Friday, June 6, 2014

MLB Week 10 - Honoring Heroes

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Dateline June 5, 1944; Reds off today after yesterday’s doubleheader sweep of the Boston Braves to run season record to 24 wins compared with18 losses. Team is traveling to Pittsburgh to start a key early season series at Forbes Field against the Pirates of whom the Reds are currently tied for second place, four games behind the league leading St. Louis Cardinals. With World War II raging in Europe and the Pacific, we’re hearing rumors of a possible invasion in an attempt to liberate France from the tyrannical Nazi regime. Word trickling in from the front is saying any invasion will be dependent upon the current weather conditions affecting the English Channel. I guess we’re not going to surprise the German army, we just pray to the Almighty God that the invasion is successful.

The term hero is a word often bantered about to describe feats occurring on the athletic field. Bobby Thompson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” home run to lead his New York Giants to the World Series over the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951 is often described as heroic. So was the effort of an injured Willis Reed, whose brief appearance in game 7 of the 1970 N.B.A. Finals inspired his New York Knicks to the championship. Many say the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 U.S.A. hockey team’s improbable victory over the Soviet Union was nothing less than heroic. Let us not forget the image of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson hobbling around the bases after his dramatic walk off home run in game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Sure those events and others like them were courageous, valiant, and even mythological, but they pale in comparison to the D-Day invasion.

Seventy years ago this Friday, June 6, tens of thousands of brave, nervous true heroes, facing unimaginable odds, and a firmly entrenched German army, crossed the thirty mile straight across the English Channel landing near Normandy, France to enlightened Europe from the Nazi darkness that had covered the continent since 1939. Many of those heroic soldiers are currently immortalized with a headstone in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial located at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France. It is to honor the memory of those brave individuals along with those veterans currently living that I dedicate this article to. THANK YOU! You are the reason I can write these words in a country that is still free. God bless you for your service to this country.

Heroic Trivia; Legendary New York Yankee and Hall of Famer catcher Yogi Berra was a Gunner’s Mate on the USS Bayfield during “Operation Overlord” a.k.a. D-Day.

I’m a die-hard Reds fan and have been for over forty five years. During that time I’ve enjoyed three World Championships, five National League championships, numerous division titles and several post season appearances. I have witnessed arguable the greatest baseball team in history, the 1976 Big Red Machine. On a negative note, I’ve suffered through the only 100 loss season in team history, 1982, along with enduring nine straight losing seasons from 2001 to 2009.

I say that to say this; what I witnessed and wrote about last week was a group of individuals, in Reds uniforms, seemingly going through the motions in a lackadaisical attempt to play baseball. During a five game stretch from May 24 to May 28, the Reds struck out 63 times, an average of 12.2 per game. It has been a long time since I’ve saw that much ineptitude in the Reds offense. Prior to last Friday’s game the Reds held a players only meeting to air their grievances and try to “right the ship”. After four straight wins, it seemed to have worked, only to have the team slide back to its old ways the final two games of the Giants series.

I must say that seeing the Reds aggressively run roughshod on the bases Tuesday night brought back some fond memories.

Thursday’s loss against San Francisco was Mike Leake’s first career defeat in five decisions facing the Giants. The five innings pitched was his shortest outing of the season.

San Francisco’s series win at Great American Ball Park was their first since winning two of three games versus the Reds on August 18 – 20, 2009. The Giants have won two World Championships since then.

The 2014 Amateur Player Draft on June 5, the Reds selected a Howard, unfortunately it wasn’t me. University of Virginia pitcher Nick Howard, (no relation – unless he’s a superstar, then I taught him everything, like my “cousins” Ryan, Dwight, and Ron. I don’t claim Desmond, he went to Michigan!), was Cincinnati’s first pick.

Speaking of the draft, for the thirty-third consecutive year, I’ve waited for my phone to ring and my name to be called. For the thirty-third consecutive year, I’ve been disappointed. Do you think they’ve lost my phone number?

Who would have thought that after the injury he suffered in Spring Training, Aroldis Chapman would even be playing now let alone not giving up a run in his last six appearances. Sam LeCure has enjoyed seven consecutive scoreless appearances.

After three rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville, it looks like Mat Latos may be ready to return to the Reds rotation soon.

Through Thursday afternoon’s game, Todd Frazier is batting .367 (8 for 22) during his six game hitting streak.

In closing and to reiterate my earlier point, let us take the time to thank all of our veterans for their dedicated service to keep this nation the greatest of all time.

Have a blessed week. GO REDS!!!

Dan Howard

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