By CHUCKIE MAGGIO
Joe Altobelli preferred close games when he was managing, enjoyed the strategy of a tight contest rather than a high-margin affair even when his team was ahead.
“I go to sleep in the laughers,” Altobelli told the Democrat and Chronicle after the Rochester Red Wings defeated the Toledo Mud Hens 18-10 on July 9, 1974. The three games that followed, all 2-1 victories, were more Altobelli’s speed.
In-game decisions helped make the difference in the third of those 2-1 wins at Silver Stadium on July 12.
The most difficult decision presented itself in the bottom of the eighth, when Altobelli pinch hit for starting pitcher Paul Mitchell with the game still scoreless.
“Mitch didn’t want to come out,” Altobelli remarked. “Who would, with the kind of game he was pitching. But I told him if he did get a hit, and he’s a pretty good hitter, I’d only have to pinch run for him anyway, so what’s the difference.”
Curt Motton, a player-coach, supported Altobelli’s decision with a leadoff single and run scored on Rob Andrews’s sacrifice fly two batters later to give Rochester a 1-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Toledo pinch-hitter Nellie Garcia tagged reliever Mickey Scott with a one-out solo home run in the top of the ninth. The first homer Scott allowed all season snapped his scoreless-inning streak at 16 frames.
“That guy hit a good pitch off Mickey,” Altobelli noted. “He golfed it out, a low fastball.”
The Red Wings had a chance to end the game in the ninth, loading the bases with one out, but Doug DeCinces was forced out at home and Steve Hovley was rung up on a called third strike.
A decision Altobelli didn’t make lifted the Red Wings an inning later. After Rob Andrews and DeCinces singled to place runners at the corners for a lefty-on-lefty situation with Fiore facing Toledo’s Mike Paul, Altobelli didn’t even consider substituting Fiore with a right-hander.
“Never thought about it,” Altobelli said. “Mike showed me he could hit Paul over in Toledo. He got the game-winning sacrifice fly (Thursday night). I figured he could hit the fly ball and I wanted to stay with him for his defense if at all possible.”
Fiore hit a fly ball but didn’t have to sacrifice a hit: he drove Paul’s fastball over center fielder Jerry Martin’s head to send 5,000 fans home happy.
The thinking man’s manager, who won the Governor’s Cup that year, definitely didn’t fall asleep at the ballpark that evening.
|Red Wings 2, Mud Hens 1|
|Thomas Silicato||4||0||0||0||Tom Shopay||5||0||2||0|
|Dane Iorg||4||0||1||0||Rob Andrews||4||1||1||1|
|John Stearns||4||0||1||0||Royce Stillman||5||0||0||0|
|Mike Rogodzinski||3||0||1||0||Doug DeCinces||3||0||1||0|
|Nelson Garcia||1||1||1||1||Mike Fiore||3||0||1||1|
|Jerry Martin||4||0||1||0||Mike Reinbach||3||0||0||0|
|Jim Essian||3||0||0||0||Jim Hutto||3||0||1||0|
|Blas Santana||4||0||1||0||Tim Nordbrook||4||0||0||0|
|Ron Clark||4||0||0||0||Paul Mitchell||2||0||0||0|
|Larry Christenson||3||0||0||0||Curt Motton||1||1||1||1|
|Richard Wissel||1||0||0||0||Mickey Scott||0||0||0||0|
|Mike Paul||0||0||0||0||Steve Hovley||1||0||0||0|
|Toledo||0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 – 1|
|Rochester||0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 – 2|
|E – Santana. DP- Rochester 1. LOB- Toledo 5, Rochester 10. 2B- Shopay. HR- Garcia (2). SF- Andrews.|
|Mike Paul (L, 0-2)||1||3||1||1||0||1|
|Robert Sekel (W, 2-3)||1||1||0||0||0||1|
|WP – Christenson.Time- 2:54. Attendance- 5,002.|
Also on this day: Tim Derryberry hit two home runs in Rochester’s 10-7 victory over Syracuse in 1982.