Observations: Phil, Tony. . .what were you thinking?

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, shaking my head over the Cincinnati Reds reporting their average attendance at 16,000, which must include ushers, security guards, concessionaires, dogs in the park and anybody who walks within two blocks on Great American Ball Park on game day. They need to bring back the cardboard cutouts of fan to cover those miles and miles of empty seats.

—Mostly because I’m lefthanded, Phil Mickelson was my favorite pro golfer. Tiger Woods? I hoped he hit every tee shot into the woods.

Well, I’m flip-flopping. Mickelson accepted $200 million in blood money from the Saudi Arabian killers of Americans to play in their Putt-Putt style LIV tour.

Tiger Woods reportedly turned down $500 million from a bunch of human rights violators who chopped up an American journalist while he was alive and participated wholeheartedly in killing 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

So now I am pro-Tiger and anti-Phil. May Phil lose that $200 million on bad gambling bets. And as one of my all-time favorite writers, Rick Reilly, put it, “I hope Phil eats a big plate of bad hummus.”

—What ails the Cincinnati Reds, other than a bullpen that acts as if manager David Bell didn’t invite them to pitch but sentenced them to pitch? The bullpen, some describe it as a pigpen, owns the highest ERA in MLB and blown more saves than a one-armed hockey goalie.

The offense doesn’t help, either. Yes, it has had games in which it scored 20 and 18 and 14 runs. But. . .18 times the Reds have scored two or fewer runs. That’s about one-third of the games they’ve played.

—QUOTE: From former player Ken Singleton: “A man once told me to walk with the Lord. I’d rather walk with the bases loaded.” (So would the Reds, but they usually pop up or strike out.)

—Never in my 50 years of covering baseball did I ever see a batter intentionally walked when he had two strikes. Nor did I ever think I would.

Enter Tony Doubleday, er, Tony La Russa, the 77-year-old manager of the Chicago White Sox.

In a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the White Sox trailed, 7-5, in the sixth inning. With two outs, rookie pitcher Bennett Sousa walked Freddie Freeman.

He quickly slipped two strikes past Trea Turner — one strike from ending the inning. But Sousa threw a wild pitch, moving Freeman to second and opening first base.

With a 1-and-2 count, Sousa was still one strike from inning-over. But La Russa ordered Turner walked intentionally.

And, of course, the next batter, Max Muncy, hit a three-run homer.

Hey, Tony, that wasn’t Babe Ruth you walked intentionally. It wasn’t even Babe Herman, Babe Dahlgren, Babe Pinelli or any of the other 20 major leaguers who were nicknamed ‘Babe.’

Said La Russa: “If somebody disagrees, that’s the beauty of this game. You’re welcome to it. But that wasn’t a tough call.” (Somebody disagree? My guess is that when he got home, his wife, Elaine, asked, “What were you thinking? Or were you even thinking?”)

—From John Kiesewetter, author of the must-read book, ‘Joe Nuxhall, The Old Lefthander & Me.’

On June 10, 1944, Joe Nuxhall made his major league debut, a 15-year-old pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

And since major league teams can not sign anybody under 16 these days, Nuxy’s record as the youngest player to appear in an MLB game will stand forever.

Nuxhall entered a game against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning with the Reds trailing, 13-0. He only gave up two hits in two-thirds of an inning, but he walked five and gave up five runs as the Reds lost, 18-0.

June 10 was another special day for Nuxhall, one much more positive. It was in 1961, when Nuxy pitched for Kansas City. He hit a home run off Yankee Hall of Famer Whitey Ford.

And here I thought Nuxy drove a Chevy.

—QUOTE: From Joe Nuxhall at the end of Reds games: “This is the ol’ lefthander, rounding third and heading for home.” (And on June 10, 1961, Whitey Ford didn’t like it when Nuxy rounded third and headed for home.)

—From Kostya Kennedy’s book, ‘True,’ about Jackie Robinson:

After Robinson retired, he became an executive at Chock Full O’ Nuts. The company had a picnic softball game, management versus employees.

The employees had a semi-pro pitcher who was blazing fastballs past hitters. Robinson asked the guy to lob his pitches because it was a fun-type game.

The guy said, “I don’t pitch that way.” Robinson said he would bat and if the guy struck him out he could keep firing fastballs. They’re still looking for the ball.

The guy said Robby was lucky and to try it again. Now they are still looking for two balls. And the guy lobbed his pitches the rest of the way.

—QUOTE: From former major leaguer Reggie Jackson: “After Jackie Robinson, the most important baseball player was Reggie Jackson.” (Tim Anderson disagrees.)

—Former Columbus Dispatch beat writer and great friend Brad Schmaltz was standing at the batting cage one day watching batting practice.

He was near batting coach Ted Kluszewski, who was leaning on the cage, both elbows on a support bar.

Johnny Bench was pumping ball after ball over the fences. Finally, Kluszewski turned to Schmaltz and said, “It ain’t that easy.”

And Big Klu would know. He hit 279 home runs in his 15-year career, including a league-leading 49 in 1954 and a league-leading 141 RBI.

QUOTE: Ted Kluszewski’s philosophy on hitting: “You ever walk into a pitch-black room full of furniture that you’ve never been in before and try to walk through it without bumping into anything? Well, it’s harder than that.”

—Hockey is Canada’s national sport, right? Curling doesn’t count. There are seven Canadian franchises in the National Hockey League — Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. So in the last 29 years, how many Stanley Cups has any Canadian team won?

Incredibly, none. The last to win it was the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. Stunning, eh?

—I thought I’d heard it all until I ran across the nickname for a collegiate league baseball team: ‘The Jamestown (NY) Tarp Skunks.’ Most likely they stink up the place.

—My niece, Roberta Pacquin, says she had to rush out to buy Mega Millions lottery tickets. She heard the jackpot was up to two tanks of gas.

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