By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, writing this with shaky fingers and bleary vision. See below.
—A HUMM-DINGER: If a baseball writer is asked to name the epitome of a baseball writer, Rick Hummel’s name would top the list. For 50 years, until he semi-retired after last season, Hummel covered baseball for the St. Louis Post-Distpatch, and he covered it like a tarpaulin covers a baseball infield. He was indefatigable.
And he was a good friend with whom I delightfully shared many press boxes. He passed away Sunday nigh at 77 and I write this with tears and a mashed heart.
He was known to all baseball people as ‘The Commish.’ Even baseball commissioners Bud Selig and Rob Manfred called him ‘The Commish.’
Other than we both are in baseball’s Hall of Fame, we shared so much. His first assignment as a baseball writer was to rush to Cincinnati to stand-in for the regular beat writer, Neal Russo. It was the night Tom Seaver pitched his only no-hitter. One of my first baseball asssignments was as a fill-in for the regular Reds beat writer, Jim Ferguson. It was the night Rick Wise pitched a no-hitter against the Reds and hit two home runs.
Hummel was a non-drinker, but after St. Louis Cardinals home games he held court at the Missouri Bar & Grille, hosting visiting writers and National League umpires, all of whom knew Hummel.
The Grille stayed open all night, with the St. Louis police looking the other way, so Hummel could host the baseball people with late-night food and adult beverages.
I was there one night until dawn’s early light and watched a couple of National League umpires driving golf balls down a narrow alley, breaking out windows in abandoned warehouses.
The onwer of the Grille was a feisty guy of very small stature. He entertained patrons by crawling into those small newspaper boxes, the ones you bought papers by inserting coins and pulling down the windowed door.
I couldn’t believe he could do it, so he took me to the front of the Grille and Hummel inserting a quarter to open the door. Before he climbed in, he said to Hummel, “Before I get in, make sure somebody has a quarter to get he out.”
‘The Commish’ fished a quarter out of his pocket. He was always prepared for everything.
—BORN TO LOSE: The Oakland Athletics are doing their best to be the worst MLB team of all time. They lost 38 of their first 48 and are on a path to destroy the all-time modern loss record of 120 owned by the 1962 New York Mets. They could lose 130.
A game last week in Oakland drew 2,064 fans. Question: Are those 2,064 people in their right minds or do they still believe in Moneyball?
The A’s motto: ‘Built to be Bad.’ They’ve been outscored by 168 runs.
And down the coast in the greatest city in America, San Diego, ownership is paying the Padres $245.8 million to hover close to last place in the National League West.
Maybe they need to pay about $100 million more, like the New York Mets, who are paying $346.5 million to finish no better than second to the Atlanta Braves in the National League East.
—QUOTE: From Glen Sather, former National Hockey League executive: “If I had the Rangers’ payroll, I’d never lose a game.” (He was talking about the NHL’s New York Rangers, not the Texas Rangers. But at $195.8 million the Texas Rangers have the third largest payroll in the American League behind the New York Yankees ($277 million) and the Los Angeles Angels ($212 million.)
—BIRD-WATCHING: Those who believe baseball is a dull game should watch a video of Thursday night’s St. Louis Cardinals-Los Angeles Dodgers game. Wear ear plugs. The Cardinals hit seven home runs.
The Cardinals hit four home runs in one inning, three in a row. Amazingly, none of the four was hit by Paul Goldschmidt or Nolan Arenado. But Arenado hit one later, his sixth in seven games.
So St. Louis led, 9-2, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed Mookie Betts to give him some rest in this blowout. Blowout?
The man who replaced Betts, Trayce Thompson came to bat withs two on base. He was 0 for 34. . .and LA pitcher Genesis Cabrera walked him to fill the bases. And, of course, Freddie Freeman hit a grand slam home run.
So it was 9-8, Cardinals, in the bottom of the eighth. And they hit two more home runs and scored seven runs. Willson Contreras hit his second three-run homer of the game and Nolan Gorman hit his second of the game and the Cardinals won, 16-8.
—QUOTE: From formere NFL coach Mike Ditka: “You’re never a loser until you quit trying.” (You are usually a loser when you give up seven home runs, no matter how hard you try.)
—YOU GO FIRST: The New York Mets set a club record this week when they permitted their opponents to score first in 13 straight games.
The record is 24 straight done by the 1912 Boston Braves, who lost 101 games that year and finished last in the National League, 52 games behind the New York Giants.
The Braves had a pitcher named Buster Brown, who didn’t live in a shoe. His given name was Charles Brown, so he also could have been Charlie Brown.
His career record was 51-103, still the worst percentage (.333) in MLB history for a pitcher with 150 or more decisions.
In 2013, at age 32, he died of complications during arm surgery. Just think how many more games he could have lost if he hadn’t met a tragic end.
—THE REAL GOAT: As a young reporter, I covered the 1964 Cleveland Browns, the last time they won an NFL title.
The star, of course, was Jim Brpwn. I was so intimidated by his presence that I never tried to interview him. I just stood in the background and listened while veteran reporters interviewed him.
And there is no doubt in my mind that Brown was the greatest runningback of all time, bar none.
With his passing this week, my good friend and former Tampa sports writer Joe Henderson dug up this quote from Brown: “Make sure when anyone tackles you, he remembers how much it hurts.” (There was a pack of linebackers who walked off the field after playing the Browns with headaches, aches, bruises, pain and deep respect.)
—NOT JOSH-ING AROUND: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen recently took batting practice with the Toronto Blue Jays in the Rogers Centre. And wearing a Blue Jays uniform he drove two pitches into the upper deck in left field.
His next stop probably will be a practice session with the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden where he will bury a plethora of three-pointers. Then he’ll put on hockey gear for a practice with the Buffalo Sabres and he will pump a few slap shots into the back of the nets.
—QUOTE: From Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen: “If you didn’t want to believe in me, that’s OK, because I’ll make a believer out of you.” (I believed in him the first time I saw him as a young quarterback at the University of Wyoming. I came back from Laramie, Wyoming and told people, ‘I just saw a future NFL star quarterback.’ And they said, ‘At Wyoming? You’re nuts.’ I might be nuts, but I was a sweet cashew on this one.)
—HE NEVER WILT-ED: The debate is incessant as to who is the greatest all-time NBA player, Michael Jordan or LeBron James? And they always forget the real greatest of all-time in my estimation. That would be Wilt Chamberlain.
He is the only player in NBA historu, or probably in any basketball game ever played, to record a quintuple-double. While playing for the Philadelphia 76ers in the late 1967-68 season he had 54 points, 32 rebounds,14 assists, 24 blocked shots and 11 steals. They don’t list it in the box score, but he probably had 15 dunks, too.
—QUOTE: From 7-foot-1 Wilt Chamberlain: “Nobody roots for Goliath.” (He was tall for his day, but these days when there are 7-foot-5 and 7-foot-4 players, he wouldn’t even qualify as The Jolly Green Giant.)