Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: During their 150 years of existence, the Cincinnati Reds have retired 10 numbers. At this pace they will have retired all 99 in the distant future, and what happens then? — DAVE, Miamsburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.
A: First of all, the Reds have not existed for 150 years. They have had teams in Cincinnati for 145 of the last 150 years. They are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their first team. Actually, there have been three different teams in Cincinnati. The original 1869 Red Stockings disbanded after the 1871 season and half the team became the Boston Red Stockings. Cincinnati didn’t have a team until joining the National League in 1876. That’s four years without a team. Then the NL expelled the Reds after the 1880 season. Cincinnati was without a team for a year before joining the American Association in 1882. So that’s five years without a team and 145 years with a team. OK? Now, retired numbers. Most of the guys playing these days, other than Joey Votto, won’t have their numbers retired. If it would happen, there is no rule that says Joey Votto III can’t wear No. 119.
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Q: What Reds player can you remember who had great first-half numbers but did not make the All-Star team? — RON, Vandalia.
A: Since my memory is as foggy as a San Francisco morning, I only need to mention the present. How about Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett, who lobbied to make the team but wasn’t chosen? He was 3-1 with a 1.70 earned-run average and had given up 25 hits in 37 innings with 54 strikeouts before he went on the injured list this week. The tall, lanky former college basketball player renders left-handed batters helpless with his sick slider. But middle relief pitchers are nearly always ignored for the All-Star team. How about Johnny Cueto in 2012? He was 10-5 with a 2.35 ERA, but National League manager Tony LaRussa didn’t pick him. Reds manager Dusty Baker accused LaRussa of snubbing Cueto because of the fight between the Cardinals and Reds during which Cueto kicked St. Louis catcher Jason LaRue in the head with his spikes. If true, very petty.
Q: In an emergency situation would Joey Votto be available to catch? — BILL, Riverside.
A: Votto actually signed as a catcher in 2002 but the Reds knew quickly he was not another Johnny Bench or Johnny Edwards or even a Johnny Oates. They quickly converted him to first base. That was 17 years ago and he has never been behind the plate. He probably doesn’t remember how to strap on the shin guards. Reds utility player Kyle Farmer is a bonafide catcher and is currently the backup to Curt Casali with Tucker Barnhart on the injured list.
Q: Has any pitcher started both ends of a doubleheader? — MARIE, Boca Raton, Fla.
A: Some guy named Babe Ruth did it for the Boston Red Sox. Bobo Newsom did it four times. Joe McGinnity did it three times in one month. The last was knuckleballer Wilbur Wood for the Chicago White Sox on July 20, 1973 at Yankee Stadium. And he wished had hadn’t. He lost both games. He started the first and was pulled after the first six batters reached base and all of them scored, and the Yankees won, 12-2, ending Wood’s eight-game winning streak against the Yankees. Wood asked manager Chuck Tanner if he could start the second game, and since he had thrown only 26 pitches, Tanner agreed, much to his chagrin. Wood retired the first nine batters, but the White Sox committed two errors in the fourth, leading to two unearned runs. and Wood was knocked out in the fifth after Roy White hit a grand slam to give the Yankees a 7-0 lead, which they held. Wood was 0-and-2 for the day.
Q: What is happening to America’s pastime with all the players with beards and long hair down to their shoulders. Are they so underpaid they can’t afford razors, shaving lather and haircuts? — RICHARD, Bradford.
A: Actually, most of them are so well-paid they could buy their own hair salons. All the teams provide free razors and shaving cream in the shower area and nearly every team has a player who cuts teammates’ hair for free. Beards and long hair are cyclical and right now in baseball we are in the Grizzly Adams and the Oakridge Boys era. Just look around. It isn’t just baseball. Scruffy beards and shoulder-length hair is everywhere, except for me. I couldn’t grow a beard if somebody offered me a new Lamborghini.
Q: I have heard a voice on the Reds’ radio broadcast that I don’t recognize and haven’t heard his name, so what is his background and is he heir apparent to Marty Brennaman? — DOUG, Beavercreek.
A: There are so many voices in the Reds broadcast booth these days you could be referring to any number of people. You can’t listen to a broadcast without a scorecard. I assume you are referring to Tommy Thrall. Before this year he did radio play-by-play for the Class AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He began his career doing games for the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent Northern League. He also broadcast games for the Quad-Cities River Bandits, a Class A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Thrall has a great radio voice, is well-versed and is a people person. It hasn’t been announced, but it appears he is Marty’s replacement, if he doesn’t commit any major faux pas.
Q: Why don’t players take huge leads so they can easily steal second base against Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester? — DENNIS, Huber Heights.
A: You are asking, I assume, because Lester has the yips and can’t throw the ball to first base. I have wondered the same thing. But players tell me that Lester delivers his pitches homeward quickly. And he is left-handed and can watch runners closely. If the runner gets too far off, Leter can step off the rubber and run toward first base and underhand it to the first baseman and maybe catch the runner in a rundown. I saw that happen once and Billy Hamilton was caught trying to take second base. Isn’t it amazing that Lester can throw strikes to a hitter but can’t throw the ball to first base?
Q: Players order their bats to their personal specifications as to length and weight, but does Yasiel Puig order his in special flavors? — JOHN, Oxford.
A: You are referring to Puig’s penchant for licking the barrel of his bats before stepping into the batter’s box. Having never licked one, I’m not sure about the taste of lacquer or varnish, which covers most bats. Puig could rub apple butter or mustard (apropos because he is a hot dog) on them, but those would be illegal substances on the bats. If he used a brown bat, he could rub chocolate on it and the umpire probably wouldn’t detect it, but he doesn’t need to gain weight.