Gulf rescue, Willie Mays, weekly quiz: Down in Alabama


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A long day on the water

Sylacauga High School head football coach Chris Smelley shared some famous last words last week.

“It was really calm on the shore when I went out,” he told’s Ben Thomas in a follow-up to the story about his day on the Gulf of Mexico in a kayak.

Smelley — who’s also a former South Carolina quarterback — was vacationing in Grayton Beach. That’s South Walton County in the Florida Panhandle.

He said he didn’t have a life jacket or a cell phone when he launched a kayak Thursday morning to try to hook up with a Spanish mackerel. But he said he found himself a half-mile out pretty quickly and realized he was being blown out faster than he was able to paddle toward the beach.

He had launched around 7:30 a.m. By midday, friends, the Walton County Sheriff’s Department and the Coast Guard were on the lookout.

When he was spotted by a helicopter and picked up by a boat a few miles out and a few miles east of where he started, it was around 7:15 p.m.

Nearly 12 hours is a long time on a kayak.

The rescue timing was clutch — and not just because it was getting dark.

Smelley said he’d used up his energy and had caught a remora and was about to clean it and eat it raw.

More hoops

Alabama fans get another weekend of basketball, thanks to the Tide’s 89-82 win over Clemson in the NCAA Tournament’s round of eight on Saturday.

This is the first time Alabama has ever advanced in the Final Four. The Tide will play top-seeded, top-ranked and defending champ UConn in a semifinal game at 7:49 p.m. Alabama time on Saturday.

Purdue and North Carolina State will play in the other semifinal, scheduled for 5:09 p.m.

The championship game will be next Monday. All Final Four games are at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Say hey

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said baseball officials are planning to have Willie Mays attend the June 20 Rickwood Field game between the Giants and Cardinals, reports’s Howard Koplowitz.

The game is being marketed as “MLB at Rickwood Field: A Tribute to the Negro Leagues.”

Manfred said he hopes Mays is healthy enough to make the trip. Mays is 92. He’s from the Birmingham area and roamed the outfield for the Birmingham Black Barons during Negro Leagues games at Rickwood.

Of course, he went on to a lengthy MLB career and is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the game.

In other words, of all the big names that might be at the ballgame, Mays would likely be the man of the hour.


“If urging adults to keep their own children safe is ‘berating parents,’ well, I’m going to keep berating parents.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, in the wake of his pleading with parents following distribution of a flyer that he says promotes illegal activity.

By the Numbers

That’s the ranking of the Central-Phenix City baseball team on Baseball America’s national poll that came out last week. The Red Devils are 21-1 and are also atop the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 7A poll.

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