OBSERVATIONS: A walk around a few ballparks

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave trying to concentrate on writing while Nadine runs the sweeper to clean up the detritus on the floor where I missed the ash tray. Underneath my ash tray looks like the remnants of Mount Rainier.

—Some not-so-fond memories from baseball parks and other venues:

CANDLESTICK PARK (San Francisco): Was in the pressbox during the 1989 World Series earthquake. Was talking to the office on the phone when the press box began shaking and the light towers began waving like weeds in a windstorm. My coffee tipped over and I said, “We’re having an earth. . .,” and the phone went dead.

SHEA STADIUM (New York) While writing my game story after the game, a very large rat crawled across my foot and I set a Major League record running from the first row of the press box to the third.

COUNTY STADIUM (Milwaukee) A very cramped press box and I had my brief case behind me. Braves legend Johnny Logan walked behind me, tripped over my bag, and went head first to the floor. His reaction to me: “@#%@^Y$. $&#$$.”

MILLER PARK (Milwaukee) Got stuck by myself in an elevator after a game. Tried the phone, nobody answered. Pounded on the door. Nobody answered. Most everybody was gone. Suddenly I heard a voice and it asked, “Who’s in there?” I said, “Hal McCoy.” And scout Pat Dobson said, “Have fun, see ya.” But he did get help.

BUSCH STADIUM II (St. Louis) The hotel was right across the street. After a late Saturday night I overslept for a Sunday game. I was sleeping with the window slightly open, to let cigar smoke escape. I awoke to the sound of, “Now batting for the Cardinals, No 23, Ted Simmons.” I scrambled out of bed, dressed in world-class time and made it to the press box by the third inning, the only time in my career I missed a first pitch.

JACK MURPHY STADIUM (San Diego) After the New York Yankees swept the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series, the post-game parking lot was a mess. I was driving a rental car with Tampa writer Joe Henderson as my passenger. A mounted police horse reared up in front of us and its front hooves landed on the hood. We were quickly surrounded by police and one threatened to arrest me for assaulting a police officer (the horse). Fortunately, one officer said he saw it all and it wasn’t my fault. They let me go.

DODGER STADIUM (Los Angeles) I was on a tight deadline with the three-hour time difference. As I wrote, some guy sat down next to me and kept asking me questions about the Reds. I gave him short, terse answers. He kept at it. Finally, he asked if I’d like something to drink. I sent him for a cup of coffee. A writer sitting on the other side of me asked, “Do you know who you are ignoring? That’s Charlie Sheen.”

GREAT AMERICAN BALL PARK (Cincinnati) I have caught or retrieved many foul balls in press boxes, most notably one hit by Derek Jeters during a World Series game in Yankee Stadium. But one day in GABP Jim Edmonds fouled one back right at me. Fortunately, I had my head down, engrossed in what I was writing on my laptop. The ball rustled the top of my hair and crashed into the wall behind me, leaving a baseball-sized hole. If it had hit me between the eyes I wouldn’t be writing this today.

TROY MEMORIAL STADIUM (Troy, Ohio) It was my first assignment, ever, as a sports writer for the old Dayton Journal Herald in 1962, a Troy High School football game. I labored over my first on-site story. When I finished, I was by myself in the press box and all the lights were turned off in the stadium. When I got to the gate to leave, it was locked. I had to climb over the 10-foot high gate, with barbed wire on top. That’s OK, I was only 22 at the time and the climb was easy. The barbed wire didn’t care how old I was and took gashes out of my hand.

SOME BAR ON GEARY STREET (San Francisco) My great friend and mentor, Earl Lawson of the Cincinnati Post, showed his World Series ring to a young lass. She thought he was giving it to her to keep. Earl tried to get it back when her boy friend came after him with a broken pool stick. That’s the day I became The Great Negotiator and it only cost us $50 to get it back.

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (New York) I was covering the Dayton Flyers in the 1968 NIT basketball tournament. Before the game, I claimed a spot in the media workroom, putting my gear at a seat and left the room. When I came back, my stuff was on the floor and a New York writer was sitting at ‘my’ seat. I challenged him and he got up and got in my face. I shoved him and he tripped over the chair and fell to the floor. A TKO in the only ‘fight’ of my career. And I got my seat back.

RIVERFRONT STADIUM (Cincinnati) I walked into the Pirates clubhouse and pitcher Bruce Kison jumped to his feet and put his nose next to my nose and said, “How could you write something like that? And when we were in Cincinnati I did you a favor by appearing at a luncheon you asked me to attend.” I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no idea what he was talking about because I hadn’t written anything about him. He told me what it was about and I convinced him it was written by somebody else. Mistaken identity. And we became friends when he retired and became a scout

THREE RIVERS STADIUM (Pittsburgh) Pitcher Dock Ellis, saying Reds hitters were too comfortable against the Pirates, started one game by hitting the first three batters and missing with high-and-tight pitches to the fourth hitter. He was taken out of the game. I left the press box and sneaked into the Pirates clubhouse, even though clubhouses are closed during games. I encountered Ellis, just me and him in the room He was listening to Bob Prince on the radio and turned to me said, “The man just said I’m in the record books.” Then a security guard escorted me out of the clubhouse by the left ear.

CROSLEY FIELD (Cincinnati) My first game covering a Reds game, covering for regular beat writer Jim Ferguson. After the game, my first question to manager Dave Bristol was about injured pitcher Gary Nolan. Bristol lit into me. “We just won a damn ballgame and you ask me about a damn injured pitcher?” And he went on with a bunch of invectives. I didn’t ask another question. I related the incident to Bristol years later and he smiled and said, “I loved to intimidate young writers.” He was highly successful at that with me.

ASTRODOME (Houston) I was writing a post-game story and looked up to see a large cat perched on the table, watching me intently with his tail swishing. I couldn’t shoo him away. Finally, a security guard fetched him and said, “After every game we turn loose a bunch of cats to alleviate our mouse problem in The Dome.” Nobody ever accused me of being mousy.

MEMORIAL STADIUM (Baltimore) It was the World Series and they served huge lobsters in the media dining room. I was going through the line with a lobster on my plate when I bumped the guy in front of me and my lobster hit the floor. An attendant rushed up to retrieve the downfallen crustacean and replaced it with another lobster. That meal cost the Orioles about $100. Meanwhile, Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott served $1 hot dogs to the World Series media.

VETERANS STADIUM (Philadelphia) I was writing a pre-game notes story when I sensed somebody standing behind me. I turned around and it was one of my all-time favorite singers, Meat Loaf, reading my laptop screen. He was there to sing the National Anthem. And the Reds took two-out-of three, which ain’t bad.

WRIGLEY FIELD (Chicago) The visiting clubhouse is about the size of a walk-in closet. I was standing against a pillar before one game and pitcher Joey Hamilton said, “We’d have more room if the writers were kept out of here.” Gabe White, one of the nicer guys to ever put on a uniform and a friend to Hamilton, answered Hamilton by saying, “Hal can stand wherever he wants. He can sit in my chair if he wants. He can put on my uniform if he wants.” Did I give you a Hall of Fame vote, Gabe? I shoul have.

—Why everybody should love Atlanta’s Nick Markakis, who because of the coronavirus pandemic had his pay this year cut from $11 million to $4 million: “I’m not mad at all. I play a kid’s game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?” (That’s so refreshing it almost makes me cry.)

—And then there is this garbage talk from Neon Deion Sanders about pro athletes opting out of the season due to COVID-19: “All players opting out in all sports please believe the game will go on without you. This is a business and don’t you ever forget that. There’s no one that’s bigger than the game itself.” (That, too, almost made me cry, for a different reason.)

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