Cancer is a painful subject. Virtually everyone has been affected by the disease; from loved ones, close friends, and occasionally our icons. Today marked the passing of a fascinating member of the Big Red Machine. Pedro Borbon died of the disease in Pharr, Texas under the care of Hospice.
Statistically, Borbon’s career is solid though not spectacular. In a day and age when every reliever is seemingly measured by his strikeout rate per inning pitched Pedro would generate no interest but he was a key piece of the Big Red Machine, he was a contributor on a team that did not need exceptional pitching, they just needed 27 outs each game. Another legacy of Borbon’s was his passion, his fiery temper. Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennamen commented during a recent game that Borbon did not anger quickly but when he did…
Two stories stand out. Both are documented on Borbon’s Red’s Hall of Fame bio in lamentable terms. While I concur that biting a chunk out of Pittsburgh Pirates hurler Daryl Patterson’s ear was brutal and unacceptable, the other incident occured during a brawl with the New York Mets in 1973 and is one of my favorite pieces of Reds lore. The story goes that in the 5th inning of the 3rd game of the NLCS Pete Rose slid hard into Bud Harrelson as he often did to anyone in his way and Harrelson took exception and chaos ensued. As the benches cleared, Borbon got jammed behind the bullpen door and couldn’t get out as quickly as he wanted fueling his adrenaline. He finally broke free and flew onto the field engaging with a Mets reliever and losing his hat in the process. As the dust settled, he reached for his hat and accidentally placed a Mets ballcap on his head. When he realized his mistake, he was so enraged that he ripped the hat apart…with his teeth. I am a firm believer that successful relief pitching involves psychological mystique along with athletic skill. How confident would you be stepping into the batter’s box to face a pitcher who was capable of that kind of rage?
Another story the Red’s Hall of Fame mentioned is equally intimidating. They report he stood behind home plate at Fenway Park (though not recorded I would guess this was in 1975) and threw the baseball against the centerfield wall 390 feet away according to the Red Sox website. Known for his “indestructable arm”, he said it was the result of avoiding trainers and doctors. His brand of baseball will never be seen again but the question I must ask is: Are we really better off without players like Pedro Borbon?
According to the AP story there will be no memorial service at Borbon’s request but I know at the start of the next Reds baseball game I will again pause and remember another cog in the Machine.
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