- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

So I’m reading about the European Tour’s Russian Open, which is played at the same time as the PGA Championship, and I’m thinking: About the only way I’d watch that thing is if they limited the players to two clubs — a hammer and a sickle.

• • •

Worth checking out: The piece on golf hustlers in the September issue of American Heritage. One of the most famous, it turns out, was tennis legend Bobby Riggs, who retired in 1952, moved to Florida and hit the links. By observing “people who went by names such as the Stork, Shaggy Ralph, the Dog Man, Charlie the Blade and Three-Iron Ward,” author Tom LeCompte writes, Riggs learned the tricks of the hustling trade.

“Earning what was called a ‘traveling handicap,’ Riggs legitimately acquired his handicap from the back tees at a very difficult course, but played his money matches from the middle tees, giving him the ‘fair advantage,’ he deemed necessary. … By the time he left Miami, Riggs had been banned at most private clubs and forced to ply his talents on public courses.”

• • •

The article also chronicles the adventures of Al Besselink, a touring pro who won several tournaments — the 1953 Tournament of Champions among them — but seemed to enjoy betting as much as he did golf. “If Besselink fell out of contention in [an] event,” LeCompte writes, “he might intentionally play badly on Saturday to be among the highest scorers, thus earning him an early start on Sunday. He then started placing bets with bookies” who shadowed the tour.

“There would be no wind, no pressure of trying to win and smooth greens with no spike marks,” Besselink recalls. “I’d bet my score against the 10 leaders. I’d shoot 68 and beat nine of ‘em and make more money than the winner.”

All in all, a fascinating look at a (mostly) lost world.

• • •

Besselink was quite a character. According to a story in Golf magazine several years ago, somebody at the 1965 San Diego Open gave him 10-1 odds that he couldn’t shoot 66 or lower in the first round; he shot 65 and won $10,000. (Unfortunately, the San Diego Union spilled the beans, and the PGA Tour wound up putting him on probation for a year.)

One of Al’s buddies was Carroll Rosenbloom, the original owner of the Baltimore Colts — and also a man fond of wagering. “I must have bet the Colts 25 times and won 25 times,” he told the magazine. “If we had to win by 12 points, they didn’t put the subs in.”

• • •

In a poll published in this month’s Playboy — and don’t we all look forward to Playboy’s, uh, polls — 90 percent of the 768 Native Americans surveyed said they weren’t offended by the Washington Redskins’ mascot.

To which Neal from Gaithersburg replies, “But 100 percent said they were offended by Dan Snyder.”

• • •

In other pro football news, DirecTV is offering an additional service with its NFL Sunday Ticket package that provides subscribers with 30-minute versions of games, minus commercials and other breaks in the action. The cost for Short Cuts is $99 — except, of course, for O.J. Simpson, who gets it for free.

• • •

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady came up with the perfect description of an NFL preseason game. It consists mostly, he told the Boston Globe, of “running your generic stuff against their generic stuff.”

• • •

Wonder how Terrell Owens feels about Braylon Edwards getting a five-year, $40million deal from the Browns — before he even plays a down in the league.

(T.O.’s contract with the Eagles, after all, is for seven years and $49million.)

• • •

“Must Love Dogs.” Bet there’s page after page of singles ads like that … in Athens, Ga.

• • •

Another of Donnie Warren’s boys — offensive tackle Beau — has committed to play football at Virginia Tech. Brothers Blake and Brett, both linebackers, are already in Blacksburg, as are two of Russ Grimm’s progeny, Chad and Cody, also backers. Fellow Hog Joe Jacoby, meanwhile, has a daughter, Lauren, who’s a star swimmer at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School in Alexandria. Could she eventually be headed to Tech, too?

• • •

Speaking of Tech, the results of the Under-21 World Basketball Championship have Hokies fans even more excited about incoming freshman A.D. Vassallo. The 6-6 wing, who played for his native Puerto Rico in the tournament, scored 17 against the U.S., 21 against China and shot 65.6 percent from the field in the preliminary round, including 58.3 percent from 3-point range.

• • •

Bronx police have thrown the book at that Yankees fan who jumped from the upper deck into the netting behind home plate. They’ve charged the crazy kid with trespassing on the playing area of a professional sporting event, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and impersonating Max Patkin.

• • •

You have to admire the way the situation was handled, though. Stadium security quickly apprehended the fan, and the umps were nice enough not to penalize the Yankees for having too many men on the field.

• • •

Frank Robinson won’t be doing everything he can to pull the Nationals out of their hitting slump until he bats Livan Hernandez ahead of Cristian Guzman. Going into yesterday’s game, Hernandez was hitting .237 and slugging .373 to the latter’s .189 and .269. Heck, never mind Guzman, Livan was almost outhitting and outslugging Vinny Castilla (.243, .385).

Come on, Frank, take a chance.

• • •

When White Sox manager Eddie Stanky was confronted with a similarly inoffensive team in 1968, he moved Gary Peters, a good-hitting pitcher, up to sixth in the order, ahead of (among others) future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. Peters was batting .259 at the time — the Sox hit .228 for the season — and the night before, as a pinch hitter, he’d actually been intentionally walked.

The experiment lasted only one game, though. Peters went 0-for-2 with two ground outs against the Yankees, after which he went back to the No.9 spot. (Much thanks to the folks at Retrosheet.org for making this information available.)

• • •

Peters swatted 19 home runs in his career (1959-72). Four were pinch-hit jobs, two of them coming in a 14-day span in ‘71 with the Red Sox. Seven years earlier, he had a two-run, walkoff, pinch homer in the 13th inning. He even managed to hit a dinger at RFK Stadium, a three-run shot off the Senators’ Horacio Pina on Sept.27, 1970, to cap a 10-1 Boston victory.

Who says Livan Hernandez couldn’t do stuff like that if given the opportunity?

• • •

Ed McKee at George Washington informs me that interim Orioles skipper Sam Perlozzo (GW ‘73) “is one of only two major league managers to have ‘double z’ in their last name. Yup, Sam and Lee Mazzilli.” Ed’s e-mail goes on to say that when Perlozzo played with the Padres, “he was briefly a keystone teammate of Ozzie Smith. There’s that ‘zz’ again.”

I’ve got just one thing to say to you Ed: Zzzzz.

• • •

Who’s next after Perlozzo, Tony Lazzeri? Oh, wait, he’s been dead for 59 years. (Not that that would stop Peter Angelos.)

• • •

And finally …

News item: Boxer Clifford Etienne, one-time opponent of Mike Tyson, holds up a check-cashing business, fires a shot when a clerk fails to move fast enough and pulls a gun on officers as he tries to carjack two different vehicles with children inside, according to New Orleans police.

Comment: Let me guess … Paper Mache Mike refused to give him a rematch.

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