Ask Hal: Top 5 Reds starting pitchers since 1965?

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: How challenging was it for you to change from a typewriter to a computer while covering games? —DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: First I had to change from hammer and chisel to feather pen, ink and paper, then to a typewriter. My grandkids have no idea what a typewriter is. I hate change so I fought changing from a typewriter to computers, especially the early ones that we so unreliable. But like a good pitcher, I made the adjustments and now I wonder how I ever made deadline with the old Underwood-Olivetti.

Q: Can you list your top five Reds starting pitchers, post 1965? — VICKY, Dayton.

A: I can, and I will. It is my list, and many will disagree. My top five: Jim Maloney, Don Gullett, Mario Soto, Tom Seaver, Jose Rijo.

That leaves out so many good ones so here are my Honorable Mentions: Jack Billingham, Tom Browning, Gary Nolan, Bronson Arroyo, Joe Nuxhall, Johnny Cueto. Eric Milton, Jimmy Wayne Haynes and Alfredo Simon did not make the list.

Q: Of all the shortstops in the Reds farm system, which one has the best chance to make the club as a shortstop? — JIM, Englewood.

A: It is obvious the team wants Jose Barrero to be the guy with all the playing time he is getting. And it is obvious he is way over his head at the plate and one wonders if he’ll ever hit. My favorite is 20-year-old Elly De la Cruz. He tore it up at High-A Dayton early this year and is still tearing it up at Class AA Chattanooga. Some say at 6-foot-5 he is too tall for a shortstop, but I’ve scoured the rules and can’t find anything that puts height requirements on shortstops.

Q: If a new beat writer was starting out, what life lessons on covering baseball would you tell him? — CHRIS, Waynesville.

A: Love baseball, love to travel, love to write and don’t expect to own a mansion or a luxury car. When I first started, my mentor was Earl Lawson, Hall of Fame writer for the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star. He took me aside when I first started and said, “Kid, follow me around, keep your mouth shut and observe.” Great advice. I did it. He introduced me to players and managers on all the teams. Because of him, I always tried to pay it forward and tried to help every young writer that came around. What makes me feel good is that so many writers have thanked me for helping them and being nice to them.

Q: If Billy Hamilton and Deion Sanders had a race in their prime, who would have won? — KEVIN, Centerville.

A: While Hamilton was as fast as a gazelle fleeing a lion, Sanders was faster than the gazelle. I have never seen an athlete as fast as Neon Deion, even if he was wearing his 10 pounds of bling. Sanders running out a triple was a videotape in fast forward. Heck, Hamilton said he had a sister who could outrun him. Maybe she could beat Sanders in a race.

Q: What was your impression of pitcher Will McEnaney as a person and as a player? — ED, Springfield.

A: McEnaney, a Springfield native, owned one of the best sense of humors I encountered covering the Reds. He was hilarious with his comments on team buses. As a pitcher, he had one outstanding season. In 1975 he was 5-2 with a 2.47 earned run average in 70 appearances. He shared the closer’s role with Rawley Eastwick, who had 22 saves to McEnaney’s 15. McEnaney is best-known for getting the final out of both the 1975 (Boston Red Sox) and 1976 (New York Yankees) World Series.\

Q: Why in the world would the Reds put Joey Votto on TV for two full games and then on the radio? —MARCELLA, Toledo.

A: Well, there isn’t much to talk about on the field. Votto is a very popular fellow with the fan base. When they mic him up for a half-inning, that’s great. But nine innings? Waaaay too much Votto babble. One inning is enough, thank you.

Q: What is the best gift a player ever gave you? — JOE, Englewood.

A: I’ve never asked for anything. But Homer Bailey and David Weathers gave me running shoes. Ken Griffey Jr. and Brandon Phillips gave signed bats. My last day as a traveling beat writer, Jonny Gomes said he would try to hit a home run for me. He did and gave me the bat. Chuck McElroy traded me a pair of ostrich cowboy boots for a hat, the best trade made in Riverfront Stadium that year. But the best gift came from Jose Rijo the day he retired. He called me to the trunk of his car and gave me a cigar humidor that holds 250 cigars. But it was such a nice piece of furniture that Nadine highjacked it for the living room.


Q: Who will be the Reds starting center fielder in 2023? — SCOTT, Syracuse.

A: Most likely, if he doesn’t hurt himself over the winter opening a can of peaches, it will be injury-prone Nick Senzel. My guess is that Albert Almora Jr. won’t be back with the Reds. My choice would be T.J. Friedl. Ever since his recall from the minors life has been a sharp double up the gap for Friedl. He defends, he runs, he is hitting, and he plays the game to dirty up his uniform. They should put a blue collar on top of his jersey.

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