By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, just a few hours before things start happening in Burrowhead Stadium, choreographed by The Cincinnati Kid.
—CRAIG’S LIST: Relief pitcher Craig Stammen was available. Are you listening, Cincinnati Reds?
Relief. . .pitcher. . .Craig. . .Stammen. . .was. . .available.
No more. The North Star native out of Versailles High School and the University of Dayton was a free agent until a couple of weeks ago.
Then his old team, the San Diego Padres, signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to the major league camp in spring training.
Did the Reds give him a buzz?
“Nope. Not a sniff,” said Stammen, a guest speaker over the weekend at coach Tony Vittorio’s Wilmington College First Pitch dinner.
Couldn’t the Reds use a 38-year-old veteran in their bullpen to not only contribute to Cincinnati’s gosh-awful bullpen but to mentor the young pitchers?
“That’s what I thought,” said Stammen, who has always expressed a desire to pitch in Cincinnati. He career record is 55-44 with a 3.66 earned run average and as recently as 2021 he was 6-3 with a 3.06 earnede run average for the Padres.
And he wouldn’t cost much and as he said with a laugh, “I think the secretaries with the Padres make more than I will.”
Yes, Versailles is a small town, but with Stammen on the roster that minuscule attendance at Great American Ball Park last year might have doubled this year.
—NOLAN WAS ROLLIN’: This one is right off a script from the old TV series ‘The Twilight Zone.’
On May 1, 1991, 44-year-old pitcher Nolan Ryan was scheduled to face the Toronto Blue Jays. Before the game he approached Texas Rangers pitching coach Tom House and said this:
“My back hurts, my heel hurts and I’ve been pounding Advil all day,” said Ryan. “I don’t feel good. I feel old today. Watch me.”
So House watched. . .and watched and watched, hardly moving a muscle. He watched Ryan throw his seventh no-hitter. At age 44, more than 5,000 innings on his arm, Ryan struck out 16 Blue Jays. Toronto was leading baseball at the time with a .276 team average.
Using a 95 miles an hour fastball, a mind-bending cureveball and a dancing change-up, Ryan threw 122 pitches, 83 for strikes.
Why mention this now? Age 44! More than 5,000 innings! Sore back! Sore heel! And today’s pitchers can’t go more than six innings or throw more than 100 pitches with a perfect health chart.
OK, OK. Ryan was a freak of nature. . .or a mad scientist attached a robotic right arm to his shoulder.
—QUOTE: From Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan: “Everyone has limits. You just have to learn what your own limits are and deal with them accordingly.” (Never did The Ryan Express show that attitude more than the day of his seventh no-hitter.)
—FLY LIKE AN EAGLE: In the late 1950s Jackie Jensen was flying high. . .well, sort of. He was a star right fielder for the Boston Red Sox. He was American League MVP in 1958 and led the AL in RBI three times, including 122 in 1958.
Yet, before the 1960 season, at age 32, he retired. Why? Well, I said he was flying high, but not really. Jensen had an intense fear of flying. When he could, he drove a car between cities. When they could shove him on a plane, he was heavily tranqualized.
The Red Sox tried psychiatry and hypnotism. Didn’t work. So he quit.
For sure, he didn’t read Erica Jong’s book, ‘Fear of Flying.’ It wasn’t published until 1973.
–QUOTE: From movie star Billy Bob Thornton: “I don’t have a fear of flying. I have a fear of crashing.” (There has never been a crash involving an MLB team, just some emergency landings. That includes one involving the Cincinnati Reds. I was aboard when the pantry caught fire and we made an emergency landing in Las Vegas on our way to Los Angeles. It was quickly doused. But several of us had to change our pants.)
—SOME OVERKILL: The Dallas Cowboys long ago put away those helmets with stars on them, but the loud voices on ESPN continue to whip them like Lash LaRue.
They berate quarterback Dak Prescott, runningback Ezekiel Elliott, coach Mike McCarthy and everything in Dallas short of the Texas School Book Depository.
Give it a rest, guys. The Cowboys are dead and already buried for the season.
—QUOTE: From Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott: “I want to go where I’m the difference. I want to make something out of nothing. I want to be the reason someone is great.” (First of all, Dak, they say you need to make yourself great.)
—DRESSING UP STATUES: Some clever San Francisco fans draped a 49ers jersey over the iconic Rocky Balboa statue atop the steps in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Have not heard of any enterprising Philadelphia fans putting an Eagles jersey on the Tony Bennett statue on top of San Francisco’s Nob Hill.
C’mon Bengals fans. Shouldn’t that Sioux Indian Scout statue in Kansas City have worn a Joe Burrow jersey over the weekend?
—PERSONAL MENU: A couple of foodies asked me to list some of my favorite eats, so pass the knife and fork:
^Nadine’s chili makes me salivate and it is always good to praise the home franchise. Truthfully, everything she makes is scrumptious.
^BREAKFAST: Mom’s Restaurant in Franklin. . .Western Omelette (no tomatoes, add mushrooms) and a stack of pancakes the size of truck tires. And infrequent visits to Sam & Ethel’s in Tipp City and George’s on North Dixie.
^LUNCH: Sesame chicken and hot and sour soup at Shen’s or fried chicken at the Mel-O-Dee in New Carlisle with the best bread and cole slaw this side of heaven.
^DINNER: New York strip steak with onion straws and French onion soup at the Oakwood Club or baked rigatoni or the Nickolai special at Mama DiSalvo’s or enchiladas/chicken fajitas at La Fiesta.
^LIGHT FARE LUNCH: Double butterburger, fries, vanilla shake at Culver’s or the New Yorker sandwich and country potato soup at McAlister’s.
^LIQUID ACCOUTREMENTS: Coffee and orange juice for breakfast. Coke zero, vanilla shake or hot tea for lunch. Tito’s and tonic, Yuengling or Shiner Bock beer, Moscato wine or margarita for dinner. And Starbucks latte any time.
^DESSERTS: Apple pie ala mode, glazed caramel cinnamon roll at Donut Palace, maple icing roll from the Covered Wagon.
^PIZZA: Marian’s or Submarine House, deluxe at both places. If I need it fast, Donato’s.
And finally, Bromo Seltzer (remember that?).