20 Jun

that time of year

June is a time for celebration in the minor leagues. A bunch of teams will clinch half-season titles — and postseason berths — this week with the first half ending on Sunday. It’s unlikely there will be a celebration at Trustmark Park, where the Double-A Mississippi Braves begin a six-game homestand vs. Birmingham. The M-Braves are in third place at 31-31 and facing a 5.5 game deficit in the Southern League South, which Pensacola leads with a 37-26 mark. There is an anniversary to celebrate in central Mississippi, however. Thirty years ago this month — on June 10, 1993, to be exact — the Jackson Generals clinched the first-half title in the Texas League East and did so in movie-script fashion. Ray Montgomery hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth to give the Gens a 6-4 win against Shreveport at Smith-Wills Stadium. That team, a Houston Astros affiliate, would go on to win the TL pennant, the fourth for the Double-A franchise in a 13-year span. Shreveport held a 4-3 lead entering the bottom of the ninth with closer — and former General — Richie Simon on the mound. Former Murrah High star Fletcher Thompson led off with a walk. He took second on a wild pitch and went to third on the fourth hit of the game by Brian Hunter. The crowd of 2,218 was engaged. Roberto Petagine, who would go on to win league MVP honors, drove in the tying run with a grounder up the middle that forced Hunter at second base. Up came Montgomery, who drove a 1-1 slider over the left-field wall for just his second homer of the season. The Generals celebrated on the field and again later in the clubhouse. The win reduced their magic number for clinching the title to 1, and when Arkansas lost at Tulsa a short time later, the title was secured. Winning in the minors doesn’t matter? “That’s bull,” Montgomery, who would reach the big leagues and is now the Los Angeles Angels’ bench coach, said after the game. “(The Astros) want to bring you along slowly, but they want you to win. We want to win.” P.S. The M-Braves are coming in hot. They won their last series at Pensacola, belting four homers in the finale, to reach .500 for the first time since mid-April and have won 22 of their last 35.

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