- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

First Antonio Pierce signs with the Giants, and now another Redskins linebacker, LaVar Arrington, is heading to New York. Who’s next, Sam Huff?

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I’m a bit dubious of this wine Larry Bird has lent his name to, Larry Bird/Mitch Cosentino Legends Meritage. I mean, the only thing Larry knows about vino is that the cork makes a good bobber for fishing.

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Too bad they couldn’t have called the wine ThunderBird.

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Meritage, a Napa Valley blend, is 41 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 37 percent Merlot and 22 percent Cabernet Franc. Or is it 22 percent Lawrence Frank?

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Bird has always been a beer drinker, according to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe. And none of those fancy beers, either.

“He caught me drinking a Molson one night,” Shaughnessy writes, “and said, ‘I never drink beer that comes in a green bottle. It all goes back to a party one night in college. I picked up the wrong bottle, a green one, and started chugging and didn’t know what was happening until that third cigarette butt went down my throat. That was it for me and green bottles.’”

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If I were Larry, I’d send the first bottle of the stuff to that fan in the Oklahoma City who plea-bargained his prison sentence for attempted murder upward — from 30 years to 33 — because 33 was Bird’s number.

Not only would it be a nice gesture, but by the time the poor guy got out, the wine might actually be drinkable.

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Just wondering: Can you buy Larry Bird/Mitch Cosentino Legends Meritage by the magnum? And if so, does the bottle — in recognition of Larry’s shooting prowess — have a three-pint line?

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Larry Bird Meritage today, Byron Mouton Cadet tomorrow.

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My friend Robert, the Virginia Tech zealot, sends along this item from the Roanoke Times:

“RALEIGH, N.C. — Phil Jackson won’t be Herb Sendek’s replacement at North Carolina State, even if the current Los Angeles Lakers coach was interested.

“The list of requirements for the job includes a minimum of five years of head coaching experience at an NCAA Division I school. So Jackson, who has won nine NBA championships, isn’t eligible.

“Neither are [Portland Trail Blazers] coach Nate McMillan or Detroit Pistons assistant Sidney Lowe, two former Wolfpack players who have no college coaching experience.”

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I’m not sure which is more impressive, Julio Franco becoming the oldest player to hit a home run in the major leagues … or his being able, at 47, to circle the bases under his own power.

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The previous record — 46 years, 357 days — was held by long-ago A’s pitcher Jack Quinn, who was still toeing the rubber at that age because of his license to throw a spitball. The spitter was outlawed in 1920, but a grandfather clause enabled Quinn and 16 other practitioners to keep wetting ‘em. The effect was almost Viagra-like for some. Five of the 17 — Quinn (50), Red Faber (45), Clarence Mitchell (41), Burleigh Grimes (40) and Dick Rudolph (40) — pitched into their 40s, and another, Stan Coveleski (39), just missed.

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The legendary Westbrook Pegler on the subject in 1929: “Jack Quinn has been winning ballgames on a technicality for almost 10 years, or ever since the baseball magnates decided to forbid the use of slippery elm, licorice, tiger-marrow-fat and other foreign juices and ointments on the baseball. They made one exception to these arbitrary reforms. Those pitchers in the major leagues who were known to be spitball pitchers were allowed to register themselves as such and to continue to throw the slippery elm ball until they succumbed to old age.”

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Maybe baseball should have handled the steroids issue that way. It could have had users register — “fill out the green form for ‘the cream,’ the yellow one for ‘the clear’ and the orange one for anything else” — and granted them immunity for the rest of their careers.

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More from Pegler: “For a time this year Jack spared the elm juice in the hope that the infielders might handle the ball more certainly, because the greater the daub the greater the likelihood that it will slip out of the player’s hands when he throws to catch the runner. In such cases it has been known to fly into the grandstand. But when he spared the elm the hitters hit more solidly, so now he bathes it in the juice of the elm bark and puts the responsibility on the infield, as of old.”

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My favorite synonym for the spitball: “the salivated slant.”

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In 1930, the same year he hit a home run eight days shy of his 47th birthday, Quinn was involved in a memorable stunt pulled by Babe Ruth (the details of which can be found at BaseballLibrary.com). After hitting three straight homers against the A’s in the first game of a doubleheader, Ruth playfully switched around and batted from the right side in the ninth — against Jack. With two strikes on him, though, the Babe switched back to lefty and proceeded to whiff.

Is there any doubt what the strikeout pitch was? I can see Quinn now, bathing the ball in the juice of the elm bark and then slipping a salivated slant past the feared Bambino.

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This just in: Ted Lerner, who refuses to let anything get in the way of his buying the Nationals, has added a llama and the One-Armed Man from “The Fugitive” to his ownership group.

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It’s all part of his “No Llama Left Behind” policy.

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ESPN has a backup plan, I’m told, if Barry Bonds is indicted on perjury charges. The network will just change the name of his show to “Bonds on Bondsmen.”

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Speaking of Barry, he’s been fined $5,000 for wearing wristbands that violated baseball rules. They apparently were big enough to be headbands.

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And finally …

With 100,000 English fans expected to flock to Germany for the World Cup, the British government is distributing a traveler’s guide to facilitate the experience. Included are translations of key phrases such as:

“Can I have a beer, please?”

“Can I have another beer, please?”

And “You have beautiful eyes for a hooligan.”

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