OBSERVATIONS: When It Came To Trades, Trader Jack McKeon Was ‘The Guy’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, still trying to get two of my dogs, Parker and The Mighty Quinn, out of my office closet, where they hide from fireworks. They don’t bother my other dog, Paige. She’s deaf and oblivious. But she loves everybody.

—JACK OF ALL TRADES: With the trade deadline just an infield single away, what better person to talk about trades than Jack McKeon. . .Trader Jack McKeon.

San Diego Padres owner Ray Kroc called McKeon one day in 1980 and said, “I’d like you to come in as interim general manager until we find a more experienced guy. You won’t get the job. But for now, do what you think we need to do. Don’t even ask me.”

The Padres were born in 1969 and through 1979 they had one winning season. And losing didn’t bother them. After a loss they’d hit the clubhouse and have two bowls of the clubhouse manager’s famous chili then if it was a day game they’d hit the beach.

McKeon took one look at what he had and said, “Back up the truck. They were even worse than I expected. The only solution was for me to bring a fire hose into the clubhouse and wash ‘em all out,” he said.

And that’s what he did. By 1982 he had acquired, via trades, 17 new players. And Kroc gave him the job and said, “How many years before we make the World Series?”

Said McKeon, “Five years, but we made it in four (1984 against the Detroit Tigers).”

It was in the early ‘80s when McKeon set up a booth in the hotel lobby during the winter meetings with a sign, “Open For Business.”

“We didn’t make any deals from the booth, but I made a trade in the elevator when Joe Torre of the Yankees ask about pitcher Randy Jones,” he said. “And I made a trade at the checkout desk when we were checking out with Detroit GM Bill Lajoie when he asked, ‘What do you want for that left-handed pitcher?’”

McKeon is 94 now. . .but money back guarantee, if he were a GM right now, there would be a flurry of trades involving his team. . .all for the betterment of his team.

—FIRE ‘EM UP: Do they still set off fireworks after somebody on the Cincinnati Reds hits a home run in Great American Ball Park? I haven’t paid attention.

I know they used to do it. During one game Eric Davis and Paul O’Neill hit back-to-back home runs off Chicago’s Rick Sutcliffe, igniting a pair of fireworks eruptions.

Pitching coach Billy Connors trundled to the mound to talk to a fuming Sutcliffe who told him, ‘I know I gave up back-to-back homers, but get your ass back to the dugout and tell (manager) Don Zimmer I’m OK.”
Said Connors, “I know you have everything under control, Rick. I just wanted to give that guy running the fireworks a little more time to reload.”

—WALKER TO HOMER: When Neil Diamond sings, “LA’s fine, but it ain’t home,” Arizona’s Christian Walker says, “Well, it feels like home to me.”

When Walker plays the Los Angeles Dodgers, he should change his name to Christian Homer.

Against the Dodgers, he doesn’t walk. He homers. In nine games against LA, Walker has nine home runs. He hit four, two in each game, in Dodger Stadium Wednesday and Thursday.

He hit two in his first two at bats on the Fourth of July and when he came to bat in the third, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pointed to first base for an intentional walk. He figured one base was better than four.

—WHERE’S MY RUNS?: In 1974, New York Mets pitcher Jon Matlack threw seven complete-game shutouts and had a 2.41 earned run average, third best in the National League.

For the season, he has 13 home runs against any team without ‘LA’ on their caps.

Guess what his record was? It was 13-15. Of the top 44 starting pitchers in the NL that season, 43 had better run suport than Matlack. That’s right, he was dead last in getting runs scored for him.

He needed Christian Walker on his team.

They say he was a nice guy, so maybe Leo Durocher was right when he said, “Nice guys finish last.”

—TRAVELIN’ MAN: During his 17-year career, Bob Miller pitched for 10 different team and two teams twice (New York Mets, San Diego Padres).

When his grandkids ask about his career he can say he was a teammate of Willie Mays, Willie Stargell, Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Harmon Killebrew, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and Mickey Lolich.

But one memory rests indelibly in his mind and it didn’t happen on a baseball field. He witnessed Pittsburgh radio announcer Bob Prince dive from the third floor of the Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis into a swimming pool. . .fully clothed.

—TOUGH DOO-DOO: Springfield’s Harvey Haddix, pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1959, took a perfect game into the 13th inning against the Milwaukee Braves.

But he lost the perfect game and the game when Joe Adcock hit one out of the park.

Haddix received several boxes of condolence letters, but he kept only one, framed it and hung on a wall.

It was from Lubbock, TX. and contined only two words: “Tough shit.”

Said Haddix, “The letter was exactly right.”

—SNUFF AND STUFF: It always seems so routine when a relief pitcher warms up in the bullpen. But not always.

Former Baltimore pitcher Sammy Stewart told to warmup in a hurry. He had a mouth full of snuff and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said something funny.

“I got tickled at something Elrod said and laughed so hard I swallowed about a half a can of snuff,” said Stewart. “I was so dizzy I saw about four bullpen catchers.”

Stewart then went into the game and stopped a rally. . .or shall we say he snuffed out the rally?

—‘EAR ME OUT: One doesn’t have to be a pugilisitic pundit to know who Mike Tyson once was. . .the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world and certifiable.

Real baseball fans, though, remember the first sports person named Mike Tyson. He was an infielder in the majors for 10 years, eight with the St. Louis Cardinals and two with the Chicago Cubs. His career slash line is a modest and pedestrian .241/.284/.327. So, he was, like the boxing Mike Tyson, a ‘glove man.’

But the baseball Mike Tyson never tried to make a snack out of an opponent’s ear.

—QUOTE: From Reds broadcaster Jeff Brantley, who said during the team’s trip to New York that he took a walk, “Right down Broadway.”

—QUOTE: From Eric Davis to Barry Larkin: “I’m in scoring position when I’m in the on-deck circle.”

PLAYLIST NUMBER 70: Still searching through the archives for memorable songs. . .and some not so memorable.

Running On Empty (Jackson Browne), Hey Jude (The Beatles), Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin), Billie Jean (Elton John), Light My Fire (The Doors), Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel), Hotel California (The Eagles).

I Walk The Line (Johnny Cash), Horse With No Name (America), Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys), Another Night (Real McCoy).


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