OBSERVATIONS: A final ‘farewell’ to a dear friend

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, anxiously awaiting resumption of the season by the Cincinnati Reds, mostly to see how the team and the front office handles the rest of the year. It certainly can’t be too much fun when the goals are to avoid 100 losses and to scramble out of last place.

—One doesn’t appreciate a smile or a voice until that smile and voice is gone.

The other day I heard a Michael Jackson song. . .”Like a comet blazing across the evening sky. Gone too soon.”

Mark Schlemmer, beloved radio talk show host, former baseball player/coach/manager and most of all dear friend, left us in late June after a long illness at age 65. Gone too soon.

They held a Celebration of Life Thursday night at Fricker’s on Miller Lane, a packed and overflow crowd put together by his long-time friend and guardian angel Donna Grusenmeyer. Schlemmer was never seen in public without a baseball cap pulled low over his forehead. So when I was privileged to give a little talk about our relationship, in his honor, I wore a baseball cap.

The stories flowed like the Yuengling beer, many from his co-host on their sports talk show on WING, Justin Kinner.

Schlemmer played baseball at Fairmont West with Jim Manley, the marketing manager for Fricker’s USA. He was seated amongst us when this story was told.

Schlemmer was batting in a game against West Carrollton. He had a 0-and-2 count when the pitcher (no, not my son) threw one high-and-tight.

Schlemmer took a few steps toward the mound because he thought the pitcher was buzzing his tower. He was intercepted and told, “Why would a pitcher throw at a guy hitting .083?”

The story may be true, but not the batting average. It probably was .383 or .483. Schlemmer is a member of the Dayton Amateur Baseball Commission Hall of Fame, played at Union (Ky.) College and played a few minor league games in the Detroit Tigers system.

Yes, he is gone but won’t be forgotten. Rest in peace, old friend, rest in peace.

—From reader Jeff Singleton, a message to all MLB pitchers who are convinced by the analytics gang that five innings is earning your money:

“Nolan Ryan’s arm was so damaged by the first 5,000 innings of his career he was only able to strike out 16 Toronto Blue Jays when he no-hit them at age 44. It’s a cautionary tale for all young pitchers.”

—QUOTE: From former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Cesar Geronimo on being Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strikeout victim: “I was just in the right place at the right time.” (And Geronimo was in the right place at the right time when Bob Gibson made The Chief his 3,000th strikeout victim.)

—Saw something incredibly rare, almost dead, Thursday in the first game of a New York Yankees-Houston Astros game.

In the first inning, the first two Astros batters, Jose Altuve and Jeremy ‘La Tormenta’ Pena, dropped bunts and beat them for hits. The first two batters!!! And Altuve scored in a game won by Houston, 3-2.

Ya gotta love Houston manager Dusty Baker for going old-school on the Yankees.

—Hold your breath, Reds fans. On most pre-draft lists, third baseman Cam Collier was predicted to be one of the top five picks out of some place in Florida called Chipola Junior College.

Instead of one of the top five, Collier was still available when the Reds picked him, the 18th player selected.

He is only 17 and has committed to the University of Louisville. There is the chance he won’t sign so he can move up much higher in the draft. . .and make much more money.

—From a fascinating baseball book entitled, ‘Showdown at Rickwood:’

In 1908, late in the season, the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs were tied for first place. The Giants had a five-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Phillies were short of pitchers.

So they called up a kid named Harry Coveleski. He pitched Game One and beat the Giants, 7-0. Two days later, he pitched again and won, 6-2. Two days later he pitched again and won, striking out the last batter with the tying run on third. His pitching opponent was Christy Mathewson.

Those three games won by Coveleski prevented the Giants from winning the pennant. Coveleski was later traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he had no success. However, his brother, pitcher Stan Coveleski, won 215 games and is in the Hall of Fame.

—In the first game ever played in Birmingham’s Rickwood Field in 1910, the Birmingham Barons trailed Mobile, 2-1, in the ninth inning. They had runners on third and second with one out. They won the game with back-to-back suicide squeeze bunts.

Suicide squeeze bunts? What in the world are those? I honestly can’t recall the last time I saw one in MLB. . .if I ever did.

Some quick research: In 2016, Reds manager Bryan Price called for a suicide squeeze in the ninth inning of a game in Minute Maid Park in Houston.

With Eugenio Suarez (remember him?) on third, Ramon Cabrera (who?) dropped down the bunt, giving the Reds a two-run lead and they won by two.

—In the 2000 ALDS, Seattle and the Chicago White Sox were tied in the bottom of the ninth. With Rickey Henderson on third Mariners manager Lou Piniella flashed the suicide squeeze bunt to Carlos Guillen. He put it down. . .the only walk-off bunt in playoff history.

Sweet Lou always knew what to do.

—Quote: From Hall of Fame shortstop/broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, talking about Sweet Lou Piniella: “Sweet refers to his swing, not his personality.”

—Commissioner Rob Manfraud may not know much about ball, but he is loaded with gall.

The minor leagues won $185 million in a law suit against MLB to increase salaries. Many minor leaguers have to take off-season second jobs to survive.

And what does Manfraud say about it? “I kinda reject the premise that minor league players are not paid a living wage.”

That’s so easy to say from a guy who is being paid $17.5 million a year. . .more than the entire payroll of any minor league team. . .by a wide margin.

—Denzel Washington’s on the field tribute at Dodger Stadium to Jackie Robinson before the All-Star game was magnifico. And it was heart-warming to see and hear Dodgers star Mookie Betts get on the microphone to have the crowd wish Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel, a happy 100th birthday.

—He is the ‘Agent of the Superstars,’ a man despised by many but a god to the players. He is agent Scott Boras, a guy who has negotiated contracts worth more than $2 billion in the last three years.

He is the guy who advised Juan Soto to turn down a $440 million offer from the Washington Nationals because he knows he can get Soto baseball’s first half-billion dollar deal.

And Boras already has signed the numbers one, two and three players in the recent baseball draft.

Too bad Boras didn’t represent sports writers.

—SCOUT ONE: “That kid at third base has great hands.”

SCOUT TWO: “So does a clock, but it can’t throw.”

4 thoughts on “OBSERVATIONS: A final ‘farewell’ to a dear friend”

  1. Hal. Your writing is like the morning Sun. Or a cool breeze before a Storm! We are Blessed with writing & Spirts Memories!!

  2. I don’t agree with moving Farmer to 3rd. He has been incredible on and off the field. Barrero hasn’t hit and I don’t think he is better defensively. What’s next? Trade India? Just shut the franchise down.

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