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).

OBSERVATIONS: Mostly About Baseball. . .But Other Stuff, Too

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave as the excitement and anticipation mounts. . .real baseball Saturday — Reds versus Guardians. And now that I have watched the movie ‘Major League,’ my yearly pre-season ritual, it is time to play ball.

And let’s start this segment with some stuff from Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker.

I thought I’d heard every self-deprecating story former catcher Bob Uecker had to tell on himself — like the time he hit a grand slam and the opposing manager, “Not only came out to take out the pitcher but he brought the pitcher’s suitcase with him.”

Or the time he came up to bat in the bottom of ninth, his team down, 2-1, two outs, bases-loaded, 3-and-2 count, “And I looked in the other team’s dugout and all their players were dressed in their street clothes.”

And he always said, “Yes, I had endorsements. Sporting goods companies paid me not to endorse their stuff.”

Then I heard him tell another one I hadn’t heard about him getting invited back to participate in old-timer’s games. “I haven’t lost a thing,” he said. “I sit in the bullpen and let the fans throw junk at me. Just like old times.”

—IT WAS BUCK’S: Everybody knows it was Hall of Famer Ernie Banks who always said, “It’s a beautiful day, let’s play two.”

Ernie, right? Well, yes, he said it all the time. But he admitted that he stole it. It was something that Negro League legend Buck O’Neill said and Banks ‘borrowed it.’

Ernie even said it before spring exhibtion games. . .and meant every word.

—DOWN GOES VANDY: The University of Dayton basketball team isn’t the only UD athletic entity making noise.

The Flyers baseball team traveled to Nashville Saturday and upset No. 6-ranked Vanderbilt, 8-5, with a seven-run eruption in the eighth inning.

Red-shirt sophomore outfielder Alejandro Cazorla, a native of Okotoka, Alberta, Canada, went 3-foor-3 with a home run. The Flyers were down, 5-1, entering the eighth and Cazorla started the rally with a single, then doubled in the same inning to drive in the winning runs.

It was UD’s first win over a Top Ten team since a win over LSU in 1996.

—MISUNDERSTANDING?: It was the most disrespectul display ever enacted on the UD Arena floor last Saturday before the University of Dayton-Fordham basketball game.

As the Flyers lined up on for the Nationaal Anthem and the color guard marched toward center court, the Fordham team burst through UD’s line for some last-second dunks. Then as the Star Spangled Banner was being played by the UD pep band, the Fordham players were slapping palms and dancing.

It prompted a letter from UD fan Rosie Drummer Miller to Fordham athletic director Edward Kull and it prompted a return letter from Kull:

“Thank you for your messager. On behalf of Fordham University and the men’s basketball team, I apologize for the disruption caused during Saturday’s Presentation of Colors and the national anthem.

“I’ve been in touch with Neil Sulllivan, University of Dayton’s athletic director, the A10 Conference and officials, and we’re all in agreement that Saturday’s incident is a result of a misunderstanding and poor timing as teams transitioned from warm-ups to the national anthem.

“This is certainly a teaching moment for our student athletes. Honoring fallen heros, veterans, active military personnel and our nation during the presentation of colors and the national anthem should never be interrupted.

“Thank you for reaching out to share your concern. Ed Kull.”

Misunderstanding? What’s to misunderstand? The only part of misunderstand that is relevant is the ‘stand’ part of the word. . .stand and be respectful.

The Fordham team was its best behavior Tuesday at Davidson during pre-game festivities, then took a 68-53 beating.

—WSU’S TWO-TIMERS: For a team that is only 15-12, 8-5 at home and fourth place in the Horizon League, Wright State is worthy of attention.

Not only are they the second best shooting team in the country at 58.6%, the Raiders are the only Division I team in the USofA with two 2,000-point career scorers on its roster.

Trey Calvin is at 2,047 and Tanner Holden is at 2,011. Now if the Raiders only could learn that defense is more than a seven-letter word in the dictionary.

—YES, VIRGINIA? UH, NO: The state’s slogan is, “Virginia is for lovers.” Oh, yeah? Well, the University of Dayton basketball team must not be lovers.

Fortunately they don’t have to go back there again this seaason. The Flyers have played three games in Virginia and lost all three — Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason.

They could have scheduled the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Union, Virginia Military, Old Dominin, Liberty, Willliam & Mary, James Madison or even Hampton.

—TIME’S NOT ON YOUR SIDE: This one is no surprise to me as I watch commercial after commercial after commercial flash on my TV screen during NFL games.

If you subtract huddles, replay/reviews, commercials and halftime, there is actually only 18 minutes of real action in the average NFL game that takes three hours to play.

—SQUEEZING THE BENJAMINS: The four most notable free agents still looking for employment are Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell. What does this Baseball Fab Four have in common?

It is not a surprise. They are all represented by agent Scott Boras, who would squeeze Benjamin Franklin’s picture off a 100 dollar bill.

—NEED AN ASSIST?: Ask this question to the most avid NBA fan and they won’t get it. What’s the most unlikely record that won’t be broken?

Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game? Nope.

Bill Russell’s 11 championship rings? Nope.

The LA Lakers’ 30 wins in a row? Nope.

It is a record set by Orlando Magics point guard Scott Skiles. In a game in 1990 Skiles recorded 30 assists. It won’t be broken because nobody in the NBA these days makes that many passes.

—SOME BIG NEWS: With all the things happening in spring training, what makes ESPN and the wire services about the Cincinnati Reds?

A broken window? Yep.

The Reds were taking live batting practice under blue skies and puffy white clouds at their Goodyear, AZ., spring training complex.

It was Hunter Greene pitching and Elly De La Cruz batting. De La Cruz fouled one out of the park and a ker-thunk was heard.

A car window had been hit and everybody laughed and giggled. . .everybody but Greene. It was his car. There was no report on the make and model of Greene’s SUV, but rest assured it was not a Ford Focus.


From Rogers Hornsby: People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I stare out the window waiting for spring.”

From Dave Winfield: “These days you go to spring training to get your legs ready, your arm loose and get your agent and lawyer lined up.”

From author William Zinsser: “The sound of the bat is the music of spring training.”

From country singer Steve Earle: I love baseball. I’ll probably end up one of those old farts who go to spring training every day and drive from game to game all day.”

From Christy Mathewspm: “A young ballplayer looks on his first spring training as a stage struck young woman regards the theatre.”

From pitcher Curt Schilling: “Before I pitch any game, from spring training to Game 7 of the World Series, I’m scared to death.”

From pitcher Jim Palmer: “I’ve been doing Orioles fundamentals forever and do them in my sleep. I hate spring training.”

From Torii Hunter: “Spring training is for getting to know your teammates and forming a chemistry. I don’t like it.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 22: From the far reaches of my iPod:

The Boys Of Summer (Don Henley), Kentucky Woman (Neil Diamond), Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds), I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder), End Of The World (Anne Murray), All Out Of Love (Air Supply), Sweet Baby James (James Taylor).

Time Is On My Side (Rolling Stones), Everybody Is Somebody’s Fool (Connie Francis), We Don’t Need Another Hero (Tina Turner), She Loves You (The Beatles), Forever My Darling (Aaron Neville), Breathe Again (Toni Braxton), The Air That I Breathe (The Hollies).Dream On (Aerosmith).

OBSERVATIONS: A ‘Rose’ By Any Other Name. . .Still Pete Rose

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man being very careful. After writing my previous UO I started to post it and deleted it. Gone. Everything. Call me stubborn or dedicated (I didn’t want to re-write it), so I spent 45 minutes searching every nook and corner of my laptop.

Incredibly, despite my laptop idiocy with sheer good fortunte, I found it. I dropped down under ‘File,’ clicked on ‘Return To’ and clicked the drophead that said, ‘Browse All Files.’ Shazam. There it was. Applause appreciated.

—A ROSE IS A ROSE: This is why it was always a hoot to interview Pete Rose. This was his take on faciing Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers Don Sutton and Bob Welch.

“Don Sutton? I wore his ass out. Oh, man. Two guys on the Dodgers I wore out, Don Sutton and Bob Welch. I could have gone up blindfolded and got hits off those two guys. I mean, really, Ray Charles could have got hits off Don Sutton.”

And Don Sutton is in the Hall of Fame and Bob Welch won 211 games with a 3.47 earned run average. In addition, Rose hit .307 against Bob Gibson.

It was Pete Rose who saw pitcher Don Gullett’s fastball and said, “He could throw his fastball through a car wash and not get the ball wet.”

Rose once said he wrote a book before he ever read one and also said, “I wish there was some way I could have gotten a college education, but I’m thinking about bv buying a college.”

He could have purchase Rose-Hulman Tech in Terre Haute and he wouldn’t have had to change the name.

—WHO’S AT FAULT: It sounds as if somebody slipped some sour grapes into pitcher Levi Stoudt’s Wheaties.

After the Reds designated him for assignment, the Seattle Mariners signed him. Stoudt started his career in Seattle but was part of the package the Mariners sent to the Reds for pitcher Luis Castillo.

Upon his return to Seattlle, Stoudt aimed criticism at the Reds to the Seattle Times, saying the Reds didn’t handle pitchers very well.

“It was different (with the Reds). It was a little bit of, I’d say, a lack of direction, in my sense. It was kind of not much of a philosophy. It was kind of just go play baseball and we’ll help you along the way. That’s the most exciting thing for me is to get back to that process of them (Seattle) looking at me and saying, ‘All right, this is what we know and what can we do to make you the best version of yourself.’”

In 2022, Stoudt appeared in six games for the Reds and posted a 2.63 earned run average over 24 innings. He made a solid impression.

But in April of last seasson he pitched 10 1/3 innings and gave up 11 runs and eight walks. Off he went to Triple-A Louisville. . .and disaster.

In 25 appearances over 82 1/3 innings he pitched to a 6.23 ERA and issued 50 walks.

Was it his fault or is he correct in his assessment of the help he received in the Reds’ system? Well, now he’s Seattle’s issue and it sounds as if he needs a full-length mirror.

—LEANIN’ ON LENNY: Lenny Dykstra was a down-and-dirty player whose nickname was “Nails” because he played so hard.

After baseball he has been immersed in financial and legal troubles that resulted in incarceration. And last week, the 61-year-old former outfielder suffered a stroke.

Early in 1990 Dysktra flirted with .400, something not done in MLB since Ted Willliams hit .406 in 1941. Dykstra was asked if he or anybody else could hit .400 over the long haul of a season.

“No, not with the split-fingered pitch, relief pitchers, night games and franchises 3,000 miles apart on the schedule. Hey, .350 is a great average today.”

Dykstra proved it. He finished 1990 at .325. And actually, Lenny, a .250 average today will get you a five-year $100 million contract.

—RICKETY RICK: A few of us who sat in a post-game interview at the Charleston Class after Dayton beate St. John’s, 88-81, know that St. John’s coach Rick Pitino’s post-game rant was no shock.

After the Dayton loss, Pitino did everything but call his team human beings, blaming everything on them. It was like, “I coached good, but they played bad.” No credit for UD. It was if Pitino expected to roll a basketball on the floor and his team would roll over the Flyers.

So there he was again this weekend when St. John’s lost to Seton Hall. Again it was a rant against his team. Among many things, he said, “I talk, but they don’t listen.” And he said there were no athletes on his team, they don’t know how to play defense and that this season was the least fun he has ever had.

Cry us a river, Rick, then go jump in it. Those kids deserve better.

—WHAT A WASTE: How many of you watched the NBA All-Star game? Me, neither. Defense was not allowed, not that they ever play much of it during the season. The two teams combined for 397 points — East 211, West 186. Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton scored 15 points in four minutes of the first quarter. . .and not a single hand was put in his face.

The only bigger farce than the NBA All-Star game is the NFL’s Pro Bowl — a game of two-handed touch like my grandkids play on the street.

And the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest is farcical. The superstars don’t compete and for the second year in a row G League player Mac McClung won it.

I’d rather watch a re-run of Petticoat Junction.

—A QUID FOR THE QUOTES: And they keep on saying funny things:

—From pitcher Bob Miller on why he decided to retire: “I got tired of ducking line drives and backing up home plate.”

—From Mitch Webster after he was traded from the Montreal Expos: “It willl be great not to have to listen to two different national anthems.”

—From minor league umpire Jack Lietz after his crew worked an eight-hour extra-inning game: “We went the whole game without going to the bathroom.”

—From George Brett on losing: “If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing your grandmother with her teeth out.”

—From pitcher Lefty Gomez: “I was never nervous when I had the ball, but when I let it go I was scared to death.”

—From Frank Robinson, baseball’s first black manager: “I had no trouble communicating. The players just didn’t like what I had to say.”

—From manager Eddie Stanky on denying vice-president Humbert Humphrey a visit to the clubhouse: “What do I need Humphrey for, he can’t hit.”

—From pitcher Trevor Hoffman when he saw in his contract that he couldn’t go spelunking: “The first time I saw the word spelunking I thought it had something to do with pornography.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 22: I fear I’m nearing the bottom of my iPod, but I hope there are some that you like:

We Got Tonight (Bob Seger), In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins), 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton), Without You (Mariah Carey), It Was Almost Like A Song (Ronnie Milsap), You Might Think (The Cars), Will You Still Love Me (Chicago), Two Out Of Three (Meat Loaf), Everything I Own (Bread).

Somewhere In The Night (Helen Reddy), Ride Like The Wind (Christopher Cross), Movin’ Out (Billy Joel), San Francisco (Scott McKenzie), This Ole House (The Statler Brothers), You’re My Best Friend (Queen), Baby I Love Your Way (Peter Frampton), Dancing In The Moonlight (King Harvest), Listen To Your Heart (Roxette).



OBSERVATIONS: Some Baseball Tales. . .And Much Other Stuff

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, looking out the window and seeing three inches of snow and, hey, c’mon, it’s baseball season.

—THAT WAS SPECIAL: More about Don Gullett, the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher who passed away earlier this week. And may I borrow a line from the song, ‘Hall of Fame,’ by The Script.

And the title is apropos because injuries were the only thing that stopped Gullett from baseball’s Hallll of Fame. The script sang, ‘Cause you burn with the brighest flame.’

Mark Schmetzer, a free lancer who writes more than half of each edition of Reds Report, reminded me of a wonderful Sparky Anderson/Don Gullett story.

Gullett was a 19-year-old rookie in 1970 and one day Gullett asked Sparky for a day off, “For a special occasion.”

Anderson thought it might be for a birthday or anniversary. Nope. Gullett’s wife, Cathy, was having her high school graduation.

And this one from Scott Russell, the biographer of former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee.

Before Lee faced Gullett in Game One of the 1975 World Series, Lee said, “They say Don Gullett is going straight to the Hall of Fame. I’m going straight to the Elliot Lounge.”

—A DIFFERENT PITCH COUNT: The 2023 Cincinnati Reds used a staggering 17 different starting pitchers and 40 total pitchers.

Yes, that’s a bunch. But Louisville Bats manager Pat Kelly needed name tags to identify his pitching staff. He used 23 different starters and 55 total pitchers.

Is it no wonder the Bats had the second highest team earned run average in the International League at 6.17? They might have been passing out application forms at the Slugger Field front desk in search of more pitching.

—DRESS ‘EM UP: So what’s the big topic the first week of baseball spring training? It isn’t exit velocity, spin rate or launch angle. It’s worse.

Players are complaining about their uniforms, designed by Nike and manufactured by Fanatics.

They say the jerseys and pants fit poorly, have inconsistent colors, too small lettering and are cheaply designed. Worst of all, they say, is that they can’t alter the pants to their individual styles.

Said Cincinnati Reds catcher Luke Maile about the uniforms, “It’s just like toilet paper. But after a whille it’s just your toilet paper.”

In other words, you know what MLB can do with those duds. Charmin, anybody?

It’s The Great Fashion Flap and they have gone so far as to get the players’ union involved.

Many of the complainers should be thankful they are even given a uniform instead of their walking papers.
—SINGING SIGNALS: The Houston Astros may soon have a catcher who can sing the National Anthem before a game and Take Me Out To The Ball Game in the seventh inning.

And the Cincinnati Reds orginally drafted him in 2019 in the 13th round, then traded him to the Astros for pitcher Cionel Perez. He is Luke Berryhill, ‘The Singing Catcher.’

In 2021 he wrote a song about his life in the minors, ‘Road To The Show,’ and he said, “I literallly just wrote my life and it just flowed out about the bus rides, the good games and bad games, just working my way up.”

He recorded the song and others and now sings and performs professionally in the off-season. And so far he has made it to Triple-A, one step from the majors.

When a batter digs into the box, he might hear a voice behind him singing. . . ‘You Had A Bad Day. . .’

—PAY AND GO AWAY: It is always disconcerting to see a coach lose his job and nobody was stunned when Ohio State fired basketball coach Chris Holtmann.

And it is even more disconcerting when a coach is fired mid-season.

But shed just a tear or two for Holtmann. To sweep him out the door, Ohio State must pay him a buyout of $12.8 million. The next time one sees Holtmann he’ll probably be found fishing off a yacht in The Bahamas.

Where do I sign up?

—HOLMES TO HOLMES: Former boxing heavyweight champion Larry Holmes (1978-85) is not related to University of Dayton basketball wunderkind DaRon Holmes II.

The boxing Holmes, though, has some advice for the hoopster Holmes, who must endure everything from opponents but the opposing coach hiring an ax murderer to take him out.

Said the boxer Holmes, “Don’t take no punches. Prove to them you are a good fighter.”

And while on the subject of UD basketball, I have one question about 5-foot-10, 155-pound point guard Javon Bennett: “How can a kid so small play so big?” Bennett plays as hard as a referee’s heart.

—CEREAL KILLER: Questions: Honey-Nut Cheerios or Frosted Flakes? Bananas on them or not?

—PETE PEEVE: How do you pronounce often? It is not off-ten. It is off-en. The ’t’ is silent. It is like hasten and soften. Now get off my lawn.

—QUANTUM QUOTES: More utterings from baseball people that can be used as quotation devices:

From Mickey Mantle: “Did you hear that Yogi Berra accepted a $1 milllion contract from George Steinbrenner? A dolllar a year for a million years.”

From former catcher/broadcaster Joe Garagiola: “The Chicago Cubs are like the Rush Street bars in Chicago, a lot of singles but no action.”

From former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner about complaints from pitcher Goose Gossage: “Thc Goose should do more pitching and less quackig.”

From columnist Jim Murray on Billy Martin: “Some people carry chips on their shoulders. Billy Martin has a whole lumberyard.”

From Yogi Berra (And maybe he really said it): “Listen up. I have nothing to say and I’m only gonna say it once.”

From pitcher Dan Quisenberry on trouble with his sinker: “The batter still hits a grounder, but the first bounce is 360 feet away.”

From Pete Rose on Philadelphia fans: “Most of them would boo the crack in the Liberty Bell.”

From former catcher/broadcaster Bob Uecker: “I had slumps that lasted until Christmas Eve.”

From Joe Torre while managing the New York Mets: “I’m not sure if I’d rather be managing or testing bullet-proof vests.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 20: The iPod keeps churning them out:

Glory Days (Bruce Springsteen), There’s A Hush (Herman’s Hermits), Bye, Bye Baby (Bay City Rollers), It’s My Party (Lesley Gore), Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals), Against All Odds (Phil Collins), Why Can’t We Be Friends (War), My Eyes Adored You (Frankie Valli), Chariots Of Fire (Vangells), If You Don’t Know Me By Now (Simply Red).

Sea Of Love (Honeydippers), Baby I Love You (Rhonettes), When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge), Teach Your Children (Crosby, Stills & Nash), Cracklin’ Rosie (Neil Diamond), I Write The Songs (Barry Manilow), Brandy (Looking Glass), Drive (The Cars), These Eyes (The Guess Who).

OBSERVATIONS: A Sad Day. . .Don Gullett Passes Away

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave and pardon me while I write this with a handkerchief in one hand and tears running down my cheeks.

—GULLY IS GONE: It is the time of my life, at my age (83), when I shudder when the house phone rings. Seldom is it good news. Mostly it is telemarketers. . .and I never answer.

Such was the case today when the phone rang and it was the worst news possible.

Former Cincinnati Reds pitcher Don Gullett suffered a stroke, never regained consciousness and passed away at age 73.

Needless to say, he was one of the best pitchers ever to occupy a pitcher’s mound while wearing a Reds uniform — 91-44 with a 3.11 earned run average during his seven-year run.

He and Gary Nolan were the pitching anchors on the 1975 and 1976 World Series champions.

Even more important, though, he was one of the nicest persons ever to wear a Reds uniform. And even though he was a real tough guy, backed down from nobody, he was so quiet as to be almost silent in the clubhouse with zero ego as a player.

I got to know him as a pitcher, but got even closer when he was a pitching coach for the Reds and manager Jack McKeon, and a doggone good one. We spent a lot of time on the road together and trying to get him to talk about himself was not like pulling a tooth, it was like trying to pull an entire mouth full of teeth.

I was always intrigueds by his legendary accomplishments at McKell (Ky.) High School, where he scored 70 points in one football game, 50 points in a basketball game and struck out every batter but one in a baseball game. The last batter bunted.

No matter how often I asked, he just smiled and shrugged. I had heard that his football coach at McKell was mad at the other team’s coach, so he turned Gullett loose on that team.

Was that true, Gully. Smile, shrug.

Injuries prevented him from ever winning the Cy Young Award or be considered for the Hall of Fame.

In 1975 he was 15-4 with a 2.42 ERA, but made only 22 starts due to injuries. He was on his way toward a Cy Young. In 1976, it was worse. He made only 20 starts and was 11-3 with a 3.00 earned run average, also on his way to Cy Young considerations.

After the ’76 season, he signed with the New York Yankees and was 14-4 with a 3.58 ERA, once again with 22 starts.

Then in 1978 he tore his rotator cuff. That was before rotator cuffs could be fixed with Tommy John surgery, so his career was over.

In nine years, he was 109-50 — 59 games over .500 — with a 3.11 earned run average. That definitely was a path to Cooperstown, but the shortened career threw a brick wall in front of him.

He was one of the Good Guys, a really, really Good Guy. Whomever he pitches for in Heaven, that team won’t lose many when he starts. And the football and basketball teams will be blessed, too.

Rest in peace, No. 35, rest in peace. Now pardon me while I take the house phone off the hook.

—FALLING STARS: How fragile is a major league career? Just ask Jesse Winker and Amir Garrett. Remember when both were major pieces on the Cincinnati Reds?

Now both, holding hats in hand, are pretty much on the start-over phases of their careers.

Outfielder Winker signed a minor league contract with an invite to the major league camp of the Washington Nationals. Pitcher Garrett signed a minor league contract with an invite to the major league camp of the San Francisco Giants.

Historically, that makes them long shots to make the Opening Day roster. And Joey Votto? Still jobless.

—READY ALREADY?: It appearss Shohei Ohtani is ready to provide returns on the $750 million investment the Los Angeles Dodgers put into him.

On Day One of spring training, on the first pitch he saw on his first batting practice swing, he dispatched a baseball over the fence. And of his first 21 swings, 10 left the ball park. . .and they aren’t training in Williamsport.

Once upon a time, back in Tampa’s old Al Lopez Field, spring home of the Reds, I saw George Foster hit seven straight over the left field wall, endangering numerous parked cars, including my rental car. Fortunately, it escaped unscathed.

—POINT OF PERSPECTIVE: Hall of Fame baseball player Ted Williams to Hall of Fame golfer Sam Snead:

TW: “Golf is the easiest sport in the world. You get to hit a ball that isn’t even moving.”

SS: “Oh, yeah. Do you have to hit your foul balls?”

—FLYERS STILL FLYIN’: Many of the Flyer Faithfull were stunned and shocked, in a good way, when the University of Dayton climbed from No. 18 to No. 16 in this week’s Associated Press college basketball poll.

They expected the Flyers to fall, maybe clear out of the Top 25 when they played like a Fifth Street YMCA pick-up team in a 47-45 loss to a not-that-good Virginia Commonwealth team.

It was no shock or even a surprise to me. Of last week’s Top 25 teams, 17 lost at least one game last week. Kentucky and Wisconsin lost twice.

Meanwhile, UD won a big game on the road at Saint Joseph’s before losing on the road to VCU by just two points.

And with their 16-point home win Tuesday over Duquesne, if the Flyers can strongly put away Fordham at UD Arena Saturday afternoon, they should climb even higher in the polls.

—BIRD’S WORD: Larry Bird was impressed, extremely impressed.

After Michael Jordan scored 63 points for the Chicago Bulls in a playoff game agains his Boston Celtics, Bird said, “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

—QUALITY QUOTES: More things said by baseball people that evoke at least a grin:

From pitcher Billy Loes, who once claimed he lost a ground ball in the sun: “I have no intention or desire to ever win 20 games because then they expect it of you.”

From pitcher Jim Lonborg when he struggled: “It has to be physical which is why I’m soaking my arm. If it was mental I’d be soaking my head.”

From umpire Al Clark on why he addressed the former manager formally as George Anderson: “I refused to call a 52-year-old man Sparky.”

From Esther Canseco, after her husband, Jose Canseco, was benched for Game 4 of the 1990 World Series against the Reds: “Let ‘em sweep us. I should have worn a red dress.”

From Reggie Jackson on facing Nolan Ryan: “You just hope to mix in a walk so you just go 0 for 3.”

From Yankee utility player Phil Linz: “You can’t get rich sitting on the bench, but I’m giving it aa try.”

From Mickey Mantle, after his first day as a broadcaster: “You don’t realize how easy this game is until you get up in the broadcast booth.”

From Yogi Berra when Tom Seaver asked him what time it was: “You mean now?”
—PLAYLIST NO. 18: I believe I am close to the end of my iPod’s playlist, but maybe not.

Every Rose Has Its Thorns (Poison), That’s All (Genesis), Jump (Van Halen), When I See You Smile (Bad English), Love Me Tonight (Don Williams), Sarah (Fleetwood Mac), In The Long Run (The Eagles), Seasons In The Sun (Terry Jackson), It’s All In The Game (Tommy Edwards).

Ob La Di, Ob La Da (The Beatles), The Great Pretender (The Platters), Behind Closed Doors (Charlie Rich), Say A Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin), So Much In Love (The Thymes), Light My Fire (The Doors), Whatcha Gonna Do? (Pablo Cruise), Somebody’s Baby (Jackson Browne), Drift Away (Dobie Gray).

OBERVATIONS: A Book About The Pastoral Cape Cod League

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, giddy as always when it is time for pitchers and catchers to put button on their uniforms, pull on their spikes, grab their gloves and begin working on ther sun tans.

FOLLOWING THE FIREBIRDS: With spring training camps opening their gates this week, how about something from the game’s grass roots?

Pure pastoral baseball can be found in the Cape Cod League, a summer collegiate wooden bat league.

Even a movie, ‘Summer Catch,’ was about the league with a cameo appearance by Ken Griffey Jr., who did not win an Academy Award.

Now there is going to be a book about one team in the Cape Cod League, the Orleans Firebirds.

My wonderful friend and author, Mark Epstein, is going to follow Orleans all summer this year and write a chronology book on the daily grind both on and off the field of the organization, including the many volunteers.

There is no doubt it will be outstanding. Sports fans can check out his work by reading, ‘They Call Me Pathfinder’ and ‘Jack ‘The Shot’ Foley, A Legend For All Time.’

The Foley book is a fascinating, well-written, well-documented piece of work about Foley, a Holy Cross All-American basketball player who could shoot a marble into a tea cup from 30 feet.

Interesting tidbit: The Cape Cod League was formed in 1923 with four teams — Osterville, Hyannis, Chatham and Falmouth. There are now 10 teams with Hyannis, Chatham and Falmouth still in it. And Falmouth, a 1923 charter member, hasn’t won a Cape Cod championship since 1971.

At least they keep trying, hoping to some day re-discover the taste of champagne.

—ICHIRO TO REDS?: Did you hear that the Cincinnati Reds signed Ichiro? Really? Well, not THAT Ichiro, not Ichiro Suzuki.

They signed a 19-year-old switch-hitting third baseman out of Mexico named Ichiro Cano Hernandez. So, he was named after Ichiro Suzuki, right? Wrong.

In an e-mail to the Reds, he explained, “They gave me this name because my dad had a Japanese friend named Ichiiro who was a surfer.”

So Ichiro is a common name in Japan like James or John? Who knew?

—A DOUBTING THOMAS: What was the longest home run in baseball history? How about 3,300 miles?

As the story goes, a guy named Jimmy Ryan, playing for the Chicago Pirates in 1890, hit a ball over the center field wall in a State Island Ball Park. The New York Giants were playing there because the Polo Grounds was being built.

The ball allegedly landed on a schooner in the Atlantic Ocean, striking a fan on the head. He kept the ball and sailed to Liverpool, England, about 3,300 miles.

Some spoil sport researcher debunks the story. He said the ball would have had to travel 610 feet to the boat in the ocean. And he said Ryan never hit a home run in State Island in 1890. He did hit one in 1889 while playing for the Chicago White Stockings, not the Chicago Pirates.

Nothing like spoiling a great story, right?

—THE GRAND MASTER: Before the start of a World Series game in Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, old Casey Stengel, the New York Yankees manager, took a young outfielder named Mickey Mantle out to right field.

His mission was to show Mantle how to play caroms off the complex wall in Ebbets Field. After the tutorial was concluded, Mantle asked Stengel, “How do you know so much about playing caroms off this wall?”

Stengel shook his gnarled and wrinkled old head and said, “I used to play right field here for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Do you think I was born old?”

—A GREAT MYSTERY: What’s going on in Lexington, Ky. . .and it has nothing to do with horses or the Kentucky Derby?

The University of Kentucky basketball team certainly has the horses, but UK lost Saturday to Gonzaga, the third straight home loss for the Wildcats.

Three straight home setbacls had never happened to the ‘Cats since Rupp Arena opened in 1976.

And they lost Saturday to coach Mark Few’s worst Gonzaga team. The UK win was the Zags’ first Quad 1 win this season.

While UK is a powerful scoring machine, defense is a dirty word. Despite three 7-footers, the Wildcats were outrebouned by the Zags, 43-31. UK has one of the worst defensive rebounding team in the country.

And the rabid UK fan bases wants to turn coach John Calipari’s head into a basketball to dribble down West Main Street.

—THE REST OF THE STORY: Now that Chip Kelly has left the head coaching job at UCLA to become offensive co-ordinator for Ryan Day at Ohio State, there has to be a back story. And there is.

It is role reversal. Back when Kelly was in his formative years as a coach, he was the offensive co-ordinator at that football powerhouse, the University of New Hampshire. And his quarterback? Ryan Day. And those were the days of two-way players and Day also was a linebacker.

—ROAD GLUTTONS: For some strange reason, the Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt Conference took league play off this weekend and every MAC team played every Sun Belt team.

Why strange. Because in every game, the MAC team went to the Sun Belt team’s gym. As one might expect, the Sun Belt won most games aand mostly by wide margins.

The MAC was 2-and-9 both winners were by one point, Buffalo over Georgia Southern and Central Michigan over Old Dominion.
—STOPING WILT: Former NBAer Charles Barkley has an opinion on everything and is the kind of guy when somebody says, “Good morning,” he says, “What do you mean by that?”

And, of course, he has an opinion on the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks in 1962, 62 years ago.

Barkley says the 7-foot-2 man nicknamed ‘The Stilt’ and ‘The Big Dipper’ would never score 100 against him.

“You know whatl bothers me about that? That team (the Knicks) had no pride. If a guy was roasting me like that, I’d be in the lockerroom because I would have been flagraant fouling him,” said Barkley.

Hey, Sir Charles. The Knicks tried that and Wilt hit 28 of 32 free throws. That means he made 36 baskets. . .and there was no three-point line in 1962. The only way to stop Wilt that night was to deflate the basketball with a needle. . .or hide the basketball.

—THE ‘SPIDA’ MAN: The NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have a player of Wilt Chamberlain’s calibre, but apparently they don’t need one.

They have Donovan Mitchell and a strong supporting cast, strong enough that the Cavs are on a nine-game winning streak and have won 17 of their last 18 games.

And for the season, they are17-8 on the road, which in the NBA is like Napolean winning at Waterloo. It just doesn’t happen.

During the last 18 games, Mitchell is averagine 28.5 points a game, 5.1 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The assists are surprising to me because it looks as if nobody passes the ball in the NBA.

Mitchell, a shooting guard nicknamed ‘Spida,’ was Utah’s No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Louisville. And he is inserting himself as the possible MVP of the NBA.

—QUICKIE QUOTES: Some more utterings from baseball people:

—From Roy Campanella, when told by photographers to smile for the cameras: “I ain’t heard nothin’ funny yet.”

¸—From a player named Birdie McCree on facing Walter Johnson’s fastball: “There is only one way to time it. When you see his arm start forward, swing.”

¸—From catcher Tim McCarver on pitcher Steve Carlton’s preference to pitch with McCarver catching: “When we die, we will be buried 60 feet, 6 inches apart.”

¸—From Joe Grzenda after spending 11 years in the minors riding buses: “I’d like to stay in the majors long enough to make enough money to buy a bus—then I’d set fire to it.”

—From Dale Berra, a son to Yogi Berra, comparing himself to his dad and sounding just like him: “Our similarities are different.”

—From George Brett on umpires favoring Wade Boggs: “A woman will be elected president before Wade Boggs is called out on strikes, I guarantee that.”

—From Joe Dugan, teammate to Babe Ruth: “Born? Hell, Babe Ruth wasn’t born. He fell out of a tree.”

—From broadcaster Hank Greenwald when Dusty Baker came to bat: “Dusty Baker will lead off the ninth and judging by the music, The William Tell Overture, he’ll be followed by The Lone Ranger and Tonto.”

—From manager Whitey Herzog: “I’m not buddy-buddy with my players. If they want a buddy, let them buy a dog.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 18: Some songs from the deep recesses of my iPod:

As Good As I Once Was (Toby Keith), In The Ghetto (Elvis Presley), Wonderful Tonight (Eric Clapton), Baby Come Back (Player), Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty), I’m A Believer (The Monkees), Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars), How Do I Live (LeAnn Rimes), Hey Jude (The Beatles), Bette Davis Eyes (Kim Carnes).

Tonight’s The Night (Rod Stewart), Let’s Get It On (Marvin Gaye), Another One Bites The Dust (Queen), Night Fever (The BeeGees), Dream Lover (Bobby Darriin), What About Love? (Heart), Money For Nothing (Dire Straits), There Goes My Baby (The Drifters), Lean On Me (Bill Wiithers), Somewhere Out There (Linda Ronstadt & James Ingram).

—Oh, yeah. The Stupor Bowl is over. Did the Kansas City Swifts win? Yes, the underdog Swifts beat the 49ers, 25-22, in overtime.

And KC QB Patrick Mahomes had the best post-game quote: “Just remember, the Kansas City Chiefs are never underdogs. . .never.”


McCoy: Spring Training, Baseball Is Upon Us

By Hal McCoy

Spring training is not a popular period for most professional baseball players. I have never heard a player say, “I love spring training.”

To them it is mostly six weeks of monotonous drudgery, boring workouts, long bus rides with box lunches and a succession of meaningless games day after day after day.

But the golf and fishing are relaxing after workoutrs and early afternoon exhibition games.

Iconic broadcaster Harry Caray probably put it best when he said, “It’s the fans that need spring training. You gotta get ‘em interested, wake ‘em up. Let ‘em know that their season is coming, tha good times are gonna roll.”

So it is that time of year, the pleasant sound of bat meeting ball, time to be outdoors in sunshine with the whiff of freshly mowed grass.

The Cincinnati Reds open camp this week at their complex in Goodyear, AZ., with pitchers and catchers signing in Tuesday. It is the beginning to see if, indeed, as Caray said it, are the good times going to roll for the Reds?

It used to be that spring training was for players to get in shape, to sweat off the winter fat after working off-season jobs to supplement their meager salaries.

That is not the case these days, not with astronomical salaries that enable players to hire personal trainers to keep them in shape in the off-season.

Players report in shape with beach-ready bodies and mostly the time is for pitchers to get their arms stretched out and ready for the season.

And it used to be that spring training was a tryout camp with positions to be won or lost. But now most teams know the makeup of their rosters before the first spring training lap is taken around the outfield or the first exercise/stretch session.

That appears to be the case for the 2024 edition of the young and multi-talented Reds. Barring injuiries, which always happen, most positions already are claimed. The major focus will be on discovering the starting five, the pitching rotation.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t questions. Why did the Reds sign infielder Jeimer Candelario? Where is he going to play? Where is second baseman Jonathan India going to play?

The Reds have nearly a dozen starting pitching candidates and it begins with the oft-injured Hunter Greene, a problemn that rampant with last season’s starting staff.

Returning are Graham Ashcraft, Nick Lodolo and Andrew Abbott. While they are young and energetic, their earned run averages last season was between 4.25 and 4.85.

Lodolo missed a large segment of last season and Ashcraft went through a 10-game stretch where he was one step above a batting practice pitcher.

For augmentation, the Reds acquired swing man Nick Martinez, slated for the bullpen but capable of starting. And they added Frankie Montas, who received some Cy Young votes three year ago before encountering shoulder miseries. He made only one start last season.

Last year’s extremely inconsistent bullpen has undergone a strong fix to get to closer Alexis Diaz with the additions of Brent Suter, Emilio Pagan and Martinez.

Usually a baseball manager says, “You can never have enough pitching.” With the Reds, it is more like, “You can never have enough infielders.”

Even though it appeared they didn’t need him, the Reds signed Candelario to a three-year $45 million deall. That’s too much money to pay a designated hitter. He plays third base and first base, so it is likely he will be stationed at one of those spots.

If he plays first, what do the Reds do wih young Christian Encarnacion-Strand? If he plays third, what to they do with Noel Marte. Encarnacio-Strand and Marte both are projected as future stars and the designated hitter spot usualloy isn’t occupied by young players..

Then there is perhaps the team’s best young player, based on what he did last year, second baseman Matt McLain. He claimed second base when Jonathan India was injured and played better, offensively and defensivelly, than India.

All winter the rumor mongers had India putting on another team’s uniform. It never materialized. So now what? DH? Or will the Reds trade him?

After a flashy start during which he did everything on a baseball field but do handstands and cartwheels, shortstop Elly De La Cruz hit that invisible wall that always slows down rookies.

When he got on base, De La Cruz was baseball’s most exciting entity. Who else, within a week, hit for the cycle and stole second, third and home on two pitches.

But opposing pitchers discovered that his knowledge of the strike zone was not high IQ. He chased down and away breaking pitches out of the strike zone almost daily.

Has he learned the strike zone, learned to lay off those tempting low-and-away pitches and willl make the pitchers come to him? Spring training will tell the tale.

With the addition of Candelario, Spencer Steer’s days of infield play probably are over. But he was arguably the team MVP last season and needs to be in the lineup, probably in left field.

Center field once again should belong to blue-collared T.J. Friedl, a steady guy with a functional bat and a glue-like glove.

That leaves right field in most likely a platoon situation with the lefthanded Jake Fraley and the righthanded Will Benson.

And to add some mystery and spice to the spring proceedings, the Reds signed free agent Josh Harrison, a Cincinnati native and product of Princeton High School. The two-time All-Star was signed to a minor league contract as a non-roster invitee to big league camp.

If he makes the team he’ll be paid $1.5 million and be a utility player at second base, third base, first base and the corner outfield spots.

It appears that manager David Bell wil have many interchangeable parts, players that can play several positions. The problem is, there are not enough positions to accommodate all the players.

And so the shakedown begins to see if the good times roll.

OBSERVATIONS: India Still Could Be On The Trading Block

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from the Man Cave after watching UD lose to VCU in game that resembled a docworkers brawl.

—A TRADE COMING: The Cincinnati Reds and Jonathan India avoided one of those often contentious arbitration hearings that often leaves bruised and hard feelings.

In an attempt to win their case, teams often bring up negative and disparaging matters about the player during the hearings.

The Reds and India, though, settled their differences outside the arbitration chambers when India agreed to a two-year $8.5 million deal — $3.5 million this year and $5 million next year. And India can earn up to $2.05 in incentives next year based on games started and plate appearances.

For those rejoicing on social media, hold your breath. India’s relatively low salary base makes him ultra-attractive to other teams. It would not be shocking if the Reds now traded him because he does appear to be excess baggage, an infielder with no place to play.

And for those lobbying on social media for the Reds to sign free agent pitcher Trevor Bauer, that isn’t going to happen, even though he is offering to sign for the major league minimum ($750,000).

Reds executive Nick Krall said the club has no interest in the controversial Bauer.

—QUOTE: From former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corbin Burnes after losing his arbitration case last year and hearing what the Brewers said about him:

“Obviously, it is tough to hear. It’s tough to take. They’re trying to do what they can to win their hearing. There’s no denying that the relationship is definitely hurt from what transpired. There is really no way of getting around that.” (And the Brewers traded Burnes to the Baltimore Orioles a few weeks ago.)

—SINGING HIS PRAISES: One of the most melodiously-named player ever to button up a baseball uniform was Van Lingle Mungo.

Despite pitching for wretched Brooklyn Dodgers teams in the 1930s, he is one of the few players to have a song written about him.

Wretched? For example, Mungo once had a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth when the second baseman dropped a pop fly. An error, right? “Nope,” said the officials scorer. “A hit. The sun was in the fielder’s eyes.”

Said Mungo, “I always thought they called them the Dodgers because of the way they dodged fly balls. Sometimes they didn’t dodge ‘em and the balls hit them on the head.”
He isn’t in the Hall of Fame with his 120-115 record, but twice he won 18 games and usually pitched more than 300 innings. He started 38 games one seaason and 37 another and finished 22 both times.

Some believe he was the hardest thrower ever. Said Billy Herman, who faceed Bob Feller, Lefty Gomez and Dizzy Dean, “Van Lingle Mungo was the fastest pitcher I ever faced.”

Mungo said his fastball was once clocked at 109 miles an hour. Uh, yeah, sure. So what did they clock it with in 1934?

—HENRY & WILLIE: Can you imagine Henry Aaron and Willie Mays on the same team in the same outfield, Aaron in right and Mays in center?

It nearly happened, but $50 a month stopped it. The Braves and Giants both offered Aaron a contract.

“I had a Giants contract in my hand,” said Aaron. “But the Braves offered me $50 a month more. That’s the only thing that kept Willie Mays and me from being teammmates, $50.”

That might be the best $50 any major league team ever spent.

—ICH-ING TO HIT: Talk about consistency, was there any player more consistent than Ichiro?

When he arrived from Japan and the Seattle Mariners stuck him into the lineup, he grabbed his third hit in his 10th at bat, a .300 average.

And from that day forward, throughout his entire 19-year career, his career average never dipped below .300. He finished at .311.

Ichiro will be on the Hall of Fame ballot next year and should be a slam dunk first-ballot inductee.

—GIANT STEP UP: Looks to me as if football coach Chip Kelly was given a HUGE promotion. He went from head coach at UCLA to offensive co-ordinator at Ohio State.

—HE MISSED WHAT?: A pro golfer named Cristobal del Solar set a PGA-sanctioned tour record this week when he shot a 57 in the Astara Golf Championship in Bogata, Colombia.

During his 13-under par round on the par-70 course, he had two eagles , nine birdies and not a single bogey.

The PGA should borrow one of baseball’s asterisks for this round. The course is only 6,254 yards and the course is at 8,600 feet above sea level.

Well, he wasn’t infallible. He missed a six-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole or he would have shot 56, which is what I used to shoot on the front nine. . .on a good day.

—OL’ KING COLE: Larry Cole, a defensive end, was a 16th-round pick out of the University of Hawaii by the Dallas Cowboys, the 428th player picked in the 1968 NFL draft.

Despite his lowliness on the draft list, Cole survived 13 seasons with the Cowboys. And he had a claim to fame. As a defensive end, he scored four touchdowns.

After his fourth, he told writers, “I had an eerie feeling all day long that I was going to score a touchdown. It’s crazy to say that, but I did have this really eerie feeling, this really eerie hunch.”

And why was that?

“I guess because it was against the Washington Redskins,” he said.

And why was that? Because all four of his career touchdowns came against the Washington Redskins.

—THE ‘INSPIRATION’ GAME: Coaches sometimes display bizarre behavior when their teams are behind at halftime.

***Notre Dame was behind in a game and coach Knute Rockne didn’t appear in the lockerrom for a long time. Finally, Rockne stuck his hairless head inside the door and said, “Pardon me, ladies, I thought this was the Notre Dame dressing room.”

***University of Texas coach Darrell Royal once addressed his team at halftime by saying, “There is a hell of a fight going on out there on the field. Why don’t you fellows join it.”

***Oklahoma City basketball coach Abe Lemons found his team down 20 points at the half. After the game, he told writers he was speechless in the dressing room.

“I had a speech for 10 points behind or 11 or 15,” he said. “But I never figured on 20.” Instead, he immediately sent his team back on the floor for a scrimmage until the start of the second half.

***The topper, though, was reported by legendary Dallas columnist Blackie Sherrod. He wrote that at halftime of a Baylor game, coach Grant Teaff popped a big, fat purple earthworm into his mouth. And his team nearly removed the dressing room door from its hinges trying to escape their madman of a coach.

—NOTABLE QUOTABLES: Tickling the funny bone with more baseball comedy:

From Harvey Haddix after pitching 12 perfect innings and losing in the 13th: “What’s so historic about that. Did anyone ever lose a 13-inning shutout before?”

From John Lowenstein after messing up a sacrifice bunt: “Sure I screwed up the bunt. But I’m a better bunter than a billion Chinese. Those suckers can’t bunt at all.”

From Dave Parker on the late season: “September is pantyhose month. No nonsense.”

From former batting instructor Charlie Lau: “When Billy Martin reached for a bar tab, his arm shrinks six inches.”

From pitcher Bobo Newsome when asked how he pitched to Joe DiMaggio: “He has a weakness for doubles.”

From Dizzy Dean about dropping out of school after the second grade, “I didn’t do so good in the first grade, either.”

From former outfielder Richie Scheinblum: “I can’t hit any pitcher alive. . .if he stands still.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 17: So you think I’m at the bottom of my list? Nah.

Cryin’ For Me (Toby Keith), Paradise City (Guns N’ Roses), Take My Breath Away (Berlin), The Glory Of Love (Chicago), My Girl (Temptations), When Will I See You Again (Three Degrees), Manic Monday (The Bangles), House Of The Rising Sun (The Animals), Under The Boardwalk (The Drifters).

Where Did Our Love Go? (The Supremes), She Loves You (The Beatles), It’s My Life (Bon Jovi), Have You Ever Seen The Rain? (Credence Clearwater Revival), I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston), Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship), Should Have Been A Cowboy (Toby Keith).


OBSERVATIONS: Who Knows Where The Reds Will Finish

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, devouring every written morsel about the upcoming baseball season. . .my 51st year trying to write about it.

—FIRST OR FOURTH?: Depending upon the day, or the hour, or the minute, prognosticators are predicting a first place finish for the 2024 Cincinnati Reds or a fourrth place finish.

Who ya gonna believe? Actually, nobody. It is all decided on the green, green grass near home plate and not by computers or analytics geeks. It is decided by flesh, blood and a lot of tears.

Just to enable Reds fans to be happy and angry at the same time, here are two examples posted on social media on the same day.

ONE: “This is the year the Reds return to the top of the National League Central. The Reds are the most improved team in the division from last year when they finished with 82 wins. They added five bonafide major league ballplayers. None of the other teams in the division can claim that they improved to a level higher than Cincinnati.”

TWO: “Despite their surprising 2023 season, PECOTA (whoever they are or it is) is joining the chorus of projection systems proclaiming regression for the Reds. They have Cincinnati finishing fourth in the National League Central with a 78-84 record.”

So when I find a web-site that predicts them to finish second, third or fifth, I’ll chime in again.

They make these predictions before the first pitch of spring training, before the roster is set, before the first pulled hamstring and the first Tommy John surgery. They are meaningless.

And I’ll leave you with a quote from Yogi Berra:
“Never make predictions, especially about the future.”

—NO ‘SMALL’ MARKETS: Let’s quit calling any major league baseball team ‘small market.’ It doesn’t exist and the so-called ‘small market’ Kansas City Royals proved it this week.

The Royals signed 23-year-old shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year extension to a guaranteed $288.7 million deal. And if, at 34, the Royals believe Witt can still play, they have a three-year option that takes the deal to $377.7 million.

Expect barbecue sandwiches in Kauffman Stadium to cost an arm, two legs and a third-born child.

—WALK ON BY: With less than a week before pitchers and catchers report to baseball, golf and fishing, Joey Votto remains standing in baseball’s unemployment line, or maybe sitting in his La-Z-Boy when he isn’t working out.

An interesting tidbit. Votto has reached base 300 or more times in a season three times in his career. Since 1950, only five players have done it more often.

Votto was a walking machine, taking more walks than my three dogs combined.

—A LOBO HOBO: There is a basketball player/mercenary at the University of New Mexico who is on a national tour to see how many basketball teams he can play for before the NCAA says, “Enough.”

Due to injuries and the Covid pandemic, Jamal Baker Jr. is in his sixth year of college basketball with his fourth team.

He played two years at Kentucky, two years at Arizona State, a year at Fresno State and now he is a Lobo.

Wonder if he has ever seen the inside of a classroom or ever learned the name of a professor?

—RIDE THE SUBWAY: While Amtrak runs through Durham, N.H. on its way to Boston, the town is still rural with a capital ‘R,’ even though it houses the main campus of the University of New Hampshire.

Imagine how difficult it is to recruit Division I basketball playerds to attend UNH. It has to be easier to find moose and bears.

My great friend, Mark Epstein, relates this story, as relayed to him by former UNH coach Billy Herrion. He retired last season after 18 years.

After his last season, some mid-level schools approached Herrion’s two best players to transfer for NIL money, around $25,000.

So Herrion went to the school president and said, “We have to get involved in the NIL program, get some sponsor money.”

And the president’s answer was, “Well, don’t all our players get free Subway sandwiches?”

Let’s hope they were Italian BMT’s and not Veggie Delites. A Veggie Delite would be enough to send one fleeing to Drexel or Coppin State.

—WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?: As a guy who used to play tennis nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, I never thought about the silly scoring system. It took comedian Brian Regan to point them out to me.

Why is zero in tennis called love? I never loved it when I had zero.

And the first point is 15 and the second point is 30. Stands to reason that the third point is 45, right? Nope, it’s 40.

Then when the score is 40-40, it is not called 40-40, it is called deuce. Deuce? I thought deuce meant two.

Goofy? As comedian George Carlin always said, “That’s my job, pointing out goofy things.”

—A REAL GOOD BALL: This was one golf ball that knew how to find the cup.

Preston Miller, 13, made a hole-in-one on a Minneapolis golf course. For some strange reason, he continued to use the same ball. And he lost it a few holes later.

While Miller celebrated his ace in the clubhouse, Ricardo Fernandez walked in babbling that he, too, scored a hole-in-one on a different hole.

The two discussed their shots when it was discovered that Fernandez found Miller’s ball and used it to score his hole-in-one. The same ball. It had the logo of Miller’s school golf team and Fernandez found it on the hole Miller lost it.

It is rumored that every other golfer in the clubhouse engaged in a hostile bidding war to buy the ball. But who really owned it. That’s easy. Finders keepers, right?

—QUOTE-UNQUOTE: More daffiness out of the mouths of baseball people:

From former utility infielder Billy Grabarkewitz: “I have so many splinters from sitting on the bench that if somebody struck a match I’d catch on fire.”

From Lou Camilli on Cleveland’s roster: “They are about to change our name to the Cleveland Electric Light Company because we don’t have anybody but utility men.”

From catcher Carlton Fisk when he was 43: “I don’t think I should be asked to catch when the temperature is below my age.”

From manager Lou Piniella after the Reds lost 20-8 on a 36-degree day: “We got to freeze our butts and get them kicked at the same time.”

From former catcher Gus Triandos before an old-timers game: “I don’t need a chest protector, I need a bra.”

From pitcher David Cone talking about teammate David Wells: “We have a pitcher from Japan, a pitcher from Cuba, a pitcher from Panama and Boomer Wells is from Mars.”

From Babe Ruth on Wrigley Field: “I’d play for half my salary if I could hit in this dump all the time.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 16: More tunes to be found on my iPod (Yep, I still have one) and the first one is in honor of the passing of Toby Keith:

Red Solo Cup (Toby Keith), I’m Still Having Fun (U2), Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who), Don’t Bring Me Down (The Who), Beds Are Burning (Midnight Oil), Nothing Compares To U (Sinead O’Connor), Wicked Game (Chris Isaak), When I Need You (Leo Sayer), Sometimes When We Touch (Dan Hill), Annie’s Song (John Denver).

A Love So Beautiful (Roy Orbison), Words Don’t Come Easy (F.R. David), If I Can Dream (Elvis Presley), Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan), I Love Rock And Roll (Joan Jett & The Blackhearts), When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge), Good Lovin’ (The Rascals), Don’t Let The Old Man In (Toby Keith), Take A Chance On Me (Abba).