28 May

ode to nevers and ball

It’s Jackson Generals Throwback Night at Trustmark Park in Pearl, a salute to the former Texas League team that occupied Smith-Wills Stadium from 1991-99. There might actually be a few cranks in the park tonight who attended Gens games back in the day, even some who might have been there on Sept. 3, 1994, when one of Smith-Wills’ most memorable events occurred. The Generals were facing archrival Shreveport in the TL East title series. The Gens were down 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of the decisive Game 5. They had managed just two hits all night. Two lousy singles. Then lightning struck. Twice. In the same place. The Generals got back-to-back home runs from Tom Nevers and Jeff Ball to stun the Captains 2-1. The dugout went crazy. The crowd of 1,400 at cozy Smith-Wills went crazy. Up in the booth, radio play-by-play man Bill Walberg did, too. He called it “the miracle on dirt.” It felt like one. Jackson manager Sal Butera, the ex-big league catcher who had been on seven championship clubs as a player, said he had never witnessed anything more dramatic. Nevers, a Minnesota high school star in baseball and hockey, was a first-round pick by the Houston Astros who hit .267 with eight homers for the Gens in 1994. He played until 2002 but never made the majors. Californian Ball, a San Jose State product, hit .316 with 13 homers that season; he ultimately made the big leagues in 1998 with San Francisco but got just four at-bats. He played in independent ball until 2003. Alas, the ’94 Gens went on to lose to El Paso in four straight in the TL Championship Series. But that shouldn’t diminish the memory of “the miracle on dirt.” P.S. The first time the Mississippi Braves held a Generals tribute, in 2019, Ian Anderson and Jeremy Walker threw a combo no-hitter. … On Thursday night, Shea Langeliers, one of Atlanta’s top prospects, hit a grand slam to help the M-Braves top Montgomery 7-6 in the third game of the six-game Double-A South series. The M-Braves are 9-12.

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