August 08, 2011
Coin tosses are supposed to determine trivial things, like who will receive an opening football kickoff or which team wears home uniforms in the playoffs. Coin tosses are not, under any circumstances, supposed to determine which team finishes as a state champion, and which goes down as losing a game it never contends.
Amazingly, that's what happened in Nebraska on Saturday, when Elkhorn (Neb.) Mount Michael's American Legion squad won its Class B-Class C championship face off against Gretna (Neb.). There was no final score, but Mt. Michael called heads on the coin toss to decide the summer long championship; Gretna, pictured above, never got a chance to decide whether it would prefer heads or tails because it was technically hosting the game.
As laid out by both the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal-Star and BaseballNebraska.com, there were a variety of circumstances that led to the bizarre American Legion baseball summer finale. The Class B-Class C game got started as slated, and Gretna actually led the game, 5-4, in the bottom of the third inning when violent thunderstorms brought the contest to a halt.
By the time the storms stopped, Gretna's field was so saturated that umpires ruled it unsafe to re-start the game.
At that point, the championship game should have just been delayed for a day and finished on Monday (games aren't played on Sunday) … except that it couldn't. The World-Herald cited Nebraska School Activities Association regulations that state any outside competitions which take place during fall football practice leave prospective student athletes ineligible for that forthcoming football season. That meant that the game either had to be played Sunday, against usual protocol, or never.
The teams, which were already missing a handful of key players on each side, chose never, and headed to what is believed to be the first coin toss-decided Nebraska American Legion baseball title in state history.
"It's not the way we like to end the season," Nebraska Legion Activities Director Brent Hagel-Pitt told the World-Herald. "This shouldn't happen any more than once every 100 years. …
"We were kind of backed into a corner. It's exceptionally weird, but we didn't know what else to do."