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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Severe storm halts Mud Hens-Pawtucket during 9th-inning tie

BY DAN HICKLING
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

PAWTUCKET, R.I. - The signs were almost apocalyptic, a severe electical storm that barreled in on Rhode Island, just as the Mud Hens had staved off a fifth straight defeat with a rousing ninth-inning comeback.

As it was, the volatile weather front did roll over McCoy Stadium, forcing suspension of Toledo's contest with the Pawtucket Red Sox, with two out in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied at 7.

The game will resume at 6:05 tonight, with the regularly scheduled nine-inning tilt to follow.

The Hens, who are 1-4 on their post All-Star Game road trip, had just managed to erase a 7-5 deficit in the top of the ninth, in a game that featured plenty of twists and turns.

Toledo spotted the Sox an early three-run advantage, but by the fifth inning, had rebounded to take a 5-3 lead.

Back-to-back homers by rehabbing Tiger first baseman Dmitri Young (his first) and Josh Phelps (his 17th), both coming off Pawtucket rookie starter Kason Gabbard, brought the Hens to within a run in the fourth.

In the fifth, Toledo scored three more times off reliever Barry Hertzler, the first two coming via Mike Hessman's team-high 18th homer.

Young knocked in the other, singling in Mike Rabelo.

But the lead didn't last.

In the bottom of the fifth, stater Jordan Tata gave way to Brian Boehringer, who was signed on Monday. Boehringer was less than stellar in his Hens debut, giving up three runs on four hits, including a solo homer to catcher Corky Miller, which put the Sox back up 6-5.

Pawtucket added what appeared to be an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth.

But the Hens weren't quite finished.

As a large electrical storm was rolling toward Pawtucket, Toledo fashioned a two-run rally in the top of the ninth off Pawtucket's All-Star reliever Craig Breslow. It was capped by Ryan Raburn's clutch two-out single that allowed Tike Redman, who was pinch running for Young, to motor home from second with the tying run.

Then, with the skies full of lightning and the rains already beating heavily, Toledo reliever Lee Gardner retired the first two PawSox before play was halted.

Toledo's roster underwent some reworking.

Catcher Brian Peterson (.263,) was released, while reliever Mark Woodyard (1-4, 7.93) was sent down to Erie (Double-A). Catcher Max St. Pierre returned from the disabled list, where he was placed on July 7 with a chest contusion. The other move was the signing of Boehringer, the well traveled former big leaguer (Yankees, Padres, Pirates, Giants), who was with Omaha (PCL) until July 14, when he was granted his release. Boehringer was 2-4, 2.75 with the O-Royals.

Following the completion of the suspended game, Humberto Sanchez (5-2, 3.19) will draw the start for Toledo against Charlie Zink (3-1, 4.38), Pawtucket's right-handed knuckleballer.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil never got a free pass in life.

The grandson of a man brought to this continent a slave, O'Neil moved to Kansas City to avoid racial persecution in the Deep South.

He played baseball during an era of segregation, and earlier this year was denied entry into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by a special 12-member panel.

It figures that last night, when the 94-year-old O'Neil stepped into the batter's box during a minor league All-Star game, nobody could quibble over an intentional walk.

Leading off for the West in the top of the first inning, O'Neil walked, as planned, and then was pulled for a pinch runner.

After the top of the inning, Kansas City T-Bones owner John Ehlert announced that a trade had been brokered to bring O'Neil to the T-Bones, allowing him to also lead off the bottom of the inning for the East.

In his second at-bat, O'Neil walked again.

He surpassed 83-year-old Jim Eriotes, who struck out in a minor league game in South Dakota earlier this month.

In May, 17 people from the Negro Leagues and pre-Negro Leagues eras were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame but O'Neil was not one of them.

Since the ballot was cast, the T-Bones have collected more than 10,000 signatures in support of O'Neil.

A lifetime .288 hitter and two-time Negro League batting champion, O'Neil became Major League Baseball's first black coach with the Chicago Cubs. He discovered Lou Brock, and countless others, as a scout.



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