It came down to the final race of the season. Would Relish — the ADD-afflicted hot dog who had lost all 37 races against rivals Mustard and Ketchup — finally win the celebrated Hot Dog Race conducted after the top of the fifth inning?
Allegations of Relish’s attention deficit disorder were first aired midway through the season, when a pattern emerged. It seemed that the fast-from-the-gate frank would always get distracted in the middle of a race, shaking hands with fans, visiting left fielders or, during the Cyclones’ “Christmas in July” promotion, Santa Claus.
The Cyclones front office, which refuses to answer questions about Relish or his alleged use of psychotropic drugs and has consistently blocked every attempt to interview the defeated dog, knew that something had to be done.
Hitting coach Donovan Mitchell was dispatched to put the tumescent tubesteak through a “Rocky”-like workout that included running, weight-lifting and something that looked like an attempted jumping-jack.
The effort seemed to be paying off on Tuesday night. In what would be his second-to-last race, Relish took an early lead and kept himself focused on the race. But he tired and was caught by Ketchup at the wire.
City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, who was attending the game, was appalled by the Relish collapse. “Clearly we need to look into this situation,” the speaker — and future mayor — told The Brooklyn Papers.
Miller was also appalled at the quality of the judging of that night’s “Frozen T-Shirt” contest, but did not believe that the travesty rose to the level of council involvement.
But at Wednesday night’s season finale, it did.
As his two rivals sprinted home, the outfield video screen showed Relish fast asleep, dreaming of victory. When Mustard crossed the finish line first, the batty beef was still sawing wood. The crowd of 8,000 chanted “Relish! Relish! Relish!” to no avail.
Later, though, a revived Relish bounded onto the field and showed off his speed in an ultimately losing battle against a six-year-old fan.
After the race, Relish refused to answer this reporter’s questions.
“He told me he was very appreciative of the love the fans showed him,” said Howie Wolpoff, a Cyclones spokesman. “It was very tearful. Then again, it may have been condensation from the steam, but I think it was a tear.”
But Ed Shakespeare, whose hotly anticipated book, “When Baseball Returned to Brooklyn,” comes out this fall, believes that Relish was coming on strong in the end.
“As a famous football coach from Sheepshead Bay once said, he ‘didn’t lose the season series — he just ran out of time.’”
HoJo to go?
For now, they’re just rumors, but the buzz in the stands is that Howard Johnson will not return as Cyclones manager and that former Met Tim Teufel (rhymes with muffle) will get the top job.
Teufel — a sure-handed infielder who played with the Mets from 1986 to 1991 — remains in the Mets organization as a roving infield coach.
The Cyclones front office wasn’t talking about the possible Teufel shuffle, but there was plenty of chatter around the batting cage.
“You heard it from me: Bobby Ojeda will be the next Cyclones manager,” said hitting coach Donovan Mitchell, denying the Teufel rumor.
“You heard it from me: Believe half of what you hear and none of what you see,” countered Ojeda. “Bobby Ojeda will not be the next Cyclone manager. Bobby Ojeda is going fishing and then Bobby Ojeda will make some plans.”
Whatever happens, infielder Corey Ragsdale said future Cyclones would benefit from Teufel’s instruction. “I don’t know anything about him coming in as manager, but he’s a guy who knows how to get the most out of players. He doesn’t mess around with you. He’d be a great manager.”
For his part, Teufel only said that he’d love to manage someday and Cyclones general manager Steve Cohen reminded reporters that minor league managers have to move up the ranks just like their players if they want a shot at the big leagues.
Borscht Belt Blake
Maybe there’s something in the Brookyn water, but Blake Whealy seems to have picked up a bit of that old Borscht Belt sense of humor.
The other day, Whealy was talking excitedly about how the team was spending the last week of the season at the New York Marriot Brooklyn, Downtown, after being kicked out of the dorms at Polytechnic University.
“It’s a really nice hotel,” Whealy told a reporter. When the reporter told Whealy that the Marriott is considered the best hotel in Brooklyn, the infielder didn’t miss a beat:
“Isn’t it the ONLY hotel in Brooklyn?”
The Cyclones set a couple of records during the last week of the season, one not so nice.
The team’s nine-game losing streak — mercifully ended with a win on Tuesday night — is the longest in the club’s two-year history.
But during the same agonizing homestand, the team’s season attendance passed the 300,000 mark, making the Cyclones the first short-season team to draw such crowds. The team is averaging more than 8,300 fans per night.
How good is that? Well, think of it this way: On Tuesday, Sept. 3, the minor-league Cyclones drew 8,252 fans. On the same night, the major league Montreal Expos drew 3,879.
And to think that former Borough President Howard Golden thought minor-league baseball was a bad idea for Brooklyn.
September 9, 2002 issue