Ask Hal: Who decides when Reds wear all-red jerseys?

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: With the underwhelming performance of the Cincinnati Reds starting pitchers, might the team prematurely elevate Rhett Lowder from Class A Dayton to the majors? — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: The answer is in your question. Premature. The Reds already had Lowder skip low-A by starting their No. 1 draft pick last June out of Wake Forest at high-A Dayton. And he is so smooth, poised and accomplished he is ready for Double-A. But the majors? No way. That would lead to possible ruination. He probably is two years away from standing on the Great American Ball Park mound. Meanwhile, the Reds’ rotation hasn’t been superlative, but it hasn’t been awful. It would be much easier if the offense scored more than two or three runs a game.

Q: Who determines when the Reds wear the all-red jersey tops? — SCOTT, Columbus.

A: Well, they wear the all black City Connect costumes for Friday night home games. The starting pitchers get to choose whether to wear white or red at home or gray or red on the road. Being a diehard traditionalist, my wish is that they would burn the City Connects and bury the red tops. Just wear white at home and gray on the road. But nobody ever accused me of being Beau Brummell or Pierre Cardin.

Q: Which Reds manager was the best handler of pitchers during your half century of covering the team? — GEORGE, Morton Grove, IL.

A: It depended upon how good the pitchers were and how much handling they needed. As a pitching coach, Bryan Price was magnificent and when he was in Seattle manager Lou Piniella called him the best pitching coach he ever had. When Price managed the Reds, his assets were limited, but he knew how to handle each one. And I liked the way Jack McKeon worked his pitchers — no babying and let them do their thing and he permitted his pitching coach, Don Gullett, to take care of his pitchers.

Q: Do you think changing the lineup every day hurts the team? — KEVIN, Union, KY.

A: No, I don’t. There are times when certain regulars have difficulty facing a certain pitcher and a manager tries somebody else in the lineup. And sometimes a slumping regular needs a rest. No team uses the same lineup every day. The utility players need some starts to stay sharp. The biggest fallacy you hear is that manager Sparky Anderson started The Great Eight of the Big Red Machine every day. Not true. The reality is that in 1976 The Great Eight started only 63 games together. In today’s social media atmosphere, Sparky would have been crucified and vilified.

Q: Are there Reds players you covered who could have played professionally at another sport? — CHRIS, Vandalia.

A: Does bowling count as a professional sport? Brandon Phillips was proficient at bowling and had something like 12 300 games. Seriously, though, there have been so many great athletes. Eric Davis was a great high school basketball player and most likely could have been an NBA guard and probably a great NFL wide receiver. And the Larkin family was super athletic — Barry at baseball, his brother Mike in football and his brother Byron at basketball. I’m certain Barry could have done any of the three. And don’t forget Deion Sanders. He played baseball and pro football.

Q: Where did the baseball term, ‘Can of corn,’ come from when a player hits an easy, short and lazy fly ball to the outfield? — CHUCK, Kettering.

A: A long time ago, when mom and pop grocery stores still existed, due to cramped space some shelves were so high they couldn’t be reached. Canned cans would be displayed on top shelves. The grocer always wore an apron and carried a long stick with a hook on the end. He would reach to the top shelf and snag a can and as it gently fell, he caught it in his apron, a can of corn. And that’s the derivation, although I wonder why it was never called a can of peas or a can of peaches.

Q: How many umpires are employed by MLB? — MIKE, Beavercreek.

A: There are 76 full-time umpires and several part-timers that bounce back-and-forth from Triple-A as fill-in arbiters when a full-timer goes on vacation. Even though they get all winter off, MLB umpires can take 20 days off during the season. That’s only fair in that while the players play half their games at home and half on the road, the umpires are always on the road. Pay? The minimum for rookies is $100,000, but the average MLB umpire is paid $300,000 plus all his travel expenses (air fares, hotels, meals incidentals). That’s pretty good money to listen to people yell, “Kill the umpire,” and “The umpire is as blind as a bat.”

Q: Former Reds No. 1 draft pick Taylor Trammell was a promising star at Class A Dayton, but has been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees in the last five weeks, so what happened?— JOHN, Fairfield.

A: What happened was .160, .196, .130 and .143. The first three batting averages are how he hit in the three years after the Reds traded him to San Diego and received Trevor Bauer from Cleveland, with Trammell eventually landing in Seattle and posting those three below the Mendoza Line averages. He was twice selected off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees and hit a combined .143 in limited chances with those teams. If you are going to stick on the loaded rosters of the Dodgers and Yankees, you can’t hit.143 because that gets you released.

Q: Has baseball card collecting disappeared and did you collect cards as a kid? — TIM, Xenia.

A: It is not as prevalent as it once was when cards came with bubble gum. But rare cards are still sold at eye-popping prices at memorabilia shows. Yes, I had hundreds. I was a big Al Rosen fan and collected Bowman cards. I desperately wanted a Rosen card and kept buying and buying and buying. No Al Rosen. The 1953 Al Rosen card now sells for $400. It cost me a lot of allowance money and school lunch money, but I never obtained the Rosen card. Doesn’t matter. When I went off to Kent State University, Momma McCoy disposed of all my ‘useless’ cards that took up too much space in the closet.

About the Author