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VOL. 132 | NO. 113 | Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tubby Smith, Barrett Jones, Former MLB All-Stars Joined FESJC Pro-Am June 5

By Don Wade

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The 60th FedEx St. Jude Classic teed off on Monday, June 5, with the Danny Thomas Pro-Am at TPC Southwind.

It is the continuation of a tradition. Back in 1960, the Memphis Open Golf Tournament presented Thomas with a check for $600. It was seed money that went toward the opening of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 

All these years later, the annual PGA Tour stop has generated more than $36 million for St. Jude.


“For a great cause,” University of Memphis head basketball coach Tubby Smith said. “We love coming out here. I grew up watching Danny Thomas. To be a part of this is really important.”

Among the other sports celebrities that played: Former Alabama All-American offensive lineman Barrett Jones, former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson, NBA official and Memphis resident Michael Smith and former MLB players Brad Penny and Nick Swisher.

Penny, a pitcher, won a World Series with the 2003 Florida Marlins and has been retired since March of 2016. Swisher, an outfielder, won a World Series in 2009 with the New York Yankees and announced his retirement this past winter. Penny made two All-Star teams and Swisher made one.

Swisher’s take on retirement: “It’s like the greatest thing on the planet, dude. I’m having so much fun. To be here at St. Jude, meet the kids, maybe pump ’em up a little bit, that’s why I’m here.”

Both players took note of the recent dust-up between Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and San Francisco Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland. After a Strickland pitch drilled Harper in the hip he charged the mound and the brawl was on as both benches and bullpens emptied.

“I thought it was great,” Swisher said. “A guy like Bryce Harper, MVP candidate, face of our game, he needed to make a statement and I’m happy that he did. He let a lot of other guys out there know, `Hey, you better not be throwing at me intentionally’ because he’s gonna come out there and get them.”

Said Penny: “Was it intentional? I don’t know. It looked intentional. Pitchers are known for command most of the time at that level and it looked like it went right where he wanted it. To hit a guy years later after a couple of home runs, I personally wouldn’t do it because you’re putting your team in jeopardy. At some point it will be retaliated because that’s how it works. If you hit our best guy, we’re gonna hit your best guy.”

Jones, who briefly played for the St. Louis Rams after finishing his college career, has been busy with speaking engagements and ministry work that included a recent pastoral training conference in Uganda. And he recently had an interview for a gig with the SEC Network (guessing that went well and he’ll be a regular soon).

Jones also served as an official during Georgia’s spring game. It gave him a new perspective.

“I knew every umpire in the (SEC) when I played,” Jones said. “I was always very kind to them. It’s that tweener call in their head, `Oh, there’s Barrett, I don’t need to throw a flag on him.’ So you gotta be nice to those guys.

“It is a tough job. Everything moves very fast. I got a new appreciation for that. I didn’t throw any flags just because I didn’t want to mess up the flow of the game.” 

Plus, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart (as assistant at Bama during Jones’ playing days) had “kinda threatened me before the game. I wanted to call a lot of defensive holding, because the defensive line gets away with a lot, but decided not to.” 

Las Vegas Likes the Golden State Warriors more than the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls championship team of Michael Jordan’s that went 72-10 in the regular season. ESPN polled about a half-dozen bookmakers and most had this edition of the Warriors, up 2-0 on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, as favorites ranging from -2 to -8 in a mythical best-of-seven series against the Bulls.

Jeff Sherman, an oddsmaker at Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, told ESPN the line would be set at Golden State -6.5. He spoke of Jordan’s Bulls almost as though they played in the days of black-and-white television, at least when comparing them to today’s Warriors of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, et al.

“It’s a different era now,” the oddsmaker told ESPN. “Today’s game is played at a pace unlike in the 1990s. Players are bigger, faster and stronger than back then.”

Thad Matta’s departure from Ohio State surprised many. Matta and Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith appeared at a news conference together on Monday, June 5, to announced Matta was gone after 13 seasons, five regular-season Big Ten titles, and two Final Four appearances.

The money line from the athletic director?

“We weren’t winning the recruiting battles.”

Smith says as he and Matta talked more, they agreed it was time for a “leadership change.”

Ohio State missed the last two NCAA Tournaments and was never higher than fifth in the Big Ten standings in each of the last four seasons. This past season OSU finished 17-15 and in 10th place.

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