By Hal McCoy
Q: Have we seen the last of the player-manager? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: Never say never. It used to be commonplace, but not so much now. There is too much for a manager to do that takes away from his concentration as a player. Pete Rose was the last, serving as player/manager of the Reds from 1984-86, when he removed himself from the 40-man roster to make room for pitcher Pat Pacillo. Before Rose, there was Don Kessiner of the 1979 Chicago Cubs and Joe Torre of the 1977 New York Mets. In 1948, shortstop/manager Lou Boudreau led the Cleveland Indians to their last World Series title. In 1975, the Indians hired Frank Robinson as player/manager, MLB’s first black manager. How many remember that former Reds manager Fred Hutchinson was pitcher/manager for the 1952-54 Detroit Tigers? It isn’t likely to happen again soon.
Q: Why is there a press box phone in the dugout? — SCOTT, Miami, Fl.
A: The official scorer sits in the press box and somebody, usually the bench coach, calls lineup changes to him. And he usually sits next to the publlic address announcer, who relays the changes to the fans. It can be used nefariously, too. Reds shortstop Dave Concepcion once was upset over a scorer’s decision, calling a ball Davey hit an error. Thle phone rang and I was summoned to the phone. It’s Concepcion and he says, “Hey, McCoy, why was that called an error? That was a hit.” My answer? “I don’t know, Davey, I’m not the official scorer. Did you want to order a pizza?”
Q: After the August 1 trade deadline, when does a club have another opportunity to make a trade? — AL, Phoenix, AZ.
A: Not until after the season ends. There used to be a loophole after the trade deadline. If a team put a player on waivers and no team claimed him, he could be traded. That led to some big trades in September to help teams in contention. That was done away with several years ago. Now if you don’t make a deal by August 1, you are stuck with what you have until after the World Series.
Q: Do you think the Reds will ever have a reunion of the entire 1975-76 teams? — DARREL, Sautee, GA.
A: I have often wondered about that. It is always The Great Eight, the starting positions players — Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, Pete Rose, George Foster, Cesar Geronimo, Ken Griffey Sr. They never include the pitchers. It is as if Jack Billingham, Don Gullett, Fred Norman, Clay Carroll, Pedro Borbon, Rawley Eastwick and Will McEnaney had nothing to do with their success. And that includes a snub of the extra players. Maybe in 2025, the 50-year aniversary of The Big Red Machine’s first World Series title, they’ll have a reunion and find it in ther hearts (and bank account) to bring them all together.
Q: Personnel-wise, what needs to happen for the Reds to remain contenders to the end? — VICTOR, Knoxville, TN.
A: Just keep on keepin.’ Don’t change a thing. Stay aggressive on the bases, steal bases, spray the ball all over the park. Hit meaningful home runs. The starters need to pitch deeper into games because the bullpen has to be low on petrol.Buck Farmer, Ian Gibaut and Alexis Diaz all have made more appearances than any other relief pitcher in MLB. It would help if Joey Votto and Tyler Stephenson become more consistent and if Ellly De La Cruz would quit swinging at bad breaking balls. But what they are doing is working, so they just need to stay the course.
Q: With numerous pitchers in a game, how is it determined which one gets credit for a win? —PATRICIA, Springfield.
A: That’s one of baseball’ goofier scoring rules. A starting pitcher must pitch at least five innings and his team must be leading when he leaves and maintian that lead to the end. But a relief pitcher can face only one batter and get the win, as Cincinnati’s Alex Young did recently. The win goes to the pitcher who was last on the mound when his team took the lead and maintained it. The Reds were behind when Young came in late in the game with two outs and retired the only batter he faced. The Reds scored runs in the next half inning to take the lead and held on to win. Winning pitcher: Alex Young. I contend that the most effective pitcher in a game should be awarded the win, but for baseball that makes too much sense.
Q: Who are a couple of your favorite opposing managers that you’ve dealt with over the years? — MATT, Charlotte, N.C.
A: Tough one. So many. Atlanta’s Bobby Cox always cleared out his office, even of his own coaches, when I arrived so we could smoke cigars and scatter the bull. Speaking of bull, I loved to listen to Tommy Lasorda’s bull, even though he callled me Bucky, confusing me with Bucky Albers. Clint Hurdle was always great to me, as was Terry (Tito) Francona. And, of course, Hamilton’s own Jim Tracy, when he managed the Pirates, Rockies and the Dodgers. And when I visited Tony LaRussa’s office, I always got a lesson on how he re-invented the game.
Q: When Elly De La Cruz hit his first home run a long way, the announcer said,”That ball had a family, so what does that mean? — ROB, Sidney.
A: I heard that too, and John Sadak said it again when a De La Cruz home run flew out a window and out of the stadium in Milwaukee. I am still scratching my head over it, but he might mean it as a way of humanizing the baseball as it was punished. Sadak is full of obscurities and he might have been repeating what wrestling announcer Jim Rose said when somebody was attacked in the ring. Another one is when Barry Larkin says, “Let that ball eat” on a pitch or a hard-hit ball. I’m not sure what is on a baseball’s menu.
Q: Does any team use a bullpen car to bring pitchers from the bullpen to the mound? — JIM, Cincinnati.
A: That used to be a big thing and most teams used convertibles or a golf cart to pick up relief pitchers on the warning track and drop them off in front of their dugouts, a 100-yard ride. Cars were usually provided by local dealerships with advertising on the doors. And some just used golf carts. They don’t do it now. They have to let the pitchers trot in from the bullpen to their grand entrance music. They were first used in 1950 and discontinued in 1995. Arizona brought the golf cart back in 2018 and it has a giant Diamondbacks helmet as its roof. About riding in a bullpen car in New York, Baltimore pitcher Mike Flanagan said, “I could never play in New York. The first time I ever came into a game there, I got in the bullpen car and they told me to lock the doors.”