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On to Round Two
As the regular season came to an exciting close, I thought the Pelicans had a good chance to win a playoff series for the first time since 2008. But I didn't expect a sweep!
  • With the Warriors looming as their next opponent, the Pels now must step up their game, although not as much as we thought they'd have to a month ago.
  • Stephen Curry was expected to return for Round Two although more recent reports cast some doubt on that. Just today, coach Steve Kerr said Curry will not play "anytime soon."
  • Recall that the Pels beat the Warriors in Oakland 126-120 on the third-to-last regular season game. Golden State had their playoff spot clinched and Curry didn't play, but they didn't look like a team coasting that night.
  • So now I'll say this: I'LL BE VERY SURPRISED IF THE PELICANS GET SWEPT BY THE WARRIORS AS THEY WERE IN 2015. (Remember how they blew a 30-point lad at home!) And, in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Pels won two games in the series.
Manieri's Worst Team?

Then there's the sad, sad tale of LSU baseball.

  • After sweeping Tennessee, the Tigers have lost four in a row, including a game at Tulane when the bullpen blew a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the 9th after LSU came back from a 7-3 deficit in their last three at-bats.
  • Then the three straight losses at South Carolina were just plain UGLY. 11-0 and 11-4 before the bullpen blew a 6-0 lead in the final game of the series.
  • The Tigers are now a miserable 2-10 on the road. There was strong evidence over the last weekend that their road woes have gotten into their heads. Pitchers and hitters are trying too hard to make something happen and that syndrome is making matters worse.
  • A prime example occurred in the 9th inning Sunday. With LSU trailing 8-6, Hunter Feduccia started with a walk. Freshman Nick Webre pinch-hit and drove a clean base hit into RF. As Hunter easily made it to 3rd, Webre, for some reason, tried to stretch his hit into a double and was thrown out by 10'. That took the heart out of the rally and the next two batters went down easily.
  • The good news from Sunday was that Nick Bush pitched five scoreless innings as the starter.
  • BOTTOM LINE: This club is not showing the improvement that Manieri's teams usually do. Injuries and youth have something to do with that but the Tigers have dug themselves into a hole and have a lot of work to do to make the NCAA Tournament field. Forgot about hosting a regional. And time is running out - four weekend series - TWO ON THE ROAD - plus the SEC Tournament.
Baseball Short Story
I've built up a large number of short stories. Instead of waiting for the next Baseball or Football or Basketball magazine, I'll post some on this page from time to time.
Rickey's Big Mistake
Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, by Allen Barra (2009)
Sometime in the summer of 1941, two of the great legends of baseball narrowly missed making a connection that would have radically altered baseball. ...

Lawrence Peter Berra, a then somewhat stocky, ungainly looking sixteen-year-old Italian-American kid from the "Dago Hill" area of St. Louis, had attracted the attention of the best organization in the National League for a tryout in Sportsman's Park. Jack Maguire, a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals told his boss, general manager Branch Rickey, that Berra had a powerful left-handed swing, a great arm, and heaps of potential. Rickey wasn't sure; he was more interested in another kid from the Hill, Joseph Henry Garagiola, a year younger than Berra. Garagiola was thought by Rickey to be faster, smoother, and more polished. Dee Walsh, another Cardinals scout, talked Rickey into signing Garagiola with a $500 bonus, but Rickey was skeptical about offering anything at all to Berra.
Rickey had been getting reports on both boys all summer, not just from his scouts but also from two of his outfielders, Enos Slaughter and Terry Moore, who occasionally showed up to give pointers at the WPA baseball school at Sherman's Park. Rickey's initial offer to young Berra was a contract - but no bonus. To a boy that age, a professional baseball contract, even without a bonus, was nothing to be scorned. But Lawrence, displaying the kind of stubborn integrity that would, in just a few years, stymie the most powerful organization in sports, balked. "In the first place," he would tell sportswriter Ed Fitzgerald nearly two decades later, "I knew it was going to be tough enough to convince Mom and Pop that they ought to let me go away. But if Joey was getting $500 for it and I wasn't getting anything, they would be sure to think it was a waste of time for me."

L: Branch Rickey; R: Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola
Hedging, Rickey offered $250. Branch Rickey was the most influential executive in baseball - by the end of the decade. It was estimated that nearly 37 percent of all big league players had been developed in one of his farm systems - and Larry's brash reply took him aback: "No, I want the same as Joey's getting." Rickey did not mention to Berra how much a month he would be earning under the contract, and Berra never asked. "That didn't matter to me. I would have taken anything. All I was interested in was that if Garagiola was getting $500, I wanted $500, too," Yogi would later take pains to emphasize that he wasn't jealous of his pal, but he was convinced, from years of sandlot and street games, that he was as good a ballplayer as Joe. Garagiola disagreed. "Yogi wasn't better than me," recalls Joe. "He was much better. There were a lot of good ballplayers on the Hill at that time, and 'Lawdy' - as his friends called him, echoing his mother, who couldn't pronounce 'Larry' - was the best. ..."
Jack Maguire argued with his boss, but Rickey was intractable: Berra would never be more than a Triple-A player. He was too clumsy and too slow, Rickey said, to be a genuine big league prospect. Maguire never understood Rickey's decisions. Berra's coaches, and certainly his opponents, did not find him either slow or clumsy, though he often appeared to be both. ... Rickey had been a catcher himself and was capable of evaluating all body types. He understood that baseball was a game that benefited from all manner of physical tools. Yet, Rickey, against the advice of his own scout, would not put out the additional $250 to sign Larry Berra. It was the most colossally shortsighted blunder ever made by a baseball executive, surpassing even Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee's dealing Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 ...
If, that is, Rickey's decision was a blunder. In later years, a counterstory would circulate that Rickey was actually being shrewd: he knew he wouldn't be with the Cardinals much longer, he was preparing to leave the St. Louis club for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and his real interest was to "hide" Berra and sign him for Brooklyn. Joe Garagiola points out that just a couple of months after the tryout, after Rickey had moved to the Dodgers, he contacted Berra to offer him a contract. "Rickey tried to sign Yogi after he went to work for the Dodgers," says Joe. "Why would he have kept a file on him if he hadn't intended to sign him for Brooklyn?"
In his 1961 ... autobiography ..., Yogi flat-out denied that Rickey had tried to "hide" him. "I've never believed that ... From everything I've heard about him, he's too big a man to do anything like that." ...
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This site is devoted primarily but not exclusively to college and pro football. The unique feature of this site is the publication each fall of the author's rankings of all FBS college football teams and similar rankings for the NFL. I live in New Orleans and am a graduate of LSU and FSU. So I present a Southern and particularly an SEC point of view but one that is reasonably objective. I also publish a monthly Football Magazine with stories from the past and a monthly Baseball Magazine with a similar format. During the winter and spring, there's a monthly Basketball Magazine.

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