Check out this link to ESPN’s Rob Neyer’s Sweetspot about Big Red Machine starting pitcher, Gary Nolan. Nolan’s arm was hurting, and he had already missed signficant big league time due to injury. This isn’t the whole story; you’ll need to read Neyer’s whole piece to put it all in context, but it’s amazing how some of these players are treated at times. This is Neyer quoting from <=”Joe Posnanski’s new (stll unreleased) book about the 1970’s Reds (this article is titled “Manuel of New York: Medieval Manager”) on Neyer’s ESPN blog:

One day, the Reds executive Dick Wagner called Gary and said that the club had set up an appointment for him with a dentist. A dentist! “We think this will cure you,” Wagner said. Well, Gary went to the office, and the dentist fished around in his mouth for a few minutes and finally said, “I have found your problem. You have an abscessed tooth.” Gary shook his head; he had never felt any pain in his tooth. The dentist explained that such pain often transfers to another part of the body — maybe the right shoulder. The dentist pulled the tooth, and he promised Gary relief.

There was no relief, of course, his shoulder hurt more than ever. Dentists from around the country wrote in to say that there was no way an abscessed tooth could cause a man’s arm to shoot with pain. Gary understood. The Reds had sent him to a witch doctor. They thought the pain was all in his head…

I’ve heard this story before, and I’ve written a bunch about how much better the Reds could have been if they had respected their pitching arms. They devalued their talent and, more or less, felt that pitchers just grow on trees.

But, this story is just rather pitiful. I mean, I grew up in the country, and I heard about unlicensed “doctors” who could look into your eyes or check your teeth and give you your health history and predict future ailments (the predecessor to DNA analysis?), but to think that professionals would either believe this, or think Nolan would get the pain “out of his head.”

Another Reds story, told to me by a tour guide from Louisville Slugger Museum, located at the Hillerich & Bradsby Company, the maker of Louisville Slugger bats:

The Reds (not certain if it was 1970’s or 80’s) went into a hitting slump after receiving a new shipment of bats. They called Hillerich & Bradsby to complain about the quality of the bats. The Louisville Slugger people told them to lay all the bats in the sun behind a dugout and that would help “seal” the bats’ finish a little more. The Reds did so and their hitting picked up.

The Louisville Slugger rep said the sunlight didn’t do anything at all, but it got the Reds through their slump.

17 Responses

  1. Steve

    Maybe we could leave Willy Taveras out laying in the sun behind the dugout – for the next year.

  2. preach

    I was thinking that maybe a anesthesia-free root canal might improve Willie’s OBP. Worth a shot?

  3. pinson343

    Dick Wagner is the total ass who let Foster, Griffey Sr., and others go after 1981 and when the fans didn’t like it, said how they don’t understand what goes into building a winning team. The Reds went from best overall record in the majors in (strike-shortened) 1981 to the worst record in 1982.

  4. doktor

    it is too bad such quackery existed. Gary Nolan, Jim Maloney, Don Gullet, the great “What If” and what might have been an epic dynasty if those pitchers could have pitched healthy into thier mid-to-late 30’s.

  5. CoolpaJim

    I had a friend who developed severe pain in his knees to the point he was in a wheelchair. Finally a dentist discovered he had an abscessed tooth which was pulled. The pain in his knees disappeared immediately. There may not be as much quackery in this story as supposed.

  6. Glenn

    I always suspected that Dick Wagner was a total idiot.

  7. Bill Lack

    I wouldn’t have Maloney in that list…his career downfall was a blown Achilles, which at the time was pretty much the end of careers, if memory serves.

  8. Steve Price

    Cueto’s dentist should be in Louisville.

  9. Y-City Jim

    I think Wagner and Howsam were very similar except that Howsam was a bit more daring (and lucky). Both were very conservative and thought they could wish free agency away.

    Dokter – Gullet didn’t start experiencing his arm woes until George Steinbrenner wooed him away to the Big Apple. Am I correct in that Gullett’s injury came about in ABC’s Superstars competition?

  10. Matt WI

    Turns out Willy Taveras IS the abcess on the Reds roster. Cut him and the team’s offensive woes improve dramatically.

  11. Steve Price

    Gullett had a variety of issues with the Reds, too. I don’t have my Big Red Dynasty book with me, but he was with the Reds from 1970-76, and in the rotation from 1971-76, and pitched under 160 innings in three of those rotation years. One year it was mono, but I think the other two seasons were due to injuries.

    AGes-innings for Gullett as a Red:


  12. Red Reposter - 8/18/09

    […] Rob Neyer has an excerpt from Poz’s upcoming book The MachineIt talks about the witch doctoring that the Reds did to try to help Gary Nolan overcome his pain. (HINT: It didn’t work). Hat Tip: RLN […]

  13. doktor

    CoolPaJim, that would make sense if he had some infection/inflamation in the knee from injury or something like that. The infection from the tooth could spread and re-infect the knee. I would doubt he had a healthy knee experiencing pain because he had an abcess tooth.

    Of course, I am not a doctor, i just play one on blogs. 🙂

  14. Matt Steele

    I thought you stayed at a holiday inn express last night “doktor”

    anyway I agree with Matt WI’s comment @ #11

  15. babyboo

    you guys are crazy!!! 👿 i say an abbsess tooth hurts like hell pretty much in your mouth!!!