Monday, May 9, 2011

Southern Style Part II--again in Georgia: Game 14 in Augusta

The shortest route from Charleston, South Carolina to Augusta, Georgia took me through Denmark—a small town where I stopped for lunch at “The Diner,” a historic eatery.  Like a blue tick hound tracking game, I was sniffing out prospects for authentic Southern vegetables, seasoned with bacon and simmered since sunrise. Regrettably, my arrival at The Diner was too early to take advantage of its “After 4 p.m. Special of the Day,” an 8-oz. rib-eye steak with baked potato and sides for only $6.99.  The “sides”—or accompanying vegetables—were my target. 

The historic Diner in Denmark, South Carolina, posts the daily special in the front window.
Although The Diner’s menu offered no collards or turnip greens, no limas or black-eyed peas, it did suggest fried chicken or a fried bologna sandwich as lunch-time features.  Once having tasted a fried bologna sandwich when I was living in Mississippi, I felt no need to return to that childhood experience.   Instead, I ordered the fried chicken; but the waitress informed me that they had “already run out ‘cause folks bought up the breasts for their Easter fixins tomorrow.” 
I settled for grilled chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans, none of which, disappointingly, were prepared Southern style.
An hour or so later as I drove into Augusta, I found the city’s information center and the Augusta Museum of History with an exhibit about a century of baseball from Cobb to Cal: Ty hailed from Augusta and Ripken now owns the Augusta GreenJackets.   The first professional baseball team in Augusta had taken the field in 1909, and through the years the Augusta teams have been known by various names.  My favorites, even surpassing the stylish GreenJackets, are the “Dollies” of 1919 and from 1922 to 1929, the “Tygers”--with the spelling variation a tribute to Ty Cobb, who starred with the Detroit Tigers for most of his career.
The GreenJackets’ ballpark also pays a simple tribute to Cobb.  Rather than posting the fence distance in the power alleys or centerfield, the ballpark displays a single distance in left field, more toward the foul line than in the power alley.  It reads: .366—Cobb’s lifetime batting average.

Before I moved to the home plate area to sing the anthem, GreenJackets’ pitching coach Steve Kline, a veteran Major League pitcher known for his affable nature, chatted with me about inconsequential matters until he learned that I was singing the anthem.  Then he said simply, “Bring it home.” 

Happy Savannah in Augusta

Apparently, I did.  He “high fived” me as I left the field.  And after I took my seat, a fan in the row in front of me turned and offered a more surprising response, saying simply, “Nice singing.”  Savannah was her name.  Four years old, she later shared with me her drawing of a happy girl like her, happy to be at the ballpark.
There’s really nothing quite like Southern graciousness and charm Georgia-style.

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