Reds spring training memories
Enquirer staff report • January 29, 2010

As the Reds’ first spring in Arizona draws near, here are some memorable snippets from past Reds springs, pulled from Enquirer staffers present and past:

Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty

• Lou Piniella’s coaching staff splitting one rental car between them, because that’s all Marge would pay for.

• Joe Nuxhall, eating breakfast every morning at a local joint in Plant City called Buddy Freddy’s.

• Jim Bowden’s black sports car parked in the closest spot to the door in Sarasota. Ohio vanity plate: BODES.

• Barry Larkin, spending an hour after workouts, helping young players.

• The radio booth at Ed Smith Stadium, first pitch, first inning, first game. I wasn’t always down there for it, but the years I was, I never missed the chance to witness that, especially when Joe was still in the booth. Talk about the rebirth of hope and feelgood: Sunshine, 70, baseball, March. Need I say more? "If you’re ready now.’’ Who wouldn’t be?

• Marty, of all people, admitting he gets nervous before that first game, every year, wondering if he still Has It.

• Marty, on the golf course, getting you on for free, exacting his fee every time you stood over a shot. Show Me What You Got.

• Deion Sanders, one day, reading The Wall Street Journal.

• Bernie Stowe, my first day on the job in Plant City in ’88, shaking me down. "You got a pass or somethin’?’’

• Sunsets on Longboat Key. Every night. Bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. Guy was a retired NY firefighter.

• Pete Rose, blowing off the annual trip to Vero Beach to play the Dodgers.

Reds beat writer John Fay

• I remember wandering out to the batting cage the first day I arrived in 2007. Josh Hamilton was in the cage on the big field. He was sending shot after shot out. One went over the batter’s eye in center. I remember thinking: The Reds have got something here."

• The Reds were playing the Twins in Fort Myers in 1998. A sudden storm blew in. The lights at the stadium went out. The press box flooded. The palm trees were bent sideways. They quickly called the game. We were standing in the back of the press box watching the deluge.

You could barely see. Through it all, the Reds bus started up and drove out of the parking lot. Jack McKeon, the manager, decided it wasn’t raining hard enough to delay the trip. He was right. The storm ended about 10 minutes later.

Pete Harnisch would pull a classic gag. He’d get completely covered with soap in the shower. Just as the bus was ready to pull out, he’d sprint out covered only with suds and say: "Hey, don’t leave without me!"

• I was doing a Sports Illustrated survey one year. One of the questions was "Who has the biggest ego in baseball?" It was lost in translation on Willy Mo Pena. Attempting to explain, I said "the guy with the biggest head." Wily Mo immediately said "Aaron Harang." Harang, of course, is a humble guy, but he wears a size 8 hat.

Tim Sullivan, San Diego Union-Tribune (former Enquirer columnist and Reds beat writer)

The thing I remember best about spring training is the ability to see and hear what’s going on at close range and the opportunity to gain insights you could never get from the press box in a 50,000-seat stadium.

Some of the scenes would include Dave Collins delivering a brilliant lecture on bunting to Mike Cameron and Pokey Reese; how well he taught and how little they seemed to be listening. One of his tips was to use a lighter bat for bunting and, if the bunt was called off, to pretend that there was a crack in your bat and then return to the dugout for a regular model.

He recommended that Cameron and Reese have the clubhouse guys order some lighter bats. Later, I asked both players if they would do so, and both said no.

Random scenes: Tom Seaver, ever correct, saying "I have it" instead of "I got it" during pitchers’ fielding practice.

• Johnny Bench catching batting practice while sitting on a milking stool to save his legs.

• Ken Griffey (Sr.) lathering up a new glove with shaving cream; Ken Griffey Jr. swinging and missing at the first six or seven pitches he chased in his first day in a Reds uniform.

• The young Kal Daniels bouncing line drives off the cars parked beyond right field in Tampa.

• Tom Lasorda being shocked that Pete Rose couldn’t be bothered to take the bus trip to Vero Beach when he was managing.

Enquirer Reds writer Rory Glynn

In 1995, with players boycotting spring training in response to a threatened lockout by owners, teams populated their major-league camps with lower-tier prospects and assorted has-beens and never-weres.

Veteran Dayton Daily News writer Hal McCoy dubbed a grounder to the pitcher “the official play of replacement ball.”

When the Indians traded pitcher Mike Curtis, infielder Barbaro Garbey, outfielders Lee Granger and Mike Palivoda and catcher Dave Gray to the Reds for future considerations in the first trade involving replacement players, Reds manager Davey Johnson said, " Cleveland got the better of the deals; they didn’t get anybody.”

The replacements went north as the Reds, but on the weekend before Opening Day a labor deal scrubbed their big chance.

“It stinks,” replacement pitcher Billy Fultz said, stuffing his belongings into a plastic garbage bag he’d adorned with a wishbone “C.”

With veteran shortstop Tony Fernandez unsigned and the Reds’ third-base job unsettled, GM Jim Bowden took a flyer and gave Fernandez a one-year deal. Visa issues delayed Fernandez’s arrival; when he did arrive, he didn’t like playing third and never seemed happy.

His talk with reporters was memorable for clipped answers delivered between slurps of soup from a Styrofoam bowl. (Q: How did you rehab your knee, Tony? A: Workout. Q: What kind of workout? A: Private workout! Q: Which knee was hurt? A: Don’t want to talk about my knee anymore!)

Enquirer writer and Reds historian John Erardi

March, 1895: Scribes, eager for the first story of spring, interrupt and interview new manager (and future Hall of Famer) Buck Ewing during a bath at his spring-training domicile.

March, 1956: Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts tells sore-armed rookie Frank Robinson to "Get your hits -- and don’t throw," and Frankie responds, "Birdie, if a ball comes out there I got to throw."

Robinson did throw and later had to come out of the game holding his arm, but he still made the big club, anyway.