McCoy: Which current, past Reds player do you want at the plate with game on the line?

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

Q: Will the players who elected to sit out ethe 2020 COVID-19 season expect a welcome back party this season? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: MLB protocol still says, “No parties.” And can you name any players who sat out? I can’t, without looking it up. About half the Cincinnati Reds roster, or more, probably wish they had sat out. It was no big deal. They exercised their rights for their safety and the safety of their teammates. Being welcomed back with no repercussions is party enough.

Q: With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the bases loaded with the Reds behind, who do you want at the plate from this year’s team? — JOE, Kettering.

A: All-time, I’d take Tony Perez. As his former manager, Dave Bristol once said, “With the game on the line, I want The Big Dog up there because he always finds a way to get the runner home.” This year? Based on last year, nobody. Game over. I’d probably stick with Joey Votto. With the bases loaded he might draw a walk. And he at least would probably put the ball in play.

Q: What are some of the best Reds fights you have seen? — PATRICK, Englewood.

A: Some might say there is no fight in the Reds, but three on-the-field brawls come to find. First there was Amir Garrett charging the Pittsburgh dugout and challenging the entire Pirates team. And there was the 1973 NLCS skirmish with the Mets ignited by Pete Rose’s slide into shortstop Bud Harrelson. The highlight was Reds pitcher Pedro Borbon mistakenly putting on the hat of Mets outfielder Cleon Jones after the fight ended. Realizing his mistake, Borbon removed the cap and took a bit out of the bill. My favorite, though, involving a dogpile on the mound with Reds pitcher Rob Dibble on the bottom. Astros first base coach Ed Ott had Dibble in a choke hold and his face turned yellow, red and purple before they pried Ott’s arm off Dibble’s neck.

Q: What players that you covered sounded different with the ball off the bat and a pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt? — LARRY, Washington Twp.

A: I always knew, without looking, when Eric Davis was in the batting cage. Bat meeting ball sounded lumberjack attacking a huge tree. During spring trailing, there is a bullpen outside the clubhouse with six mounds lined up. Six pitchers can throw at one time. Also, without looking, it was easy to discern that Aroldis Chapman was one of the six pitchers throwing. When the ball hit the catcher’s mitt the echo could be heard in downtown Phoenix.

Q: Most consider 1976 as the best all-time Reds team but I consider the 1975 team as the best because by winning the World Series it got the monkey off the team’s back. Agree? — DAVE, Hattiesburg, Miss.

A: While the ’75 team is one of my favorites, I have to disagree. The ’76 Reds won 102 games and won the National League West by 10 games. Then it beat the Philadelphia Phillies in three straight in the NLCS after the Phillies won 101 games and won the NL East by nine games. Then it swept four straight from the New York Yankees in the World Series after New York won 97 games and won the AL East by 10 1/2 games. It is a close call. Flip a coin.

Q: What is the most important attribute for a successful MLB umpire? — Brian, Bellbrook.

A: Having never attended umpiring school, I’m not sure. I would expect perfect eyesight is required, although with replay challenges an umpire can just guess and the guys on replay duty in New York might get it right. I’d say complete knowledge of the rulebook, as complex as it is, is at the top of the list. And they should all own a real nice chest protector.

Q: Which hot prospect that fizzled out was the biggest disappointment for the Reds? — STEVE, Owensboro, Ky.

A: There have been many, especially high draft picks who never made it to the majors, including a lot pitchers. The most disappointing had to be third baseman Brandon Larson, In 1997 he hit .381 with 40 home runs and drove in 118 runs at LSU. The Reds drafted him No. 1 in 1998. He made the Triple-A All-Star team in 2001 and 2002. He played 40 games for the 2004 Reds and hit .212 . Some say he never adjusted to wood bats after using aluminum at LSU. He is best remembered for breaking his arm in the dugout, falling to the floor to duck a foul ball.

Q: You have been pretty accurate with your spring crystal ball predictions on where the Reds will finish, but what year did you really miss the ball and they finished different than you predicted? — GREG, Beavercreek.

A: I retired my crystal ball years ago because it got real cloudy. I don’t keep a record of my predictions (guesses) to avoid embarrassment. I am guessing, though, that I missed badly in 1990 when the Reds went wire-to-wire. And my prediction/guess this year? Fourth, ahead of only the Pittsburgh Pirates, which this year belong in Triple-A.


Q: People often ask why Dave Concepcion and Joe Nuxhall are not in the Hall of Fame, but what about former Reds executive Bob Howsam? — JON, Washington, Mo.

A: I’m with you on this one. As a member twice of the Hall of Fame Veterans committee, I made impassioned pleas for Howsam, the architect of The Big Red Machine. But I met opposition from St. Louis Cardinals executive Bill DeWitt Jr. If the name sounds familiar, he is the son of former Reds executive Bill DeWitt, Howsam’s predecessor. And he insisted his father started the BRM by signing Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez.

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