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Opening day is no joking matter

Opening day is no joking matter

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Today’s effort ain’t an April Fool’s concoction; too much a’happenin’.

It’s 2021’s Opening Day for Atlanta’s (for now) Braves in Philadelphia today; they get a much-needed day off tomorrow and resume play Saturday.

The Braves’ home-opener is April 9, against the Phillies in (for now) Truist (nee SunTrust) Park.

The Fox is out of the henhouse, sportingly, as Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Southeast is now Bally’s Sports South/Bally’s Sports Southeast; the Braves play 155 (for now) games on Bally’s this season.

Bally’s rings a bell.

Bally’s = Gambling.

Gambling = Baseball?

Nowadays, yes.

Oh, yeah, Bally’s is the Atlantic City casino that hired Alabama native/1951 National League Rookie of the Year Willie Mays to grip, grin and schmooze with wealthy, famous folk for $100,000 per annum.

At that same 1979 time and for the same money, former Yankee Mickey Mantle went to work for The Claridge (casino) in the same town.

Baseball commissar Bowie Kuhn then decreed the National Baseball Hall of Fame center fielders would no longer be welcomed anywhere Major League Baseball did bidness, six years AFTER Mays retired, 10 AFTER the Mick did.

Until a compromise was finally reached, Mays and Mantle were banished from baseball together after having begun their Major League careers in 1951.

In ’51, Willie’s New York Giants and Brooklyn’s Dodgers ended the regular season tied, so a three-game playoff ensued and entering the bottom of the ninth inning of the third game, in the Polo Grounds October 3, the Giants trailed, 4-1.

Two outs and a run scored later, Bobby Thomson came to bat with two runners on base, prompting Brooklyn manager Chuck Dressen to call bullpen coach Clyde Sukeforth for one of the two relief pitchers ready to play; Dressen wanted Carl Erskine.

Sukeforth recommended the other guy as Erskine had just bounced a warm-up pitch; so, despite having given up a homer to Thomson earlier in the series, Ralph Branca took the mound and on his 0-1 pitch, Thomson hit the three-run homer, “the shot heard around the world.”

“The “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.”

Willie was in the on-deck circle … and on October 5, was at bat in the second game of the ’51 World Series against Mantle’s Yankees.

Mickey was in right field under orders from manager Casey Stengel to catch everything he could reach because centerfielder Joe DiMaggio, in his last week as a player, couldn’t cover much ground due to bone spurs.

Mays hit a deep fly to right center Mantle was about to settle under when DiMaggio called him off; the Mick, trying to avoid a collision, stepped awkwardly on a drainpipe and tore up his right knee.

Willie was out and the Mick was never the same, never completely healed, but was still better than most.

Gotta wonder what would’ve happened if not for Mick’s injury?

More recently, what would’ve happened last football season had Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Tua Tagovailoa, et al, stayed at Alabama another year and Jalen Waddle hadn’t been hurt?

Would Mac Jones have started a game?

Would DeVonta Smith have won the Heisman Trophy?

With a real spring training, would Bama have gone 13-0 and won the National Championship?

Presently, what would happen with another COVID-19 virtual spring?

Hmmm.

Hey, today’s about baseball, so (for now) let’s Play Ball …

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