Monday, August 24, 2015

Mississippi Braves, Jackson, Miss. April 1 & 2, 2011

The journey to Jackson, Mississippi began in early December, 2010 when I sent a photo Christmas card of me to over 50 General Managers in the Minor Leagues including Steve DeSalvo, the General Manager of the Mississippi Braves in Pearl, Miss.  The team has been an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves since 2005 and is in the Southern League.

Several days later, I received a note from Steve asking me about the show. I mailed my press kit to him on December 10th explaing about the show and the costs.

Steve called, thanking me for the card and asked if I was available to come to Jackson to entertain Braves fans at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in Jackson, early April.   

 The museum opened on July 4, 1996 and has inducted over 300 athletes from all  major sports. To be eligible for election, an athlete must be either born in Mississippi or attended a University or college in the state.

Among the exhibits in the museum are the "Dizzy Dean Museum",  and the "Viking Classic Exhibit", which gives the history of Mississippi's PGA golf tournament.

Some of the many baseball players in the Museum are Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean, Will Clark, (SF Giants)  Rafael Palmeiro (20 years ML career, 569 HR's) and Cool Papa Bell. (Negro League star)

Ty Cobb is not in the Hall due to being born in Georgia & did not attend school in Mississippi.

After a lengthy phone conversation the following week, we agreed to my performing two shows:  one the evening of April 1st and a show the following afternoon.  He also agreed to pay all costs for me and Clay Beatty, my assistant. 

Poster created by Clay Beatty

Clay has been my assistant from the start of the Cobb show in 2006. He travels with me handling lighting, sound, staging and in addition, he creates the posters, postal cards and my website.                                                                                           

The show has 22 piece of music and several sound effect plus an introduction with a voiceover from a professional announcer from ESPN and a concluding piece of music,  the well known Amazing Grace. (a) 

We left San Francisco via American Airlines on March 29th and were met at the airport by Even Perzel who was an intern with the Braves and was our driver for the following days. He drove us to the Holiday Inn located in Pearl, about 12 miles from Jackson where we stayed for the next 4 days. I told him I love Bar-B-Que so he drove us to dinner for at one of Jackson’s well known Bar-B-Que restaurants, Chimneyville Bbq, not far from the center of Jackson and a really good Bar-B-Que restaurant

TheThe following afternoon, we went to the Museum to meet with the Assistant Director and their technical director to work out the kinks for lighting, staging and where the 200 chairs would be placed in the huge lobby of the three story Museum.

On the afternoon of the show, we returned to the Museum, Clay discovered they were missing an important cord he needed to hook up his computer to their speaker system.  A quick trip to the local Radio Shack solved that problem.  After lunch at The Red Lobster, we returned to the theater, hooked up the equipment and did a final rehearsal.   

Deborah Herrington, Suites and Catering Manager and her husband took us to dinner that evening at a wonderful restaurant.   

Me & SteveDeSalvo, GM         
                                                                                                                                                                                         That evening, we performed before 175 enthusiastic people.  I informed Clay that for the first time in the history of the show, I would sing Amazing Grace at shows end and encourage the audience to sing along with me which they did. I received a standing ovation and signed many programs after the show.

Cobb had become a born again Christian in the latter years of his life. When the onstage reporter asks Ty what number he wore on his uniform when he played, Ty explains players didn’t wear numbers on their uniforms in those days but if they did, he would have worn 23 as the 23rd psalm was Cobb’s favorite. He picks up his bible and recites the psalm.

The stage was taken down after the show and the 200 chairs were moved to another room in the  building as the Museum expected 300 youngsters to visit the following day.
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 The museum crew did the moving and Clay, our driver and me went to another fabulous Bar-B-Que restaurant for dinner.  It is obvious I love Bar-B-Que. Clay is a vegetarian and enjoyed fish, fabulous sweet potatoes and sweet potato pie.

Although the audience was smaller for the afternoon show, about 80 people with several youngsters in attendance with their dads, they too sang with me at shows end and got another standing ovation.

I enjoy interacting with the audience during the performance and pose several questions to them.
E.G: When Cobb tells the audience how many stolen bases he had in a season (96) and how man times he led the league in stolen bases (6) and how many he had over his career (892), he asks the audience what is the most difficult base to steal? Some say second, some say third,  most say home, the correct answer. 

He then tells them he stole home 54 times without ever being thrown out. A record that remains on the books to this very day. This usually draws oohs & ahs from the audience as most baseball fans know how difficult it is to successfully steal home. This tactic is no longer in use in todays game.

After packing up our equipment, we went to a small restaurant just outside the Museum called Crawdad Hole, highly recommended by Deborah and Steve. Clay purchased a container of the  popular little critters called crawfish. They are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters.

Deborah Herrington, Suites Manager
Photos below show the comedic side of Clay devouring the little fellows.They are small,  the size of your thumb. We were directed that the proper way to eat the little critters is by popping off their head, and then sticking the remains in your mouth. I ate two (not my cup of tea)  and Clay devoured the box of twenty-five. They are an acquired taste and very popular in Mississippi.

 Sunday was our day to relax and enjoy ourselves. We went to a local cine-plex and saw I Am Number Four. A silly film about Aliens and thir Guardians hiding on Earth from intergllactic bounty hunters.

I took the hotel bus to downtown Jackson and visited the closed old and new Capitol. The Old Capitol served as Mississippi's statehouse from 1839 to 1903. The new State Capitol has been the home of the state legislature since 1903 and was renovated in 1983.  I also visited the State Mueum and discovered  the reasons the South seceded from the Union from their point of view.     

We left Pearl early Monday morning leaving just before it was announced on TV that tornados were heading toward Jackson. Fortunately, they swerved right and missied both cities.
A week later, Steve sent me a complimentary email stating:

“I thought your show was great and the feedback from those who attended was great as well.”  Steve DeSalvo, GM – Mississippi Braves.

Clay advised me after the show that he plans to "retire" from assisting me. I will miss him as he is a dedicated person with a giving soul
cheerfully doing whatever it takes to make my life on the road easy. He has a single minded loyalty and integrity with an intent to make the show as professional as possible.

Clay Beatty

A souvenir from the Mississippi Braves   Photo by Deb Wong

State Capitol of Mississippi 

(a) “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...” So begins one of the most beloved hymns of all times, a staple in the hymnals of many denominations. The author of the words was John Newton, the self-proclaimed wretch who once was lost but then was found, saved by amazing grace.

Amazing Grace Sung by 4 Men - My Gospel Workers

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