Reds Writer's Last Season

Reading great sports writing is one thing I love very much. And for the past seasons as a reader of everything-Reds I have been a fan of Hal McCoy, the Reds beat writer for the Dayton Daily News.

This year the DDN has had to make more cuts, as all newspapers have, and one job that won't be continued is the beat position covering the Cincinnati Reds. Can you believe it? Therefore, as much disgust and angst that brings to people who care, McCoy is making this season his last covering the Reds and baseball, for that matter.

After 37 years McCoy has seen it all from the Reds, good times and as of late, mostly bad. But he has been there through a lot. I keep up with McCoy through his blog he started a few seasons ago called 'The Real McCoy'. During the last road trip to Chicago, Hal's last stop at Wrigley, he had a post that is encompasses everything about him and his writing. He thoughts could not be more congenial and I'll let you read it:

One Last Fond Look and a good-bye to Wrigley by Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News

WRIGLEY FIELD is empty, the 39,805 fans scattered throughout Wrigleyville or on the El or headed home on the freeways - after singing that catchy song they sing after every victory, “Go Cubs Go.”

The Cubs won, 5-2, officially eliminating the Cincinnati Reds from the pennant race, but I’m not giving that much thought.

As I sit in the press box high above Wrigley, scanning the horizon to see the high-rise buildings and Lake Michigan, I think of 37 years of coming to these hallowed grounds. They can talk all they want about Fenway Park, this is THE place to watch baseball. This is what baseball is all about.

Amazingly, the place has changed very little over 37 years - a few new seats crowded into the corners and a bunch of grandstands atop the brownstone buildings on Waveland and Sheffield.

The old-time scoreboard remains the same and the boisterous and belligerent Bleacher Bums remain the same.

But they’re gone now and I’m left here with my memories, of great times, of mostly day baseball, the way it was meant to be played. I love this park when it is empty and I love it when it is full.

I won’t miss walking the ramps. They finally put in an elevator for former broadcaster Harry Caray, but it is down in the left field corner and usable only when you arrive at the park and when you leave. To go to and from the clubhouse and to and from the field, you walks the ramps, just like the fans.

I could sit here and gape for hours, watch the elevated trains beyond the center field bleachers, watch the fans hitting all the bars in Wrigleyville, listen to the sirens from the firehouse behind the left field wall - a firehouse that has to be one of the busiest in Chicago because sirens are constant.

I can look at the ivy on the brick outfield walls and remember outfielder after outfielder getting tangled in the branches and searching frantically for lodged baseballs.

But I have a plane to catch home, so I’ll take my last look around this baseball pasture, this REAL Field of Dreams, and with a tear or two at the corner of my eyes, I’ll walk to the left field corner, take one last glance very close to the left field foul pole, then walk down a portal to the elevator and leave by the gate across from the firehouse. I’ll hail a cab and watch another dream fade over my shoulders.

AS JONNY GOMES calls it, “Your victory tour,” continued Sunday in Wrigley Field.

I was standing in front of the Cubs dugout chatting with manager Lou Piniella. After a 15-minute chat, I turned around and there was a semi-circle of Cubs writers and officials standing behind me.

General Manager Jim Hendry started it off, presenting me with a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, from his own winery in Napa Valley. Very nice. Hendry is a class act, a great friend over the years, who often asked me why I didn’t come to work in Chicago. They didn’t want me, Jim, and the Chicago writers are a great bunch of people. They all took me out for a drink near Wrigleyville after Saturday’s game.

A couple of them who were off and didn’t cover the game showed up for the mini-party. What a great time with Bruce Miles, Dave Van Dyck, Paul Sullivan, Carrie Muskat and Alan Solomon.

The establishment was The Piano Man on Clark Street and as soon as I walked in I saw the jersey of Reds’ pitching coach Dick Pole hanging on the wall. It was a Cubs uniform from the 1980s, when Pole was pitching coach for the Cubs. Then I looked up and there he was, sitting with friends near the bar.

Pole bought the first round and when he got the bill he looked at it and said, “What did I do, break a window?” Turns out he always says that and it never fails to get a laugh.

Next on Sunday, after Hendry, was Piniella, who handed me a box of Macanudos and said, “I first met Hal back in 1990 when I became manager of the Reds. I asked him for a rundown of the team and how to approach them and what kind of guys they were. Hal gave me a great rundown, he was right on all counts, and we won the World Series.”

I’m still waiting for my World Series share and my World Series ring, but Piniella’s words and friendship were enough.

Then Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, who pitched briefly for the Reds and is one of the all-time great people I’ve met in this game, stepped forward with a gift from the Cubs: The actual No. 37 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard, where they still hang numbers manually. The 37, of course, represents the years I worked the beat. What a fabulous, unique gift. It’ll hang prominently in my home office.

The No. 38 is on the back and Hendry said, “That’s in case you pull a Brett Favre on us and come back.”

EARLIER IN THE DAY, when I was standing in the Reds clubhouse, somebody stuck a bag of cigars in the my face and handed me a note. It was from Cubs home clubhouse attendant Tim Hellmann, who worked the Reds’ clubhouse every spring in Sarasota and was an invaluable help to me after my eyes went bad.

The hand-written note said, “Thanks for everything, you will be missed. Hope to see you again down the road. Best wishes and good luck. TIM HELLMANN.

What a great gesture from somebody who some people in the game consider the “little” people, but he and many, many other clubhouse personnel, from the Reds to all those around the league, are fabulous folks who are tireless workers doing the menial jobs, but they are giants of the game to me. Thanks, Tim.

Thanks, Cubs.

Before the game, I went on the Cubs/WGN pre-game show with TV broadcaster Len Casper for a well-done interview (not by me, by Len and his questions, which made it easy and fun).

THEN I went back to the pressbox to dig into my late Big A** Burrito. Reds media relations director Rob Butcher always makes the burrito run to a little Mexican hole-in-the-wall place under the El tracks about a half a block away.

It was Butcher’s second run of the day. On Sunday morning he ran a half-marathon, The Chicago Half-Marathon. Butcher was one of 15,000 finishers. He did the 13.1 miles in 1:42.09 (980th out of 15,000).

Nice going, Rob. But your short run for the burritos was your best run of the day. It was my third straight burrito for lunch and today’s was my last.

I’ll miss ‘em.

Property of the Dayton Daily News and Cox News and Publishing, acquired Sept. 17, 2009


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