OBSERVATIONS: Whatever Happened To Baseball Fundamentals?

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wishing one of my grandkids was here to help me solve the technological mystery of getting hooked into a Podcast, which I failed after 45 minutes of desperation.

—FUN-DA-MEN-TALS: The word fundamentals has two words tucked inside it that apply to baseball: ‘fun’ and ‘mental.’

If teams perform fundamentals, it is ‘fun’ and they win games. If they don’t perform fundamentals, they make ‘mental’ mistakes and lose.

And that leads us to the plight of the Cincinnati Reds in recent times. Discard the ‘fun.’ It has been all mental. It’s why they lost four of six recent home games to the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Pirates. And it is why they’ve lost eight of their last 11.

To wit:

^^^They had three runners on third base thrown out at home trying to score on balls hit to the infield. One was hit only eight feet and the catcher made an unassisted putout at home. Another was on a ball hit to the pitch.

^^^They had two runners picked off base.

^^^With a Boston runner on third, a shallow foul ball was hit to left fielder Stuart Fairchild and the runner boldly tagged and scored because Fairchild’s weak rainbow throw was way off target.

^^^Portly Pittsburgh first baseman Rowdy Tellez had stolen three bases in his seven-year career. Not only did he steal second when Reds pitcher Hunter Greene ignored him, he stole it standing up. That enabled him to score when Nick Gonzales singled.

^^^Pittsburgh’s Oneil Cruz scored from second base on a shallow single to right when Jake Fraley lazily lobbed the ball to second base.

^^^This one isn’t a mental mistake on a player’s part, but mental weakness on the part of manager David Bell for writing Will Benson’s name on the lineup card. Right now, Benson couldn’t get a hit if they handed him a fungo bat and let him hold the baseball and hit it. He is 1 for 31 with 17 strikeouts.

A few years ago, when the Reds made mental mistakes, the writers all would sing loudly in unison, “Fun-da-men-tals.” If we did it now, we would leave the press box hoarse.

—DON’T TOUCH HIM: Some players don’t even know the rules, one of which is that a teammate cannot touch a base runner. Nevertheless, the Oakland A’s suffered a touchy-feelly out.

Armando Alvarez was on second and Kyle McCann was on first when Max Schuemann clubbed a long double. Alvarez easily scored and so did McCann. . .except he stumbled near home plate and missed touching home.

Alvarez saw it and pushed McCann back to the plate so he could touch it. Nope. No can do. Umpire John Bacon rightfully called him out.


—I’LL GO SECOND: On the Saturday before my Sunday Hall of Fame induction, ESPN held a production meeting and said, “Bob Uecker will go first and, Hal, you will go second.”

I said, “No, no, no. If I have to follow Uecker, I’ll just stand up and say, ‘I agree with everything he just said.” I knew Uecker, Mr. Baseball, would have the fans convulsing in their chairs with his humor.

The let me go first and I was right. Uecker put on a 20-minute stand-up comedian act. One of my favorite lines he uttered was about his ineptitude as a hitter when he said, “Once my manager, Gene Mauch, told me, ‘Grab a bat and get up there and stop this rally.’”

—WHO’S WHO OF 24: Some great players wore uniform number 24 — Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Perez, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Lou Brock, Jimmy Wynn. . .and, of course, Willie Mays.

While Mays wore 24 for 22 years, when he was first called up he was issued No. 14. Teammate Jack Maguire wore 24, but he was traded to Pittsburgh and Mays changed to 24.

Maguire was born in St. Louis and grew up with Yogi Berra on The Hill and was the one who gave Berra his Yogi nickname.

Score two for Jack Maguire.

Speaking of Mays, when he was a first-ballot Hall of
Famer in 1979, he received 409 votes. There were 432 votes cast, meaning 24 (24? What a coincidence) writers who didn’t vote for him. They needed to be force-fed their baseball writers cards down their throats, sprinkled with cayenne pepper.

On that same ballot, Bill Mazeroski received only 36 votes, 8%. And yet a Veterans Committee later voted him into the Hall of Fame.

—A BACK STORY: A little-know fact is that Jackie Robinson was not Branch Rickey’s first choice to be baseball’s first black player.

It was Monte Irvin. Irvin had just returned from serving three years in World War II with a group of black soldiers when Rickey invited Irvin to his Brooklyn Dodgers office. He actually signed Irvin to a contract but Irvin told him, “I had a tough time in the service with the way I and my black brothers were treated by white officers, so I’m not ready.”

Rickey told Irvin to let him knows when he was ready, then signed Robinson and sent him to Montreal to play. In the meantime, Irvin played for the Newark Eagles in the Negro League.

When he said he was ready, Eagles owner Effa Manley wanted $5,000 from Rickey for Irvin. Rickey said no and tore up Irvin’s contract.

Irvin, along with Hank Thompson, signed with the New York Giants in July, 1948, the first blacks to play for the Giants.

—NOT JUST A ‘GRANNY’ —What do they call it when the Padres Jurickson Profar hits a grand slam home run. . .or any other Padre does it? It’s a Slam Diego, of course.

—PLAYLIST NUMBER 67: I keep finding ‘em and listening to ‘em:

Angel In the Morning (Juice Newton), Sloop John B (Beach Boys), Sunday Morning Coming Down (Johnny Cash), Remenber When (Alan Jackson), Total Eclipse Of The Heart (Bonnie Tyler), The Power Of Love (Huey Lewis & The News).

Suspicious Minds (Elvis Presley), Liberty Valance (Gene Pitney), Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac), Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix), Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen), Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry), My Girl (Temptations), I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston).

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