- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 20, 2004

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.

I love Shinnecock Hills. Especially the Automatic Ball Return on the seventh green.

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Before now, I always associated the word “rollback” with Wal-Mart. But no longer.

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Just remember: If the U.S. Open runs past 7 o’clock tonight, it’ll be going head to head with “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

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Can you believe NBC cut away from the Buick Open last Sunday to show a program featuring “a dog taking a bathroom break on the field in the middle of [a football] game” (according to TV Guide)? I never realized the PGA Tour’s TV ratings were so — how shall I put this? — piddling.

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The first group tees off at 9:40 this morning — that is, unless David Duval is still on the course completing his second round.

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Come to think of it, we might see Duval’s performance here (83-82) on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

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I’m not trying to be mean to the guy, I’m really not. It’s just that, considering how he played, he probably shouldn’t have been tackling any course that didn’t have a clown’s mouth.

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Mickelson, Maruyama, Maggert — dial M for murder.

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A Slam Dunk for Funk

Funk Railroads Open Field

Meet the New Freddy

Just foolin’ around with a few headlines. You never know when you might need ‘em.

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One thing has bothered me all week: the spelling of Southampton. Why does it have one “h” instead of two? These are the Hamptons, aren’t they? Or are they the Amptons?

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This being Jay Gatsby country, a suitable trivia question is required. So … which character in “The Great Gatsby” is described as “the man who fixed the World Series”?

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In Tuesday’s The Washington Times, colleague Barker Davis touched on the story of John Shippen, the 16-year-old black caddie who finished fifth in the 1896 Open at Shinnecock. Shippen’s family, it turns out, had moved to Long Island from D.C. a number of years earlier. His father was a Presbyterian minister and preached at the Shinnecock Indian reservation.

Shippen, the first black to compete in the Open, played in the tournament four more times — in 1899 (T25), 1900 (T27), 1902 (T5) and 1913 (T41). He held various club pro jobs the rest of his life and died in 1968 at 88.

“I wonder if I did the right thing when I quit school and went into golf,” he once told Tuesday Magazine. “Maybe I should have kept going and gone to Yale like my brother, who’s a teacher. I wonder until I look out the window and see that golf course. Then I realize how much enjoyment I’ve gotten out of the game, and I don’t wonder any more.”

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The U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open were held at Shinnecock on consecutive days in 1896. A Scot named H.J. Whigham won the Amateur (and successfully defended his title the next year). He later wrote some golf books, including “Common Sense Golf,” in which he opined: “Because Walter Travis takes a practice swing before most of his shots, the beginner appears to think that he cannot become a good golfer unless he does the same thing. … The result is that it is almost impossible to get around any crowded links in less than two hours and a half.”

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Of course, Shinnecock only measured 4,400 yards then.

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One more Whigham gem: “The most important thing for golfers of all ages and handicaps is not that they should play golf well, but that they should play it cheerfully.”

Words to live by, to be sure.

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In a tribute in Sports Illustrated to the late Rosey Brown, the New York Giants’ Hall of Fame tackle, Paul Zimmerman noted Rosey’s unusual ability to pull on running plays. “Pro football didn’t see another pulling tackle until Ron Mix of the Chargers in 1960,” he said, “and it hasn’t seen one since.”

Dr. Z must not have noticed Joe Jacoby pulling out with Russ Grimm when the Redskins ran the counter trey, their signature play, in the 1980s. (Mark May, the other tackle, used to pull, too, if I’m not mistaken.)

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What do the Los Angeles Lakers and Cincinnati Bearcats basketball coach Bob Huggins have in common?

Answer: They both pleaded no contest last week.

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Try as he might the other night, Expos manager Frank Robinson couldn’t get the umpires to change their minds about a disputed game-winning homer by the Twins’ Luis Rivas. (Television replays clearly showed it was foul.) That doesn’t mean, however, that umps never reverse such calls. Six instances in which they did:

June 9, 2004 — Seattle’s Rich Aurelia had a two-run shot in the seventh taken away. The result: Mariners manager Bob Melvin was ejected for arguing, and Aurilia wound up grounding into a double play.

April 28, 2004 — Kansas City’s Ken Harvey had a three-run job in the fifth erased. The result: He hit the next pitch over the fence to break a 1-1 tie.

August 15, 2003 — The Yankees’ Aaron Boone belted one into Camden Yards’ left field stands in the ninth inning that was originally called foul. When the Yanks protested, however, the umpires reversed themselves. The result: Boone’s three-run blast won the game. Orioles manager Mike Hargrove got tossed.

June 12, 2002 — St. Louis’s Eli Marrero appeared to break up a shutout bid by Seattle’s Joel Piniero with a sixth-inning home run, but plate ump Larry Vanover overturned his call after conferring with his crew. The result: Piniero got his shutout, a five-hitter, in a 5-0 Mariners win.

April 8, 2002 — Florida’s Mike Lowell had a game-tying dinger in the fourth wiped off the books. The result: Marlins manager Jeff Torborg got the boot, and Lowell bounced into a DP. (Sound familiar?)

August 15, 1998 — Minnesota’s David Ortiz had a first-inning homer ruled foul well after he’d circled the bases. The result: Twins first base coach Ron Gardenhire got the heave-ho. Then Ortiz struck out, jawed to the plate umpire, and he got the heave-ho.

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Something I didn’t know until I researched the previous item: “Changes in the Fair-Foul rule may have cost Babe Ruth the career home run [record],” Baseball Digest says. “With the exception of a couple of months at the start of the 1930 season, umpires ruled fair or foul according to where the ball was last seen by umpires. Batted balls that left the field on the fair side of the foul pole and hooked foul were ruled ‘foul’ from 1906 to 1930.

“Baseball historian Bill Jenkinson attempted to document many long drives by Ruth that would be considered ‘fair’ by today’s rules, which judge batted balls fair or foul according to where they leave the playing field. As of several years ago, Jenkinson estimated that Ruth probably lost about 75 home runs because of the pre-1931 rule.”

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Interesting column in the Kansas City Star last week by Joe Posnanski, wondering why Luis Tiant isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In my opinion, though, an even bigger oversight is Tony Oliva. Why the heck isn’t he in the Hall?

Most folks will tell you that the hardest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. Well, in his first eight years with the Minnesota Twins — before his knees gave out — here’s where Oliva finished in the American League batting race:

1964 — First.

1965 — First.

1966 — Second.

1967 — Eighth.

1968 — Third.

1969 — Third.

1970 — Third.

1971 — First.

It’s a crime, an absolute crime, that Tony O. isn’t in Cooperstown.

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Bill James’ opinion on the subject in his book, “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?”: Oliva had two Hall of Fame teammates for a period of years, [Harmon] Killebrew and [Rod] Carew. Despite that, Oliva was probably the best all-around player on the Twins from 1964 through 1971. Killebrew and Carew are legitimate Hall of Famers, but they were specialists — Carew a singles hitter, Killebrew a home run hitter. Neither one was much of a defensive player. Oliva hit for average and power and could play the field.”

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Answer to trivia question: Meyer Wolfsheim is the character in “The Great Gatsby” who “fixed the World Series.” (He’s patterned after gangster Arnold Rothstein, who is said to have bankrolled the Black Sox scandal in 1919.)

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And finally, what difference does it make whether the World Boxing Council files for Chapter 11 or Chapter 7? Most boxers don’t get past the table of contents, anyway.

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