- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

If you're the sort of sports fan who chases jocks for autographs and I don't know why anybody over the age of 12 bothers, unless it's to resell them for profit you'll probably enjoy a book called "Sign This" by a former Tampa, Fla., memorabilia show promoter named Tom Bunevich.
In 14 years of trying to bring athletes to shows, Bunevich lost most of his illusions. The cover of his book promises to tell "the real truth about your sports heroes and the sports autograph industry," and he delivers nicely.
Particularly interesting are the chapters in which he picks "My Top 10 Jerks" and "My Top Ten Good Guys," judged by their conduct at signing sessions. Apparently, competition was much more spirited in the former category.
Bunevich's No.1 jerk jock brace yourself, old-timers is none other than the former "Say Hey Kid" himself, Willie Mays. According to the author, Mays has been known to walk out in the middle of sessions to which he has committed. And, says Bunevich, Mays won't look up at the recipient while signing or pose for pictures.
"What's troubling about Mays is that he truly is an American hero," Bunevich writes. "In a time when he should be basking in the glory of one of the greatest careers in baseball history, he seems a bitter, mean man who never learned to enjoy adulation and fame."
Others on Bunevich's past and present jerk list, in order: Rickey Henderson, Errict Rhett, Mike Schmidt, Darryl Strawberry (who often blows off signatures with "D. Stby"), Reggie Jackson, Joe DiMaggio, Pete Rose, Gaylord Perry and Denny McLain.
Conversely, his "Good Guys" are led, unsurprisingly, by Baltimore Orioles icon Brooks Robinson. Writes Bunevich: God invented the perfect card show guest when He made Brooks Robinson. He's … friendly, polite, courteous, talkative and engaging all while maintaining a quick signing pace."
And, Bunevich adds, the following also are decent sorts around the signing table: Harmon Killebrew, Lee Roy Selmon, former Washington Redskins coach Otto Graham, the Famous Chicken (no dumb cluck he), Monte Irvin, Billy Williams, Muhammad Ali, Bobby Hull and (tied for 10th place) Alan Trammell and Dale Murphy.
Where's Cal Ripken? Probably out somewhere signing autographs for free.
Bunevich provides fascinating takes on how several dozen more athletes handle signing situations. The book is available for $14.95 by calling 877/391-4900 or going to www.signthisbook.com.

Phil Wood update
Good news for people who enjoying hearing baseball discussed intelligently on radio: Phil Wood, possibly the game's best booster and broadcaster hereabouts, is back on the air weekly on Baltimore's WJFK-AM (1300).
It was about this time last year that Washington all-sports station WTEM-AM (980) inexplicably took Wood off the air even though it continued to pay his salary. Now Wood will be in Charm City from noon to 3 p.m. Saturdays with Tom Davis, another veteran Baltimore sportscaster.
"This is terrific," said Wood, who did a football show on WJFK with Davis and Johnny Unitas last season. "I've lived in Baltimore for 20 years, and it's great to be back on the air here."
Now all he needs is a Washington outlet. The best way to get one, of course, would be for him to be the lead broadcaster next season for a major league team in Washington. Just like the rest of us, he's hoping.

Kareem the coach
In case you missed the story last week, the Oklahoma Storm of the U.S. Basketball League picked up a pretty well-known guy as their coach a fellow named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
This was notable because (a) Abdul-Jabbar's teams won six titles and he won six MVP awards during his 20 seasons in the NBA and (b) he is a rookie coach at the age of 54. For the latter, Abdul-Jabbar told the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman, he had only himself to blame.
When Abdul-Jabbar was ready to try coaching several years after his 1989 retirement as a player, he found plenty of "closed doors" a result, he said, of his aloof, guarded attitude as a player.
"That worked against me," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I can only look in the mirror and blame myself. When I was ready to come back, I didn't have any contacts. No one really took me seriously as a coach."
Better late than never. In introducing the Basketball Hall of Famer, Storm owner James Bryant noted, "He is Mr. NBA. But this spring and summer he belongs to the Oklahoma Storm."
Abdul-Jabbar said he is ready for the challenge, adding,"I feel like I really need to prove myself at whatever level I'm at. If I have a good experience at the lower levels, then maybe those doors will open."
Well, why not?

Eminently quotable
Teammate Al Attles , on Wilt Chamberlain 's 100-point game against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962: "The thing that sticks out most in my mind is that in the locker room he had this discouraged look on his face. I said, 'Big fella, what's wrong?' He said, 'I never thought I'd take 60 shots in a game.' I told him, 'It's OK when you make 36 of them.'" …
Milwaukee Brewers nonroster left-hander Derrin Ebert, on his brother, Chris, a military medic who has been in the Middle East since shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks: "The way I think of it, he's fighting for my right to fight for a job here." …
Diane Fischer, 55, on how she became a boxing promoter in Atlantic City, N.J.: "There's no school for this. I couldn't call up Don King and say, 'How do you become a promoter?' So I learned as I went."


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