Braves snubbed in voting

Circling the bases, with a few stops along the way:

At first blush, something seems amiss with no Atlanta Braves, except for a couple of pitchers, named to the National League All-Star team for next Tuesday’s game.

Atlanta has the largest lead among any of the six divisions in the National and American leagues and yet, except for starter Tom Glavine and reliever John Smoltz, none of the Braves will be in Milwaukee for the annual mid-season classic.

From a different perspective, however, the All-Star voting speaks well of the Braves.

That’s because, without any hitters sporting an excellent batting average, Atlanta has been able to continue its fine season, especially in inter-league play. What that means, obviously, is that despite mediocre averages, virtually every starter, in one game or another, manages to come through with decisive hits.

Sunday’s wind-up game against Boston, which gave the Braves a sweep of the Red Sox, was a classic example. Keith Lockhart, a journeyman player hitting below .150, drove in the winning run in the 10th inning.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt when Gary Sheffield pops a home run occasionally.

While the players might feel slighted in the All-Star voting, manager Bobby Cox probably is pleased. That’s because while stars from other teams are playing in Milwaukee, all of his regulars will be able to rest for a while prior to the stretch run.

Switching to golf, seldom has there been a more gripping end to the U.S. Senior Open than occurred Sunday in Maryland.

Don Pooley and Tom Watson, in tying each other at the end of 72 holes, went five more holes before Pooley took his first senior title with a birdie putt. Prior to that finish, each had sunk pressure putts to keep the, in-effect, match play going.

An admirable trait of golf is that it has remained a game for ladies and gentlemen, as opposed to so many other sports in which the participants too often act below genteel standards.

Closer to home, it is encouraging that Alabama-Birmingham named football coach Watson Brown as the interim athletic director to try to lead the Blazers’ sports programs out of trying times.

Brown is articulate, perhaps because he is a Vanderbilt product, is well-liked and has proven himself as a coach. He seems to be the logical choice to steer the Blazers toward better days financially.

Of course, Brown hasn’t been held in high regard by UAB’s sister school in Tuscaloosa since he quarterbacked the Commodores to a 14-10 victory over Bear Bryant’s 1969 Alabama team.

That could help him, especially with those UAB backers and others who believe that the Blazer program has been short-changed over the years by Alabama and the university system’s trustees.

Speaking of Alabama: the Crimson Tide must be blessed with good-luck horse shoes.

Unless the NCAA relents in its anti-bowl punishment, which is doubtful, the Tide this coming season will have a trip much more exotic than excursions to Shreveport or Nashville.

Under an NCAA ruling allowing an unusual 13th game, Alabama will be traveling to Honolulu this fall to play Hawaii, a real bonus for Tide fans with the resources to go to the game.

(Hoyt Harwell is a retired Associated Press Correspondent who covered major sports in Alabama for 26 years. Harwell lives in Hoover. (e-mail: hharwell@bellsouth.net