By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, astonished to learn that by conservative estimate I have written 22,250,000 words during my 62-year sports writing career. And, until now, I’ve never used the word penurious.
—OH WHAT A RELIEF: They unlock the gates to Goodyear Stadium on Valentine’s Day to let the stench from last season out and the pitchers and catchers in.
The always battered and beleagured Cincinnati Reds bullpen already has its backs against the wall.
Tejay Antone missed all of last season after his second Tommy John surgery and revealed that he has a strained flexor and most likely won’t be ready until near the All-Star break.
He pitched only 69 innings the last two seasons with a 2.45 ERA with 87 walks and 37 strikeouts.
Now the question is will the backs of two other bullpenners be back-breakers. Lucas Sims and Tony Santillan both suffered back injuries and mostly were missing in action last season.
Sims gained attention in 2020 with a 2.45 ERA, but back spasms in May put him on the injured list in May and he underwent surgery in July.
Santillan worked to a 2.91 ERA in 2021 but pitched only 19 2/3 innings last season because of back issues.
Luis Cessa, a bullpenner last year, wants an audition as the fifth starter (he was a starter at times for the New York Yankees), but he might be needed in relief, depending if Sims and/or Santillan have found back relief.
With Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft at the top of the rotation, the Reds are solid. But because pitchers don’t go beyond five innings much or throw more than 100 pitches, a strong and sterling bullpen is needed.
Sterling? For the Reds it still looks like a tarnished bullpen.
—WAR HEROES: Think about this one. When Boston’s Ted Williams came to the plate and New York’s Yogi Berra was catching, the batter had 37 successful combat flights and the guy behind the plate was a machine-gunner on Omaha Beach on D-Day.
And the second baseman, Jerry Coleman, flew 120 combat missions and was highly decorated.
—QUOTE: From Jerry Coleman after he retired as a player and became a San Diego broadcaster known for saying wild and goofy things on the air. . .like this: “A day without newspapers is like walking around without your pants on.” (Well, I’m writing this piece without my pants on, if that counts.)
—SCORING MACHINES: In about a week, it will be 69 years since a 6-foot-9, 180-pound sippystraw-thin guy named Frank Selvy scored 100 points in a game, the still standing NCAA Division I record.
It was Feb. 13, 1954 and Selvy’s Furman University coach designated the game as ‘Frank Selvy Night’ against tiny Newberry College. The 4,000-seat Textile Hall in Greenville, S.C. was stuffed with sweating humanity. It was the first college basketball game televised in South Carolinia. And it was better than Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk combined.
Selvy’s coach told the team to feed Selvy, who averaged 49.6 that season, and they did. He hit 41 of 66 shots, with no shot clock and no three-point line. He made 18 of 22 free throws. The last basket to give him 100 was a 40-feet heave at the buzzer.
That same year, Bevo Francis, also 6-foot-9 and thermometer thin, scored 116 points for Rio Grande College in southeastern Ohio, but the feat wasn’t recognized because it came against a junior college from Ashland, Ky. The year before he scored 113 against Hillsdale College, an NAIA record.
That NAIA record stood until 2012 when a kid named Jack Taylor of Grinnell (Ia.) College scored 138 against Faith Baptist Bible College, a team that must have played with their Bibles in their hands.
—ALOHA, RAIDERS: The Wright State University baseball team opens its season with a four-game series against the University of Hawaii. . .in Honolulu.
So how can the Raiders afford that?
From WSU coach Alex Sogard:
“Hawaii called and asked us to come out. I said, ‘No way, can’t do it.’ Then they called back offering to help expenses. I said, ‘No way.’
“They must really want to play us because they called again and said, ‘We’ll pay your air fare and an appearance fee.’”
Air fare for 35 players, coaches and support staff? Uh, $35,000. The Raiders will play the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors a four-game series, with a luau and a trip to Pearl Harbor tossed in.
Wonder if they need an old sports writer on the trip?
—QUOTE: From humorist Will Rogers: “Hawaii is the only place I know where they lay flowers on you while you are alive.” (Now ol’ Will is just lei-ing.)
—DEAD EVEN: The Philadelphia Eagles are slight favorites to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. It should be a pick-em game. Dead even.
Why? Consider these numbers:
**Record: Both teams 16-3.
**Points scored: Eagles 546, Chiefs 546.
**All-Pro Players: Eagles six, Chiefs six.
**No. 1 seed: Eagles NFC; Chiefs AFC.
Dead even on paper, right. So somebody will win 38-10.
Want to wager on the Super Bowl? Las Vegas says 50 million people will place wagers totaling $16 billion.
And bettors can wager on anything. . .length of the National Anthem, heads or tails on the coin flip, the color of the liquid the winning team pours over the winning coach’s head.
Caesars Sportsbook has a 22-page wagering menu that offers more than 2,000 different betting propositions.
My bet? There will be more losers than winners.
—QUOTE: From professional gambler Nick ‘The Greek’ Dandolos: “The house doesn’t beat the player. It just gives him an opportunity to beat himself.” (And ‘The House’ is a 15-story gleaming hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.)
—EXPOS-ING A FACT: The last pro athlete to be a part of the Montreal Expos organization has retired.
He was drafted by the Expos in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft. He never signed, but there is a baseball card with his likness.
He was a left-handed hitting catcher and the Expos offered him top dollar, second-round money, to sign. He chose the NFL.
His name? Tom Brady.
—QUOTE: From ‘retired’ quarterback Tom Brady: “I’m a pretty good winner. I’m a terrible loser. And I rub it in pretty good when I win.” (He did more rubbing in than Vicks VapoRub.)
—HOLY SMOKE: Used to be that Super Bowl commercials were highly anticipated due to their entertainment level, especially the Budweiser Clydesdale ads.
But there will be an interesting one Sunday. There will be a 30-second ad and a 60-second ad to introduce fans to Jesus.
They cost nearly $l20 million, they are non-denominational and it is a mystery who is footing the bill.
Guess somebody thinks NFL fans are not familiar with Jesus.
—LOWER THE BOOM: In my humble opinion, the best sports talk radio show is Boomer & Gio weekday morning on the CBS Sports Network.
Boomer is former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason. There is no screaming and no talking over each other. It is entertaining, informative and irreverent.
I’ll expect a check in the mail from Boomer in the near future, but there will be no breath-holding.
—WHO YA GOT? — If you had to wager, who would you pick in a 100-yard dash between a cheetah and a gazelle? I’ll take a hungry cheetah and spot you five yards.
—QUOTE: From deadpan comedian Steven Wright: “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.”