By Scott Springer • firstname.lastname@example.org
With @EnquirerDoc taking a few innings off, the fine folks at 312 Elm are letting a few replacement players scribble a few morning lines again.
I actually covered the replacement players back in 1995 and was one of the few that thoroughly enjoyed Rick Reed taking a no-no into the seventh inning when he was the only so-called "scab" that got a legitimate chance.
I remember with delight the brief spotlight that shone on Eugene "Motorboat" Jones that spring. Who knew that Little Big Town would reference him in a song or that there would be some Nike Jordan sneaks by that name?
I hope Eugene got a little kickback because one of the saddest things I saw at the old Riverfront Stadium was "Motorboat" walking around the turf the day before what would've been Opening Day in 1995 wondering what might have been. Unlike the others who suited up for a workout in a pro stadium despite the baseball strike ending, Jones just meandered about the infield in his street clothes.
Enough "Motorboatin'", it's time for the "Gypsies In The Palace" to get to work.
Item No. 1: spring training in Goodyear
I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I still wish it were in Florida. Monetarily, it made all the sense in the world to go to Arizona (and strangely enough Sarasota paid the Orioles more than what the Reds would've taken to stay).
However, I was fortunate enough to cover over 20 spring trainings in the Sunshine State and I know many Reds fans looked forward to coming down to catch the team and some rays. We're a "North-South" oriented bunch here in the Tri-State and heading out west is like asking an Elder grad to find Anderson Township or vice-versa.
Having worked in Florida between 1985-1990 and the covering the Reds from the "Sweep to the Series" through my radio career, I treasured late February and early March like no man.
I probably have fonder memories of my first spring training game at Al Lopez Field in Tampa than I do of my first games as a kid at Crosley Field or Riverfront. I was older and understood the significance.
Later, I made the drives to Plant City where I'd get the best strawberry shortcake ever at Parkesdale Farms on the way home.
It was there that Pete Rose gave me a solid 20-minute interview on a practice field after former Tampa Tribune writer Jim Selman formally introduced us. Just me and the Hit King.
Doing some back-timing, it was the day after Commissioner Peter Ueberroth first summoned Rose to New York to discuss gambling. I think I lost the cassette when I moved back home in 1990.
As a boy who grew up loving the way No. 14 played, it was magic. Shortly after, it was tragic as I was hired as a stringer by the AP and UPI to cover Rose relentlessly once the gambling accusations came out. One of my saddest days was breaking in on Q105 in Tampa to report his lifetime banishment. The song that played prior to my report was Don Henley's "End of the Innocence".
No one will believe me when I say I worked long, hard hours in Florida, because it was Florida.
Still, I did radio from 5 a.m. til about 9 a.m., ate breakfast, went to the ballpark for pregame fodder, watched and reported on the game, interviewed players during and after the game and then prepared for the next morning. I got to be decent at it.
However, in full disclosure, I should now reveal my greatest radio trick ever. Working in Tampa, I would often sneak off for an afternoon game in Plant City. I was a news reporter at the time, so I got a call about a big traffic back-up on I-4 near Thonotasassa (between Tampa and "The Plant").
Well, I had pretty good seats behind home and you can't let those go to waste. So, I dialed up my highway patrol connections who gave me the lowdown, then phoned in a report "live". I was truthful. It was "live". I never claimed to be on the scene. It was all I could do to keep the bat cracking and umpire yelling out of my report as I crouched under a box seat.
There you go. You've got something on me now. Knock yourself out.
My other Florida memories were meeting the late Pete Axthelm (from the original ESPN Primetime football show), Dick Vitale, Kevin Costner, Tom Selleck, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Harmon Killebrew, Sparky Anderson, Al Kaline, Bo Schembechler, Ernie Harwell and Lord knows who else in those springs. I covered anything and everything that time allowed a young guy to do.
I even did a double-dip one day when the Reds were in Winter Haven at night and the White Sox had a day game in Bradenton with the Pirates. Chicago had a rookie outfielder of note named Jordan.
Yep, THAT Jordan. 6-foot-6 and couldn't hit a ball out of the infield. Yet the fans roared when he made a routine catch in rightfield.
Afterward, we were instructed there would be NO basketball talk. (And, unlike Doc, he did not call me "Sir".)
So there I am and "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas is in the room and there's 10 of us idiots surrounding a large man who couldn't hit a curve ball with a wooden door.
That's my "Mike" story. (One of my boys actually outdid that a couple years back when he gave Jordan a ski lesson in Utah. He got a $100 tip and lunch out of it.)
OK...I'm rambling out of the spring training territory so I best trudge on.
Item No. 2: where are the local post players?
Not to pick on UC because it's an observation I've seen everywhere, but what happened to throwing the ball inside?
This is from an interview I did with Bob Weisenhahn of UC's first national championship team in 1961. At 74, he's 6-foot-4 (big for 1961) and at his playing weight of 220. He was the proverbial bruiser. His comments echo what I hear nearly everywhere:
"They need some more movement," he said. "They run a weave with three guards. The big kids don't want to pick across or nothing. They're pretty predictable from what I've seen."
Seemingly, the basketball is a
"hot potato" to anyone in the post. Just going through some names of UC
and Xavier, if you threw it in to Danny Fortson, Kenyon Martin, Tyrone
Hill or Brian Grant, it wasn't coming back.
So, after a recent frustrating UC loss to Pitt, I go to my local "B-Dubs" and watch Louisville and Notre Dame go five overtimes. The Irish had most of their "bigs" fouled out so some dude named Garrick Sherman comes in. He's a 6-foot-10 guy out of Kenton, Ohio.
Next thing you know, he's George Mikan reincarnated. Drop steps, hook shots, etc. Notre Dame let "the big dog eat". Who doesn't need a guy like that? And where are the local Jack Cooleys or Luke Harangodys? What has happened to the hook shot? Didn't it serve Kareem Abdul-Jabbar well? Does anyone do the Mikan drill?
Item No. 3: Bearcat football Naturally, I can't write much without including UC football. It's something I said would take off in the 90s and was scoffed at. I took more you-know-what over UC football than anyone at the Metropolitan Sewer District.
As part of the radio team for about 167 games at last check, I witnessed many pivotal moments and pivotal players. No one I worked with thought it would fly and now it's pretty much the basis of all Bearcat revenue.
If someone told you 20 years ago that UC would have been to the Orange and Sugar Bowls, had an undefeated regular season, lost coaches to Michigan State, Notre Dame and Tennessee and THEN hired Tommy Tuberville, what would you have said?
Or, if you were told that three former assistants (Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh and Rex Ryan) would go on to be NFL head coaches and two would win Super Bowls, you would've called for a drug test.
Look, I understand my thinking is so far out-of-the-box that I've slipped out of the truck and down some curvy roads, but I usually wind up at my accurate destination.
Tommy Tuberville is the first UC hire in any sport that anyone had a "Wow!" reaction to. Sure, they're a long way from a national supremacy right now, but they're making some big boys nervous. You think there's any coincidence that Urban Meyer's squad is playing their spring game at Paul Brown?
Item No. 4: TV Scott watches
Yeah, John Kiesewetter doesn't call me either about my likes or dislikes, but Paul writes some of his, so here's mine.
Truthfully, the only sure-fire way to get me to the tube is a black-and-white "Andy Griffith". However, the "Sheriff without a gun" has passed on to meet Helen Krump, Deputy Fife and Aunt Bee in the sky, so I have to get off my front porch swing in Mayberry and move on.
I like "The Following". It's downright creepy. Plus I'm thinking if this Joe Carroll guy truly gets his followers to hack up everyone involved in the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon", we're all doomed.
I like "Touch" because it explores the possibility that everything happens for a reason and is connected, which I find interesting. Without question, for good or bad, there are a lot of folks out there with unique talents. Then of course, there are those without the allotted 52 cards, which is scary. The only thing about "Touch" is I keep thinking Kiefer Sutherland is going to channel "Jack Bauer" and call for back-up from "Chloe".
I also like "Vegas" and "Mad Men" because they're both set in the 60s and bring back memories of when I was a kid and people had Sputnik lamps, square TVs with three channels and silver steel Christmas trees with revolving rainbow lamps focused on them. Of course, everyone smoked then so I'm glad we moved on.
QUICK HITS: a) I think Chapman should remain a closer. He gets more outings and more people buy tickets for the chance to see him; b) Wrestling belongs in the Olympics and Vince McMahon should get to the bottom of it!; c) College athletics needs a czar like Kennesaw Mountain Landis to stop the conference flipping that has destroyed what was Big East and ACC basketball. Syracuse playing conference tournament games in Greensboro, NC? Maryland to the Big Ten when they just cut a bunch of sports? Rutgers to the Big Ten (Please!)? Finally, d) Those that got on Bob Bratkowski or Jay Gruden about Bengals play calling need to know that often the head coach has the final say-so on what is called. I'm not on the headset so I can't prove it, but it's my experience is that defensive-minded coaches that preach toughness, intensity, rope-holding, etc. are absolute cowards when it comes to running an interesting offense.
If I had a million dollars....
I'd take Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis on tour. Seeing as three-fourths of them are dead, that's not possible.
However, "The Million Dollar Quartet" is at the Aronoff and that was my wife's Valentine's Day present. I likes me the rockabilly.
If you had a pool, who would've picked "The Killer" Jerry Lee Lewis as the last survivor?
The music in the show is great and if you watch closely you can see how many acts evolved from what they did. I saw glimpses of Michael Jackson, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and some of more modern day artists if you watch all of the moves. Of course, Chuck Berry influenced these four greatly.
Oh well, time for Elvis to leave the building.
The great Loveland thought-provoker often leaves you with some "tunage" so I'll give you this shot of a young man I happened to catch on "The Late Show with David Letterman" one night.
This is new music, but an old style recorded with older equipment so you can hear the static in the record grooves as the good Lord intended.
Paul will have you back to your regularly scheduled programming next week.
Now for some JD McPherson:
By Scott Springer•email@example.com
Once again, The Enquirer is rolling the dice and letting me loose on the "Doc blog" again.
I did it back in February and enjoyed the opportunity to inject a little of myself into things. My day job (which I'm much appreciative of) involves covering high school sports for the Community Press/Enquirer Media where I endeavor to get the lowdown on who's signed a Division III letter to play water polo at Poughkeepsie State (hear this is their year) and things of that ilk. I also still do some things on a couple of sites related to University of Cincinnati athletics.
Back in the day I got to talk on the radio, do some Chevrolet commercials (say hey to Ben in the first office on the left) and some other things. Every now and then, someone thinks I still do. For those that remember, God bless you. Now I'm just like many of you that don't get figured into the economic statistics, those trying to climb back up the same mountains we climbed initially.
Cue the "Sound of Music" and the Von Trapp children (the first of my dated references that I try to update).
For today, I'm your guy Friday.
I'm not Paul Daugherty, who generally gets the best out of his subjects and has toasted pints with the city's finest. Doc has been to the finest venues, covered the grandest events and is top shelf. He vacations in the Fijis, I wear Fiji deodorant (from Old Spice--I smell like Jimmy Buffett). He could probably have negotiated covering the notorious Big East Clambake in Newport, Rhode Island. Closest I get is Joe's Crab Shack near Newport, Kentucky.
Before you get worked up into a lather (and isn't it early for that?) Paul will be back Monday with your regularly scheduled programming.
Meantime, let the replacement rants and raves begin....
I was privileged to work around Marty Brennaman for a number of years and I thought I'd never see him voluntarily bald. The stranger thing is I would've never guessed a packed house at Great American Ballpark would be strapped in their seats or glued to Jim Day on Fox Sports Ohio to watch it. I think the ratings must have rivaled the night Geraldo Rivera dug into Al Capone's vault or the final "Seinfeld".
The least surprising thing was how Marty pulled it off. He's a pro and his twist including the Dragonfly charity at the end with the kids was priceless. Sure, Marty can rip someone a new you-know-what at times during games (or in person), but if you want a true appreciation of him, listen to other broadcasters in other markets.
Because of my personal situation, I have XM radio. I listen to MLB games exclusively on XM and sometimes when you don't get the Reds broadcast, you get the opposition. If you hear enough of what's out there on other teams, you'll realize that Marty is outstanding and more than worthy of his Hall of Fame status.
By the way, I went to the Hall of Fame this year prior to the Barry Larkin induction as one of my kids played in a tournament in Cooperstown. That leads me to my next gripe..."select" teams.
The term "select" is abused in nearly every kids sport these days. Essentially, "select" now means that you forked over enough money to have your kid on a team at some level where they have fancy new bags every year and you get to travel out of town to any number of money-making tournaments where you hope the kids don't run in the halls at the place that gave you a group rate and you pray for a "B-Dubs".
It's a far cry from Knothole and Jim's Window Service with our baggy, flannel unis and community jug of water. Obviously, it's not just baseball, it's other sports as well.
Where "select" used to mean above average talent (and still does at some levels) they've created lower rungs of it where all it really has become is a social gathering for those that have mini-vans with video screens, stick figure decals on the back and IPhones holstered to their khakis as if the President had them on speed dial.
Let me give you a little insight here in my best Chris Farley, "You're just not that important!"
If you want to take "select" to a whole different level, go to Cooperstown and look at the alleged 12-year-olds who look like they should have shaved before they drove to the game with their latest updated birth certificate. The winning team the week my son was there was a hybrid group of California/Florida kids that won THE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 27-0.
It's certainly all about the food chain, isn't it?
Another observation on oversized baseball boys: look at a lot of pro rosters now, major or minor, if you're a pitcher below 6'3", good luck. It's all about height and velocity. A big guy touches 90 and all of the scouts think they can teach him to find home plate. Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux would likely not get drafted now. He hit his spots and won 355 games, that's all.
OK, I'll fess up. I've watched more Olympics this summer than in previous years. Even though I know the results, I still enjoy watching Usain "Bolt" and Michael Phelps and the gymnasts flip and feign love and affection for one another. (McKayla Maroney has one of the better stare's this side of Pat Summit.)
What about some of these events though? We can have badminton, synchronized diving, fencing and ping pong, but not baseball and softball? What gives?
If you have badminton, you open the door for lawn darts and Slip-N-Slide in my book. Perhaps even cornhole as I think there's a large West-side contingent that has secretly been in training for years.
Sychronized diving I've never heard of. I'd rather see cliff diving. "Wide World of Sports" did cliff diving from Mexico. Can't some guys flip off the Olympic rings on the bridge into the River Thames?
Fencing? Yeah, it's an old thing, but why not really go back in the "Wayback Machine" and have jousting. Let Queen Liz sit there with James Bond feasting on turkey legs while the "Knights that say 'Nee'" charge either other on horseback with pole vault sticks.
As for ping pong, that's what it is. Table tennis is how it's sold, but it's ping pong. I'm just glad the guy Doc brought up (Chinese trampolinist Dong Dong) wasn't playing ping pong. By the way, the life expectancy of a ping pong ball in any house with teens is probably the first weekend you're out as the little plastic ball is more plunked than paddled these days.
Beach volleyball is fun to watch, but let's be honest about what we're watching. It's kind of like saying you go to Hooter's for the fried chicken.
One more Olympic note: sure am glad to see Ryan Seacrest get some airtime on NBC since they're paying him a king's ransome to wait for Matt Lauer to fall out of the key demographic. Really spices up the coverage doesn't he? I have thoughts of Jim McKay (rolling over in his grave).
Some local quickies now (now there's a column for you).
Reds - I think the back end of the bullpen guys (Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman) have better stuff as a group than the fabled "Nasty Boys" that last brought us a World Series trophy. On the other hand, Broxton seems to be the only one with a screw lose (Chapman's just merely from another planet).
Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble and Randy Myers all were missing crucial cards out of the proverbial deck, which is exactly what made them "nasty".
Bengals - Play Armon Binns! He makes catches in Pittsburgh!
Also, Hire a...(never mind, horse beaten beyond recognition).
UC football - God love Whit Babcock and Butch Jones for keeping home games at Nippert. Also, I like Munchie Legaux, but don't discount Brendon Kay. He's got the size and agility everyone likes and can make plays. Say what you want about Brian Kelly, but he knew quarterbacks. Kay reminds me of a kid named Tony Pike who was up for the Clipboard Hall of Fame and didn't even sniff the field for years. When he finally did, he played in some of the more memorable games in the program's history.
UC basketball - I'm looking forward to seeing them play four-guard fast like they did after the Crosstown Slugout. Mick Cronin has trimmed his guys down to make them quicker and it's a style the guys like to play. Don't look for the "picket fence".
Xavier basketball - If freshman Semaj Christon is eligible, he's worth a ticket to watch. I thought he was the best player in the city his senior year at Winton Woods and after a year at prep school he dominated the Deveroes League this summer at Woodward.
OK, word has it I'm a major Bruce Springsteen fan (28 shows). Don't always agree politically, but I have to admit there's something to be said about corporate fat-cats that claimed the souls of many in this recession. I saw him do this at the opening show of the "Wrecking Ball" tour in Atlanta. Then I laughed as I walked by guys with sweaters tied around their necks, $80 golf shirts and penny loafers watching. Much of the new album is about them.
Don't want to leave you on what you may perceive to be a downer, so here's another favorite band. The Mavericks were an alt-country band that did well in the 90s and then faded as the hit factories tried to put out "prettier bands" or guys that swiped Buffett's act. They're back together now and touring. Raul Malo has one of the best voices around and the music's catchy. Wouldn't steer you wrong. Thanks for the drive today.