By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, cautiously optmistic about the 2-and-1 start by the Cincinnati Reds. . .and then I stop to think: “Those two wins were at home over the Pittsburgh Puny Pirates. More evidence, please.”
—WHERE’S LEIF ERIKSSON?: So the Cincinnati Reds suddenly think they’re the Cincinnati Vikings?
It always amazes me how much MLB is a copy-cat sport. If one team does something, they all have to do it.
The latest craze is the dugout choreography after a home run. Your teams ringing a bell, donning large and gaudy jewelry, putting on ugly jackets and. . .a Viking helmet.
The Viking helmet, complete with large horns, is placed upon the head of whomever homers for the Cincinnati Reds. It is the brainchild of pitcher Luis Cessa and a tribute to teammate Jake Fraley, who claims to have Viking DNA.
It’s cute. It’s fun. But do the guys in the TV booth have to go on and on and on about it after every Reds’ home run?
The Reds hit six homers in the three-game series against the Pirates and six different players had the Viking helmet placed upon their heads — Spencer Steer, Kevin Newman, Jonathan India, Jason Vosler, TJ Friedl and Jake Fraley.
So if a guy strikes out, does he have to walk the plank?
—BEAT THE CLOCK: There was a game the last week of spring training that took three hours and nine minutes to play, which must have made commissioner Rob Manfraud and his clock-watchers cringe.
That’s until one considers the final score: Houston 24, St. Louis 1. There were 29 hits and five errors. Without the pitch clock it is likely the game would have taken four hours and nine minutes.
And so it begins. After 150 years as the only major sport without it, MLB is on the clock. It is baseball’s version of the old TV quiz show, ‘Beat the Clock,’ with Bud Collyer as emcee.
Don’t bring up golf and bowling. I love ‘em both, but they are games, not sports.
—TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Remember these two names because baseball fans are going to be asked these questions as the years fly by.
**ONE: Who was the first pitcher in a regular season MLB game to get called for a pitch clock violation? That would be Marcus Stroman of the Chicago Cubs.
**TWO: Who was the first batter to be called out on strikes when he wasn’t in the batter’s box on time with two strikes? That would be Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox.
While we’re talking trivia, the Reds’ Joey Votto missed Opening Day for the first time since 2009. Who started at first base in 2008?
It was Scott Hatteberg, whom the Reds acquired from the Oakland A’s. Hatteberg was a principle character in the book and the movie, ‘Moneyball.’ He was portrayed in the movie by Scott Pratt, whose biggest claim was a big part in the TV series ‘Parks & Recreation’ with Rob Lowe.
Lowe is a son to Dayton attorney Chuck Lowe, against whom I used to play tennis. (Man, I took a long and winding way to get to that self-serving tennis fact, didn’t I?)
—OH, MAGOO, YOU”VE DONE IT AGAIN: That was a great tribute the Reds gave to Tom “Mr. Perfect” Browning on Opening Day.
Most people know that Don Werner caught Tom Seaver’s only no-hitter. Most people don’t know who caught Browning’s perfect game.
It was Jeff Reed and umpire Bruce Froemming hated to work home plate when Reed worked. Several times during his career Froemming got hit in the chest by pitches Reed missed. Froemming began calling Reed ‘Mr. Magoo.’
—A LOW CEILING: For some reason, every year Spin Magazine polls 113 musicians to make predictions about the upcoming baseball season.
Most wax poetic about their favorite teams with optimistic comments, no matter how bad the team is. But not Cincinnati Reds fan Erika Wennerstrom of the Heartless Bastards (nice name). She is a realist.
“Expectations are low and for a good reason. The Reds have offloaded much of their talent and dove deep into rebuilding. The ceiling is probably a .500 season. The floor is not important. Will they make the playoffs? Will I learn to tap dance?”
(H.B.’s biggest ‘hit’ was something called The Mountain and that’s what the Reds will be climbing all season.)
—NOT A MAN’S WORLD: Call me stupid, call me crazy, call me nuts. It won’t be the first time.
The more I watch Caitlin Clark of the Iowa women’s basketball team the more I’m convinced she could play on any Division I men’s college team. She is that good.
She is cheetah-quick, she makes 3s from the balcony, she drives left, she drives right, she drives down the middle (all fearlessly and forcefully), she passes like Magic Johnson and rebounds like Charles Barkley. She is the complete package with a few bows.
She was a one-woman show Friday night when she and her Iowa Hawkeyes took down defending NCAA champion South Carolina, 77-73, ending the Gamecocks’ 42-game winning streak.
Not only did the junior guard drop 41 on the best defensive team in the country, her eight assists meant she had her hands in 57 of Iowa’s 77 points.
The 41 points are the most scored in an NCAA women’s Final Four semifinal and she is the first to score 40 or more in back-to-back games.
Mere words can’t describe this whirling dervish. After the game, she said she learned by playing with and against two brothers. “I kinda play like a boy,” she said. Nope. She plays like a man.
Unfortunately for them, the Hawkeyes played defense against LSU in the championship game as if defense was time to rest before they got the ball back. And LSU blew them away like a hurricane, 102-85. Clark scored 30.
—AWARDS FOR EVERYBODY: Recently visited a friend’s house where a 12-year-old son resides. We went to the basement and it was clogged with about a dozen trophies.
I asked the kid, “What are all the trophies for?”
He smiled broadly and smiled proudly and said, “They are all participation trophies.”
Oh, my. It was nearly as bad as if he had said, “They are all last-place trophies.”