- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2001

Trashmeister Downey tried to form a league of his own

Washington lawyer (and longtime Redskins PA announcer) Phil Hochberg passes along a note about TV trashmeister Morton Downey Jr., who died last week. In the early '70s, Downey then a lobbyist living in Alexandria held a news conference to announce the formation of something called the World Baseball Association, with a team in Washington, of course.
One of Downey's promotional gimmicks, Hochberg recalls, was the use of orange baseballs an idea also ventured at one point by Charlie Finley, the Oakland Athletics' brash owner. Downey went so far as to sign a contract with manager Dick Williams, who was at liberty after winning pennants in Boston and Oakland.
For better or worse, nothing further happened with Downey's scheme, so he went on to other things, and our baseball-less drought kept on going all the way to 30 years this spring. Would Downey's WBA have been better than nothing? It's a tough call.

Shula the restaurateur

Once upon a time, back in the NFL's dark ages of 1957, Don Shula was a defensive back for the Washington Redskins. Then came fame in Baltimore and Miami, but Ol' Jutjaw won't be a total stranger to D.C. when he visits us Thursday for the grand opening of Don Shula's Steak House in Northwest.
The eatery, one of 23 bearing Shula's name across the United States, actually has been dispensing fillet mignons and other cholesterol boosters since January. But the presence of the NFL's all-time winningest coach, and some other pretty notable football folk, makes this sort of an A1 (ouch!) occasion.
Guests will include Marty Schottenheimer, former Redskins Gary Clark, Charlie Brown, Earnest Byner and Sam Huff, plus Baltimore Ravens player personnel boss Ozzie Newsome and former Shula players Jim Mandich and Tom Matte. Florida's two senators, Bob Graham and Bob Nelson, also are advertised but not the most famous Floridian since Shula retired as Dolphins coach in 1996, Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
Proceeds from the evening will go to Parkinson's Action Network, a local charity. But the best reason to rejoice is simply to have Don Shula in our midst for a day. And if you're still bitter about the 14-7 loss his unbeaten Dolphins pinned on the Redskins in Super Bowl VII, just go hang your head in a closet.

Tiger and the General

For about 60 years, Wheaties has advertised itself as the Breakfast of Champions. Never has that seemed more appropriate than when Tiger Woods' face has adorned its boxes, and now General Mills is taking the connection a step further.
Starting in April, 1 million boxes of Wheaties will be accompanied by a 22-page booklet written by Woods called "The Making of a Champion." Produced by Golf Digest, it includes Woodsian photos and a candid discussion of topics ranging from friends and family to commitment and hard work.
Woods, who writes instructional articles and tips for the magazine, again will appear on the Wheaties boxes. Who were you expecting, Jesper Parnevik?

Sex gets a caution flag

How far will guys go to win an auto race? We may find out soon because Formula One team chief Peter Sauber is ordering drivers Nick Heidfeld and Kimi Raikkonen to abstain from sex before Grand Prix events.
"In my experience, it helps when you are concentrating on the car not to have any distractions," Sauber said. "When you have problems on the car that need working on and take up time, it is difficult to have girlfriends waiting for you."
In the recent Australian Grand Prix, neophyte abstainers Heidfeld and Raikkonen finished fourth and sixth, respectively. If this continues, somebody after a race may repeat the famous Indy 500 cry, "Gentlemen, start your engines."

All wet in the 'burgh

Nobody has taken a dive in baseball since the Black Sox handed the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, and now Pittsburgh officials are asking fans not to do so this season when the Pirates play in new PNC Park, hard by the Allegheny River, starting with an exhibition game Saturday.
"We're going to discourage, as we do anytime, folks getting into the river," said Cmdr. Steve Hudson of the city's Coast Guard. "It's a dangerous environment. There are currents. There are large vessels in this area."
A ball would have to be slugged 443 feet from home plate to reach the river along the right field line, something Mark McGwire might be able to do on a checked swing. That distance is shorter, though, than balls hit to some parts of the upper deck at old Three Rivers Stadium.
And here's another thought: When Pirates pitchers give up home runs, will manager Lloyd McLendon make them walk the plank instead of sending them to the showers? In sports, as in life, ya just never know.

Eminently quotable

Alex Rodriguez, on his (in)famous 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers: "I'm almost embarrassed and ashamed of this contract," he said. "I don't know if Michael Jordan or Bill Gates or Alexander the Great or anyone is worth this type of money." …
Uninhibited Montreal Expos slugger Vladimir Guerrero, on baseball's new strike zone this season: "They can put it wherever on third base, in left field, it doesn't matter to me." …
Baseball players union chief Don Fehr, on the possibility of another labor stoppage after this season: "Yeah, there are some rumblings and people talking the way they always do. But in 1994 by this time, there was overt hostility, overt threats. But the rhetoric is not as loud, not as insistent and not as confrontational as it was then. There is no open hostility between the parties. Nobody is making any threats."


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