OBSERVATIONS: Oh No, Not Another No-No (Oh, Yes)

By Hal McCoy

Cave, totally enthralled and mesmerized over what already has happened in baseball in less than a week. What a game.

—A BLANKING FOR BLANCO: Baseball stories consistently are head-scratchers, right off the back lots of movie studios producing ‘B’ movies that are too smaltzy to be believable.

In the baseball, they are for real.

The story of Runel Blanco is one of those. At age 30, making his eighth major league start, Blanco pitched a no-hitter Monday for the Houston Astros against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The back story. Blanco was working in a car wash in the Santiago, The Dominican Republic when the Astros signed him for a paltry $5,000. Maybe the Astros saw what Pete Rose once said about Don Gullett: “He can throw a ball through a car wash and not get it wet.”

Amazingly, it was the 17th no-hitter thrown by a Houston pitcher, the most in MLB since the Colt .45s/Astros were born in 1962. And of the 17, only one was thrown by a left-hander, Framber Valdez.

That brings us to Mr. No-Hitter, Nolan Ryan. Of his seven no-hiitters, he only threw one for the Astros. Four were with the California/Los Angeles Angels and two with the Texas Rangers.

His seven no-hitters were caught by seven different catchers.

Nolan also had 12 one-hitters, tying him with Bob Feller for the most, and 17 two-hitters. He never pitched a perfect game and, unbelievably, never won a Cy Young Award.

—OPENING DAY SUCCESS: The New York Mets, whom I foolishly in a weak moment, picked to win the National League East over Atlanta and Philadelphia, lost their opener, 3-1.

Not only did they lose, Freddy Peralta and the Milwaukee Brewers’ bullpen, held the Mets to one hit, a second-inning home run by Starling Marte.

Nevertheless, the Mets still own a record, the last record one would expect from them. They own a 41-22 record on Opening Days, the best percentage in MLB.

And that’s despite the fact they lost their first eight Opening Days after becoming an expansion team in 1962. That means they are 41-14 since those eight straight defeats.

—QUOTE: From Casey Stengel, the Mets’ first manager and loser of 120 games in 1962: “Never make bad predictions, especially about the future.” (I fear that’s exactly what I did, Casey.)

—THE CHRISTIAN WAY: Speaking of Opening Days, for the first 10 years of his illustrious career, Milwaukee star Christian Yelich never had a hit on Opening Day, 0-for-43.

Then on Opening Day this season in New York, Yelich went 3 for 4 against the Mets with a home run.

—RUTHIAN ALL-STARS: Just before his death in 1948, Babe Ruth was asked to pick an All-Star team. He did it, but said, “I will do it, but I won’t pick a right fielder because I don’t want to pick myself.” Well, that pretty much says whom he thought was the right fielder.

His team: Pitchers —Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Herb Pennock.

C-Ray Schalk, 1B – Hal Chase, 2B- Nap Lajoie, SS – Honus Wagner, 3B – Jimmy Collins, LF – Ty Cobb, CF – Tris Speaker, RF – Ghost (But, yes, it has to be The Bambino).

Notice a significant absence? He didn’t pick Lou Gehrig at first base. Instead, he picked Hal Chase, noted gambler, a guy who fixed and threw games.

—STAN THE FAN: Hall of Famer Stan Musial was clearly one of the all-time best hitters and also was overly modest. Proof? How about this:

“There was never a day I was as good as Joe DiMaggio at his best. Joe was the best, the very best I ever saw.”

Such modesty. Stan The Man was not only one of the best of his era, but one of the best all-time. . .and the best harmonica player.

—DRIBBLE DRIVEL: Isn’t basketball’s Euro-step what once was an American travel? And whatever happened to palming the ball?

Back when I played, when Baskin & Robins only had vanilla and we wore shorts that barerly covered the essentials, when you dribbled you had to use the flat of your palm and push the ball down. Now every player palms the ball when they dribble, as if they are caressing a cantaloupe.

Now get off my devil strip. . .if you know what that is.

—UCONN CAN: How in the name of John Wooden can a team that made the NCAA Elite Eight get outscored 30-0 in a game.

Illinois and UConn were tied, 23-23, and the next time the IIlini scored it was 53-23. Sure, it was UConn, but even if it were the Boston Celtics, one would think they could even drop kick one into the basket from half-court instead of missing every free throw, every lay-up, every runner and every three-pointer.

And does UConn coach Dan Hurley ever smile or even grin? While his team wins every game by 25 or more points, he looks as if he has a migraine and his skivvies are too tight.

—WATER HOCKEY: Don’t ask why this came into my addled brain, other than hearing the old joke that the Argentine water polo team couldn’t compete in the last Olympics because all their horses drowned during practices.

Water polo? Isn’t that hockey played in a king-sized bath tub?

—QUOTING ‘EM: Some more gems from the mouths and brains of baseball people:

From catcher Johnny Bench on his arm: “I can throw out any man alive.” (How about Usain Bolt, Johnny?)

From Tommy Lasorda on getting bad seats at a game: “They were so high I could high-five the guys in the Goodyear blimp.” (What is he doing sitting in the stands when he had a free seat in the dugout?)

From Joaquin Andujar, who once said, “I’ll tell you in one word. Youneverknow:” “That’s why I don’t talk. Because I talk too much.” (At least he talked in short sentences.)

From Yogi Berra on the weather: “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.” (And on one very humid day, New York Mets owner Joan Payson told Yogi that he looked very cool and he said, “You don’t look so hot yourself.”)

From former Reds infielder Rocky Bridges on a frigid Opening Day: “It was so cold that Admiral Byrd threw out the first pitch.” (Well, it could have been Ron ‘The Penguin’ Cey.)

From manager Whitey Herzog on taking out pitcher Ken Dayley: “He got hit so hard I had to get all the married men off the field.” (Hey, Whitey, what do you have against single guys?)

From former shortstop Jim Fregosi: “Numbers played a big part of my career, especially E-6. (Former Houston catcher Alan Ashb had a vanity license plate that read: SB-E2.)

From an unnamed player, but probably thought by all of them, “Money isn’t everythig, but it is right up there with oxygen.”

—PLAYLIST NO. 34: Back to songs actually on my iPod, some of which have been added recently:,

Easy (Lionel Richie), The Weight (The Band), Some Guys Have All The Luck (Rod Stewart), Last Dance (Floyd Cramer), Do You Remember? (Phil Collins), You Are The Reason (Calum Scott), Ramblin’ Man (Allman Brothers), Heard It In A Love Song (Marshall Tucker Band), Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan).

Operator (Jim Croce), I Started A Joke (BeeGees), Look At Us (Vince Gill), Someone You Loved (Lewis Capaldi), Circle Of Life (Elton John), Seasons In The Sun (Terry Jack), Please, Please Me (The Beatles), Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five), Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel).

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