Tony Danza’s riding shotgun


LOS ANGELES — You meet all kinds of people on van rides from airports to hotels.

Well, except in Milwaukee. I can’t recall ever sharing an airport shuttle ride there with anyone other than the driver. I mean, do anyone go to Milwaukee?

But I digress.

Earlier this week in St. Louis, I rode in with a very pleasant couple from Michigan who couldn’t figure out what time it was. The wife did not understand the concept of the Central Time zone. The husband got it, I think, but screwed it up each time he tried to explain. Finally, I turned around and fumed, “Just set your watch back an hour. Problem solved.”

Seated next to me today on the shuttle from LAX to the downtown Marriott was a girl with new-wave hair — multi-colored, wispy, sort of Flock of Seagulls-ish. Never mind that she wasn’t old enough to remember Flock of Seagulls in the first place. (Gosh, did I really just write that sentance? How old am I, that I’m already settling into crotchety old man mode?)

Anyway, nobody in the van was saying much because we were too busy listening to the woman sitting behind me. She was telling her son about her recent Brush With Greatness on the streets of Hollywood.

She met … can you believe it? … Tony Danza.

Go ahead, let out that laugh. I couldn’t, out of simply courtesy. But I wanted to guffaw in her face and tell her, it wasn’t no big thing. In fact, even I once met Tony Danza. It was in 1994, when I was in Las Vegas to cover a Michael Moorer (remember him?) title fight. I went down the strip one night to catch a Tony Bennett show and there in line behind me was Alyssa Milano’s dad from “Who’s the Boss?” I mean, c’mon. Danza had to stand in line with the rest of us to get in the joint. And he was behind me. Some big star, eh?

Of course, Danza did get a shout-out from Bennett during the show. That was cool.

I’m waiting for Danza to turn up in my hotel shuttle van when I blow outta this town Monday.

— Don’t look now, but a big chunk of the Pirates’ starting rotation has hit a rough patch.

For the most part, the group was outstanding throughout spring training and into the first couple of weeks of the regular season. But Tony Armas turned in another ugly start tonight, Zach Duke has been roughed up in two straight outings and Paul Maholm is 0-2 with a 6.19 ERA.

Going into Friday’s action, Duke had given up 32 hits — tying him with Dontrelle Willis for the most by any pitcher in the majors. Duke also was tied for most earned runs allowed (19).

— The most disturbing trend to come out of this road trip? Strikeouts.

Pirates batters are fanning at an alarming rate — 13 in the two games against St. Louis and 24 in two games against Milwaukee. Tonight, Randy Wolf whiffed 10. That was a season-high for the Dodgers. And with three innings to go as I type this, it could get worse.

— Don Kelly got his first major league hit last week at PNC Park. I asked him today what he did with the ball. “Sold it on eBay,” Kelly deadpanned.