Gallagher column: Legion baseball does it again
If you’re a Legion baseball fan, make sure you go to Graham tonight for the eighth game of the seven-game series between Burlington-Graham and Rowan.
That’s right. The eighth game of a seven-game series.
Our illustrious Legion leaders have once again smacked us in the mouth, taken the focus off the field and made a mockery of what should be some fun-filled summer nights of simply enjoying kids play baseball.
When Area III got rid of bungling Bob Beeson as commissioner last year and replaced him with Lexington’s Jim Lippard, we thought the teams could finally leave the politics and sudden rule-changing lunacy behind and just play ball.
What has happened to Rowan and South Rowan in the past week borders on the comical.
An e-mail was sent out before the two current series began between South and Randolph County and Rowan and Burlington. It made two things quite clear: suspended games would be picked up where they left off, and that each series must be finished by Saturday.
Neither has happened. Surprised?
Bad weather suspended Game 4 of Rowan-Burlington after a half-inning on Tuesday. As the e-mail declared, the game was picked up the next night at Newman Park and Rowan blistered Burlington 11-2 behind Matt Hall, who pitched Rowan’s first nine-inning complete game of the season.
No problem with the ruling.
South Rowan faced the same scenario on Wednesday in Game 3 of its series. Bad weather ended things with South leading 3-1 in the fourth. Athletic officer Mike Fisher stood at home plate with Lippard, umpires Jerry and Howard Riddle and Dirk Swing, along with the two coaches, David Wright of South and Ronnie Pugh of Randolph.
Those seven people agreed, according to Fisher, that Game 3 would be picked up at 4 p.m. the next day and Game 4 would be played at 7.
But when Fisher arrived at South at 2 p.m. on Thursday, he was informed that, no, Lippard had changed his mind. The game would not be picked up in the fourth. It would start over. And there would be no second game.
Fisher was forced to inform a line of fans entering for the 7 p.m. game to go home.
“We lost $1,500,” Fisher said. “I also had to pay umpires $720 because they came so many times for (Game 3). That would bankrupt other teams.”
Pugh told the Post he talked with the commissioner on Thursday morning. He said Lippard “got to thinking.”
“Fisher said he was told by Lippard, “We’ve been talking all day …”
“I was like, ‘We? I’m we.’ ”
It was mind-boggling to Fisher that decisions had been made regarding two teams and only one had been a part of the process.
Fisher immediately ó and rightfully ó filed a protest. He pointed out Rowan’s win a night earlier was picked up from the point the weather stopped it. He also had a scorebook from 2002 when two games of South’s series with Kannapolis were picked up where they left off.
Lippard e-mailed Fisher to say the protest had been denied (well, of course). He wrote that state commissioner Roy Waters had overruled his ruling.
Lippard wrote, “As commissioner, I accept the fact that I was wrong in suspending the game and apologize for not looking up the rule.”
You’re the commissioner, Jim. Shouldn’t you have talked to Waters before the series and discussed certain scenarios ó like weather ó so everyone would be on the same page?
Back in Salisbury on Friday, word spread quickly. Everyone sensed that Hall’s Game 4 win would be stricken from the books because of the outcry from South. It was. And rightfully so. You can’t have two sets of rules.
So Game 6 with Burlington became Game 4 again, and Rowan was suddenly down in the series 3-1.
It’s a good bet the families of Hall and Billy Veal (who hit a grand slam in the game that didn’t count) will never invite Lippard or Waters over for Thanksgiving dinner.
“I really wasn’t too happy about it,” Hall said, “because it was the best game I’ve pitched, period.”
Rowan did manage to win on Friday, 12-11.
In Landis, about the same time, Caleb Shore was hitting a walk-off homer for a 6-5 South win. Randolph led the series 3-1 and would play host to Game 5.
Fisher was standing on the field afterward when he heard his P.A. man announce that Saturday’s game would be at 2 p.m. He said Pugh had told his radio man to tell the P.A. announcer.
Fisher confronted Pugh, asking, “What are you talking about?”
Pugh said he had a scheduling conflict with the Asheboro Copperheads, a wooden-bat team. But rules set down before the season said starting times were 7 p.m. unless both teams agreed. Fisher would not.
He told Pugh, “I’m sorry, but if the people here know I’m accommodating you again, I’ll have to move. They’ll kill my dog.”
Ho-hum, more calls to Lippard. The game began at 7 p.m. in Asheboro.
At Newman Park, it was an angry Rowan team that took the field on Friday and an even angrier crowd that watched a 15-14 win Saturday night.
Everyone seemed to have an editorial comment. One man entered the park and told the ticket taker, “I haven’t missed a home game in 15 years. This is my last one,” blaming Legion baseball for ruining yet another summer in the one county that supports Legion baseball like no other in the state.
After the win on Friday, Rowan coach Jim Gantt said, “They just better call Roy Waters and make sure this one really happened.”
Nothing shocks Gantt anymore. Three years ago, during the same week in July, Beeson made up his own rules so his team, Wilkes, got the final playoff spot over South. Three days later, Beeson disqualified first-place Rowan because a man who identified himself as “Will Clark” informed him Rowan had an illegal player.
“Sometimes,” Hall sighed, “it just seems like it’s not fair.”
Then again, sometimes, it does works out, Matt. After Friday’s win, Hall said, “If we win Saturday, I hope I get a chance on Sunday.”
He will, as the starting pitcher in the decisive Game 7 tonight.
Or Game 8, as it turns out.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.