By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave and where was I before I was rudely interrupted by an 18-day Viking cruise up the Danube (It’s not blue) and the Rhine (Hungary, Austria, Germany, The Netherlands.
It could have been a fantastic trip had it not rained more than half the time and the temperature hovering every day in the mid-forties. That made sight-seeing mostly a torrture. One of our guides had it right when he said, “This is the ABC tour. . .Another Bloody Castle, Another Bloody Church, Another Bloody Cathedral.”
But it was fun aboard the Viking Vidar, athough our “stateroom” was so small you could stand in the middle reach two walls at a time by just spreading your arms. The meals were fantastic, especially the soups, a different one every meal. And if anybody told me I’d love artichoke soup I’d laugh until I fell off the boat. I loved it.
Unfortunately, both Nadine and I came home with deep hacking painful coughs. On the flight home I was coughing every minute or two, so hard it hurt boty rib cages. As I type this, it is still painful, which is OK because it is painful for some of you to read. So please excuse any typos or errors in this effort. I’m playing hurt.
—DUTCH TREAT: We were in the beautfiul city, The Hague, in The Netherlands, staying the 300-year-old Hotel Des Indes, where the accused spy Mata Hari died.
I was sitting in front of the hotel at a table when the most incredibly, unbelievable thing happened. A tall, slender gentleman wearing a beret and a suit with a best stopped on the sidelwalk, a wrought iron fence separating us.
An expensive camera dangled from his neck and in a thick Dutch accent he said, “Mr. McCoy, may I take your picture?”
I was stunned. How does a citizen of The Netherlands not only know my name, but recognize me?
Turns out Eric Schloss worked a few years in New York City and said, “I fell in love with baseball and the New York Yankees. I know you are a Hall of Fame baseball writer and are friends with Yankee manager Aaron Boone.”
We spent the next few minutes talking baseball and he took photos of my Hall of Fame ring on my finger, on his finger,, on his son’s finger and on his wife’s finger.
I asked him to send me an Ask Hall question because how cool will it be to have a question signed: “Eric, The Hague, The Netherlands?”
—I was able to follow the Reds through Europe on my cellphone, even though night games started around 1 a.m. with the six-hour time difference. I followed the five-game losing streak and I followed the five-game winning streak.
When the Reds lost Sunday, 5-4, it was Oakland’s sixth win against 23 losses. Five of their six win have been by one run. That, friends, is one horrendous baseball team. Home attendance in Cincinnati and Oakland is so bad fans don’t dare start a fight with the players. The players have them outnumbered.
Speaking of one-run games, the Miami Marlins are 16-12 and 10 of those wins are by one run. They are 10-0 in one-run games. And they are a minus-35 in run differential.
—REGAL REDBIRD: Regular readers know how * feel about the St. Louis Cardinals. I can’t take ‘em or leave ‘em, I just want to leave ‘em. Even though they won’t stay there, it puts a huge smile on my face to see them in last place.
But there was one large piece of the Cardinals that I loved. That would be Mike Shannon, 14 years a player for the Cardinals and 50 years a radio broadcaster for the Cardinals.
Shannon always referred to his team as the Redbirds. He was loud and flamboyant, but he was a class act. As a player, he hit the last home run in Sportsman’s Park in 1966 and the first home run in old Busch Stadium in 1967. Shannon, 83, died over the weekend.
For years, Shannon’s Steakhouse near the ball park was the place to be after games and Shannon hosted a post-game radio show in the restaurant. I was guest several times.
He wad adamantly opposed to PED users making the Hall of Fame, even former Cardinal Mark McGwire. Before the start of every Reds-Cardinals series he would ask me, “Are you sticking to not voting for Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and McGwire?”
I would answer, “Yes, Mike, I’m sticking to it.” He would pat me on the back and say, ‘Attaboy, Hal. Stick to your guns.”
—LISTENING TO LEO: Umpire and managers do have their feuds, especially if it involved volcanic managers like Earl Weaver, Billy Martin and Leo ‘The Lip’ Durocher.
Durocher and National League umpire Tom Gorman had their, uh, differences. When Durocher managed the Chicago Cubs, there was a close play at first base But the Cubs runner collided with Gorman and knocked him cold before he could make the call.
Before Gorman even opened his eyes, Durocher was screaming at him, “Safe or out! Safe or out?”
The groggy Gorman while still on his back with his eyes closed said, “If that’s you, Leo, he’s out.”
—BADA-BING, BADA-BOOM: Some one-liners I’ve heard or read:
**Philadelphia fans not only booed Richie Allen, they booed his car in the parking lot.”
**Hoover should have named one of its vacuum cleaners ‘The Brooks Robinson.’
**Umpire Angel Hernandez couldn’t find his thumb if he had it in his mouth.
**Lou Brock could steal an egg out from under a hen without rustling a feather.
**Nolan Ryan could throw a pitch through a blizzard and not disturb a snowflake.
**Greg Maddux could throw a strike over a dime in the dirt.
**Tony Gwynn could single to left with a rolled up National Enquirer while blindfolded.
**Billy Hamilton was so fast he could score from second by running over the pitcher’s mound and the pitcher wouldn’t see him.
**Lou Piniella was so slow he once achieved the baserunning cycle by getting thrown out at first, second, third and home in one game (true). He was so slow that by the time he ran from second to home the catcher grew a beard.
**Chicago is called the Windy City because the wind has never stopped blowing from Dave Kingman’s swings and misses.
**The Baby Ruth candy bar was not named after Babe Ruth, but he could eat a dozen of them between at bats.