OBSERVATIONS: Of Pick-off Moves and Other Stuff

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wasting time watching these early bowl games when wasting away in Margaritaville might better serve my time.

—PICKING ‘EM OFF: A couple of blogs back, I typed a couple of tidbiits about former pitcher Tim Fortugno, who spent some of the 1994 season with the Cincinnati Reds.

He’s the pitcher with such a good move to first base that he picked George Brett off first base after Brett colllected his 3,000th career hit. And Fortugno didn’t do it for spite, the pickoff was called for from the manager in the California Angels dugout.

Fortugno’s pickoff move was good, no great. It was so great, it bordered on a balk (but it wasn’t). In fact, Reds general manager Jim Bowden took Fortugno to the umpires dressing room and had him show them his pickoff motion, “So they’d know it wasn’t a balk, that it was legal,” said Fortugno. “I never had a manager stick up for me like that.”

In 1994, Neon Deion Sanders, as fast as a speeding Lamborghini, asked Fortugno to come to the park early and work with him on the basepaths.

“I didn’t have a ball in my hands, but he asked me to throw 10 phantom pitches to home plate from the stretch,” said Fortugno. “Then he had me make 10 straight phantom pickoff throws to first base.

“Then he said, ‘Mix ‘em up. Throw some home and throw some pickoffs.’ I picked him off with every pickoff throw,” Fortugno said. “He shook his head and said, ‘I’m just going to go on your first move, whether it’s to home plate or first base. I can’t tell the difference.’”

Sanders must have been thinking about the song, ‘Do My Eyes Deceive Me?’ Nope. Fortugno’s move was that good, with no trickitude involved.

Speaking of pickoff moves and Deion Sanders, during a spring training game involving the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees, Andy Pettitte was pitching for the Yankees. Pettitt owned perhaps baseball’s best pickoff move.

Sanders was batting when George King, baseball beat writer for the New York Post, turrned to me and said, “If Sanders gets on base, I’ll bet you $5 that Pettitte picks him off first base.”

Said I, too confident for my wallet, “You’re on.”

Sanders drew a walk and Pettitte didn’t even make a pitch. My wallet became $5 lighter immediately. Pettitte picked him off.

—IN THE FINE PRINT?: Legendary sports columnist Jim Murray wrote this in 1974, 49 years ago, but he could have been writing about the contents of Shohei Ohtani’s $700 million donation from the Los Angeles Dodgers:

“. . .a no-cut contract that is believed to call for Rhode Island, downtown Dallas, parts of Wilshire Boulevard and mineral rights to the Gulf of Mexico.”

If they check closely, all of that is probably in the fine print of Ohtani’s contract.

—J-E-L-L-O: There was no question that former Houston Astros pitcher Charlie Kerfeld was two baseballs short of a dozen. He always wore a Jetson’s t-shirt under his game jersey, wore a Conehead mask while in the bullpen and said he wanted to fight Hulk Hogan.

Before the 1987 season he asked the Astros to included 37 cases of orange Jell-o in his contract.

“I wanted the Jell-o so Larry Andersen (fellow bulllpen flake) and I could pull a prank on a coach or some unsuspecting reporter,” said Kerfeld. “When they least expected it, they might find some orange Jell-o in their toilet or the whirlpool.” (Least expect it? When would anybody ‘expect’ orange Jell-o in the toilet? And I was never his ‘unsuspecting’ reporter. Good thing, too. I despise Jell-o.)

—UNEXPECTED EXCITEMENT: All these early made-for-TV college football bowls foisted upon us are about as interesting to watch as a gopher popping out of his hole.

Unless you are an alum of Sad State or Terrible Tech, who wants to watch a couple of 6-6 teams?

And that was the case early this week when 6-6 Old Dominion and 6-6 Western Kentucky played in something called the Famous Toastery Bowl, played in front of near-empty Jerry Richardson Stadium in Charlotte.

It turned out to be a fun watch. Old Dominion led, 21-0 in the first quarter, led by 28-0 early in the second quarter. . .and lost, 38-35.

Western Kentucky blocked two late Old Dom field goal attempts and kicked one in overtime to win it. What made it all incomprehensible was that WKU’s third-string quarterback, Caden Veltkamp, was 41 for 50 for 383 yards and five touchdowns.

Are you kidding? What was WKU coach Tyler Helton thinking, keeping a gun-slinger like Veltkamp behind two other quarterbacks?

That’s akin to if Vince Lombardi kept Bart Starr on third team or if Bill Belichick kept Tom Brady on third team.

Then the next day there was the Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl. And the Scooter’s Coffee event was not the cream of the bowl season. It was a dull affair during which Marshall jumped to a 10-0 lead but lost to UTSA, 37-14.

Nadine asked me what UTSA stands for and I said, “Underwhelming Team Standing Around.” After she slapped me upside of the head I told her, “University of Texas San Antonio. . .I think.”

—QUOTE: From a friend watching the Cleveland Browns game with me: “If Myles Garrett gets his hands on you, you can pretty much forget about Christmas.”

FEMALE INFLUX: Women love diamonds, right? And I don’t mean the ones they wear on their fingers, I mean the ones that baseball is played on,

Elise Berger, an 18-year-old righthanded pitcher, has signed to play baseball at Division III Bard College.

And that is not a rarity. There have been at least 20 women in the past who have been on collegiate baseball rosters. And at least eight are poised to suit up this upcoming season.

There is only one on a Division I school, Brown University’s Olivia Pichardo, a pitcher/middle infielder. And there is one on the professional level, pitcher/outfielder Kelsie Whitmore for the independent State Island Ferry Hawks.

And, yes, it is illegal to apply lipstick to the baseball.

—WHERE ARE THEY?: Some tidbits about former University of Dayton basketball players who have transferred out.

Remember Mustapha Amzil, the Flyer Finn who hit the buzzer shot to beat Kansas, 74-73, his only field goal of the game? Amzil transferred to New Mexico and his seat on the bench is so far down the row the coaches need binoculars to spot him.

He is averaging only 15 minutes a game and is averaging 2.5 points and 1.8 reounds a game. He has taken 25 three-point shots and made one. ONE!!!

Mongolian Mike Sharavjamts transferred to San Francisco and is starting for the Dons. He is averaging 9.5 points. He, too, is struggling with threes, only 30% on 12 for 40.

Probably the most successfull transfer is guard Lynn Greer III. He is playing at Saint Joseph’s and is averaging 11.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4 assists. And he is making 41.2 per cent of his threes.

He will be Dayton’s problem February 6 when the Flyers visit Hawk Hill in Philadelphia.

—QUOTE: From NBA legend Charles Barkley on defense: “Yeah it’s called defense. I mean I wouldn’t know anything about it personally but I’ve heard about it through the grapevine.”

—WRIGHT IS RIGHT: Comedian Steven Wright talking about the proverbial elephant in the room: “My roommate got a pet elephant. Then it got lost. It’s in the apartment somewhere.”


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