In the seventies the Cincinnati Reds were playing in massive Riverfront Stadium and they were in their glory. They were known as the Big Red Machine and they were a pennant-producing powerhouse. Summer nights I lay in my bed and listened to the heroics of Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Dave Concepcion, George Foster, Ken Griffey, Joe Morgan, Cesar Cedanio, Don Gullett and company on my little radio. It was lined with leather with a little leather strap across the top and a silver metal face. It was a neat little radio. I set the radio on my headboard, enamored as my Grandpa Shipley always was by electronic gizmos. If the Reds were on the west coast I often fell asleep before I knew the outcome of the game.
I loved to listen to the Reds on radio. At the time the announcers were Al Micheals and Joe Nuxal. Al left and they hired Marty Brenneman to take his place. Al went on to national fame. Marty still calls the Reds games. I don’t even know how long he has had the job now. I think Joe Nuxal has called the games all my life.
When I was about fourteen the Red’s won the World Series. They frequently claimed the division pennant. They were a fun team to follow. I delivered newspapers for the Dayton Journal-Herald. It was a morning paper. In the summer and early autumn first thing in the morning I would pause during my deliveries under a street light and I would check the division standings in the paper. I’ve even seen the Reds play at Riverfront about four times in my life.
They had a relief pitcher by the name of Pedro Borbon. I think Pedro was from the Dominican Republic. If he was the “Star of the Game” he would be interviewed in the post-game show. It was difficult to understand his broken English but he was a great closer and he was a lot of help if the team got into a scuffle.
The bullpen was out in right field at Riverfront Stadium. When the bench would empty out during a brawl the Red’s who were champion world-class athletes in the game of baseball seemed like they couldn’t land a punch in a brawl. They just didn’t have the killer instinct. To watch them you would just think they didn’t have their hearts in the fight. I’m sure those brawls were little more than wrestling and shoving matches. Pedro Borbon never understood that. He was a scrapper. I can hear Joe Nuxal’s voice now.
“Woah, that pitch was high and tight. He glowers out toward the mound. O, no now he slams the bat down. He is charging the mound. Here comes Concepcion from first. O boy, we have ourselves a really donnybrook here. Here comes the team. Look like the dugouts are gonna empty out now. All the players are spilling out onto the field. This is going to slow things down.”
And then he would interrupt himself, “Uh, Oh… We have a problem. Here comes Pedro Borbon from the bull pen. You don’t want to mix it up with Pedro.”
Al Michels would say, “Somebody’s going to get hurt out there. Lookout. Pero is mean as a junk-yard dog in a brawl.”
“What’s this,” Nuxal interrupts. “Looks one of the Dodgers has lost a chunk of his jersey.”
“Joe, Pedro has about half of Don Sutton’s jersey in his mouth. It is all Pete Rose and Joe Morgan can do to keep Pedro out of the pile. Folks he’s not done. He looks like he is ready to take a swing at Bench. Johnny is laughing. Looks like he’s got Pedro cooled down a little.”
When his teammates were in peril Pedro would thunder in from the bull pen out in right field and charge into the pile looking to do some damage. He was looking for someone to hurt. None of this polite, half-hearted scrum for Pedro. He intended to hurt someone and had perfected some creative ways to do so. Before Pedro arrived the whole rumble looked like an awkward dance. But Pedro was dangerous. He would kick, scratch, slap, claw and even bite if the situation called for it. He was a character. One day he couldn’t get a piece of a guy so he stood and tore a guys hat to pieces and threw it on the ground.
I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong but I always kida’ admired Pedro. I like to think of myself as a lover not a fighter. I will exhaust every possibility before I resort to violence. I overlook the offense, discuss, negotiate, arbitrate and compromise. I try to suggest a creative alternative that is agreeable to both parties. But sometimes bullies just have to be confronted.
If you have done all you can and your enemy is intent on hurting you or a person or work you love, there are times you don’t want to be lacking in fortitude in a worthy cause. And if you’re going to rumble, why do so in half-measures? I’ve really never had much respect for people who sit on their hands when the times call for fortitude and courage. I’ve had a few occasions in my life when I have had men who acted like my friends watch others string me up and kick the chair out from under me. Then the one who claimed to be my friend just stood by and watched me twist in the wind and refuse to get involved. Because they didn’t personally participate in the lynching they considered themselves innocent.
I’ve known a few Pedro Borbon’s in my life. My Lois has a little of that in her. When I’m in a donnybrook I want to look up from the bottom of the pile and see a Pedro Borbon coming to my aid. That’s the kind of friend I want to have. That’s the kind of friend I want to be. Anything less is really not a friend at all.
Pro 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
They say a real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out. Another way to say that would be a real friend is they guy who, when he sees you on the bottom of the pile comes to get beat up with you so you won’t be alone.