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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
By SCOTT PURKS, THOMAS SIMONETTI
Published March 25, 2005
On Tuesday, Robinson advanced to the quarterfinals thanks to a lucky guess on a coin toss, which broke a tie between the Knights and Chamberlain.
Tony Saladino presented the gold coin to Knights coach Sal Urso, and being the superstitious coach that he is, Urso gave the coin to the pitcher who started Robinson's quarterfinal game against Armwood on Thursday.
Junior Stephen Adkins put the coin in his pocket before he stepped on the mound, but it didn't work.
Down 1-0, Adkins was pulled after he began the second inning with a walk. It appeared the coin's luck had run out.
In the third inning, Armwood's Joey Gildea scored on a wild pitch to put the Hawks up 4-1.
Urso got desperate.
"Believe it or not," Urso said, "we pulled the coin out."
After all, it could have been that the coin didn't work the first time because the wrong player held it.
Or maybe the coin couldn't work at all buried in someone's pocket.
Urso wasn't taking any chances.
"He took it out and put it in one of the cubbyholes in the dugout," said pitcher Greg Koons, who pitched the final six innings.
Robinson scored three runs to tie the score in the fourth inning and eventually broke the tie in the seventh to win.
"It was hidden," Urso said. "We were hiding our faith and we can't hide our faith. We ended up having to pull it out where everyone can see it."
TINY TUNES: Madison Urso walked to home plate and was handed a microphone that was, in truth, 25 percent as tall as she was.
Her mother and father, Trina and Robinson coach Sal Urso, stood beside her as hundreds stood in the stands, music began playing over the loudspeakers and their 4-year-old daughter began singing the Star-Spangled Banner.
She didn't mess up any words or melody, unlike some other famous folks (anyone ever see Carl Lewis try to sing it?).
Afterward, she not only received one of the biggest Saladino ovations ever, but she became the youngest ever to sing it in 25 years of the tournament.
"She started singing it because she heard it so many times at Daddy's games," Trina said. "Then we got a tape for her a few weeks ago and she's sung it every day as we drive around in the car.
"Today she didn't seem too nervous about it. She did get a little quiet before she sang, but that was about it."
And what did Madison have to say about her performance?
"I like to sing the "Oh-Say,' " she said.
MOST FAMOUS SALADINO SINGER: The most famous national anthem singer in tournament history would have to be Jessica Sierra, though she wasn't too famous at the time.
Now, however, she's a survivor in the current American Idol series.
Sierra, a Tampa native, said on the American Idol Web site she started singing at church at a mere 3 years old.
FLIRTING WITH NO-HITTERS: Gaither's Ryan Plate had a no-hitter through four innings in a 5-0 victory over King on Thursday, but a single in the fifth ended his bid for his first "no-no."
If Plate, who gave up just four hits, had pulled off the no-hitter, he would have been the 11th player in tournament history to do so. Former Gaither pitcher and major-leaguer Chad Zerbe had one of those tournament no-hitters, which he threw in 1990.