Clinton, S.C., Thursday, May 23, 2013, 10:32 a.m.
I take pride in my baseball knowledge, but this was a bit extreme.
On Wednesday, I watched three baseball games at the Southern Conference tournament in Greenville (S.C.) at Fluor Field. Furman University, my alma mater, is the host school. I saw one great game (The Citadel beat Appalachian State with a walk-off homer) and two blowouts. Top-seeded Western Carolina clobbered Samford, 13-7, and the Paladins drubbed Elon, 10-1.
The final game, which I didn’t stay for anyway, was rained out, which in terms of, uh, me, makes Furman’s game at 8:30 p.m. instead of 5 today. One game is being moved to Furman’s Latham Stadium (Fluor Field is the home of the Greenville Drive minor-league team), and Furman will play the College of Charleston-Georgia Southern winner. That game is already under way in Greenville as these words are written.
I watched the Furman-Elon game with an old friend, David Hibbard, who graduated from Elon but served, over 20 years ago now, as Sports Information Director at Presbyterian College during the period when I covered the Blue Hose for the local paper. The only time I’ve seen David in, oh, about the last 20, was when I lectured classes at Elon some years back. He now lives in Laurinburg, N.C.
OK, back to what was “a bit extreme.”
I remarked to David what I thought was the difference between a baseball team on the skids and one on a winning streak. It’s all about two-out hits with men on base. Part of it is coming through in the clutch, but part of it is just random selection. When a team is struggling, it loads the bases with two out and can’t buy a hit. A hot team scores such runs in bunches, even without any outs to spare.
This conversation became painful for David. Without knowing for sure – I didn’t keep score because he and I were having fun, telling jokes and the like – but it seemed as if Furman hit about .750 with two outs and men in scoring position, and Elon didn’t hit much of anything at all under those conditions, which were plentiful.
I’d like to think I was a gracious winner and David was a sportsmanlike loser. It’s double elimination, so the Phoenix is (are*) still alive. (Yes, they could rise from the ashes.)
I also had unexpected company during the Samford-Western Carolina game. I discovered that the fellow sitting across the aisle from me had been an assistant basketball coach at Erskine College 30 years ago when I covered the Flying Fleet. Ken Robinson lives in Greenwood, S.C., now and has a son at WCU. I saw Robinson play in the late 1970s for Erskine and Red Myers, a coach I fondly remember.
Amazingly, Robinson remembered me – “You not Monte Dutton, are you?” – and I remembered him. We had a great time talking baseball. He had just been in Greenville on business and happened by the stadium to see what all the commotion was about.
It never rained a drop on me, though the Furman-Elon game was delayed for a time by lightning. When I got home, a fierce storm struck that left me sitting in total darkness. I nodded off to sleep in the easy chair, slightly worried that I’d never find my way to the bedroom anyway, and I awakened with the electricity restored at about 1:45 a.m. I slept to about 8:30 – it’s very unusual for me to be up after 7 – and now I’ve got plenty to do if I’m going back to Greenville tonight.
While I was enjoying fun at the old ballpark, the NASCAR Hall of Fame was announcing the impending induction of Dale Jarrett, Tim Flock, Fireball Roberts, Maurice Petty and Jack Ingram.
It’s sort of difficult to criticize the class for a Hall of Fame – my longheld standard is that anyone in a hall of fame ought to be famous in some sense, but that, like every other standard, requires personal judgment – so I won’t. All five inductees are deserving.
I don’t have a vote, so what I think doesn’t really matter, but if I’d had a vote, which I don’t even seek, I’d have voted for three of the inductees: Flock, Roberts and Petty. My two other votes would have been for Curtis Turner and Fred Lorenzen.
*I detest grammar being arbitrarily violated in the interest of sports teams. I believe Heat is singular, but it is now considered correct to refer to the Miami NBA team in the plural sense, as with the Jazz, Magic, etc. Phoenix, in most references, doesn’t have a plural, though the Latin would be phoenices. I don’t think Elon University wants to be the Phoenices, so I think it’s singular.