Ghosts of Friday the 13ths past

Today is the second Friday the 13th of three in 2015. The first was in February, and the third will be in November. This is the second in four years we’ve had three Friday the 13ths; in 2012, they werei n January, April and July. 

One of my most memorable days working with LSU’s baseball team came on a Friday, March 13.

It was 1998, and the Bayou Bengals had a series at Auburn. The first game was originally scheduled to be played at 6 p.m., but due to very cold weather, Auburn moved the game to 3 p.m.

Eddy Furniss, LSU’s All-American first baseman, put on a hitting clinic. He hit three home runs, the third of which was so far gone over the replica of the Green Monster in left field that Auburn’s left fielder, Josh Etheredge, froze once the ball jumped off Furniss’ bat. Did not move, did not turn around.

Furniss added a double in the eighth. It appeared he would end his day 4-for-4, as LSU went into the bottom of the ninth leading 7-0.

So much for the easy victory. Auburn scored seven runs in the bototm of the ninth to force the game into extra innings. By this time, the sun had gone down and it was FREEZING. 

Furniss got a chance to bat again, and he added another double. He finshed the game wtih 16 total bases, tying the SEC single game record. It still stands.

LSU scored three runs in the 12th to win 11-8 for coach Skip Bertman’s 700th victory. Furniss hit a home run and a double in his first two at-bats the next day, and he was named Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Week for his prowess, even though LSU lost the series. 

Furniss was the recipient of the Dick Howser Award as the nation’s outstanding player folloiwng the 1998 season. He still holds many SEC career records, including home runs (80), RBI (308) and total bases (689). 

I was not born on Friday the 13th. October 13, 1976 fell on a Wednesday. However, my 13th birthday was on Friday the 13th. I was in the eighth grade at Brother Martin, and I recall Tropical Storm Jerry had formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It was overcast that evening and it looked like it would pour, which it did the next morning. Jerry made landfall in Texas. 

The Sunday after my 13th birthday, my dad, my brother and I went to a Saints-Jets game at the Superdome. Our seats were terrible–at the very top of the south end zone. We left after the third quarter because the Saints were winning big and it was almost 6 p.m. I had exams that week at Brother Martin, so I had to study. 

The last time my birthday fell on Friday the 13th was 2006. I started the morning in Wichita, drove up to Emporia to watch a state tennis tournament, then to Abilene for a Russell High School football game, then 

Today is the 51st birthday of former San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers first baseman Will Clark. Clark began his Major League career in style in 1986, hitting a home run off of Nolan Ryan in Houston’s Astrodome. That feat was mighty impressive for two reasons. 

First, facing Ryan in a player’s first Major League game would probably make many pee in their pants. Second, the Astrodome was one of the worst parks in Major League history to hit a home run. The dimensions were deep–although the fences were moved in 10 feet in 1986 from 390 feet in the power alleys to 380, which is still tough enough–and the heavy and dead air inside the Astrodome were a major inhibitor to fly balls. There are many more home runs at Houston’s current stadium, Minute Maid Park, because the dimensions are much shorter, and since many games are outside, the ball will cut right throught the hot air. 

The easiest park to hit a home run is Arizona’s Chase Field. The hot air is much less dense, and there is no humidity to drag it down. The humidity in Houston, Atlanta, MIami and Washington helps fly balls which would otherwise be dead on arrival off the bat. 

Clark was a New Orleans native who attended Jesuit, the city’s elite Catholic high school for boys. Its list of alumni reads like a who’s who of the Big Easy. Strangely enough, Clark got his hair cut in New Orleans by the same barber who cut my hair, Roy LaCoste. 

Will Clark WAS born on Friday the 13th in 1964. He may be the most successful player to be born on Friday  the 13th. I’ll have to see. 

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on March 13, 2015, in College Baseball, LSU and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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