Coastal Carolina Up Against It at CWS; Happy Birthday Al Downing;

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Hi all.  Here’s how I see baseball on this Tuesday, June 28.

As this column will be published late, I’ll dispense with the usual recounting of last night’s MLB games.

Up to now the Arizona Wildcats have won 4 national championships at the College World Series in Omaha.  Their fifth is a win away after a 3-0 shutout win over Coastal Carolina who have never been to Omaha. In a situation where neither team had its best pitching, JC Cloney stepped up big for the Wildcats with a 4-hit shutout of the foe  from Myrtle Beach. He had pitched 7 shutout innings against UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday in a rain-soaked contest the Wildcats won. Coastal turned to Zach Hopeck who hadn’t seen a ton of action recently. Cody Ramer led off with a double and scored on an RBI base knock from Ryan Aguilar. Hopeck, on his mettle struck out Jared Oliva and Alfonso Rivas to keep it at 1-0 for the moment. He would escape a tight spot unharmed with Wildcats on second and third and  none out in the third. He survived into the 7th with the score still 1-0.  When Hopeck left, runner Cesar Salazar was on second. After a wild pitch and a walk by reliever Cole Schaefer, Zack Gibbons hit a scoring fly ball on which Ramer took second.  Aguilar drove him home on a single ending the scoring.

So, have you asked yourself what a Chanticleer is, when you’ve seen Coastal play?  Their nickname comes from the rooster of the same name in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.”  The team had been called the Trojans up until the early 1960’s.  At that time they were part of the  University of South Carolina.  A movement got started among students and teachers alike to change the name to something closer to South Carolina’s Gamecock, so Chanticleer was selected.

Ron Mahay (pronounced MayHay) is 45 today. The Illinois native might not have gotten mentioned if I hadn’t broadcast his games with New Britain.  He was an outfielder and couldn’t hit a lick when we saw him.  Who knew he’d have a 14-year major league career as a lefty pitcher. Amazingly he was 27-12 in that time. He was with 8 teams all told but his longest stretch was with the Texas Rangers, where he pitched from 2003-07. He’s  been a Dodgers scout since 2013. He was a replacement player during the strike in 1994-95, and as such can’t join the union. He and Mark Teixeira were traded from Texas to Atlanta in 2007 ending his longest stretch with any team.

Mark Grace is 52 today. He put up a .303 lifetime average and over 2400 hits between 1988 and 2003. He was with the Cubs until 2000 and played the last 3 seasons of his career with the Diamondbacks including 2001 when they took the World Series from the Yankees in 7. As a Cub he was in the playoffs in 1989 and 1998.  He was an All-Star 3 times, all while playing for the Cubs. He was lightly regarded coming out of San Diego State, as the Cubs only took him in the 24th round of the 1985 draft, but he was in the show in 3 years. After retiring he broadcast for Arizona on TV from 2004-2012, and with Fox from 2007-2011.  He is now a coach.  He is banned from appearing on the Jim Rome show for making the most controversial remark ever on that show laden with controversial statements.  I can’t quote it, but the jist of it was that Jim Rome’s oldest son looks like both Rome and Grace played a part in his conception,  shall I say. Another beauty that could have gotten Grace banned was when he defined a ‘Slumpbuster.”  That is a really_ ugly girl that a player  would sleep with if he were trying to bust out of a batting slump.  Bedding such a girl was also called in Mark Grace’s words “Jumping on a grenade.”

Don Baylor, one of the great DH’s of his day is 67 today. He was the Orioles’ second-round draft choice in 1967 when the draft was still new.  He was a Texas high school kid, and that being considered it’s amazing he was in the show just 3 years later. He lasted until the end of 1988 with the Oakland A’s, hitting .260 with over 300 home runs when they weren’t as easy to come by as they would be with the introduction of steroids. He managed the Rockies from the inception in 1993 until 1998 and the Cubs from 2000-2002. He was an All-Star and league MVP in 1979 as the Angels lost the ALCS to his old team the Orioles.  With the Red Sox he was on the losing side of the 1986 World Series to the Mets.  His Twins won the World Series in 1987 and with Oakland his team lost in 5 to the Dodgers a year later. Only one other man, Eric Hinske has been in 3 World Series in a row with 3 different teams. He coached until being tagged to manage the Rockies, with whom he took league manager of the year honors in 1995, guiding them to a rare playoff appearance. He was a coach as late as 2015 with the Angels, though in that capacity he broke a leg catching a ceremonial pitch from Vladimir Guerrero.

Al Downing, best known for giving up Hank Aaron’s 715th home run is 75 today. He’s originally from Trenton, a line drive single from where I write these pieces. He broke in with the Yankees at age 20 in 1961 and lasted until 1977, finishing with the Dodgers. In that time he put up a 123-107 record. He was with the Yankees through 1969, split 1970 between Oakland and Milwaukee, then joined the Dodgers. He led his lead in strikeouts in 1964 and was an All-Star in 1967, both when he was a Yankee. He pitched 2 innings in that amazing All-Star game that went 15 innings. He had never won 20 games as a Yankee, but did so in his first season in Los Angeles. He was in 3 World Series-all losses, in 1963, 1964 and 1974. He broadcast regularly on Dodgers’ cable-TV from 1980-87, then off and on through the 1990’s before a one-year return in 2005.

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