- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

You read about Ray Lewis and Fred Lane, and you wonder: Has the sports world gone mad? And the answer, of course, is no. The sports world is pretty much as it has always been. The madness just moves around, that's all. Madness is a free agent.

What Lewis got caught up in during Super Bowl week in Atlanta isn't all that different from what the Redskins' Roy Barni got caught up in during the 1957 offseason except that Barni wound up with three bullet holes in him. And what happened to Lane last week is similar to what happened to ex-Redskins player and assistant coach Wilbur Moore in 1965, right here in Hyattsville (Md.). The more things change …

Only longtime Redskins rooters are likely to remember the names of Barni and Moore. Wilbur actually played for the team first, in the '40s, and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the '42 championship game against the Bears. A wingback and defensive back, he was renowned for his ruggedness. His entry in the Redskins' 1947 media guide says he "played so vigorously he suffered more broken bones than any other player in the league's history: arm (twice), shoulder (twice), collarbone, ribs (four times), leg, hand (twice) and nose (three times)."

A picture that used to hang in the Touchdown Club in D.C. captures the essence of the man (known to his adoring fans as the "Little Indian"). Perhaps you've seen it in one of those coffee-table books the NFL cranks out every now and then. In it, the Packers are running a sweep to the left in their pre-Lombardi days and here comes Wilbur, leaping over three blockers to make the tackle. How could you not love a guy like that?

"He was sort of a player's player," Redskins coach Dutch Bergman said, "… the type you'd like to have at bat with the bases loaded, so to speak. He was one of the finest all-around backs I've ever coached."

None of that did Moore any good, though, when his wife asked him to come home Aug. 9, 1965, to fix their 4-year-old son's bicycle. The Moores had been living apart for several months and were in the midst of a divorce. (Wilbur, 49, had left coaching and gone into the insurance business.) As he was stooping over the bike, trying to solve the mechanical mystery, his wife shot him in the chest with a .22-caliber pistol. The first police officer on the scene testified that Clara Moore said, "That is my husband [lying mortally wounded in the street]. I shot him, and I'm not sorry."

Only eight years earlier, just a few days before training camp opened, the Redskins were rocked by the death of Barni, one of their starting defensive backs. Two fatal shootings in less than a decade. (And this was supposedly the "Leave It To Beaver" era.) Roy had played on the great University of San Francisco team in '51 that featured future Pro Football Hall of Famers Ollie Matson, Gino Marchetti and Bob St. Clair. He was a tough Bay Area kid who, along with his brother Arthur, owned a tavern appropriately named "The Huddle" in the Fillmore section of San Francisco.

It was there that Barni met his demise. He apparently stopped by the tavern on the way home from a movie in July 1957 and found two customers arguing loudly. When he asked one of them to leave and tried to escort him to the door, the man opened fire with a .32. Roy was pronounced dead at the hospital five hours later.

The shooter, a truck driver named James Invernizzi, claimed, "It was all a mistake. I just lost my brains." Barni's 3-year-old daughter Pamela, meanwhile, lost her daddy. (Even sadder, wife Gloria was expecting their second child in November.)

"This is just impossible," Redskins coach Joe Kuharich said when he heard the news. "He gave you 1,000 percent. He really loved the game. He didn't have to play. The money he made out of football was nothing compared to what he made in his business. He played because he loved the game… . What in the world can happen to us next?"

Postscript: Two days after Barni died, the Redskins received his signed 1957 contract in the mail. The envelope was postmarked 8 p.m., just a few hours before he was shot.

It can happen anytime, anywhere to anybody. It can happen in the '50s or the '00s. It can happen in Miami or San Francisco. It can happen to Wilbur Moore or Fred Lane. All you need is a gun and at least one person who has lost his brains.

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