OBSERVATIONS: Let’s Get Rid Of The Pitcher’s Mound (Really)

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave where, for a change of pace, I’m reading a book of baseball fiction, Frank Deford’s ‘Entitled.’ I knew it was the right one when it was endorsed on the back jacket by Lou Piniella.

—DOWN TO EARTH: When it comes to baseball, put me into the Flat Earth Society.

Major League Baseball needs to level the playing field. . .and that is meant they should literally level it.

Is it time to eliminate the pitching mound? Make the pitcher throw off flat ground instead of 10 inches above home plate. Why should the pitcher have the elevation advantage?

Remember 1968? The pitcher’s mound was 15 inches above home plate and pitchers dominated. Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson posted a still-standing record 1.12 earned run average. And he pitched 304 2/3 innings.

So they lowered the mound from 15 inches above home plate level to 10 inches. And everybody blames it on Bob. But Gibby was only one-tenth of the story.

Luis Tiant, pitching 258 1/3 innings for Cleveland, produced a 1.60 ERA. Cleveland’s Sudden Sam McDowell pitched 269 innings to a 1.81 ERA.

Next came Baltimore’s Dave McNally (273 innings, 1.96), Detroit’s 30-game winner Denny McLain (336 innings, 1.96), Chicago White Sox Tommy John, for whom the surgery is named (177 1/3 innings, 1.98), New York Yankees rookie Stan Bahnsen (267 1/3 innings, 2.05), Pittsburgh’s Bob Veale (245 1/3 innings, 2.05) and New York Mets rookie Jerry Koosman (263 2/3 innings, 2.08).

So after 1968 they dropped the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches. Let’s flatten it. MLB’s rosters are full of an Army of ‘Below the Mendoz Line (under .200) hitters.

If MLB wants to see some real offense, it’s time to put pitchers on the same level as the rest of the guys on the field.

Speaking of Bob Gibson, the Cardinals have another Gibson, Kyle Gibson. The Cincinnati Reds saw him Tuesday, but they didn’t see him very well. He pitched six innings and gave up one run and two hits.

He mesmerized the Reds with his arsenal of ’S’ pitches — sinker, slider, sweeper. To the Reds all his pitches were sleepers.

When Dusty Baker was a rookie with the Atlanta Braves and owned a 17-game hitting streak, he received this advice from Henry Aaron about facing Bob Gibson for the first time.

“Don’t dig in, he will knock you down. He would knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don’t stare at him, don’t smile at him, don’t talk to him. He doesn’t like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don’t run too slow and don’t run too fast. If you want to celebrate, go down into the tunnel first. If he hits you, don’t charge the mound. He is a Gold Gloves boxer.”

To all that, Baker said, “Well, damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak? And that’s the night it ended.”rvice. Cardinals Leg

—NO MORE VIKING HELMET: The Cincinnati Reds have done away with the donning of the Vking helmet dugout celebration after home runs. No reason given.

Most likely there were some complaints. The Vikings were not nice fellows. But how about the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings?

Doing away with the helmet is all right with me. It was too schmaltzy. Why not just a pat on the back or rump and act as if you’ve hit a home run before. And it seemed silly to celebrate thata way if the home run came when the team was 8-1 behind.

—WORLD SERIES BOUND?: Hey, Tribe. . .er, Guardians. . .fans. Take that cellphone out of your pocket and order World Series tickets now before they’re gone.

All indications point to a World Series appearance for the Cleveland franchise. The Guardians started this season 36-17, tying the 124-year-old franchise’s record for the best start.

Three other Cleveland teams started 36-17: 1995, 1954, 1920. And you know what all three have in common? All three reached the World World Series.

A couple of staggering numbers: The Guardians are 32-0 when they lead after eight innings, mostly due to closer Emmanuel Clase, who leads the league with 17 saves. And they are 28-1 when leading after six innings.

The Guardians have only one three-game losing streak and it is shameful. In early May they lost three straight to the Chicago White Sox, owners of MLB’ worst record.

—FIVE FOR FIVE: Dusty Baker managed five different franchises and won at least one division title with each team. He is the only manager in history to win five division championships with five different teams — San Francisco, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Washington and Houston.

His critics always say, “Well, he never won a World Series?” So what.

Some famous long-term managers never won a World Series: Gene Mauch, Clark Griffith, Bill Rigney. Felipe Alou, Joe Cronin, Chuck Dressen, JImmy Dykes, Jim Fregosi, Ron Gardenhire, Charlie Grimm, Mike Hargrove, Art Howe, Al Lopez, Bob Melvin, John McNamara, Buck Showalter, Bobby Valentine. . .need I go on?

—GAVE ME THE WILLIES: It was 1954 and I was 14 and a huge Cleveland Indians fan, the year they won 111 games but lost the World Series in four games to the New York Giants.

In Game One, Willie May made the incredible back-to-the-infield catch on Vic Wertz’s 440-foot drive. I have despised The Say Hey Kid ever since.

And when I met him, I told him and I told him why. He laughed.

Still, credit aimed where credit due. For 13 straight seasons, May recorded 70 or more extra base hits. No player ever did that 13 straight years.

In fact, no player had 70 or more extra base hits in 13 years that weren’t in a row.

Yeah, yeah. He was special.

—FRONT FOR WHAT?: In all my 51 years covering baseball, there is one term I never figured out: Why do they call it the front office?

In no other business is it called a front office. Just office. Like George Carlin says, “That’s my job, thinking up goofy things.”

—JUST PASS GO: Another one-liner from my favorite comedian, Steven Wright: “I think it’s wrong that only one company makes Monopoly.”

—PLAYLIST NUMBER 57: Songs just keep popping up in my mind and on my iPod, whenever I find time to listen to it.

Let’s Work Together (Canned Heat), Let’s Stick Together (Bryan Freeman), A Picture Of You Without Me (George Jones), Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals), Somebody To Love (Jefferson Airplane).

Without You (Harry Nilsson), You’re Only Lonely (J.D. Souther), Learning To Fly (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers). Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac), Runaway Train (Soul Asylum), Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad (Meat Loaf),

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