- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2005

Pacers incorrigible Ron Artest is slated to appear on the cover of a “men’s magazine” next month. You have to marvel at the guy’s resilience. In less than a year, he’s gone from the outhouse to Penthouse.

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Bad news for Major League Baseball. The White Sox’s sweep of the Astros was the lowest-rated World Series ever. It even attracted fewer viewers than the 1917 Series, the last one the Sox won, though television wasn’t invented until a decade later.

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According to the final Nielsen figures, the Series averaged a national rating of 11.1. Of course, that doesn’t include the ghosts in Kevin Costner’s cornfield.

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Maybe somebody got the numbers mixed up. I mean, 11.1 — wasn’t that Brad Lidge’s postseason ERA?

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News item: An estimated 71,000 Americans are 100 years old or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and by 2010 the total will rise to 114,000.

Comment: How much longer are the Cubs are going to string these poor people along?

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Wow, 114,000 centenarians by 2010. Imagine how competitive the Champions Tour will be then.

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One minor league baseball team, I hear, plans to cater to the triple-digit crowd by holding a Rudy Vallee 78s Demolition Night.

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A USA Today/ABC News poll shows that, on average, Americans would like to live to be 87. Any older, they say, and they might be mistaken for San Francisco Giants.

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Whenever a celebrity claims to have been a Pretty Fair Athlete, the Sunday Column feels obliged to find out whether he’s blowing smoke. So it was last week with Kurt Russell. In a Q & A in Sports Illustrated, Russell said he was headed “probably to the Angels” when a shoulder injury ended his career in 1973.

Much as I like Russell as an actor, I wondered whether he wasn’t trying to pull a George O’Leary. So I whipped out my Sporting News Baseball Guides from the early 1970s and tracked his minor league career. It wasn’t half bad. In two seasons of A-ball, he hit .297 in 256 at bats (albeit with 23 errors at second base in 63 games). That earned him a promotion to Double-A El Paso, where he went 9-for-16 (.563) in six games — with three doubles and a homer — before getting hurt.

No wonder director Ron Shelton wanted Russell for the Crash Davis part in “Bull Durham.” (The studio insisted on Costner.) And no wonder Kurt told SI, “Costner is not in my league physically as an actor, or as a player.”

• • •

Russell’s name doesn’t turn up on the Angels’ draft list in 1971 (or earlier), so he must have been signed as a free agent. But guess who was drafted that year — not by the Halos, but by the Twins? A shortstop from Notre Dame named … Joe Theismann.

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Trivia question: While Theismann was drafted near the end of the June ‘71 draft — 39th round, 764th overall — he was taken 12 picks before a player who went on to win an MVP award and a batting title. Who was it? (Answer below)

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Something else I didn’t know about Russell: He’s the uncle of former Cubs/Mets/Braves first baseman Matt Franco.

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A judge in Tampa, Fla., has issued a temporary injunction that prevents Bucs security personnel from subjecting fans to “pat downs.” Fortunately, the ruling doesn’t extend to the Bucs defense, which can continue to “pat down” opposing ball carriers.

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Not that this means anything, but: There was a football player at Dennison University a couple of years ago named Pat Downs. (Ah, the joys of Googling.) I’m surprised an NFL team didn’t sign him.

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Department of Corrections: Sports Illustrated reported last week that Todd Sauerbrun’s 45.9-yard punting average with Carolina from 2001 through ‘03 is “the highest over any three-year period in NFL history.”

Not so. Lions Hall of Famer Yale Lary had three three-year stretches in which he had a higher average — from ‘59 to ‘61 (46.2), from ‘61 to ‘63 (47.4) and from ‘62 to ‘64 (46.5). His average during that six-year period was an amazing 46.4, better than Sauerbrun’s three-year average of 45.9. And he did it kicking — every season — in Green Bay, Chicago and, later on, Minnesota (pre-dome), not exactly punter-friendly places. (Detroit’s stadium was open-air in those days, too.)

Lary was an incredible punter the last half-dozen seasons of his career — arguably the best ever. For some reason, though, his name doesn’t come up much in the best-ever discussions. Maybe his hang time left something to be desired. But when you consider he was also a Pro Bowl safety five of those six years, it makes you wonder what his average might have been if he had just concentrated on punting.

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Speaking of kickers, did you read about the fan who won $1million for booting a 50-yard field goal at halftime of a CFL game? That’s more money than half the kickers in the NFL will make this season. (According to NFLPA figures, the median salary for a starting kicker is $917,285.)

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It’s also more money than Freddy Adu makes for kicking a soccer ball. But don’t mention that to Freddy. He’s already riled up about playing time.

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Notre Dame has given football coach Charlie Weis a new 10-year deal that runs through 2015. The Vegas odds are currently 3-1 that Weis will complete the contract and 9-2 that one of his coaching opponents in 2015 will be Joe Paterno.

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Elsewhere in college football, the ACLU of New Mexico has filed a grievance against New Mexico coach Hal Mumme, charging he discriminated against recently released running back Muammar Ali by repeatedly questioning him about al-Qaeda.

The coach’s supporters claim he’s not the least bit biased against Muslims. Mumme, they say, was just tired of receiving Muammar’s mail.

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Answer to trivia question: Keith Hernandez was the future star who was taken 12 picks after Joe Theismann in baseball’s June ‘71 draft.

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And finally …

I’ve got no problem with Jean Van de Velde trying to qualify for next year’s Women’s British Open. I’m just a little disturbed by his offer to “wear a kilt and shave my legs.” This is, after all, a major championship, Monsieur Van de Velde. Let’s not turn it into “Some Like It Hot.”

• • •

If you do that, I might have to start calling you Josephine (Tony Curtis’ character in the movie) instead of Jean.

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