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Hobbs Column: They played by softball rules anyway

Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 11:58 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Bad weather can make baseball people do strange things.

This would have been the 1991 Southeastern Conference baseball tournament, played in Baton Rouge.

After a couple of soggy days, persistent nasty weather was playing a lot more havoc at the old Alex Box Stadium than the SEC teams were managing to play baseball.

It was of no great concern to most of the six teams there, as five of them were pretty well assured of beginning the NCAA tournament the next week.

The exception was Auburn, which, the feeling was, probably needed to take a pretty good bite out of the tournament to punch its ticket to a more meaningful postseason.

It was kind of the closest thing to a compelling story line those of us in the media could come up with.

We certainly weren’t watching much baseball, just one biblical rain storm after another that led to a lot of false starts and a lot more soggy delays and way, way too much free time on our hands.

So a couple of days in, it was starting to look like the tournament might not finish in time for something important, like football season.

Word filtered into the old press trailer down the right-field line that a tournament committee was working diligently on the case.

They met for an hour or so, as I recall, before emerging from LSU’s squad room wearied, but with a new and compromised bracket.

Copies were made and delivered to the diligent press corps.

It’s not perfect, I remember host coach Skip Bertman saying.

But it was going to have to do. They tried, Bertman said, to be fair to everybody.

Ordinarily, we might not have given it a second glance. But boredom had long set in, so it got a good going-over.

It turned out to be Pulitzer-quality investigative journalism.

The revised bracket, upon closer inspection, did have one small flaw. It effectively eliminated Auburn while the War Eagles, the only team with any desire to return to the ballpark, relaxed back at their hotel.

I forget the details, but basically the War Eagles had another game scheduled on the makeshift bracket, but the gerrymandered bracket had no next landing spot for the winner of that game.

Just a thanks for playing.

It was decided among the media that perhaps we should report our startling findings to the committee.

“But let’s have some fun first,” somebody said.

Actually, it was me who was elected to call Auburn coach Hal Baird at his team’s hotel.

As luck would have it, he was in his room.

When he answered, I explained the situation and asked him if he’d seen the revised bracket yet.

He said no.

I told him we’d been studying it carefully and, best we could tell, his team just got eliminated from the tournament.

I do remember the exact response from Baird, one of the nicest guys in coaching.

“That’s … uh …”

There was a long pause.

“That’s unfortunate.”

Yes it was.

It wasn’t long before the tournament officials — possibly after a phone call from Baird — were trying to scarf up and hide the rogue brackets, and they directly went back to the drawing board.

Frankly, I forget what they finally came up, and Auburn didn’t do much with its reprieve.

But it does show that there’s a danger in making up the rules as you go.

Then again, every now and then logic could come into play.

LSU and Texas A&M played a showcase game Saturday nationally televised by ESPN. At the start of the broadcast, and many times during it, the announcers had to remind viewers that the big, bad SEC was playing a baseball game by high school rules.

This would be, by SEC rule, a seven-inning game.

You could almost see the embarrassment on both teams’ faces.

It was pointed out that it was a big game that could clinch the SEC West for LSU or it could help the Aggies get off the NCAA tournament bubble, and yet they were playing a game just a half-step above Little League.

They split the difference and ended up playing eight innings anyway, but only because an extra was needed before LSU managed a 2-1 victory.

Still, in effect, a series that was plagued by weather delays until Saturday dawned bright and balmy, got through an inning earlier than scheduled.

An SEC rule for a series states that if, due to weather, two games are needed on the final day, one of them will be seven innings.

LSU and the Aggies had to finish the final three innings of the second game on Saturday morning, with the Tigers winning 7-4. That apparently counted as a nine-inning game and the seven-inning rule kicked in for the third game.

Normally, get-away day in the SEC is Sunday, and normally the players have classes on Monday.

You do what you have to do. Those are good intentions, at worst.

But get-away day is non-negotiable, even when it’s on Saturday, as this one since the Thursday game was also nationally televised.

But Saturday they played by softball rules anyway.

It wouldn’t have taken much forethought to figure that the normal rules could have been suspended — agreed upon in advance — due to special circumstances.

Not only was get-away day on a Saturday, both the Tigers and Aggies are through with classes for the semester.

If it had rained Saturday, LSU would have gone home without completing the series. It might have wasted a beautiful Sunday for baseball, even though had no reason to get home until Tuesday’s game against UNO.

That defies logic.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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