Those of us Reds fans who grew up in the Dayton area no doubt have a fondness for Hal McCoy. How great was it to pick up the Dayton Daily News and see that smiley face on the front and then turn to the sports section to read McCoy’s article about the previous night’s game? I hate to wax nostalgia, because I do adore the interwebs and the ability to watch every Reds game online. However, in exchange for these amazing things, we did have to give something up. We gave up the relevance of a game recap in a black and white newspaper, and there is something romantic about those words in print that cannot be replaced by the glowing machine in front of us and the anonymity of internet forums.
But Hal has adapted, though the change has cost him his fulltime job. He’s become quite a blogger, and that’s no surprise, because he was blessed with the gift of writing, something that just seems to be rarer these days. Sure, there are still great baseball writers out there. Joe Posnanski comes to mind, of course. (That guy should write a baseball novel that is turned into the next great baseball movie staring Kevin Costner as the aged front office executive who is being replaced by the latest young sabermetric hotshot. You must admit, Kevin Costner may not be the greatest actor in the world, but when it comes to baseball movies, he is awesome.) But so many baseball writers these days seem to be applying a j-school formula to their writing instead of going with their guts. A good writer not only needs words, but the power to observe in ways the average Joe does not. It’s not something you can teach in j-school or anywhere. You have to be born with it.
Hal McCoy was born with it. I may have not blackened my hands with the ink of the Dayton Daily News for years, but I still read Hal. (I wish HE would write a book that is turned into a movie starring Kevin Costner as the aged baseball writer who is struggling with the decline of the newspaper industry and the rise of internet journalism.) And though it probably took him less than an hour to write this tidbit about a ballplayer who refused to have his leg amputated when he was injured in World War II, it is one of the better reads you’ll find.
I am always amazed by stories about ballplayers who fought in the wars. Back then, foreign wars were fought reluctantly and out of necessity. Vietnam seemed to suck the soul from America, and now we fight wars for any reason or no reason. It has made us the villain of the world, the “Evil Empire” that we accused the USSR of being, and everyday I am faced with the task of defending America, which I can’t always do. If we had a draft, which I am in favor of for the sole reason that it would make Americans far less willing to send soldiers to war, we would be safer – the world would be safer. But can you imagine a 24 million a year ballplayer getting drafted? HA! Ballplayers are fortunate sons these days. That’s why I so admired Pat Tillman. If we truly wanted to defeat this colossus we call variously by the terms “Islamic terrorism,” “Jihadism,” “War on Terror,” “Islamic extremism,” we could have done it long ago. Instead, we invaded Iraq under knowingly false pretenses, upset the balance of power in the region (despite still supporting dictators here), created a whole generation of people who hate America…oh, wait, I was talking about baseball writing, wasn’t I? Well, you want baseball writing? Go read McCoy’s article. I’m too busy trying desperately to put the Brasso on America these days.