California Dreaming

SAN FRANCISCO -- Greetings from the Left Coast, where the drivers who have rolled a few inches beyond the white stripe at stoplights make sure to wave and apologize for their intrusion on the walking lanes. Hint, hint, Alabama drivers.

Yeah, I tolerate the eccentricities and the bizarre behavior of the northern California set out here -- there were two eco-friendly pieces on the news Thursday night, including a $300 million building with a roof covered with flora -- to feast on the spectacular vistas and the lovely climate.

Took my first tour around Alcatraz on a boat yesterday. Man, that back area with the tiny dock and the creepy building above it looks as forbidding as any piece of real estate I can imagine. They say many a prisoner was shot trying to escape ``The Rock,'' and I don't have a big problem with that.

So, how does this blogging action tie into Alabama athletics you might ask.

I was remembering my excursions covering the Tide out here to the Golden State. They weren't positive for Bama.

My first trip came in the 2000 season opener in football. You all know the rest of the story: No. 3 Crimson Tide falls to UCLA in a kind of shootout. I remember Freddie Milons zigzagging for a touchdown on the Tide's first touch of the season: the team's highlight of the year. I remember Jarret Johnson demolishing Corey Paus on a late hit. I remember falling in love with the Rose Bowl and the gentle mountains and landscape in Pasadena.

In 2000, Jim Wells' baseball team won its opener in the Stanford regional closer to here and had the Cardinal down -- what, 5-3? -- in the ninth before submariner Bryce Heath gave up a three-run homer in a loss.

Alabama fought back through the loser's bracket and was kicking the bark off the Cardinal in the first game of the championship round before a late rally forced Wells to call on ace Scott Murphy, who had thrown in the opener. I'm convinced if Murphy (no relation) had not worked in that game and had been able in the finale, Alabama could have stunned Stanford and moved on to the super regionals.

I was also out this way during the holidays of 2002, to report on the Rose Bowl activities of one Mike Price. I remember watching those four receivers running short routes and zipping all over the field and wondering if that would ever translate to success in Tuscaloosa. Still wondering to this day.

What are your favorite and most memorable Alabama moments from California? I know a big one, but I wasn't old enough to have witnessed it: the big 17-10 win over USC at the Coliseum in Los Angeles in 1971.

Braves chops: Long-time Atlanta Braves fan here, and I'm assuming many of y'all are too.

Well, it looks like we're in for a fun summer, and a long chase against the Mets, possibly with the Phillies hanging around. If Atlanta could just handle the scrappy Florida Marlins and the irksome Washington Nationals, maybe we'd have a little lead in the NL East right now.

I was ribbing a colleague who pulls for the New York Mets recently and got in a nice dig: ``Man, if we just played the Mets all the time, we'd be running away with this thing.''

It's true. The Braves can definitely get up for the big series, as they have against the Mets, but they have struggled against some of the lesser competition.

I was hoping my Northport neighbor Lance Cormier's arrival in Atlanta would be just the tonic to get the fourth/fifth starter's role solidified, but his first outing against the Cubs the other day was painful to watch. He lacked command, and he admitted his breaking stuff had no snap. Thus, the belt-high fastball that ex-Brave Mark DeRosa clubbed over the center field wall for a first inning grand slam.

I'm thinking Cormier will get settled in, providing stability toward the end of the rotation, and possibly bump Kyle Davies to the fifth starter's slot. Davies has shown really wicked stuff in his past. I'm recalling a really sharp showing -- maybe a two-hitter or three-hitter -- against somebody like Houston a year or two ago. Just when Davies thought he was finding a groove recently, the Phillies lit him up like an Independence Day fireworks display, so his erratic showings continue.

Anyway, with Chipper Jones up to his seemingly annual injury run and Andruw Jones doing his standard boom and bust, the Braves are having to rely on our bunch of younger hitters and Edgar Renteria to produce most of the runs.

It's a shaky formula to ride through the summer. Plus, John Smoltz has had two injury scares and, despite his war horse mentality, Braves fans cannot completely bank on having him healthy all season. Tim Hudson's recent string of non-dominating showings has been frustrating as well, and Chuck James hasn't proven to be consistent and the Braves have some work to do.

Same ol' Brodie: This little nugget is courtesy of our friend Mitch Dobbs, who spotted it online.

In a story about the Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacking situation -- with veteran Trent Green seemingly on the verge of being traded to Miami -- the writer asked Croyle ....

``It is,'' Croyle said, echoing a remark he made dozens of times while doing interviews as the Tide signal caller.

Editor's Note: Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register and a contributor to 'BAMA Magazine and

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