OBSERVATIONS: Graves named to Reds ‘Hall’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, with a Yuengling in one hand, a Montecristo White Label Churchill in the other hand and three dogs in my lap, I’m trying to put together this latest edition of UOfromTMC.

—OH, DANNY BOY: Danny Graves is of the opinion, “Once a closer, always a closer.”

From 1998 to 2002, Graves was the primary closer for the Cincinnati Reds, earning the nickname, ‘Baby-Faced Assassin,’ because of his boyish face.

In 2003, Ray Knight became manager and was in need of a starter. He thought Graves had The Right Stuff to be a starter and plopped him into the rotation.

It was a disaster. Graves returned to the closer’s role in 2004 and recorded 41 saves and made the All-Star team.

After the year he was a starter and went 4-15 with a 5.33 earned run average, Graves said, “I’ve always been humbled by this game. I’ve had success, yeah. But I’ve always known some day it would end. Last year could have been the end, but I have an opportunity to do it again. I’m going to make the most of it, and I’m very confident in my ability.”

And he proved it with those 41 saves.

Graves owns the record for most career saves for the Reds and rode those saves into the Reds Hall of Fame. The veterans committee named him and former general manager Gabe Paul to join pitcher Bronson Arroyo for the 2023 class.

Graves, born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother, is the only player born in that country to wear a major league uniform.

He had an unfortunate incident after one bad outing when he flipped the bird to some fans behind the dugout. He caught heavy flak for it, but his knee-jerk reaction came after the so-called fans hurled racial epithets at him.

His story is heart-rending. He was born in Saigon but he and his mother fled the country in 1973 just before the fall of Saigon. They came to the U.S. and he and his brother, Frank, spoke no English, just Vietnamese. They learned the language from their school classmates.

Graves not only spoke fluent English while with the Reds, his split-fingered fastball spoke a loud baseball language.

—WHAT PRICE, WINNING? — The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes dumped their No. 4 draft pick in 2017 when it was reported that Mitchell Miller bullied a fellow student when he was 14 and in junior high in Sylvania, Ohio.

He was 14!

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns activated quarterback DeShaun Watson for this week’s game against Houston, the same guy accused of sexual misconduct and sexual assault by more than two dozen women.

And Auburn hired Hugh Freeze as its football coach, the same Hugh Freeze fired by Ole Miss for paying players (before NIL) and using a university-issued phone to call an escort services.

—QUOTE: From new Auburn coach Hugh Freeze, who was coaching at Liberty University, an Evangelical school founded by Jerry Falwell Jr.: “Jesus is the only one who can handle my junk.”

—SOCCER IT TO ME: Yes, after saying I couldn’t watch soccer because 2-1 is a high-scoring game, I watched the U.S.-Iran World Cup game.

Why? Because of all the controversy between the two teams and the bad-blood history between the two countries. And the U.S. had to win or go home.

Call it patriotism or curiosity, I watched the U.S. win. And, yes, it was one of those 1-0 games and I’ll sheepishly admit it was, uh, rather exciting.

—WELL, MR. WATSON: When Deshaun Watson makes his debut Sunday as the Cleveland Browns quarterback after his 11-game suspension, there will be some familiar faces in the stands.

When Watson was accused of sexual misbehavior by more than two dozen female masseuses, it happened when he played for the Houston Texans. And Sunday’s game is in Houston.

Those familiar faces will be about ten of the women involved, all of whom settled out of court with Watson.

Said their attorney, Tony Buzbee, “Some of my clients asked to go. They thought it important to make clear that they are still here and that they matter.”

—QUICK QUIZ: What do all these football legends have in common? Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Gale Sayers, Eric Dickerson, Otto Graham, John Elway and Sammy Baugh.

Answer: None won the Heisman Trophy.

And speaking of the Heisman, I ran across an interesting note about Barry Sanders, who did win the Heisman while at Oklahoma State.

Going into his last game, Sanders needed 137 yards to reach 2,000 yards rushing. Late in the fourth quarter a two-yard run gave him 2,000.

Coach Pat Jones wanted him to come out of the game to prevent from losing yardage and falling below 2,000. Sanders refused to come out. On the next play he ran 57 yards for a touchdown.

—QUOTE: From Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders: “Maybe a good rule in life is never become too important to do your own laundry.” (Nadine emphasizes that point to me and adds doing dishes to the laundry list).

—BOWL REPORT: For what it’s worth (actually, nothing. . .just interesting). Michigan’s bowl record for its last 12 appearances is 3-and-9. Ohio State is 7-and-5. Alabama is 9-and-3. Georgia is 9-and-3. Clemson is 8-and-4.

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