Monday, December 2, 2002

A belated look at the Redskins’ list of their 70 greatest players reminds us of a particular omission. Where was Roy Jefferson, the talented wide receiver who played in Washington from 1971 to 1976 after starring earlier for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Colts?
There is no doubt that Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor, Art Monk, Ricky Sanders and Hugh “Bones” Taylor deserved to be among the elite. But shouldn’t there have been room for Jefferson, too?
True, Roy wasn’t a career burgundy and gold man, if that matters. But in his six seasons here, the last two as a part-timer, Jefferson snagged 208 passes for 3,119 yards, a 15.0 average and 16 touchdowns and was known for making the tough, clutch catch.
Mitchell, now the Redskins’ assistant general manager, puts it this way: “There was no one who questioned [Jeffersons] heart and competitive spirit. His talent was evident.”
There’s another aspect, too. Jefferson was and remains extremely active in the community these days, at 59, he’s a mortgage broker in Northern Virginia and to my way of thinking that makes a guy much more of a “greatest” anything than a jock who just takes the money and runs, or whatever.
Harold Bell, the Washington activist and sports talk show pioneer, recalls that Jefferson and teammates Larry Brown, Harold McLinton and Ted Vactor were the first NFL players hereabouts to participate in Christmas toy parties, one-on-one mentoring and tutorial programs for inner-city children in the early ‘70s. Jefferson also was host of a weekly television show called “It’s Elementary” and founded the Roy Jefferson Reading Center, among other activities.
Unfortunately, Dan Snyder’s panel that selected the “70 greatest” probably didn’t know or care about such things. For example, chairman Bernard Shaw and Jim Vance are fine news readers on TV, but do they really know that much about football or the inner city? Where were the newspaper reporters who cover sports and the local scene? Nowhere, at least on the selection committee.
“Sure, I’m disappointed that I wasn’t chosen, but I’m not angry or upset,” Jefferson said last week. “I understand how these things go it’s all a matter of who’s on the committee and who they know. You’re always going to have arbitrary choices.”
And does Jefferson think he should have been chosen?
“Based on my six years here, and the other things I did around town, yes.”
And so do we.
The Washington Metros
How about an idea whose time would come? Donald Saltz, a longtime business writer for two long-gone Washington newspapers, the Daily News and Star, reminds us that he was involved with the idea of bringing minor league baseball to the area long before it became popular here and throughout the nation in the 1990s.
Right after the expansion Senators skedaddled off to Texas in the fall of 1971, Saltz recalls, he and local businessman Sylvester DiMassis the latter a former Columbia University pitcher approached the D.C. Armory board with the idea of fielding a team in the Class AAA International League for the 1972 season. It would have been called the Washington Metros, after DiMassis’ Metro Graphics company
The scheme got as far as the Montreal Expos (of all people) and general manager John McHale shaking hands on a working agreement with the Metros and Washington baseball icon Mickey Vernon agreeing to become manager. “But the idea sort of died there because the Armory Board and chairman Dutch Bergman weren’t all that interested when we talked to them,” Saltz said.
Ironically, that may have been because nearly everybody in town expected Washington to get another major league team soon a dream that nearly came to pass in ‘73, when Giant Food boss Joseph Danzansky reached tentative agreement to purchase the Padres before McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc stepped forward to save the franchise for San Diego.
“I still think a minor league team would have drawn 5,000 or 6,000 a game,” Saltz said. “Look at how many people there are in this area.”
At any rate, the Metros would have been better than nothing a nothing that now has endured, unbelievably, for 31 seasons.
Stockard’s spikers
Is there a sport that Bessie Stockard can’t coach well? Long renowned locally as a big winner in women’s basketball and tennis, she’s into volleyball now and how. Her team at the University of the District of Columbia finished the regular season with a 16-5 record, boosting her three-year mark to 44-20. Unfortunately, the Firebirds aren’t eligible for the Division II NCAA tournament because they couldn’t schedule enough games against regional opponents.
For some inexplicable reason, Stockard is no longer coaching basketball at UDC although she has a career record of 264-45, once helped coach Team USA and was honored at last spring’s NCAA Women’s Final Four for her career achievements.
Stockard’s teams in all sports are always extremely well conditioned and hustle nonstop, which explains how she could become an instant success coaching volleyball a sport with which she had only a passing acquaintance. Her team this season was led by two married players, Marie Marchal and Denise Oliveira Kendall and who knows? Bessie may hang around long enough to coach their daughters.
Eminently quotable
Kansas basketball coach Roy Williams, on his quandary when North Carolina offered him its vacant job in 2001: “I was so messed up, I didn’t know if the sun would come up the next morning. Until I made the decision to stay at Kansas, it was the worst seven days I could have experienced.”
Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers, on passing Washington Redskins icon John Riggins as the NFL’s career leader among big backs: “When you look at big backs, that’s one you circle. To get past him, that definitely would be an accomplishment.”

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