- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2008

Billy Crystal, the most famous Yankees fan this side of Rudy Giuliani, got to bat for his favorite team the other day in an exhibition game against the Pirates. Unfortunately, he was robbed of a hit on an incredible diving catch by Jack Palance.

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The Yanks signed Billy, I’m guessing, because Bruno Kirby wasn’t available.

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Do you realize there’s only one degree of separation between Crystal and American University’s NCAA tournament-bound basketball team? Billy was in the cult classic “This Is Spinal Tap” (as Morty the Mime) and so was Tony Hendra, father of AU freshman Nick Hendra. (Tony played Ian Faith, the band’s manager, in the 1984 movie.)

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And of course, if there’s only one degree of separation between the AU basketball team and Crystal, then there’s only two degrees of separation between the AU basketball team and Bob, the ventriloquist’s dummy on “Soap.”

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I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

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This Hendra kid can play, by the way. A 6-3 freshman guard out of Xavier High School in New York City, there’s no fear in him — or at least, there was none evident during the Patriot League tournament, when he stepped into the breach after Bryce Simon got hurt.

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Returning to the baseball, I’m reading about the home plate collision that injured a Yankees catcher in a Grapefruit League game, and I’m thinking: You can take the Devil out of the D-Rays, but you can’t take … Wait, that didn’t come out right.

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Some lucky fan of the Macon (Ga.) Music, an independent baseball team in the South Coast League, will win a free one-night’s stay at D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel at a promotion in June. Seems the Music are holding an “Eliot Spitzer Night” when — who else? — the Aiken Foxhounds are in town.

In addition:

• The 871st fan to enter the ballpark (871 being the Mayflower room number where the former New York governor had his infamous tryst with a call girl) will receive a gift certificate for the team store.

• Any fan named Eliot, Spitzer or “Kristen” will have $1 knocked off the price of their ticket — as will any fan from New York or any fan who has quit his job.

In other words, if Isiah Thomas hurries up and resigns from the Knicks, he can get a $2 discount.

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Hey, why not go all out? Besides selling beer at the concessions stands that night, why not serve Eliot Spritzers?

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The Connecticut women’s basketball program might be in trouble with the NCAA because it arranged for a private tour of ESPN in ‘05 for one of its recruits, Maya Moore. Possible penalties, I’m told, include: (1) probation; (2) loss of scholarships, and (3) Moore serving, for a period of no less than a year, as Dana Jacobson’s designated driver.

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As justice goes, how poetic is it that Bruce Bowen, the Oakland Raider in San Antonio Spurs clothing, had his consecutive-games streak snapped at 500 Friday night because of a suspension for dirty play?

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Everybody turn to page 24 in the March 17 issue of Sports Illustrated. OK, now scan down to the fourth face in the middle of the page, the one just below De Matha football/basketball star Kenny Tate.

I dare you not to say, “Holy Toledo, Chelsea Clinton made Faces in the Crowd!”

(The photo is of Jillian Drouin, a track athlete at Syracuse and a dead ringer for the former First Daughter.)

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Crazy story in the paper the other day. Were you aware of this? American professors teaching in Germany aren’t allowed to use the honorarium “Dr.” if their degree was earned in the United States. But they are, apparently, allowed to identify themselves as “[Your Name Here], PhD.”

Just wondering: Does this apply to Dr. J, too?

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Because let’s face it, Julius Erving, PhD, doesn’t have nearly the same ring to it.

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Good thing Germany didn’t host the Winter Olympics when Mary and Sarah Docter were on our speedskating team. There might have been an international incident.

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Does anybody else have a problem with the way the NHL standings are listed? Games in hand, overtime losses — it makes my head spin. Why not list the teams according to Percentage of Points Earned? If you did that, it wouldn’t matter if one club had played two or three more games than another. You’d still know right away which was playing at a higher level.

Here, for instance, is how the Southeast Division standings would have looked yesterday if you’d used the POPE method (PE = Points Earned, AP = Available Points):

W-L-OLPEAPPCT.

Carolina38-30-581146.555

Washington34-30-876144.528

Florida34-31-876146.521

Atlanta31-34-870146.479

Tampa Bay28-35-864142.451

Come on, tell me that doesn’t simplify matters.

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Turning to football, Giants receiver David Tyree is coming out with a book in September. It’s tentatively titled “You, Too, Can Write A Book If You Catch A Pass Late In The Super Bowl By Improbably Pinning The Ball Against Your Helmet.”

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Memo to librarians: Be sure to put Tyree’s tome right next to “Simms to McConkey: Blood, Sweat and Gatorade,” which chronicles the 16 passes Phil McConkey caught for the Giants during their Super Bowl season in ‘86.

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According to a recent study, the average American golfer walks about 900 miles a year.

Yeah, and if he hits the ball the way I used to, he walks 225 miles north, 225 miles south, 225 miles east and 225 miles west.

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Another study found our golfers drink an average of 22 gallons of alcohol a year.

But that includes John Daly, which kind of skews the results. Take him away, and the average drops to 17.5 gallons.

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And finally …

Chilling news from the New York Times: “According to national averages, a 40-year-old woman should be able to do 16 push-ups and a man the same age should be able to do 27. By the age of 60, those numbers drop to 17 for men and 6 for women.”

By the age of 60, I’m hoping I still have the energy to count to 17.

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Or for that matter, the memory to remember what comes after 16.

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