, “I wrote a book before I ever read one.”)

So there, Dallas. It can be done.”

—THE FEW ‘UNWANTED’: There are enough unsigned free agents to make up a couple of extremely strong teams. Put a franchise in Salt Lake City and call it the Utah Unsigned.

Among those still seeking employment are former Reds Mike Lorenzen, Tommy Pham, Adam Duvall and Donovan Solano

—NO RESPECT: For some reason, MLB-TV is treating the Cincinnati Reds like Rodney Dangerfield. No respect.

The baseball network is televising only 10 Reds’ spring training games, the fewest of the 30 teams. The Los Angeles Angels get 32 telecasts, the Chicago Cubs get 29 and the Toronto Blue Jays get 28.

Even the Oakland A’s, at 11, get more than the Reds.

—QUOTE: From comedian Rodney “No Respect” Dangerfield: “Once on my birthday my old man gave me a bat. The first day I played with it, it flew away.” (And you thought the bat was a Louisville Slugger, right?)

—THE REBOUNDING ARTIS(T): For a brief time in the early 1970s, little Jacksonville University made a mark in college basketball, particularly the 1969-70 season when they made it to the NCAA finals. They lost to John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty, 80-69.

In that title game, Jacksonville was whistled for 38 fouls to five for UCLA. They always said Wooden had the officials in both his back and front pockets.

During that season, Jacksonville’s 7-foot-2 Artis Gilmore averaged 22.7 rebounds a game, a still-standing single season record. And the Dolphins also had 7-foot-0 Pembrooke Burrow. Also on that team was 6-foot-5 Mike Blevins from Springboro. Blevins started at the University of Dayton then transferred to Jacksonville.

—QUOTE: From Jacksonville coach Joe Williams on his keys to success: “When people ask me what I owe being a success in life to, I say, ‘Good luck, hard work and Artis Gilmore.'”

—WITH APOLOGIES: Love this and wish MLB would make its instant replay/review decisions announced to the crowd.

The NHL does it. Referee Garrett Rank made a call against the home team St. Lous Blues that wiped out a goal. It went to review and when the decision was rendered, Rank grabbed the microphone and told the crowd, “You’re not going to like this, but the call on the ice stands. No goal.”

Now how can a crowd boo an honest guy like that?

—QUOTE: From former Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on Instant Replay: “Get rid of the use of instant replay. I miss the human element of trusting the officials to make the calls in the moment. I liked when the officials were just as much a part of the game as the players.” (I’m with you, Pete. I like the human element.)


From Joe Garagiola when they brought long loaves of bread to his banquet table: “I see the New York Mets’ bats have arrived.”

From Tug McGraw when asked if he preferred natural grass or artificial turf: “I don’t know. I never smoked AstroTurf.”

From Dave Parker on what he did to get up for games: “I sit in the clubhouse and tell myself, ‘I’m wall-to-wall and treetop tall.’”

From former Reds pinch-hitter Art Shamsky: “I don’t know anything about hitting. I just close my eyes and swing the bat and sometimes it hits the ball.”

From Casey Stengel on his players missing curfew: “My players got bad watches. They can’t tell the difference between midnight and noon.”

From former 6-foot-10 pitcher Eric Hillman on why he didn’t play basketball: “The ball is too big and there is no chance of a rainout.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 23 — Just how many good songs are in our musical universe?

OId Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine (Tom T. Hall), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Garth Brooks), Remember When (Alan Jackson), Open Arms (Journey), Don’t Get Hooked On Me (Mac Davis), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), Everything I Own (Boy George), Blinded By The Light (Manfred Mann), Don’t Give Up On Us (David Soul).

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing (Leo Sayer), Oh Girl (The Chi-Lites), Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress (The Hollies), Take My Breath Away (Berlin), The Final Countdown (Europe), Bye Bye Love (Everly Brothers), An Old-Fashioned Love
Song (Three Dog Night), The River (Bruce Springsteen), Dawn (The Four Seasons).

One thought on “OBSERVATIONS: The One Time A Manager Asked Me For Advice”

  1. The A’s get more ST telecasts than the Reds?! Y – how’s that lookin’ now? I read Rickey’s book. Really liked it.

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