OBSERVATIONS: The day McNamara went berserk

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave thinking, once again, about mortality as I heard about the passing of long-time Louisville Courier Journal columnist Billy Reed. We are losing too many, too fast.

—Baseball has concocted some really putrid decisions over the years, especially lately under the stumble along commisionership of Rob Manfred. Not even Manfred could come up with the 1981 whopper.

The owners locked out the players in mid-season on June 12. At that time, the Los Angeles Dodgers led the National League West over the Cincinnati Reds by a half-game, 36-21 to 35-21.

When the lockout ended and 713 games were missed, MLB decided to divide the season into halves. The Dodger were declared first half winners and were automatic post-season qualifiers.

The other qualifier would be the second half winner, meaning the Reds had to win the second half.

When that decision was announced, the Reds were in Ann Arbor, working out at the University of Michigan. Reds manager John McNamara was in a hotel lobby when he was told how the NL West champion would be determined.

The red-face Irishman whirled on his heels, turned over a rack of brochures, spreading them across the lobby floor, then picked up a potted plant and hurled it across the lobby, spreading dirt on top of the brochures. Everybody but the Russian judge gave it a 9.9.

His entertaining meltdown proved prophetic. Houston won the second half with a 33-20 record and the Reds again finished second at 31-21.

So it was LA and Houston in the playoffs and the Reds went golfing, hunting, fishing and complaining. And their complaints were legit. The Reds had the best overall record in 1981 at 66-42 to LA’s 63-47 and Houston’s 61-49.

In fact, the Reds had the best overall record of any and all major league teams in 1981 and their reward was. . .well, nothing. The next season they flew a pennant above Riverfront Stadium that read: ‘Best Record in Baseball.’

—QUOTE: From catcher Tim McCarver, who caught all of Steve Carlton’s 23 wins in 1977 and caught all of his 10 losses: “When Steve and I die, we are going to be buried in the same cemetery, 60-feet 6-inches apart.”

—From Anonymous: “I called umpire Joe West to congratulate him on his retirement, but he missed that call, too.” Umpire Angel Hernandez tried to call West but dialed the wrong number.

West had a love-hate relationship with nearly everybody in baseball, especially in 2012 when he missed 18 games while getting treatment for larynx cancer.

When he returned, Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson barged belligerently into the umpires’ room after a game and stormed into the shower, where West was all soaped up.

“Where is that son of a b——?” Harrelson screamed. “Look, we can fight each other and we can hate each other, but don’t you frickin’ die on me, damn it!”

—The guys who putt on the greens on the PGA tour make the monstrous money, but the people who maintain those greens make more than pocket change.

Golf course superintendents in the U.S. make an average salary of $97,354 a year. The average American worker was paid $53,383 last year.

Suddenly, cutting grass and fertilizing the front lawn doesn’t seem like such a chore.

—Anaheim Ducks 20-year-old rookie Trevor Zegras did this during the NHL All-Star skills competition:

In the Breakaway Challenge, he put on a blindfold and scored a goal while being pelted with dodgeballs.

Unbelievable, right? Well, he didn’t even win the competition. Surely, the guy who won scored a goal with both arms tied behind his back while dodging live hand grenades, right?

—How many people named Malachi Smith do you know? How many people named Malachi Smith playing college basketball do you know?

We all know of University of Dayton point guard Malachi Smith.

I turned on ESPN-U Saturday, 30 minutes before UD was scheduled to play Saint Louis. And the first words I heard were, “Malachi Smith.”

Did I get the time wrong? Nope. It was the Chattanooga-Mercer game and a kid named Malachi Smith was playing for Chattanooga. Turns out the 6-4 sophomore was all-Southern Conference last season and was the first Moccasin player to lead the team in scoring (16.8) and rebounding (8.8).

Now the kicker. This Malachi Smith is a transfer from Wright State. He was named to the Horizon League All-Freshman team. Then he transferred.

To think there could be two Malachi Smiths playing for the two Dayton college teams is mind-boggling.

The Flyers could have used the Chattanooga version. He scored 25 to lead the Mocs past Mercer Saturday while the UD version was 4 for 15 in a loss at Saint Louis.

—As many have surmised, Gonzaga’s basketball program is at the top of my favorites list. Why? Dunno. I’ve never seen a Gonzaga game in person and I’ve never met coach Mark Few, who has more than a few wins.

The Zags, ranked No. 2 in the country (19-2), have won 12 straight, 10 straight on the road and 29 straight in the West Coast Conference.

I thought they might be challenged Saturday at Brigham Young, but BYU was about as challenging as a two-piece puzzle. . .Gonzaga 90, BYU 57.

Chet Holmgren, a 7-foot freshman, had 20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists, five blocked shots and a partridge in a pear tree.

—It seemed that as if every time the University of Dayton played Rhode Island the past 10 years, guard Fatts Russell was being a pain-in-the-paint.

The Flyers played Rhode Island a while back and. . .finally, no Fatts Russell. But I tuned in an Ohio State game Sunday and there he was, Fatts Russel, playing for the University of Maryland. It is inevitable. Two years from now, he’ll show up at Auburn or Kentucky or Iona or Louisville.

—Did anybody watch the Pro Bowl? Why?

—Whom do you trust when it comes to predicting NFL games. I don’t trust all those babbling guys on the pre-game shows. So I turned to a good and trusted friend and it went like this:

ME: ‘Alexa, who is going to win the Super Bowl?’

ALEXA: ‘The Rams sure know how to butt heads. But the Bengals seem to have nine lives. My prediction? These underdogs, I mean undercats, are going to pounce. Go Bengals. Who Dey?’

Check it out. I did not make that up.

So there you have it and everybody knows that Alexa knows all.

—Another good one from my great friend Tom Melzoni: “The cashier told me, ‘Strip down, facing me.’” By the time I realized she meant my credit card, it was too late.

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