In the summer of 1975 in American Legion baseball, Ricou-Brewster won 15 straight games and was running away with it in the standings as the North Louisiana playoffs approached. But by the end of July, things started to go south for the Jesuit (now Loyola)-based team.
Night after night, Ricou-Brewster piled up one-run losses – including two on the same night. Once 16-2, the team was now 16-7 and battling to stay alive for the post-season.
A series of rainouts had forced the team to play these games on consecutive nights, so they were rapidly running out of pitching.
Now, this is where the story gets a little fuzzy, so you can believe what you like. One of the remaining games had to be postponed because of poor field conditions. It seemed as though someone had gone out to Cherokee Park field in the middle of the night and put tire tracks all throughout the infield.
Therefore, the game had to be postponed, giving the team a much-needed day of rest.
The young coach of the team is alleged to have said to his players upon giving them the news of the day off, “If one of y’all did this, I don’t want to know about it.” And then he looked at one of his star players. “But if it was you, Jones, good job.”
These days, a few high school baseball coaches across the state are basically doing the same thing, only they are far less obvious in their methods.
What they are doing is not against the rules, but it should be. What has been happening – and it will get worse unless the LHSAA does something about it – is the manipulating of the schedule in order to try to either get their team into the playoffs or move into a better seeding position.
A quick primer: Baseball uses the power-point system, based on 20 points for a win, one point for each of your opponents’ wins and two points for each classification you play up. Without getting into too much detail, you could actually improve your position by losing to a team in a higher classification with a bunch of wins.
One local coach says he got a call last Friday night about 10 o’clock from a Division IV coach in South Louisiana wanting to know if he wanted to play a double-header the next day. The local coach, whose team is one of the top seeds in its division, told the caller that he already had a game scheduled. Undeterred, he was asked about the possibility of working something out with that third team so that everyone could get in two games on Saturday.
Spurned by the local coach Friday night, it should come as no surprise that the Division IV coach found games on Sunday and Monday – both against Class 5A schools — that weren’t previously scheduled.
And that was from a coach whose team already had a playoff spot locked up, just trying to move up a spot in order to get a potential home quarterfinal series. He did win both of the “add-on” games, but failed to move up.
A Division III team in the New Orleans area posted a schedule in the pre-season that showed the final game of the season would be played on April 13. But when that school found itself on the outside looking in when it came to making the playoffs, suddenly a game against a Class 5A school with more than 20 wins appeared on the schedule for the final day of the season. Not just one game — a double-header. They lost both games, but didn’t move up enough to make the playoffs.
One local coach had a game cancelled on him during the last week of the season as his team was fighting to make it into the playoffs. No reason given. Unspoken was that the cancelling team didn’t want to take a chance on a loss and dropping out of a potential first-round home game.
Didn’t work out and, by the way, the team that had its game called off made the playoffs anyway.
There’s a simple solution to all of this: there should be a date, certainly before the end of March, in which no games can be added or cancelled. Right now, it is allowed until two days before the end of the regular season.
If a game gets rained out, you can make it up, but that game has to be on your original schedule. But only as many games as were previously scheduled.
And you can’t leave the water hose on all night and call it a rain out. If that’s the case, then the opponent gets to be the home team.
If you want to cancel a game, it’s a forfeit. Because that’s basically what happens if you do that during football season. (This also happens in basketball on occasion, but not to the degree that it does in baseball.)
And so what eventually happened to that Ricou-Brewster American Legion team in 1975? They lost that postponed last game. Of course, it was by one run.
You might say they had tire tracks all over them when the season was over.
Contact JJ at firstname.lastname@example.org