OBSERVATIONS: From strike up the band to strike out the man

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while watching the rain turn the backyard into the swimming pool Nadine always wanted.

—Everybody has heard the term, “Strike up the band.” In baseball, the term is, “Strike out the man.” And strike him out, strike him out and strike him out.

In the first 30 games played this year, Major League batters (hitters they ain’t) struck out more than 500 times. The 30 teams averaged 18 strikeouts combined per game.

Once upon a midnight clear, players used to shorten their swings and make contact with two strikes. Not now. They dig in, grip the bat as if somebody might steal it and swing from heels. And usually miss.

It used to be a player would be embarrased to strikeout twice in a game. Now it is as common as birds singing in the morning.

Consider this. The Detroit Tigers struck out 46 times in a three-game series against the Reds. . .and won two of the three games.

How about this one? Hall of Famer Joe Sewell struck three times all season for the New York Yankees in 1932 over 576 plate appearances.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Jim Thome: “It’s tough to strike out. Believe me, it is no fun striking out. I hate striking out.” (Thome hated it 2,548 times when he struck out during his career.)

—From good friend and former Major League Scout Ben McLure on baseball’s 16-team playoff format: “With 16 teams in the playoffs, do the 14 non-qualifiers get participation trophies? This is Little League nonsense.”

—Why is Jesse Winker batting leadoff for the Cincinnati Reds. As somebody once said, “He runs like a greyhound, a Greyhound bus.” Why isn’t Shogo Akiyama bating leadoff. His on-base average in Japan was .379.

OK, OK. So Winker’s on-base average is .378 for his career, but Akiyama can steal bases if manager David Bell decides stolen bases can help win games.

—QUOTE: From singer Bob Dylan: “Steal a little and they throw you in jail, steal a lot and they make you a king.” (Sure they do. Remember King Rickey I?)

—From Facebook friend Chuck Murr:

All baseball fans know about the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and their 20-134 record. With that record there had to be some incredible negative statistics.

How about this one? In 1898, a 21-year-old pitcher named Frank Bates was 23-16 with Dayton of the Interstate League. The Spiders purchased him for that memorable 1899 season.

There may not have been a worse season for any pitcher in the game’s history. He went 1-18 with a 7.24 earned run average. He gave up 239 hits in 153 innings and walked 105. And get this, he struck out only 13 batters and hit 23.

—QUOTE: From former pitcher Tug McGraw: “I have no trouble with the 12 inches between my elbow and my palm. It’s the seven inches between my ears that’s bent.” (It also was McGraw who said when asked what he did with his money, “I spent 90 per cent of it on good times — wine, women and song. The other 10 per cent I wasted.”)

—Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez is as much as man’s man as anybod out there. But he wasn’t afraid to express his feelings when he heard about 11 Miami Marlins and two coaches testing positive for Covid-19.

“I’ll be honest with you, I’m scared,” he said. He isn’t the Lone Ranger.

One question: Why did the Marlins play in Philadelphia Sunday when they knew several of their players test positive? MLB needs to get a firmer grip on things.

—QUOTE: From Hall of Famer Duke Snider on the futility of pitchers trying to hit: “A pitcher knows he is pitching well when the batter looks as bad as you do at the plate.”

—Former Reds outfielder Cesar Cedeno’s body was like cut glass, all sharp edges. He was a porterhouse steak with all the fat trimmed away. He looked as if he could go 10 rounds with Ali.

But. . .there was a spring training game against the Houston Astros in Cocoa Beach, Fla. Cedeno was playing center field, when suddenly, in mid-inning he came sprinting to the dugout.

Did nature call? No, worse.

“I saw a snake out there and I ain’t going back out there,” he said. And he didn’t. The Reds replaced him in the lineup.

And then there was the time Nasty Boy Randy Myers killed several water mocassins that inhabited the retaining pond behind the right field fence at Plant City Stadium.

Myers put the dead reptiles on a shovel and carried them into the clubhouse. At least 10 Reds players set a record for climbing on top of their lockers.

Dave Bristol, former Reds manager and later a third base coach, is a member of the team’s Hall of Fame. But he had a fear of snakes.

Pitcher Mario Soto loved to plant rubber snakes in the third base coacing box or take a run at Bristol and toss a rubber reptile at him.

And that’s this week’s Reptile Report.

—QUOTE: From an anonymous person with a fear of snakes, but it could be Cedeno or Bristol: “Only three kind of snakes scare me. Big snakes, little snakes and sticks that look like snakes.”

7 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: From strike up the band to strike out the man”

  1. Hal, what a delightful rain delay column. I remember both of Tug’s quotes and the one about Cedano and the snake made me laugh out loud. Thanks as alway!

  2. I’m with both Bristol and Cedeno with regard to ALL snakes great and small.

    Jim Day podcast interview with Jim Maloney…great snake story and an hour well spent for any old Reds fan !

    David Bell is a mystery to me. The more I hear him to more I’m confused. Sounds like Price-Light.

    Are any present day major league managers willing to say once and a while “we really stunk it up today” ?

    BTW Reds, this geezer stopped watching or listening to your product after seeing the cute PC on field display during our national anthem. As Joe Nuxhall liked to say “THAT’S AWFUL”.

    Seeing a manager take a knee on the field is extremely disturbing.

    Whatever keeps the snowflake fragile players happy right ?

    Rubbish !

  3. Great article, Hal. I’ve been looking for it. Couldn’t agree with you more about strike outs and the ensuing embarrassment players USED to feel. And how about “going down looking” That used to be the ultimate embarrassment. Do current players even know the saying “It was too close to take”? And you can add me to one who wonders why Shogo isn’t leading off. AND why Bell continues to use Iggy in tie games, when he has other options. Isn’t doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, the definition of insanity? Though playing this season at all, may be as well.

  4. For a great snake story (possibly the best ever), listen to Jim Day’s podcast interview with Jim Maloney. I was laughing so hard, my eyes were watering so much, nearly drove off the road!

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