Maloney well-kept secret during career

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 13, 2008

FRESNO, Calif. — Jim Maloney would be a perfect pilot during a secret war mission. He knows how to fly under the radar.

Maloney came with a “can’t miss” tag, a blazing right arm, and the confidence and tenacity that couldn’t be taught.

After signing with the Cincinnati Reds out of Fresno State, Maloney lived up to hit billing. National League batters and managers were very much aware of what the hard-throwing right-hander could do.

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Although Maloney played with some good teams in Cincinnati including pennant-winning clubs in 1961 and 1970, the media market didn’t have the coverage nationwide that is seen in today’s sports world. The media focus was usually on teams in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and St.Louis.

“Cincinnati was a small market town and they didn’t have ESPN then. Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York were big markets and you heard about them. I flew under the radar. I didn’t mind. I was having success and had good teams and good support. We had chances to win the National League each year,” said Maloney.

The Reds did have good seasons during Maloney’s career. Besides winning two pennants, they just missed out on the 1964 pennant by one game.

But fate reared its ugly head in Maloney’s first game of the 1970 season. He ruptured his Achilles tendon and missed virtually the entire season.

The trouble actually started the previous season. But when Maloney complained of some discomfort when he ran and pitched, they fell on deaf ears as general manager Bob Howsam scolded his pitching ace.

“I had problems with my heel the whole year before. I said my heel bothered me when I ran. I talked to Howsam and he said ‘We pay you a lot of money. You’re paid to pitch. You have no pain tolerance,’” said Maloney.

During the 1960s and 1970s, players were hard-leathered shoes so Maloney put a lift in his heal so it wouldn’t rub. He said it helped a little, but when spring training arrived in 1970 he felt the pain again.

“I didn’t say anything and I felt if I’d put the lift in there again it would be alright,” said Maloney.

It wasn’t.

When Maloney came up to bat for the first time in his first game of the regular season, he hit a ball up the middle and took two steps.

“I felt something pop and that was it,” said Maloney.

Instead of being a part of the emerging Big Red Machine era, Maloney h