By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave and with the Cincinnati Reds-Pittsburgh Pirates rained out I’m sitting in my La-Z-Boy contemplating my navel, which I can actually see after losing 25 pounds.
—JOHN FAY, RIP: Does anybody believe that a person can die of a broken heart?
A few months ago, Laura Fay lost a very long and extremely courageous battle with cancer. She was the wife of long-time Cincinnati Enquirer baseball beat writer John Fay.
Fay also had been wrestling with cancer, but this week he died from a heart attack. To me, it was a broken heart.
After Laura died, John posted often on Facebook about his dearly departed wife and his loneliness poured out like beer from a bottle.
I mention beer because both Laura and John loved their hops, Laura even more than John. She was the life-of-the-party type, knew no strangers. John was more reserved, a quiet guy with a dry wit.
His devotion to Laura was unmatched and vice versa.
For some reason, everybody called him ‘Fayman’ while he covered the Reds for nearly three decades and did it with true professionalism.
We were never close and I can’t recall ever going out to eat on the road with him. I did play a couple of years as a ‘ringer’ with the Enquirer softball team and ‘Fayman’ was a good pitcher.
I remember when he first started covering the Reds he worked for the Middletown Journal and was extremebly shy, kind of stood back and seldom asked questions.
He got over that with the Enquirer and became what a beat writer is all about — working nearly every game, arriving at the park early, working the clubhouse for interviews in his quiet, laid-back way and covering the team diligently.
He was tough competition. . .and that’s the best compliment I can give to a fellow beat writer.
And, yes, he died of a broken heart.
Too many of my baseball-writing contemporaries, we call ourselves Ball Scribes, have left us in the recent past: Fay, Rick Hummel, Roger Angell, Joe Strauss, Paul Meyer, Pedro Gomez. At 83, I feel vulnerable, very vulnerable.
—A ‘DUNN’ DEAL: Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell’s ‘experiment’ with batting Elly De La Cruz leadoff took me back to the early 2000’s when former Reds manager Bob Boone batted Adam Dunn leadoff.
Dunn was a huge man, nicknamed ‘The Big Donkey’ and he was the prototype for baseball’s three true outcomes — walk, strikeout, home run.
Dunn was a baseball trifecta, he did them all. Because he walked so much, Boone thought he would be a productive leadoff hitter. But like De La Cruz, he struck out too much.
In one five-year period, he hit 40 or more home runs each season, walked more than 100 times and struck out more than 165 times.
After he set the then MLB record for strikeouts in a season in 2006 with 194, I asked him about it and he said with a grin, “Hey, it’s nice to be in the record books for something.”
That same year, the 6-foot-6 left-handed first baseman also hit 40 homers, drove in 92 and walked 111 times.
***There have been some whisperings that Elly De La Cruz is the second coming of Aristides Aquino, an unfair comparison for a 21-year-old rookie whose baseball spikes are still wet.
Aquino is playing for the Chunichi Dragons in Japan and not much has changed — 32 strikeout in his first 68 plate appearances.
De La Cruz struck out 85 times in his first 276 plate appearances, but he isn’t going anywhere. The Reds believe his learning curve is high-level and he’ll learn that not every pitch is something at which one swings.
After making an ocean-wave splash at the start of his career, Aquino struck out 100 times in 276 plate appearances last season.
—STRONG-ARMED: When they talk about a baseball player’s tools, there is no doubt Elly De La Cruz has a full tool belt. And one of them is his arm, which is a human catapault. He routinely makes throws at 98 and 99 miles an hour.
But there is somebody who, on the average, throws harder. That would be Colorado’s Nolan Jones, who plays the infield and the outfield.
His average throws in the infield are 98.6 miles an hour and his average throws from the outfield are 99.1 miles an hour, both tops in MLB.
—QUOTE: From former Boston infielder Johnny Pesky, for whom the foul pole is named in Fenway Park (Pesky Pole): “When you win you eat better, sleep better, the beer tastes better and your wife looks like Gina Lollobrigida. (If you’re under 30, look up her picture from about 1950.)
—SECOND CHANCE HEROICS: A real feel good story surfaced this week in Houston when Jon Singleton hit two home runs, singled, walked and drove in five run for the Astros. His last MLB home run was eight years ago in 2015.
Why is that? He was out of baseball for five years, released due to drug addiction.
Singleton was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 in the eighth round and traded to Houston in 2011. He made his MLB debut in 2014 and hit his last home run in 2015.
He was suspended several times due to his drug addiction and released in 2018. He kept in shape by opening a workout gym and in 2021 he came back to the game and played in Mexico.
The Milwaukee Brewers signed him in 2022 and it didn’t go well and he was released early this season. The Astros decided to give him a second chance. He played 33 games at Triple-A Rpund Rock and was called up Friday. His ‘Big Day’ was his first game back with the Astros.
Second chance stories are awesome.
—IS NOOTBAAR A CANDY BAR?: There is no doubt my wife, Nadine, is special. If not, why would I marry a woman who does not like baseball. She knows the difference between an MRI and an RBI, but doesn’t comprehend the infield fly rule. Who does?
Oh, she runs into The Man Cave when Elly De La Cruz bats and her favorite player is Lars Nootbaar, because of his name, of course.
“Is that a player or a candy bar,” she asked the first time she heard the name.
She wasn’t happy when she said she wanted to see a diamond and I took her to a baseball game.
—QUOTE: From comedian Will Ferrell: “Before you marry a woman, see how she reacts to slow internet.”
—METS WERE CAT-ATONIC: What do TV broadcasters talk about when their team is getting annihilated?
Well, while the Atlanta Braves were dismembering the New York Mets, 21-3, (Isn’t that an NFL exhibition score between the Jets and Falcons?) the Mets broadcasters brought up the cartoon character Snagglepuss and his catch phrase, “Exit, stage right,” which is what the Mets should have done.
And one of them said, “Sufferin’ succotash.” Uh, wrong cat. That wasn’t Snagglepuss. That was Sylvester the Cat. But that’s OK. The Mets were just as confused.
—QUICK THOUGHTS: Do any ballplayers looking to find themselves ever look in the mirror?
Players who say they never make the same mistake twice usually make it seven or eight times.
I’m just glad they don’t publish my errors in a box score like they do in baseball.
Why is abbreviation such a long word?
If you eat a brat, you get the best and the wurst.
And you just got the wurst from me.