OBSERVATIONS: Jesse Winker Resurrecting Career with Nats

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, still yawning after The Late Show Monday night featuring Frankie Montas and The Walking Dead. Four walks in one inning? That’s hard to do, except the Reds’ Montas showed how easy it can be.

—NOD, NOD, WINK, WINK: Jesse Winker is drinking from the Foutain of Youth, but who knew the fountain was in Washington D.C. And good for him because he was one of my favorites on the 2021/2022 Cincinnati Reds teams.

The Reds traded him to Seattle after the 2022 season and then he landed in Milwaukee before signing with the Washington Nationals before this season.

After leaving Cincinnati, he was a Lost Soul. But so far he has found success in Washington. As of Sunday, he was leading the National League with a .490 on base average while batting .350. His 1.015 OPS is 10th in the league.

And while most players won’t miss the concrete mausoleum in which the Oakland A’s play, the place the A’s are evacuating and fleeing to Las Vegas, Winker at first hated it, but now loves it.

“The first time I came here was in 2019 with the Reds and we got no-hit by Mike Fiers. When I left, I thought, ‘Man, I hate Oakland.’ And then when I came back with Seattle, I had a whole different perspective on it. I started really looking at this place and imagining it at full capacity in the playoffs.

“ Then I look up, and you have Rickey Henderson’s jersey up there, you have my all-time favorite lefty swing, Reggie Jackson. I could only imagine him hitting a home run to the third deck…and it kind of gives you goosebumps. It’s inspiring.”

Now there is a player who loves and respects baseball.

And speaking of the A’s moving to Las Vegas. they began as the Philadelphia A’s, then were the Kansas City A’s, then the Oakland A’s, soon to be the Las Vegas A’s. How soon before they become the Auckland A’s.

—PITCH RICH: Only a team with more money than Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos combined could survive what the Los Angeles Dodgere are going through.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you have to respect them because they have an entire pitching rotation and bullpen pieces on the injured list that could win the World Series.

On the injured list are starters Clayton Kershaaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gonzolin and Emmit Sheehan, plus relief pitchers Blake Treinen and Brusdar Gaterol.

Now check the standings. Geesh.

—WRONG GIBSON: If I were Kyle Gibson, I’d change my last name. Kyle pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals and one can bet a case of Budweiser that every time he pitches the fans think abouut Bob Gibson.

How can any pitcher live up to those expectations? When it comes to Gibson, St. Louis fans give a Hoot.

—THE LONGEST 10 MINUTES: It was a Day of Infamy for poor Detroit Tigers infielder Zach McKinstry. And while it is entertaining to see a position player pitch, it sometimes makes the game a farce.

McKinstry was playing third base against the Minnesota Twins in the 12th inning, bases loaded. After an 0-and-2 count, Minnesota’s DH, Ryan Jeffers, fouled off six pitches and worked the count to 3-and-2.

Then he hit a ground ball that went through McKinstry’s legs like a croquet wicket, a three-run error.

So what does Detroit manager A.J. Hinch do? He was out of pitchers. Closer Jason Foley had thrown 36 pitches and the score was 8-4.

Time for a position player to pitch. So who did he bring in? McKinstry, right after his three-run error. McKinstry walked the first hitter then gave up a three-run home run to Matt Wallner.

That’s six runs McKinstry helped the Twins score and nobody could have blamed him for hiding in a linen closet after the game.

Instead he faced the media with a smile and said, “Just a long day.” But there were about 10 minutes he’d like to forget. . .but never will.

—BO KNEW BOTH: Bo Jackson said he always wanted to be a pilot. He never sat in a cockpit, but he didn’t need an airplane. He flew low on a baseball field and a football field.

In 1989, Jackson hit 32 home runs, drove in 105 and stole 26 bases for the Kansas City Royals, then traded his batting helmet for a football helmet that same year and averaged 5.5 yards per carry for the Oakland Raiders that included a 92-yard touchdown run.

How did every NBA team miss putting him in short shorts?

—QUOTE: From Bo Jackson: “If my mother put on a helmet and shoulder pads and wore a uniform a different color than mine, I’d run over her if she was in my way. And I love my mother.” (OK BO, how about if she wore catcher’s gear and was blocking home plate?)

—DOUBLE DRIVE TIME: One would think Kyle Larson would be greener than the felt on a pool table when it comes to Indy cars and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One would be wrong. Larson is three-time champion of NASCAR’s Cup Series. . .in stock cars. He had never driven an Indy car and never drove Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

So what? He hopped into a McLaren Indy race car last week for practice and blistered the bricks at 226.384 miles an hour, the second fastest of 34 drivers on the first day of practice. The only faster guy was three-time IndyCar Series champion Joseph Newgarden, last year’s Indy 500 winner.

And here is what Larson plans to do: Run the Indy 500, hop in a private plane and on the same day and race in NASCAR’s Charlotte Coca-Cola 600 stock car race.

He’ll be only the fifth driver to make the attempt. None of the previous four won either race and only Tony Stewart (2001) completed the 1,100 milles.

Question: How do those guys ever driver a personal car a city street and keep it under 35 mile an hour?

—Wright Is Right: From my favorite deadpan comedian, Steven Wright: “I was hitch-hiking one day and a hearse stopped. I told him, ‘No thanks, I’m not going that far.’”

PLAYLIST NO. 42: Now I’m digging deep, as deep as the Los Angeles Dodger’ pockets:

Didn’t We Almost Have It All (Whitney Houston),, Lucille (Kenny Rogers), I Started A Joke (BeeGees), Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes), Jessie’s Girl (Rick Springfield), Kiss On My Lipes (Hall & Oates), The One That You Love (Air Supply), Bennie & The Jets (Elton John), Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love (Barry White).

Don’t Close Your Eyes (Keith Hartley), After All (Cher & Peter Cetera), Just What I Needed (The Cars), Baby Come Back (Player), Anticipation (Carly Simon), I Get Around (Beach Boys), Waiting For A Girl Like You (Foreigner),Can’t You See (Marshall Tucker Band), Truly, Madly, Deeply (Savage Garden).

ASK HAL: Petitions Won’t Get Pete Rose Into The Hall Of Fame

By Hal McCoy

Q: Who is responsible for selecting the music in the clubhouse and determining the volume? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centervile/Beavercreek.
A: In Cincinnati, the day’s starting pitcher selected the music, so it could be country, could be rap, could be rock n’ roll, could be salsa and it could be loud (and it usually was). On Sunday mornings before the starting pitcher arrived, Chris Sabo turned on ‘Hail To The Victors,’ the University of Michigan fight song at high volume. However, he did not march around the room, high-stepping like a drum major, as some of his teammates suggested.

Q: What is the most pitches a batter ever saw during an MLB at-bat? — JEFF, Union.
A: I’m sure this question was inspired by Luke Maile’s 13-pitch at bat last week during which he fouled eight pitches before striking out. The data only goes back 1988 and the winner is San Francisco’s Brandon Belt. In a 2018 game against Jaime Barria of the Los Angeles Angels, Belt saw 21 pitches. He fouled 16, then flied to right. And they immediately delivered smelling salts to Barria.

Q: There are on-line petitions for Pete Rose to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but what can be done to get him into the Hall of Fame? — SUZANNE, Westerville.
A: Petitions are wasted paper and/or wasted key strokes. Before he can even be considered for the Hall of Fame, MLB has to re-instate him from the suspended/banished list. And even if that happens, there is no guarantee he would go to the Hall of Fame. He doesn’t just pass ‘Go.’ He still would have to be voted in and that would be iffy. My gut feeling is, like Shoeless Joe Jackson, Rose won’t ever be re-instated. There are other factors that would hold him back that don’t involve betting on baseball.

Q: If you could interview any player from the Reds past, who would you choose and why? — SHAUN, Englewood.
A: I’ve interviewed every member of The Big Red Machine many times, maybe too many, and I’ve interviewed every member of the 1990 Wire-To-Wire Reds. So I’ll go back to 1919 and interview that entire team to ask if they knew or had any indication that the Chicago Black Sox were losing to the Reds on purpose. And I’d love to travel back to 1869 and interview Harry Wright, the founder of the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional team. I couldn’t drive to the Union Grounds, though. The Automobile was not yet invented.

Q: If you were making out the lineup card for the next Reds game, what would it be? — BEN, Red Bay, AL.
A: When Russ Nixon managed the Reds and they were bad, bad, bad in 1982 (101 losses), he offered to let me fill out his lineup card. I declined because I didn’t want to lose and knew I would. Can I use Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and George Foster? No, huh? You want this year’s roster? OK. Here it is, without injured players: 2B Jonathan India, CF Elly De La Cruz, 3B Spencer Steer, 1B Christian Encarnacion-Strand, LF Willl Benson, RF Jake Fraley, C Luke Maile, SS Bo Bichette (the Reds made a trade with Toronto), DH Tyler Stephenson.

Q: During the Reds-Phillies series, TV showed a device attached to the catcher’s shin guard, so what is it? — STEVE, Naples, FL.
A: That is another version of PitchCom, an electric device for the catcher to send signals to the pitcher. Most catchers have the device in their helmets, but some teams are now using them on the shin guard. The catcher can just reach down and push a couple of the nine buttons to signal the type of pitch and its location to the pitcher, who has a listening device in the lining of his cap. And the catcher hopes the pitcher is not listening to Beethoven or the Beatles on his device.

Q: Do the young quick-starting Pittsburgh Pirates give you pause in your National League Central predictions? — BARRY, Chapel Hill, N.C.
A: This early in the season? Not at all. The Pirates were in first place last June and, let’s see, where did they finish? Oh, yeah. Dead last. Like the Reds and Brewers, the Pirates are young and exciting. It is doubtful they’ll keep it up for 162 games. If they win the NL Central I’ll wear a pirate’s three-cornered hat all winter and great everybody with, “Hey, Matey.”

Q: What is the true story as to why Trevor Bauer is not pitching this year in MLB? — MATT, Fairfield.
A: That’s something we’ll probably never know. It appears he is being blackballed, but no team will admit that they all agreed not to sign him because that’s collusion. Why do I think it? With so many teams losing pitchers to injuries, they could use a successful veteran starter. And Bauer said he would sign for the major league minimum ($780,000). In addition, while wearing a Diablos Rojos de Mexico uniform and appearing on the back fields against minor league hitters during spring training, he did well. But it was reported that no scouts left their stadium seaats to walk to the back fields to watch. So what does that all say? It says blackballed.

Q: Which position player and pitcher on the Reds has to step up for them to make the playoffs? — JAMES, Campbellsville, Ky.
A: It’s a team game and they all need to not only step forward, but take two steps forward. Cincinnati’s success comes when it gets on a roll and a different player plays the hero every day. What they can’t afford is to have a couple of the young players have a really bad season and a couple of the young pitchers forget how to throw strikes and how to get hitters out. As they always say about successful teams, “It’s a total team effort.”

OBSERVATIONS: A Rose Is A Rose, For Pete’s Sake

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wandering aimlessly because we are having some work done inside the house and the contractor has taken over The Man Cave with his equipment and tools. Fortunately, he is a Reds fan.

—HIT KING FOREVER: If you haven’t read it by now, you are taking a big swing-and-miss. ‘Charlie Hustle,’ Keith O’Brien’s just-released book is a must read for all baseball fans.

Nearly everybody who has read it tells me, “I can’t put it down.” My great friend, Jeff Gordon (no, not the race driver, although my friend, Jeff, can drive with the best of them) read it in three days and the book is more than 400 pages of illuminating and fascinating prose and facts.

And spearking of Pete. . .

During the 1977 season, Pete Rose collected 204 hits, the ninth time The Hit King collected 200 or more hits.

That was 27 years ago, more than a quarter of a century. So how many times since then has a Cincinnati batter collected 200 hits? That would be zip, zero, nada.

Rose has 4,256 hits. Will anybody catch him? That’s like a car lot full of Volkswagen schasing an Aston Martin Valkyrie.

Think about it. To catch Rose, a player would have to get 200 hits for 20 straight years and that’s only 4,000 hits, 256 short. Ain’t gonna happen.

—QUOTE from Pete Rose: “If you have someone equal in ability to me I will beat him every time because I will try harder.” (Yep, Pete was the Avis of baseball.)

—BE ON ALERT: There are s0me who believe all the Reds have to do this weekend it toss their bats into the box and the 2-10 Chicago White Sox will yell, “No mas.” But, beware. . .even after Friday’s 11-1 assassination.

Ask Houston how it did against Kansas City (three-game KC sweep). Ask World Series champion Texas how it did against awful Oakland (two out of three wins by Oakland).

As I often tell Nadine, “In baseball, the team with the worst record can beat a team with the best record on any given day, or days.”

—RUN RONALD, RUN: There is no question that Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. is a fantastic player, especially at scoring runs. That’s a credit to him for getting on base and for his teammates for driving him in.

Acuna is fourth on the all-time list for the average runs he scores per game — 0.81. Amazingly the three ahead of Acuna all played for the 1927 New York Yankees — Babe Ruth (0.93), Lou Gehrig (0.83), Earle Combes (0.82).

And the fifth best all-time is another Yankee, Joe DiMaggio (0.80).

—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench: “Slumps are like a soft bed, easy to get into and hard to get out of.”

—THE ‘TONY’ AWARD: Tony Kemp began spring training with the Cincinnati Reds, one of the long line of infielders, a line longer than one at a frozen custard window on a hot July day.

Kemp hit .333 (7 for 21) with a homer, a triple and a double. And he was shooed out the back door. Sorry, no room.

The Baltimore Orioles picked him up and he was with the O’s for two weeks. . .until they decideded to call up MLB’s No. 1 overall prospect, Jackson Holliday.

So the Orioles designated Kemp for assignment, shooed out the back door once again. But wait. He waited until Holliaday arrived and welcomed him and wished him well.

Then he posted on s9cial media a message to Hollliday that said, “Go get ‘em, kid.”

That’s not first class, that’s a higher class of its own.

—MEAN, MEAN MEN: What do these names mean to the Cincinnati Reds and their fans: Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday (Jackson’s daddy), Ian Happ, Christian Yelich?

Those were/are baseball terrorists, using bats as lethal weapons, when they played/play against the Reds. Fortunately for the Reds, Piazza, Pujols and Holliday are retired, but Happ and Yelich are still wreaking havoc on the Reds.

—QUOTE: Hall of Famer Mike Piazza: “A pitcher never gets me out, I get myself out. That’s no disrespect to the pitcher, but there should be no excuse for failure. You can’t have an excuse.” (Piazza wouldn’t have had to make many excuses against Reds pitchers.)

—A MYSTRY MAN: Because he pitches for the vagabond Oakland/Sacramento/Las Vegas A’s and he works on the west coast, the casual baseball fan never heard of Mason Miller. And they don’t know him in Oakland because nobody goes to their games.

Miller is a pitcher who throws fastballs at the speed of sound, 104 and 103 miles an hour.

He came into a game this week in the ninth inning of a game the A’s led the World Series champion Texas Rangers, 1-0. He struck out the first two with fastballs between 101 and 104. Wyatt Langford worked him for eight pitches and fouled off two 1-and-2 104 miles an hour fastballs, then popped out to end the game on a 90 miles an hour slider.

He threw 16 pitches, 13 for strikes.

In five appearances, Miller has thrown 47 pitches more than 100 miles an hour. Next best is Michael Kopech with 24 and third is Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene with 17. But Miller has thrown only 126 pitches, Kopech 135 and Greeene 304.

Yes, the 25-year-old righthanded Miller can bring it, sling it, wing it and zing it.

—QUOTE: From former drop low side-armed junkball closer Dan Quisenberry: “Most pitchers fear losing their fastball and since I don’t have one the only thing I have to fear is fear itself.”

—BETTER THAN A CLARK BAR?: Caitlin Clark mesmerized me like no other basketball player, male or female. But I can empathize with the way some African-Americans feel.

The predominantly black University of South Carolina women’s team is coached by a black woman and is 109-3 over the past three seasons and just finished 38-0 to win the NCAA championship.

And they totally whipped and dominated Iowa and Clark in the finals.

“But the media paid all its attention on a white girl that played on the losing team?” a black friend asked me. “Why is that?”

The answer is easy. Caitlin Clark has put women’s basketball on the world-wide map and she is the main reason 18.9 million watched on TV, 4.1 million more than watched UConn beat Purdue in the NCAA men’s final.

What does that tell you? Again, I emphathize with those who believe South Carolina was short-changed — and the Gamecocks are three levels above awesome — but Caitlin Clark is not only the North Star of college basketball, she is the Constellation.

—KEEP CHUCKIN’ IT: Miami (Ohio) has signed football coach Chuck Martin to a five-year $4.25 million contract extension. Good for Chuck, well-deserved but surprising.

Miami is called the Cradle of Coaches because it is a launching pad for football coaches to go on to bigger and better things. The list of Miami coaches who have moved to great heights include: Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman, Bo Schembechler, John Harbaugh, Dick Crum, Ara Parseghian, Bill Mallory, Johnny Pont and Sean McVay.

It is surprising that Martin hasn’t been lured away. He was 11-3 last year, Mid-American Conference champions and since 2016 in 42-17 in MAC games.

Martin has blown the coaching whistle at Miami for 10 season and before the contract extension he had coached the Redhawks for 10 seasons, longer than any coach in Miami history.

—GREEN, GREEN: Some little known facts abou the Masters and Augusta National. Can fans have cell phone while on the course? No. Is that really sand in the traps? No, it is granulated-quartz in th 44 blinding white traps.

Can you buy tickets at the gate? No, you have to enter a lottery and pray to Bobb Jones that your name is drawn. Do they put dye in the water on the course? Yes, to make the water more reflective for TV.

Did I break 100 the two times I played 
Augusta National? Uh…no.

—PLAYLIST NO. 42: Just when I believe the ol’ iPod has played ‘em all, I hear more:.

One More Night (Phil Collins), Free Falling (Tom Petty), Nothing Compares 2U (Sinead O’Connor), Aubrey (Bread), Take A Chance On Me (Abba), California Dreamin’ (Mamas & The Papas), Wouldn’t It Be Nice (Beach Boys), Hello, Dolly (Louis Armstrong), Let Your Love Flow (Bellamy Brothers).

OBSERVATIONS: Dayton Dragons Get Off To ‘Hairy’ Start

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wondering when we’ll see MLB games without the fans dressed as if they are on vacation in Antarctica.

‘Give me head with hair, long beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.
Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer.’

Rhett Lowder looks as if he was part of the Broadway Show, ‘Hair,’ with his hair shoulder-length and waxen.

If it was back in the 1970s when Bob Howsam and Dick Wagner were Cincinnati Reds dictators Lowder’s best friend would be a barber.

Howsam and Wagner prohibited hair below the ears, prohibited sideburns, prohibited beards, even tiny, scraggly fuzzy ones. They might have prohibited breathing too much oxygen.

This, though, is 2024 and as long as you can pitch, the Reds say you can grow hair to the laces on your spikes. Besides, Lowder’s long hair might help keep him warm tonight.

Lowder, the Reds’ No. 1 draft pick out of Wake Forest last June, makes his professional debut for the Class A Dayton Dragons tonight in Day Air Ballpark.

Lowder hasn’t lost a game in two years after going 15-0 with a 1.87 ERA last year at Wake Forest. In 120 innings he walked only 24 and struck out 143.

“We’re going to find out,” said Lower when asked not about pitcing with long locks but pitching in frost-bite weather. “We should be good. Every year in college we start early and it’s pretty cold in North Carolina in the beginning.”

While he is beginning his career in ‘A,’ ball, Lowder was afforded the opportunity to mingle with the Real Reds in spring training, with a seat and a locker in the clubhouse.

And he picked a good companion. He hung out with Frankie Montas, who has started his season with the Reds at 2-0.

“I spent most of my time around the new guy,
Frankie Montas, because we went on the
Reds Caravan together,” said Lowder. “I got to spend a lot of time with him and picked his brain. He was a very good dude to talk to.

“It was a lot of fun (in spring training) and I learned a lot,” he said. “It was good to get thrown out there to face some big leaguers. It gave me a lot of confidence and showed me what I need to work on.”

The Reds drafted Lowder last June and sent him to Dayton, but because he had thrown 120 innings at Wake Forest they shut him down. No pitching. Just weight work.

“I had mixed emotions because I wanted to be out there,” he said. “But I was coming off a long year. It was probably best for me and we’ll pick it up from here. I definitely wish I’d been out there.”

He goes out there tonight to show that action speaks louder, or Lowder, than words.

—STEAL AWAY, JAY: Jay Allen II played only 28 games last season for the Dayton Dragons and stole 10 bases. Five came in one game.

Five thefts in one game is something not even Billy Hamilton did when he stole 103 in one season for the Dragons. He never even stole four in a game.

And who is Jay Allen II. He came as a compensation draft to the Cincinnati Reds from the Los Angeles Dodgers after they signed free agent Trevor Bauer.

Where is Bauer now? He was last seen wearing the uniform of the Diablos Rojos del Mexico, pretty much blackballed by MLB teams because his baggage is over the three-suitcase limit.

The Dragons also have a triple—digit pitcher, Luis Mey. During his last two appearances last season at Daytona Beach, he twice spun the speed gun numbers at 103 miles an hour.

If it does it at Day Air, he’ll set the park’s land speed record. Hunter Greene owns it now at 102 after he broke Aroldis Chapman’s 101.

—CUT THE MUSTARD: It is difficult to not like and admire Elly De La Cruz with his bright lights smile, his knock-you-out personality, his willingness to do interviews in his just-learned second language and his ocean-sized unyet tapped talent.

But. . .is he trying to be too flashy? Yes. He might have to temporarily change his first name to Nathan until they get the hot dog out of him.

Just make the plays, Elly. No nonchalant underhand flip-throws to firsrt base, no trying to flip the ball out of your glove instead of using you hand and arm.

And, I repeat and repeat and repeat, put him in center field where he could cover more ground than Lewis & Clark.

—WHIFF, WHIFF, WHIFF: While it is noteworthy that the Reds took two of three from the Phillies in Philadelphia, it has to be alarming, somewhere, that the Reds struck out 42 times in those games.

The leading culprit was Will Benson with seven, Elly De La Cruz whiffed six times and Christian Encarnacion-Strand struck out five times.

Benson, a left-handed hitter, is lobbying for more playing time against lefty pitchers. Manager David Bell afforded him that opportunity against Philadelphia southpaw Christopher Sanchez and Benson struck out three straight times.

—QUOTE: From Babe Ruth: “Don’t let the fear of strikiing out hold you back.” (Hey, if The Bambino says it. . .)

—OUT AT HOME: Al Lopez is one of 90 Tampa natives to make it to the major leagues. After a solid career as a catcher, Lopez retired and the city named a ball park after him, Al Lopez Field, for several years the spring training home of the Cincinnati Reds.

Lopez then became a major-league manager and during one spring training game Al Lopez was ejected, tossed out of a game. . .played at Al Lopez Field.

—IS IT LATE OR EARLY: Yes, I picked the New York Mets to win the National Leaague East. When I last peeked at the standings, there was a ‘1’ under the wins column for the Mets and a ‘5’ under the losses column.

Hey, I didn’t realize these were the second coming of the 1962 Miserable Mets. But it’s early, right? As Yogi Berra said about the west coast, “It gets late early out there.”

—ONE. . .THE LONELIEST: The Cincinnati Reds lost the 1972 World Series to the Oakland A’s, four games to two. Did you know the Reds lost all four games by one run — 3-2, 2-1, 3-2 and 3-2?

And one of Cincinnati’s wins was by one run, 1-0. The only game not decided by one run was the Reds’ 8-1 win in Game Five.

The five one-run games remains a World Series record.

—WAY, WAY BACK: Indulge me as I go back 72 years to 1952 and Hardesty Park in Akron, Ohio. I was the first baseman for the Akron National League All-Stars. We were playing the Canton All-Stars in the Little League tournament.

It was tied, 1-1, in the bottom of the last inning, two outs, nobody on. McCoy due up. Did I hit a walk-off homer? I did not.

A torrential rain hit and the field was flooded and unplayable. It was decided to resume the game the next day frrom where it was when the rain fell.

The next day we took batting practice and infield practice. When the game resumed, I hit the first pitch the opposite way and it one-hopped the left field fence. A double.

On the next pitch, our shortstop, Francis Rollins, lined a single to center. Game over. We win, 2-1. The kids from Canton drove the 25 miles to our park for two pitches.

OK, carry on.

—QUICKY QUOTES: What can I say, what can I tell you?

FROM former Reds pitcher Jim Maloney on his fastball: “I was throwing so much heat that Connie Mack Stadium (Philadelphia) caught on fire.”

FROM former outfielder Johnny Damon when the Red Sox were one win away from winning the World Series: “You know, a lot of people say they didn’t want to die until the Red Sox won the World Series. Well, there could be a lot of busy ambulances tomorrow.”

FROM Reds manager Sparky Anderson: “I only had a high school education and, believe me, I had to cheat to get that far.”

FROM former Pirates pitcher Bob Walk on his bad golf game: “I tell myself that Jack Nicklaus probably has a lousy curveball.”

FROM Deion Sanders after pitcher Sterling Hitchcock threw a pitch at his head: “I don’t even know who Sterling Hitchcock is. I thought he was Alfred Hitchcock’s son.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 37: Some songs on the fringes:

Baby Come Back (Player), Play Me (Neil Diamond), Don’t Know Much (Aaron Neville & Linda Ronstadt), Heart of Gold (Neil Young), Lovin’ Her Was Easy (Kris Kristofferson), Oh, Girl (Chi-Lites), Up Around The Bend (Credence Clearwater Revival).

Annie’s Song (John Denver), Sunday Morning Coming Down (Johnny Cash), Hey Jude (The Beatles). Jackson (June & Johnny Cash), Galveston (Glenn Campbell), In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley).

McCoy: Reds ‘Freeze’ Out Phillies After Seven-Hour Delay

By Hal McCoy

The original schedule said the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies would throw the first pitch Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m.

With a foreboding weather forecast, on Tuesday they moved the time back to 4:05.

That didn’t work, either. Both teams hibernated all afternoon in their clubhouse as a tarp covered Citizens Bank Park while rain poured down and wind straightened all the flags above the grandstands.

Philadelphia ace Zack Wheeler threw the first pitch at 8 p.m. as a few hearty ski-masked masochists sat in the stands on a night more fitting for a Bengals-Eagles NFL game.

The Reds survived the elements with an economical six-hit attack to post a 4-1 win, taking the series two games to one.

Five of the Reds six hits were for extra bases, four doubles and a triple.

They scored two unearned runs in the third on one hit. Nick Martini reached on second baseman Bryson Scott’s error. Jonathan India was hit by a pitch and with two outs Christian Encarnacion-Strand pulled a two-run double to left.

The Reds pushed their advantage to 3-0 in the sixth with back-to-back two-out doubles by Jake Fraley and Elly De La Cruz, extending his hitting streak to 11 games going back to the end of last season.

Wheeler pitched six innings and gave up one unearned run and struck out 10, but was slapped with the loss.

Frankie Montas, Cincinnati’s newly-acquired ace, pitched like the Abominable Snowman for five innings — no runs and three hits, and the first two hits were infielders.

In his second start in a Reds uniform, Montas extended his scoreless streak to 11 innings.

He ran out of petrol in the sixth when Kyle Schwarber drilled Montas’ firsrt pitch into the right field seats.

With two outs he gave up a solid single to J.T. Realmuto and walked the next two, filling the bases.

Manager David Bell went to left-hander Justin Wilson. Strangely, Phillies manager Rob Thomson permitted left-hander Brandon Marsh to bat when he had right-handed Alex Bohm sitting in the dugout.

Wilson induced a foul pop from Marsh to wipe away the threat and preserve the 3-1 lead.

Lucas Sims pitched a scoreless seventh with a walk and two strikeouts, Fernando Cruz was assigned the eighth and went 1-2-3.

The Reds added an insurance run in the ninth for closer Alexis Diaz on a triple by Spencer Steer and a singler by Nick Martini.

Diaz finished the frigid night for his first save. He struck out the first two, Whit Merrifield singled on the 11th pitch of the at bat and Bohm flied to right.

Before Diaz took the mound the umpires stopped him and frisked him as if they feared he was carrying a concealed weapon.

All four umpires huddled and permitting him to pitch and he showed the only weapon he had was his unconcealed right arm.

“One umpire said I had something there (on his hand) and when all the other umpires looked at it and said there was nothing too crazy and let him go pitch,” said Diaz through a translator on Bally Sports.

It was the second straight strong outing for Diaz after he blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning to the Washington Nationals during the second game of the season.

When the Reds arrived in Philadelphia, pitching coach Derek Johnson left a message for Diaz: “See me.”

“He told me, ‘I need you the next day at the ball park early because we have some stuff to look at,’” said Diaz. “We did and he gave me a couple of drills that we needed to work on and sure enough right after that I felt confident that I was going to be able to throw strikes and get batters out. It added clarity to what I was supposed to do.”

Reds pitchers held the first four batters in the Phillies’ order to 2 for 11.

And the Reds won despite striking out 15 times. They struck out 42 times in the three games and still took two out of three.

“We’re ready to compete against any climate, weather, you name it — we’re ready to compete under any conditions,” said Diaz. “That’s why this team is so united. We go out there and compete with each other and against everyone else. We know we can take it a long way from here.”

McCoy: Bryce Was Not Nice To Reds (Three Home Runs!!!)

By Hal McCoy

On a freezing night in Citizens Bank Park, the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies were as cold as ice on a Tuesday night more suited for outdoor hockey.

That is with the exception of Philadelphia’s $330 million man, Bryce Harper.

Harper, 0-for-2024 when the frigid night began, smacked, smashed and smoked three home runs and drove in six runs, the catalyst for Philadelphia’s 9-4 drubbing of the Reds.

Harper drove home runs through a wind-swept rain his first two at bats against Graham Ashcraft, then unloaded a grand slam off Brent Suter, Harper’s seventh career grand slam.

And it was a red-faced night for Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz. He made three errors.

They were career homers numbers 307, 308 and 309 for Harper. The second home run was his 1,000th career run scored.

The wind-chill factor was 33 degrees with gusting winds at 25 miles an hour and the 28,115 fans were dressed like Himalayan sherpas. Harper heated them up.

The Phillies started Spencer Turnbull, a guy who pitched a no-hitter a few years back for the Detroit Tigera, but has fumbled to find his way ever since.

But he was in fine form Tueday night and held the Reds to one unearned run through five innings. He gave up three hits and no walks. His seven strikeouts were his most since the night he pitched the no-hitter.

Ashcraft retired the first two Reds in the first before Harper drove one 420 feet over the center field wall.

The Reds tied it, 1-1, with an unearned run in the third. With one out, Tyler Stephenson grounded to shortstop Trea Turner. He looked at the ball in his hand, then threw a snowball over first baseman Harper’s head.

Stephenson landed on second and scored on Will Benson’s double to right.

Harper struck again on Ashcraft’s first pitch of the fourth. Harper drove it into the right field seats, 365 feet away, scoring the 1,000 ruu of his career.

Then Cincinnati’s defense was defenseless, leading to six Phillies runs in the sixth and seventh.

Trea Turner led the sixth with a single and took second on Ashcraft’s wild pitch, then moved to third on a sensational diving catch on Harper.

But with two outs, Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz nonchalanted a weak ground ball hit by Bryson Stott. He flipped the ball underhanded, low, wide and ugly. Turner scored on the error to make it 2-1.

De La Cruz muffed one again in the seventh, opening the door as wide as the Delaware River, leading to five Phillies runs.

It began with a single by Brandon Marsh. Johan Rojas hit a double play ground ball to De La Cruz, but he had difficulty extracting the ball from his glove, then threw wild to first base.

Instead of two outs and nobody on, there were two on and no outs.When Ashcraft walked Turner to fill the bases, Suter was brought in to face Harper.

And 428 feet later, Harper had his grand slam and the Phillies had an 8-1 lead.

While all this was transpiring, the Phillies were forced to go within an unknown commodity on the mound.

It was reported that four members of the Philliies bullpen were unavailable, so the Phillies called up Ricardo Pinto from the minor just before the game.

They sent a car to Rochester to fetch him and they got stuck in traffic and the game was underway when Pinto arrived. He barely had time to pull on uniform No. 52 and say hello to manager Rob Thomson when he was on the mound.

And this Pinto turned into a horse after being a globe-trotting pitcher. He played in China, Japan and Mexico to keep his MLB hopes burning.

He lit his candle on this night — finishing the game with four innings. Three were solid, no earned runs, but he got tired in the ninth and gave up two harmless runs and three hits.

The Reds scored the unearned run on Pinto in the eighth, but the Phillies retrieved it in the bottom of the eighth with another home run — no, not by Harper. This one, off Buck Farmer, was hit by Brandon Marsh.

And De La Cruz made his third error.

OBSERVATIONS: Oh No, Not Another No-No (Oh, Yes)

By Hal McCoy

Cave, totally enthralled and mesmerized over what already has happened in baseball in less than a week. What a game.

—A BLANKING FOR BLANCO: Baseball stories consistently are head-scratchers, right off the back lots of movie studios producing ‘B’ movies that are too smaltzy to be believable.

In the baseball, they are for real.

The story of Runel Blanco is one of those. At age 30, making his eighth major league start, Blanco pitched a no-hitter Monday for the Houston Astros against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The back story. Blanco was working in a car wash in the Santiago, The Dominican Republic when the Astros signed him for a paltry $5,000. Maybe the Astros saw what Pete Rose once said about Don Gullett: “He can throw a ball through a car wash and not get it wet.”

Amazingly, it was the 17th no-hitter thrown by a Houston pitcher, the most in MLB since the Colt .45s/Astros were born in 1962. And of the 17, only one was thrown by a left-hander, Framber Valdez.

That brings us to Mr. No-Hitter, Nolan Ryan. Of his seven no-hiitters, he only threw one for the Astros. Four were with the California/Los Angeles Angels and two with the Texas Rangers.

His seven no-hitters were caught by seven different catchers.

Nolan also had 12 one-hitters, tying him with Bob Feller for the most, and 17 two-hitters. He never pitched a perfect game and, unbelievably, never won a Cy Young Award.

—OPENING DAY SUCCESS: The New York Mets, whom I foolishly in a weak moment, picked to win the National League East over Atlanta and Philadelphia, lost their opener, 3-1.

Not only did they lose, Freddy Peralta and the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen, held the Mets to one hit, a second-inning home run by Starling Marte.

Nevertheless, the Mets still own a record, the last record one would expect from them. They own a 41-22 record on Opening Days, the best percentage in MLB.

And that’s despite the fact they lost their first eight Opening Days after becoming an expansion team in 1962. That means they are 41-14 since those eight straight defeats.

—QUOTE: From Casey Stengel, the Mets’ first manager and loser of 120 games in 1962: “Never make bad predictions, especially about the future.” (I fear that’s exactly what I did, Casey.)

—THE CHRISTIAN WAY: Speaking of Opening Days, for the first 10 years of his illustrious career, Milwaukee star Christian Yelich never had a hit on Opening Day, 0-for-43.

Then on Opening Day this season in New York, Yelich went 3 for 4 against the Mets with a home run.

—RUTHIAN ALL-STARS: Just before his death in 1948, Babe Ruth was asked to pick an All-Star team. He did it, but said, “I will do it, but I won’t pick a right fielder because I don’t want to pick myself.” Well, that pretty much says whom he thought was the right fielder.

His team: Pitchers —Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Herb Pennock.

C-Ray Schalk, 1B – Hal Chase, 2B- Nap Lajoie, SS – Honus Wagner, 3B – Jimmy Collins, LF – Ty Cobb, CF – Tris Speaker, RF – Ghost (But, yes, it has to be The Bambino).

Notice a significant absence? He didn’t pick Lou Gehrig at first base. Instead, he picked Hal Chase, noted gambler, a guy who fixed and threw games.

—STAN THE FAN: Hall of Famer Stan Musial was clearly one of the all-time best hitters and also was overly modest. Proof? How about this:

“There was never a day I was as good as Joe DiMaggio at his best. Joe was the best, the very best I ever saw.”

Such modesty. Stan The Man was not only one of the best of his era, but one of the best all-time. . .and the best harmonica player.

—DRIBBLE DRIVEL: Isn’t basketball’s Euro-step what once was an American travel? And whatever happened to palming the ball?

Back when I played, when Baskin & Robins only had vanilla and we wore shorts that barerly covered the essentials, when you dribbled you had to use the flat of your palm and push the ball down. Now every player palms the ball when they dribble, as if they are caressing a cantaloupe.

Now get off my devil strip. . .if you know what that is.

—UCONN CAN: How in the name of John Wooden can a team that made the NCAA Elite Eight get outscored 30-0 in a game.

Illinois and UConn were tied, 23-23, and the next time the IIlini scored it was 53-23. Sure, it was UConn, but even if it were the Boston Celtics, one would think they could even drop kick one into the basket from half-court instead of missing every free throw, every lay-up, every runner and every three-pointer.

And does UConn coach Dan Hurley ever smile or even grin? While his team wins every game by 25 or more points, he looks as if he has a migraine and his skivvies are too tight.

—WATER HOCKEY: Don’t ask why this came into my addled brain, other than hearing the old joke that the Argentine water polo team couldn’t compete in the last Olympics because all their horses drowned during practices.

Water polo? Isn’t that hockey played in a king-sized bath tub?

—QUOTING ‘EM: Some more gems from the mouths and brains of baseball people:

From catcher Johnny Bench on his arm: “I can throw out any man alive.” (How about Usain Bolt, Johnny?)

From Tommy Lasorda on getting bad seats at a game: “They were so high I could high-five the guys in the Goodyear blimp.” (What is he doing sitting in the stands when he had a free seat in the dugout?)

From Joaquin Andujar, who once said, “I’ll tell you in one word. Youneverknow:” “That’s why I don’t talk. Because I talk too much.” (At least he talked in short sentences.)

From Yogi Berra on the weather: “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.” (And on one very humid day, New York Mets owner Joan Payson told Yogi that he looked very cool and he said, “You don’t look so hot yourself.”)

From former Reds infielder Rocky Bridges on a frigid Opening Day: “It was so cold that Admiral Byrd threw out the first pitch.” (Well, it could have been Ron ‘The Penguin’ Cey.)

From manager Whitey Herzog on taking out pitcher Ken Dayley: “He got hit so hard I had to get all the married men off the field.” (Hey, Whitey, what do you have against single guys?)

From former shortstop Jim Fregosi: “Numbers played a big part of my career, especially E-6. (Former Houston catcher Alan Ashb had a vanity license plate that read: SB-E2.)

From an unnamed player, but probably thought by all of them, “Money isn’t everythig, but it is right up there with oxygen.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 34: Back to songs actually on my iPod, some of which have been added recently:,

Easy (Lionel Richie), The Weight (The Band), Some Guys Have All The Luck (Rod Stewart), Last Dance (Floyd Cramer), Do You Remember? (Phil Collins), You Are The Reason (Calum Scott), Ramblin’ Man (Allman Brothers), Heard It In A Love Song (Marshall Tucker Band), Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan).

Operator (Jim Croce), I Started A Joke (BeeGees), Look At Us (Vince Gill), Someone You Loved (Lewis Capaldi), Circle Of Life (Elton John), Seasons In The Sun (Terry Jack), Please, Please Me (The Beatles), Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five), Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel).

McCoy: Reds Ride Steer’s Grand Slam To 6-3 Win

By Hal McCoy

The Cincinnati Reds’ flair for dramatics is insatiable and seemingly it is done with a cast of thousands.

This time, on a chill Monday night in the City of Brotherly love, it was Spencer Steer providing the heroics — a grand slam home run in the 10th inning to lift the Reds to a 6-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Steer salivates with the bases full of teammates — 4 for 11 with 10 RBI. And the grand slam was the only hit of the inning and Steer’s first career grand slam.

The Phillies brought in Connor Brogdon for the 10th with free runner Bubba Thompson on second. He walked Will Benson and walked Jonathan India on four pitches to fill ‘em up.

And Steer steered his grand slam over the left field wall to provide the Reds with a win, their first road game of 2024.

“Yeah, yeah, that was a pretty cool moment,” said Steer. “I kind of blacked out running around the bases. I was just fired up to get an RBI in that situation. I kinda blacked out because it was one of those moments where you are running around the bases and you feel like your’re floating on a cloud.”

Cloud Nine, obviously.

Brogdon had thrown seven straight balls when Steer planted himself in the batter’s box. He took a fastball for strike one. Brogdon tried another fastball and Steer was poised and waiting.

“I knew he didn’t want to walk me in that situation,” said Steer. “He was struggling with the command of hs off-speed stuff, so I was looking for a fastball right there and I wanted to put a good swing on it and do some damage, drive in some runs.”

The damage was done, heavy damage.

Indeed, it’s a new year. In previous visits to Philadelphia, the Reds would be better suited to stay away from Citizens Bank Park and visit the Liberty Bell, City Hall or the Reading Terminal Market. They had lost six of the previous seven games in the Phillies’ home playground.

It looked like more of the same in the first inning when Reds starter Andrew Abbott gave up two straight singles and both scored on Alex Bohm’s two-out double off the end of the bat just inside the first base bag. Bohm owns a 14-game hitting streak against the Reds.

And it appeared that 2-0 lead might hold because Philadelphia starter Christopher Sanchez had the Reds mesmerized with a diving change-up.

At one point, he retired 11 straight with eight strikeouts. But when he walked Jonathan India on a full count and gave up a double to Steer, his night was over in the sixth.

The next two Reds, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Jeimer Candelario each singled home a run to tie it, 2-2.

And that’s where it stood until Steer’s deliverance.

Aided by a couple of Phillies’ base-running faux pas, Abbott kept the score at 2-2 through 5 1/3 innings — only one more hit and a couple of walks through five innings. He retired 11 of the last 12 he faced and the one exeception was a walk.

“Gotta give a shout-out to Abbott,” said Steer. “He gave up two in the first and shut ‘em down after that. That’s the fight we talk about on our team all the time. He fought every inning and did a heck of a job shutting them down after that first inning.”

There also was redeption for closer Alexis Diaz after he blew the second game of the season to the Washington Nationals.

With the score 2-2 in the eighth, Brent Suter threw two pitches and gave up singles to Kyle Schwarber and Trea Turner. After a flyout, manager David Bell brought Diaz into the high-leveraged situation

Pinch-runner Johan Rojas broke early for third base and Diaz picked him off. Then he finished the assignment by striking out J.T. Realmuto.

Realmuto has faced Diaz four times and has four K’s marked next to his name.

“That’ our guy and he’s always been our guy,” said Steer, referring to Diaz. “He is our closer and has all the confidene in the world when he runs out of that bullpen. It was awesome to see him get the results tonight, but he is our guy and is always going to be our guy going forward.”

After Steer’s home run, the dramatics were not over. The Phillies scored a run off T.J. Antone in the bottom of the 10th with two men on.

With two outs, Bryce Harper was the potential tying run at the plate.

And, of course, Antone dramatically struck him out.

Benson, lobbying heaavily to start against left-handed pitching, face lefties three times Monday and struck out all three times.

ASK HAL: Will Gambling Eventually Affect Baseball?

By Hal McCoy

Q: Considering the widespread legalization of sports gambling, does this pose a threat to the integrity of baseball? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: Absolutely, which is why the 
Shohei Ohtani mess is a crisis. MLB players are permitted to gamble, as long as it is with legal wagering sites and emporiums and as long as they don’t wager on baseball. But we all know there are mavericks who do illegal things. Somebody is going to get caught, you can bet on it.

Q: Several articles have been written about the Cincinnati Reds practicing their bunting, but I did not see one laid down in an exhibition game, so what gives? — DON, Westerville.
A: The Reds have a special small infield near their spring training clubhouse for bunting practice and I’ve seen them practice it every day. Practice makes perfect, but that perfection is useless if it’s not used in games. We live in the age of analytics and analytics say, “Don’t bunt for hits.” So, why practice them?

Q: Is conditioning the reason the Reds have so many injuries? — DAVIID, Springfield.
A: That’s the big head-scratcher. Reds fans believe it is all Reds, but it isn’t. Check every team’s injured list and they are filled up like my wife’s grocery list. Why? It isn’t conditioning with the Reds. Conditioning and working on it throughout the season is a priority. Most injuries are the result of physical activity — diving for balls, trying to beat out his and throws. Most players no longer miss games due to headaches or stomach cramps. Wally Pipp made certain of that.

Q: How did the Reds do in the off-season and was it enough to surge into the playoffs?— SHAUN, Huber Heights.
A: Do teams ever do enough? Fans believe not. They want their teams to sign the highest-priced free agents and trade for other team’s best players. It doesn’t work that way. Usually, teams can only fix one or two needs when they have four or five. The Reds could have used a top-notch starting pitcher, although we’ll wait to see how Frankie Montas pans out. And they could have acquired a power-hitting righthanded outfielder, like Adam Duvall. No, I don’t believe they did enough, but on the bright side, the National League Central is weaker than iced tea.

Q: If it is discovered that Shohei Ohtani gambled on baseball and is banned, are the Los Angeles Dodgers still obligated to the terms of his contract? —RYAN/ELVIS, Englewood.
A: That’s $700-plus million that would come off LA’s books. It would deem the contract null and void. The Dodgers, though, want the player and the contract. This stuff is not really rare. Maverick Carter, business manager to LeBron James, admitted last year that he bet on NBA games. Fortunately, an investigation exonerated James of playing any part in it. MLB and the baseball world are holding breaths and crossing fingers than Ohtani is as clean as Snow White.

Q: What is the latest with Jose Rijo and does he mentor any Reds pitchers? — JAY, Englwood.
A: When I broke a hip a couple of years ago, when I was recuperating at home Rijo showed up at my front door, bearing cigars, t-shirs and hats. What a guy, always one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the Reds are not using him, even though he was one of the best pitchers to pass through Cincinnati. He does do a lot of autograph sessions in southwest Ohio, but young Latinos in the Reds’ system could absorb a lot of positivity from Jose Rijo Abrue (His real name).

Q: If you could write the life story of one MLB player, who would it be? — JOE, Kettering.
A: All the obvious ones, nearly all the Hall of Famers and superstars, have had their lives chronicled by some iillustrious authors. There has not been one done about/by Barry Larkin. Late in his career he told me he’d like me to write his book. Then he decided he didn’t want one done. Maybe, hopefully, he’ll change his mind. I need cigar money.

Q: Do MLB player get paid for spring training and spring training games? — MARILYNNE, Sugar Creek Twp.
A: Spring training and exhibition games are all part of their contract, so the poor guys get no extra pay. But, wait. Each player residing in the team’s headquarters hotel gets $369.50 a day. If they live off-campus, they get an additional $65.50 a day. And each and every player gets $104.50 a day in meal money. Notice that every stipend ends in fifty cents? What’s that about?

Q: Have you read the newest book on Pete Rose, ‘Charlie Hustle,’ and if so what did you think? — MICHELLE, Floyds Knobs, IND.
A: There are enough books on Pete Rose to fill the Floyds Knobs library, if there is one. ‘Charlie Hustle’ just came out this week but author Keith O’Brien sent me an advance copy and I devoured it. Without hesitation, this is the best book on Rose, the definitive work that provides the good, the bad and the ugly. O’Brien thoroughly researched it and did a long list of interviews. The Index is 22 pages and the notes/bibliography is 85 pages. It is a book one can’t put down. And it reminds of something Rose once said about his autobiography: “I wrote a book before I ever read one.”