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Shatel: The day 18-year-old Hank Aaron played baseball in Omaha
FIRST DOWNS AND SECOND GUESSES

Shatel: The day 18-year-old Hank Aaron played baseball in Omaha

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As you can see outside, it’s baseball season.

With apologies to the Tampa Bay Huskers and the skating Mavs of UNO, on a Monday Snow Day my thoughts turn to warmer days ahead. And past.

Like this very cool story about the time Hank Aaron came to Omaha, courtesy of Gary Anderson, former longtime sports information director at UNO.

While doing some Omaha baseball research, Anderson ran across a World-Herald item about a game between the Kansas City Monarchs and the Indianapolis Clowns in 1952.

According to Anderson, the great Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League played some regular-season games in Omaha. Presumably, to showcase their talents around the Midwest.

They played the game at Omaha’s Municipal Stadium, known later as Rosenblatt Stadium.

The date was June 5, 1952. The Monarchs won, 5-2. The Clowns had an 18-year-old shortstop by the name of Henry Aaron.

The man who would become the greatest home run hitter in baseball history went 0 for 4 that day, with three assists and three putouts and part of two double plays.

Aaron played only one year in the Negro Leagues. He was scouted and signed by the Boston Braves. Aaron reported to the Braves’ farm club in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the following week.

Anderson says the box score showed a crowd of 2,444 at the game. If anyone reading this attended that game, I would love to hear from you.

Aaron’s appearance here came 25 years after a visit to Omaha by Babe Ruth — whose home run mark he would overtake in 1974.

Thanks for that, Gary. I’m feeling warmer already.

» This is getting way ahead of things, but give me a break. It’s a snow day.

There’s going to be an NCAA basketball tournament bubble in Indianapolis. There might be an NCAA volleyball bubble in Omaha in April.

How about an NCAA baseball tournament bubble in Omaha in June?

Maybe it’s just for the Super Regionals. Maybe this year’s College World Series features 16 teams.

We’ve got TD Ameritrade Park, Werner Park, Haymarket Park in Lincoln and UNO’s new park to use.

We showed the college sports world that we made a hockey bubble work. And, yes, having UNMC’s expertise is a huge feather.

Omaha. Bubble Town. I like it.

» Well, I told ESPN’s Joe Lunardi to go on vacation this COVID hoops season, but he didn’t listen. Even with canceled games and pauses everywhere, Lunardi is still pumping out Bracketology.

His latest projects Creighton as a No. 5 seed playing Winthrop (not Winthorpe, as in “Trading Spaces”) meeting the winner of Illinois-Belmont in the second round.

That would be a tough draw. The other top seeds in CU’s region are No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 3 Kansas.

The site? Well, Indianapolis of course.

» In a CBSsports.com poll of 41 college basketball coaches, 73% said they were in favor of having conference tournaments this year and 27% said they were not.

That number could grow as we get closer to March. I think the possibility of opt-outs of conference events is definitely possible. Why would Gonzaga, Baylor or Michigan risk it?

I like a suggestion from our Creighton beat man, Jon Nyatawa: move the conference tournaments into February and have a week or so buffer before the NCAA’s start.

Maybe some could play make-up games then. Those who wanted to keep everyone healthy could do that.

I know the conference tourney money is big, especially this year, but I can’t imagine having a top-20 team — a top four or five seed — and missing the NCAAs because you picked up COVID at the meaningless conference tourney.

» No doubt Packer fans will be debating Matt LaFleur’s decision to kick a field goal on Sunday for a long time. Maybe debate is the wrong word.

However you felt about it — and I was screaming to put the game in Aaron Rodgers’ hands — why not call time out and consult with Rodgers?

It’s Green Bay tradition.

Back in the 1967 Ice Bowl, with the Packers facing fourth down at the Dallas 1-yard line in the NFL Championship game, coach Vince Lombardi called time out to talk with quarterback Bart Starr.

Guard Jerry Kramer had noticed a hole in the defense and suggested a “wedge” run. Starr suggested he run it.

Lombardi said, “Then run it and let’s get the hell out of here.”

Kramer blocked, Starr scored and the rest is history.

If the ghost of Lombardi was there on Sunday, he was probably saying, “What the hell is going on around here.”

» That trust also reminds of another story, involving Green Bay native Jerry Tagge and Bob Devaney with the Game of the Century on the line in 1971. As they huddled on the sideline before the decisive touchdown, Devaney told Tagge to call the play — “and make it a good one.”

What would Rodgers have called? We'll never know, will we Packer fans?

» How about those Mavs? UNO hockey is 9-4-1, ranked 13th, at No. 16 in the NCAA Pairwise and tied for third in the NCHC. And Mike Gabinet’s club is coming off its first win over Denver in six years.

There’s still a tough finish ahead: two games with Denver and six against North Dakota — which comes to Omaha this weekend. It will be interesting to see how Sunday’s win elevates UNO’s confidence going forward.

» One more and I’m outta here: There’s a lot of Nebraska connections with Tampa Bay and our staff will write about several of them in the next two weeks.

The first Tampa Husker might have been Eric Stokes, the former Husker safety (1993-96) who was director of college scouting for Tampa in 2012. And no doubt led to the drafting of NU linebacker Lavonte David.

Jason Licht, the Fremont native and former Husker walk-on, was not yet GM of the Bucs in 2012. But the head coach who drafted David was Greg Schiano, now the coach again of Rutgers.

The receivers coach on that 2012 Tampa staff? A guy named P.J. Fleck.

It’s a small, small boat, er, world.

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