OBSERVATIONS: Stan The Man The ‘Harmonica Man’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after attending the beautiful wedding of my gorgeous niece, Lauren.

—STAN THE HARMONICA MAN: It was July 28, 2003, 2 o’clock in the morning in the bar of the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, NY.

The Otesaga Hotel is on the shores of Lake Otsego, a body of water called Glimmerglass by James Fenimore Cooper in his 1841 novel, ‘The Deerslayer.’

But I digress.

It was Hall of Fame weekend and there was 84-year-old Stan Musial in his stocking feet playing the harmonica. It was a yearly ritual for Musial to play his harmonica and he played it bent like a corkscrew, his batting stance when he put together a .331 career batting average that won him three National League Most Valuable Player awards.

During a break after he played ‘The Wabash Cannonball’ he sat at a table with some of us with a revelation that astounded me.

“I signed as a pitcher and pitched three years in the minors,” said Musial. His third year at Class D Daytona Beach he was 18-5 with a 2.62 earned run average.

His manager was former MLB pitcher Dickey Kerr, who pitched in the fixed 1919 World Series for the Chicago Black Sox against the Cincinnati Reds.

“Because I could hit, Dickey Kerr stuck me in the outfield between starts,” said Musial. “I came up with a sore arm and couldn’t pitch, so he kept me in the outfield.”

And that’s where Stan ‘The Man’ Musial remained, “And I was so grateful to Dickey Kerr after I made the St. Louis Cardinals that I bought him a house.”

It was close to 3 a.m. now, but the tireless Musial pushed from the table and slid to the dance floor on his stockinged feet for a harmonica renditions of ‘Night Train to Memphis.’

—HITS, HITS, MORE HITS: The Minnesota Twins scored 17 runs on 24 hits last week and, no, it wasn’t against the Chicago Les Miserables White Sox. It was, though, against a team almost as bad, the Colorado Rock Us Rockies.

Minnesota’s Carlos Correa had five straight hits when he came to bat the last time and flubbed his chance to go 6-for-6 when he grounded out.

The Cincinnati Reds were involved in the game that produced the most hits in a game by one team. . .and they weren’t on the good side.

On June 9, 1901 in Cincinnati, the New York Giants bashed 31 hits in a 25-13 win. The Milwaukee Brewers tied it in 1992 with 31 hits during a 22-2 win over Toronto.

Extra innings? The Cleveland Indians (not the Guardians) amassed 33 hits against the Philadelphia Athletics, but it took 18 innings. And the A’s won, 18-17.

—NEW ROYALTY: While the Cleveland Guardians, the youngest team in MLB, are surprising the baseball world, perhaps the bigger shock might be the Kansas Royals.

The Royals are on a rapid pace to make the biggest one-year turnround in baseball history. The biggest turnaround goes way, way back. The 1902 New York Giants were 48-88. In 1903 they were 84-55, a 36-game turnaround.

A season ago, the Royals were a woeful 56-106. As of Friday this season they were 40-30, on pace to finish with a 36-win turnabout.

—A DOUBLE: Last Wednesday, Texas pitcher David Robertson struck out, in order, LA’s Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman, something no other pitcher had done this season.

A fluke? Just to prove it wasn’t, Robertson did it again the next night — down went Bettes, down went Ohtani and down went Freeman. Fortunately for that tried and true trio, the series ended before Robertson could make it three straight times.

—TOTAL DOMINATION: Everybody knows how good The Big Red Machine was, as if proof is needed.

But consider this, between 1970 and 1977 the Cincinnati Reds won six National League MVP trophies — by four different players.

It was Johnny Bench in 1970 and 1972, Pete Rose in 1973, Joe Morgan in 1975 and 1976 and George Foster in 1977.

So how many in the next 46 years? Just two — Barry Larkin in 1995 and Joey Votto in 2010.

—JASON’S LEGACY: Only 68 pitchers have thrown shutouts in their major league starting debuts and one was Colorado’s Jason Jennings.

But Jennings did something else in his debut no other pitcher has done. He also hit a home run in his 2001 debut — back before the DH invaded the National Leauge.

And he did one more rare thing. Greg Maddux gave up 353 home runs during his career, but only one to a pitcher. Jason Jennings.

And those were the only home runs Jennings ever hit.

—QUICK, QUIET QUOTES: They always talk and sometimes they make sense:

From former Pittsburgh icon Willie Stargell, talking about the infernal knuckleball: “Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor’s mailbox.” (He forgot that ball bounces in the street and takes a right turn around a light pole.)

From former pitcher/author JIm Bouton: “Statistics are about as interesting as first base coaches.” (And today he would include analytis.)

From noted pitcher/playboy Bo Belinsky: “If I did everything they said I did I’d be in a jar at the Harvard Medical School.” (But it was true that Bo was engaged off-and-on to movie star Mamie Van Doren and never married her.)

From former Cleveland outfielder Ron Kittle: “We led the league in card games and crossword puzzles, so what happened to all the guys who drank all night, threw up all day and went out and won ball games?” (Some still do, Ron, but they don’t win ball games.)

From legendary writer Ring Lardner: “Nothing is more depressing than an old baseball writer.” (Thanks, Ring, I resemble that.)

—PLAYLIST NUMBER 62: So far, it seems we’ve used every song but The Star-Spangled Banner, but no. . .

Amanda (Boston), She’s About A Mover (Sir Douglas Quintet), Hero (Enrinque Iglesias), To All The Girls I Loved Before (Julio Iglesias), How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (BeeGees), If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot).

Kentucky Rain (Elvis Presley), Southern Cross (Crosby, Stills & Nash), Easy (Commodores), Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac), The Flame (Cheap Trick), Can’t Stop Loviing You (Phil Collins), Tired Of Toein’ The Line (Rocky Burnett), When I Need You (Leo Sayer).

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