Stuff you won’t read anywhere else – your questions and some frank answers from hall of fame writer Hal McCoy…on the sad demise of former all-star Reds second baseman Johnny Temple…would anyone hire an 83 year old pitching coach…and why Hal no longer appears on Reds TV broadcasts.
DAVE: I’ve never told anybody this before, but on Johnny Bench Day in Riverfront Stadium, Nadine was at the game and I was covering the game. I left the press box to meet her on the concourse under the stands. We were there when Bench hit the final home run of his career. I missed seeing it. But, fortunately, I saw it on replay and was able to write about it. And I interviewed him after the game, but I still wish I had seen it in person. I thought about proposing to Nadine while we were chatting when Bench was batting. But I didn’t. I never considered proposing on the JumboTron because I feared she might say no, shattering me in front of the world. I always wondered why guys would take that chance. When it happens, all of us in the press box are chanting, “Say no, say no, say no.” But the woman always grabs her head, says yes and they kiss and everything is right in the world.
From Mike in Columbus: Hal, my dad was a huge Reds fan during the 50s and 60s and his favorite player during those years was a second baseman named Johnny Temple. Recently I read where Temple really hit hard times before he died. Can you give me some more information on his career and his story?
MIKE: Johnny Temple was before my time, but he had a history with my mentor. When I started covering the Reds, Hall of Fame baseball writer Earl Lawson covered the Reds for the old Cincinnati Post & Times-Star. He took me aside and said, “Kid, just follow me and watch and listen.” And I did for nearly an entire season, following him like a wolf stalking a deer. He taught me everything I know about baseball writing. His stories were great. He and Temple had a tumultuous relationship. Temple actually punched him twice, on two different occasions. After Temple retired, he went into a business in Texas that went belly-up and Temple lost everything, including his house and car. Temple wrote Lawson a letter, explaining his situation. Lawson began sending him money and told nobody about it but me. They became close friends and Lawson helped him as much as he could until Temple died, still broke and broken.
From Randy in Troy: I think Nick Senzel has been a refreshing upgrade, and wondered if there was anyone else like him that’s near to coming up?
RANDY: All prospects are suspects until they make the majors and make it or break it. Senzel, so far, has shown that he is a ball player and a darn good one. What has impressed me most is not his plate discipline for a rookie, but the fact he never played outfield before and is playing center field without looking like Kevin Mitchell or Alex Johnson, who once had a fly ball bounce off his head. Senzel is not Billy Hamilton, also an infielder-turned-outfielder, but who is? When Scooter Gennett leaves via free agency after this season, Senzel most likely will move back to the infield. OK, you asked about others? There are a few suspects like Taylor Trammell, last year’s Futures Game MVP, and Jonathan India. They look like they could make it and make it big. But, to me, they are still suspects until proven otherwise. And, of course, there is pitcher Hunter Greene, who is out the entire season with Tommy John surgery. We have to wait on him to see how he does when he returns.
From Gene: Hal, I really enjoyed your taking the time to answer my question in your last column, and thank you. I’ve been a Reds fan for a long time and wondered, in your opinion, where the current decline with the organization began.
GENE: Thanks for the kind words and it is my pleasure to share my time and efforts for all baseball fans. I have been fortunate to be involved in baseball for 47 years, so you might say I’ve seen it all. To me, the decline of the franchise began in the late 1970s when former Reds general manager/hatchet man Dick Wagner tore down The Big Red Machine. Not only after he took over the Reds lost 101 games in 1982. They recovered briefly under the ownership of Marge Schott in the 1990s, winning the World Series under Lou Pinella in 1990 and making the NLCS in 1995. Then began the decline that is still in place. Schott was a big part of it. She got rid of most of the team’s scouts, wrecked the minor league system and chased away some good people in the organization. Except for a brief resurgence under GM Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker, the team has never recovered and with four straight last place finishes the proud old franchise is at the bottom of the abyss.
From Jack in Springfield: Press Pros Magazine covers all the Ohio State games in the spring, and I wondered if you watched Michigan play in the CWS? I watched and thought the college game was very entertaining. Your opinion?
JACK: The Reds and MLB is my life and unfortunately the college season runs at the same time as the MLB season. I do take a few days off the cover the state high school baseball tournament for Press Pros Magazine and love the break and the different take on the game. And for a couple of years I covered the University of Dayton baseball team under Tony Vittorio. for PPM. I even enjoyed the long bus trips. But unless I taped the NCAA baseball games, I didn’t get to see much of it. I caught snatches of Michigan’s run to the finals and that was great. Even though I’ve always been an Ohio State (football) fan, I thought it was very cool for a team from cold weather country to do so well against the teams from warm weather climes who make it to Omaha nearly every year. Even I might have been considered a turncoat for rooting for U-M, but did hope they’d beat Vanderbilt, a true baseball factory.
From David Waller: Hal, I just saw where the Mets fired their pitching coach and replaced him with 83-year-old Phil Regan, who used to pitch for the Cubs and the Dodgers. In fact, I read where he pitched to Ted Williams during Williams’ final year. What’s this say about the theory of listening to your elders?
DAVID: Phil Regan made his name out of the bullpen. When he pitched for the Cubs he earned the nickname ‘The Vulture’ because time and time again he would enter the game late when the Cubs were behind and they would come back to win and Regan would gobble up the victory like a vulture. He is a tough guy, a crusty throwback to tougher times in baseball. I figure the Mets needed a strong voice, a no-nonsense coach who has survived baseball’s wars. With him, it is, “My way, or no way.” Will the Mets pitchers listen to a guy who is older than their grandfathers? Remains to be seen but for sure Regan will take no guff and dish out gruff and guff by the bucket.
From Gerry: Hal, if the Reds are still in last place after the all-star game will that trigger a wholesale reaction from the front office?
GERRY: They might consider removing all sharp objects from the front office desks. The Reds went all-in this year with a record payroll and a near total revamping of the pitching rotation. However, even if the Reds are still last at the All-Star break, they probably will be closer to first place than all the second place teams in the other five divisions (Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay, Texas, Philadelphia, Colorado). That puts the Reds in a tough situation. Are they really contenders and should they try to add a bat or a relief pitcher? Or are they not contenders and should they start dumping players for more suspects/prospects? If they are not contenders it would be better for them to be 20 games out to make their decisions easier. But being in last place and only five, six or seven games out makes everything so much more difficult as far as which way to go.
From Mike Francis: Can you explain why the bat to ball contact is so loud on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball? It isn’t that loud on Fox during Reds games.
MIKE: I don’t know that answer, but I also notice it. It sounds as if every ball hit is going to reach the upper deck. I am going to assume that ESPN places a mircophone close to home plate, perhaps on the lower part of the backstop. Or maybe they have a guy with a shotgun microphone at the end of the dugout aiming the mike at home plate. You can always hear the loud thump of ball hitting catcher’s mitt on strikeouts. And I’ve also noticed the clarity of some f-bombs dropped by those players who do strike out, especially when the umpire calls them out.
From Don in Vandalia: I miss seeing you on the telecasts and wonder if that was a Reds decision. Apparently 47 years doesn’t buy you much anymore.
DAN: Glad you noticed. I, of course, have noticed it but I’ve swallowed my pride and haven’t asked. I do have my suspicions. I fear I have been blackballed by Mr. Bob Castellini, who is not enamored with the honesty of my coverage. Back when I worked for Fox’s website, he tried to have me removed because he told somebody, “He just kills us.’ Fox told me he wanted me gone and said they had to do it. I had a sit-down with Mr. Castellini and told him how much I loved the Reds, but I had to be honest with my coverage. He backed down and I was kept by Fox until all Fox baseball websites discontinued posting stories and let nearly all their local writers go. I used to appear regularly on Reds Weekly and on the broadcasts during rain delays. But over the last two seasons, not once. It’s pretty obvious. I’ve been blackballed.