By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, getting my afternoon NFL fare before the main event. . .Texas and Bruce Bochy vs. Houston and Dusty Baker in Game One of the ALCS.
—MASSIVE UPSET: A score nobody thought was possible: Cleveland Browns 19, San Francisco 49ers 17.
For the Cleveland Browns it was no DeShaun Watson, no Nick Chubb and to most peope, no chance.
It was thought in most venues that George Armstrong Custer had a better chance at Little Big Horn than the Browns did of beating the unbeaten 49ers. Las Vegas had the Niners as 10-point favorites, which is a lot for an NFL game.
Cleveland’s quarterback was No. 3 signal-caller P.J. Walker, the 36th different quarterback to start a game for the Browns over the last 24 seasons. And he was matched against 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, who was 16-0 for his NFL starts.
Walker threw a couple of interceptions that led to 49er points, but his reactions under pressure were amazing.
The Browns had to overcome 12 penalties, seven of 10 yards or more.
But the NFL’s No. 1 defense rose to the occasion, making life miserable to Purdy all afternoon.
And even if Watson is healthy next week, didn’t Walke earn the right to start?
The game ended with San Francisco’s Jake Moody missing a 41-yard field goal with eight seconds left. Coming into the game he had missed only one field goal try while with the 49ers, but he missed two Sunday. Cleveland’s left-foote kicker, Dustin Hopkins, kicked four field goals, including the game-winner with 1:40 left.
During the game’s course, the 49ers lost three stars — running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver Deebo Samuel and offensive left tackle Trent Williams, but as any honest coach will say, “That’s football. Injuries are part of it.”
—A SOUR SOUND: So now reporters are winning and losing baseball playoffs? That’s the opinin of Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. after the Braves were bounced out of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Phillies.
After Philadelphia’s Bryce Harper was doubled off base to end a game, Atlanta’s Orlando Arcia made fun of Harper in the clubhouse. A reporter heard it and wrote it. Harper heard about it and clobbered two home runs the next day and stared at Arcia both times as he passed him at shortstop.
So Acuna blames the reporter for Atlanta’s loss.
“When you walk around a clubhouse and feel like you’re on egg shells, that sort of thing lingers with a team. You have to think, if they don’t print everything they hear, all the nasty things they do to us behind our backs, this is a different series. We have a clearer mind. They handed Philadelphia the series.”
Geez, could it have been because Acuna, probably the NL MVP, and Matt Olson, the National League home run and RBI leader, combined to go 6 for 30 with one extra base hit?
If what Acuna said is true and the Phillies go on to win the World Series, the Phillies should vote that reporter a share and give him a ring.
—A DIFFERENT VIEW: The Cincinnati Reds have eight players eligible for arbitration and the total estimtion for those eight guys is $18.5 million.
That prompted a reply from former Reds general manager Murray Cook, who used to whip me on the tennis court like a racehorse down the stretch.
“The total arbitration figures for the eight is less than Bryce Harper for one year,” he wrote. Spoken like a true GM and he’s right. . .way less. Harper is making $26 million this season.
—SHORT STUFF: With the Houston Astros in the ALCS for the seventh straight year, Jose Altuve is front and center, all 5-foot-5 of him, if he stands on a trash can lid in the dugout.
There once was another 5-foot-5 player, Fred Patek. After he was called up in 1968 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, a writer asked him how it felt to be the shortest MLB player.
Said Patek, “It’s beats the hell out of being the shortest player in the minors.”
—THE GILLICK WAY: Reds fans were disturbed that the club didn’t add a pitcher at the trade deadline. Most fans and even some baseball people believe that adding a pitcher would have pushed the Reds over the top and into the playoffs.
Former general manager Pat Gillick built three World Series champions, two with Toronto and one with Philadelphia, by making mid-season trades.
He wasn’t talking about the Reds when he said this, but he could have been:
“You owe it to the players and you owe it to the fans that if you think you are in a position to win, talent-wise or psychologically you’ve got to make a move, because there’s not too many times you have the opportunity and you have to do whatever is reasonable to get there.”
As in life, there are no guarantees in baseball and you reach for the ring when you can.
—VOICE OF UNREASON: The St. Louis Cardinals made the famous (or infamous if you are a Cubs fan) trade in 1964 that brought base-stealer Lou Brock from Chicago for pitcher Ernie Broglio.
When Brock arrived, manager Johnny Keane called a team meeting and informed his players that the Cardinals would be a base-stealing juggernaut.
From the back of the O came the comment, “OK, Johnny, it’s a hard job, but I’ll do it. I’ll steal those bases for you.”
The voice belonged to back-up catcher Bob Uecker, who stole exactly zero bases during his eight-year career.
—A WAKE-UP SHOCK: With Colorado leading Stanford, 29-0, at the half, I decided it was bed time, comfortable in the knowledge that Coach Prime’s guys were en route to a rout.
Then I arose Saturday morning to see the stunning scores: Stanford 46, Colorado 43.
Ah, c’mon, most of you did the same thing, right?
It reminded of what former public address announcer at Hara Arena, Governor Billy Hilbert, used to say late in Dayton Gems hockey games when he saw fans leaving early: “Never leave a hockey game.”