The latest for resident hall of famer Hal McCoy…questions about the Big Red Machine as time marches on, who is Roe Skidmore, and who was the best Reds catcher before, or after, Johnny Bench?
From Dave in Beaverweak: Hal, at your awards presentations do you prefer to be congratulated with the standard handshake, the high-five, or the half-hearted hug like the players use these days?
DAVE: All the players these days have their secret but demonstrative handshakes, right after they jump in the air and either bump butts or bump chests. One of these days a player is going to go on the DL after a teammate fouls up the wild handshake and pokes him in the eye. Me? No handshakes, no jumping in the air. I just like to accept plaques and trophies so I can put them in my office, a room my wife, Nadine, calls my personal shrine to myself. That might be, but nobody sees it but me.
From Joe B in sunny Siesta Key: When I was 25 years old in 1960 my dad used to talk to me about Babe Ruth and the Yankees and it seemed like ancient history, just 30 years removed from when Ruth played. Now it’s been 42 years since the Big Red Machine and I wondered if that seems like ancient history to you?
JOE: No, not really, because I lived it. I was there. I saw it. It seems like only yesterday to me. But the amazing thing to me is when I start talking about The Big Red Machie to the current Reds and they get glassy-eyed and wonder what in the hell I’m talking about. I keep forgetting that today’s players were born long after the days of the BRM. To them the Big Red Machine is like you listening to your dad talking about Babe Ruth. For me it was my dad talking about Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller. Dad told me that Feller threw 110 miles an hour fastballs. And, of course, I believed him. Dad always knows best, right? And, Joe — I really, really, really miss Siesta Key. I miss the beach and I miss The Broken Egg. There is a Broken Egg in Dayton but it isn’t the same. No Dick Vitale.
From Bill Esserman: It is an honor to have you consider my question. I recently read where the Reds had a player named Roe Skidmore in the 70s that batted once for them and retired with a perfect 1.000 batting average. The article also mentioned that he’s one of only a handful in the history of the game to do that. Do you remember him, and when did he play for the Reds?
BILL: It is my honor to answer your question and to answer any questions sent my way. You are partially correct. Roe Skidmore had one major league at bat and had a hit. But it wasn’t with the Cincinnati Reds. It was with the Chicago Cubs in 1970, three years before I started covering the Reds. And that hit was a pinch-hit. Baseball-reference always refers to players by their position, as in pitcher or catcher or shortstop. Skidmore’s entry says, “Pinch-hitter,” and I’ve never seen that for any other player. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 47th round in 1966 out of Millikin University in 1966. The draft doesn’t even go as high as 47 rounds any more.
From James in Wheelersburg: Always enjoy seeing you at the Murals Banquet, Hal. Can you tell me when the last time a Reds’ pitcher led the league in 1) wins, and 2) earned run average?
JAMES: The Portsmouth Murals banquet is one of my favorite yearly functions and it is always great to see wonderful fans like yourself and to see the great Reds scout Gene Bennett. As for the last Reds pitcher to lead the league in wins you only have to go back to 2008 when Aaron Harang won 16. But five other National League pitchers also won 16 — Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, Hall of Famer John Smoltz, Carlos Zambrano and Portsmouth-area native Brandon Webb. As for earned run average, hang on to your cap. You have to go back to 1944, the World War II year when most able-bodied players were serving our country. His name was some guy named Ernie Heusser and his ERA was 2.38. Pitching has not been the Reds’ strong suit.
From Gerry: Hal, is there any social cause that major league baseball won’t latch onto in the manner in which they did for Mother’s Day? Everybody wearing uniforms with pink letters, pink numbers, and pink bats was a bit much, don’t you think?
GERRY: The ‘let’s all wear pink’ day isn’t for Mother’s Day. It is to bring attention to breast cancer and they just picked Mother’s Day as a nice day to do it. One day a year doing something like that doesn’t bother me a bit. I think it is a great way to bring attention to something so important. I love the pink bats and the pink shoes and, in fact, Reds pitcher Homer Bailey gave me a pair of bright pink running shoes a couple of years ago. I’m not brave enough to wear them much, but I slip ’em once in a while at parties as an attention-grabber.
From Tim Killilea: Read Press Pros in Columbus and would like to ask who the last really good catcher the Reds had before Johnny Bench…and who was the last really good one since Johnny Bench?
TIM: The Reds have had a few, but you have to go back a while before Bench, maybe all the way back to Ernie (The Schnoz) Lombardi. But Ed Bailey in the 1960s wasn’t bad. Since Bench they had Joe Oliver, a darn good hitter and receiver and one of the funniest guys ever. As I said above about pitching, other than Bench catching hasn’t been one of the Reds’ strong suits, either.
From Brian in Hanover, Ind: Hal, why do player wear baseball shoes now that look like ski boots? Very heavy looking and very hot!
BRIAN: You are incorrect in both cases. The material in today’s baseball shoes is very, very light, just like the running shoes on the market today. And they aren’t hot. The materials breathe easily and today’s shoes actually are lighter, more comfortable and cooler than the old black baseball spikes I wore in high school and college. And they are easier on the feet than the old spikes as far as comfort.
From Joe in Urbana: Hal, what has happened to former Red Will McEnany, who retired the final out in the 1975 World Series? I have a framed cover of him jumping on Johnny Bench in my office.
JOE: McEnaney is from your area, Springfield. He is still around and is seen now and again in the Springfield area. I think, though, he is living in Florida, last I heard, but I don’t know what he is doing. Will had an identical twin brother. As a gag. his brother used to go into the Reds clubhouse before games and put on Will’s uniform and do interviews with unsuspecting media folks, imitating Will. And he did a darn good job. Fooled me once.