A: Pete Rose loves Bob Castellini because Bob Castellini loves Pete Rose. When Castellini bought the team he promised a return to the glory days. He was, of course, a bit naïve and has discovered it just isn’t that easy. He does want to win and he wants it with all his heart. So keep the faith. He wasn’t talking in bad faith, he was talking with hope in his heart. We all know it takes more than rhetoric and rhetoric can’t pitch.
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Q: Joey Votto is buying Zack Cozart a donkey if he makes the All-Star team. What unusual gifts have you received from Reds players over the years? — LARRY, Springfield.
A: I never made the All-Star team. Fortunately no player ever gave me a black eye or a fat lip. You know how the players wear pink stuff on Mother’s Day? A couple of years ago Homer Bailey gave me a pair of bright, blushing pink adidas running shoes he didn’t like. We both wear size 13. When Jose Rijo retired, he gave me a gorgeous 100-cigar mahogany humidor, the best piece of furniture in my home office. Rijo and I puffed many stogies together over the years.
Q: Due to many factors, the current Reds pitching rotation is a wobbly wreck, so what was the best rotation you saw on any team? — JAY, Englewood.
A: That would be the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s with three Hall of Famers — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz. Mix in left-handers Steve Avery and Kent Mercker and you have a stunning rotation. Believe it or not, Mercker was the only one to throw a no-hitter. Mercker, one of my all-time favorites, was one of the funniest and most intelligent guys I ever met in a baseball uniform. How many ballplayers work the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in one sitting? Mercker was a quote machine and told me, “You know it is time to retire when you run in from the bullpen and your breasts jiggle.”
Q: My wife asked me why they call it a bullpen and I couldn’t answer. Can you? — PHIL, Beavercreek.
A: Nadine asks me questions I can’t answer all the time and sometimes questions I don’t want to answer. The bullpen? There are many theories, but nobody really knows. Some say the term first appeared in a baseball magazine in 1915. The one I like most is that in the late 1800s and early 1900s many stadiums featured giant Bull Durham Tobacco ads on the outfield fence. Because relievers warmed up behind the fence, the picture of a bull became associated with the pitchers.
Q: They want to speed up the game, so why not outlaw all those trips to the mound the catcher makes to whisper to the pitcher when those discussions could be done between innings in the dugout? — MARK, Kettering.
A: Sometimes they do overdo it, but what the catcher has to say usually is to calm down a rattled pitcher or discuss what the pitcher wants to do with the current batter. They can’t discuss that between innings. In the dugout they talk about where they might eat dinner that night, what new car they should purchase or what cool and cute things their kids did yesterday. If they want to cut time, why not eliminate relief pitchers coming to the mound to throw eight warm-up pitches. Didn’t they warm up enough in the bullpen?
Q: Besides the Reds, which team would you have loved to cover during your career? JOE, Kettering.
A: I could say the 1927 New York Yankees, but that was before my time. Barely. While I have been fortunate to cover the really good, the really bad and the really ugly (like now) Cincinnati Reds teams, I grew up following the Cleveland Indians. So I would have loved to cover the Tribe, especially last year when they made it to the World Series. And the Tribe was very good in the 1990s with two World Series appearances (also losses). However, my Cleveland friends tell me I wouldn’t have liked trying to cover the cantankerous Albert Belle.
Q: Ron Darling said weight lifting contributes to the proliferation of muscle strains and pulls. Is he on to the root cause of all the injuries decimating the Reds pitching staff? — RON, Clemmons, N.C.
A: I seem to remember a cover photo of Darling posing topless in Sports Illustrated to show off his buff body. Wonder how he became so buff if he didn’t lift weights? Nobody knows why there are so many injuries these days. I do know that weight lifting was discouraged in the days of The Big Red Machine. Rose, Bench, Morgan and Perez never touched a barbell. Theories abound, but nothing definitive. Some believe it is because pitchers throw so hard these days, some with poor mechanics. Some believe pitchers don’t throw enough to keep their arms in shape. Nobody really knows or they would fix it.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
Q: A lot of attention has been paid to The Great Eight from The Big Red Machine, with Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez having statues at Great American Ball Park. But why not any pitchers, because no team wins over 200 games in two years without great pitching? — KEVIN, Cincinnati.
A: I doubt that any of them ever will receive a statue, but Don Gullett was about as good as it gets, both as a pitcher and later as a pitching coach. Gary Nolan, Jack Billingham and Fred Norman were very good, too, and Billingham is still an integral part of everything Reds. It always amazes me that the team celebrates The Great Eight and ignores the pitchers, who always seem to be sitting on the perimeter during BRM celebrations. And Gullett, who lives not too far away in Kentucky, near Portsmouth, seldom comes around. Norman hasn’t been spotted around GABP forever. They should have a day for Gullett, Nolan, Billingham and Norman and call them The Reliable Four.