- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

Congrats to Washington Times staffer Rick Snider, who made enough dough betting on War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby to move to Saudi Arabia and become a sheik.

I'm exaggerating, of course. From what I understand, Rick still needs a couple of big paydays just to get back to even.

News item: South Koreans get up at 4 a.m. to watch K.J. Choi win PGA tournament.
Comment: Big deal. I mean, isn't that usually when Mariano Rivera comes on to close out a World Series game?

Duke guard Jason Williams' decision to refer to himself as Jay Williams so as not to be confused with the Jayson Williams charged with manslaughter or the Jason Williams charged with impersonating a professional basketball player sounds like a good career move.

Five other famous sports figures who changed their names (for nonreligious reasons):
1. Howard Cosell Originally: Howard Cohen. His father's last name was Kasell when he arrived in America from Poland, but Ellis Island officials changed it to Cohen for some reason. Howard later opted for Cosell to honor his dad.
2. Johnny Blood Originally: John McNally. While in college in the early '20s, McNally and a teammate wanted to pick up some money playing pro football and needed pseudonyms. On the way to the tryout, they passed a movie theater showing Rudolph Valentino's "Blood and Sand." "I'll be Blood and you be Sand," Johnny suggested. "Blood" went on to star for the Green Bay Packers and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
3. Sugar Ray Robinson Originally: Walker Smith Jr. As a youth in New York City, Smith borrowed the AAU boxing card of a friend named Ray Robinson to compete in the ring. The rest is history.
4. Albert Belle Originally: Joey Belle (his birth name being Albert Jojuan Belle). Switched from Joey to Albert in '92 when he decided to cough, cough turn over a new leaf.
5. Joe Johnson Originally: Joe Howard. A D.C. product (Archbishop Carroll), Joe changed his name to Howard-Johnson as a sophomore at Notre Dame in honor of the family who raised him from birth. In his last season with the Redskins in '91, he dropped the "Howard" and wore "Johnson" on the back of his jersey.

You forget how many famous boxers changed their names, particularly heavyweight champs. Noah Brusso became Tommy Burns, Joseph Cukoschay became Jack Sharkey, Joseph Louis Barrow became Joe Louis and Arnold Cream became Jersey Joe Walcott.

Not that it means anything, but The father of Calgary Flames superstar Jarome Iginla "changed his name from Adekumle to Elvis" after he emigrated from Nigeria to Canada, the Tampa Tribune reports, "because it was easier to pronounce and because he liked Elvis Presley."

One last tribute to Byron "Whizzer" White (courtesy of loyal reader Jim Molen of Kensington):
"I have just read your column on Justice White. Immediately my memory harked back to 1937 and the one we knew as "Whizzer" White. Until he came along, about the only Colorado alumnus anyone had ever heard of was the legendary bandleader, Glenn Miller.
"Colorado was not a member of a major conference [in those days]. The [conference] later known as the Big Eight was then the Big Six and did not include Colorado. Colorado's opponents were such teams as the Colorado School of Mines, the University of Denver, Gonzaga of Spokane, Idaho, Wyoming, etc.
"When the Cotton Bowl committee invited them to play Rice in the 1938 Cotton Bowl, everyone thought it would be a laugher. I remember my own father saying, 'That White guy might run all over the Colorado School of Mines, etc., but let's see what happens when he faces a real football team like the Rice Owls.'
"Well, everyone was shocked when the Whizzer not only ran well against Rice but got Colorado two touchdowns. Even though Rice won 28-14, it turned out to be a lot more of a game than anyone had predicted, and Colorado football has never been made fun of since that time.
"He did some good things as a pro but had no success against the Redskins, who were among pro football's elite. I saw him in a game against the Redskins at Griffith Stadium, and he was completely shut down although he did get a touchdown a one-yard off-tackle thing. All afternoon, fans were laughing at him and saying, 'Gee whiz, Whizzer, where's your Whiz?'"

In last week's list of Famous Spiders in Sports History (to coincide with the opening of "Spider-Man"), I neglected to include what many consider the worst team in baseball history, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. The Spiders posted a 20-134 record that year and finished 84 games out of first in the National League. They also drew so few fans at home a grand total of 6,088, according to one source that they played 134 of their 156 games on the road.

And to think, just four years earlier, the Spiders beat Baltimore in five games to capture the Temple Cup, the World Series of its time. Ace pitcher Cy Young threw three complete-game victories against Orioles in seven days to practically win the cup by himself. Alas, in '99, Spiders owner Fred Robison bought the St. Louis Browns franchise and transferred all the good Cleveland players to St. Louis (Young and fellow Hall of Famer Jesse Burkett among them). "While the Browns did jump to fifth place in 1899," Harold Seymour writes in "Baseball: The Early Years," "the denuded Clevelands sank to the lowest depths in major league history."

Denuded. I've gotta remember to use that word sometime. (Instead of saying, "Michael Jordan stripped Allen Iverson of the ball," I could say, "MJ denuded him.")

Seymour also writes: "One of the most notorious teams for rough stuff was Patsy Tebeau's Cleveland Spiders. [The league president] made the Spiders pay $4 for repairs when they tore up the clubhouse after losing three straight to Brooklyn, and he charged them $1.25 for a ball Jesse Burkett threw over the fence. In a midseason game at Louisville in 1896 'Tebeauism' was at its worst. The Spiders were in rare form, ragging the umpire all day and mobbing him for calling the game on account of darkness. The fans then attacked the Spiders, who ended the day in jail."

Then there's this item from "The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract" (1986 edition): "John Joseph (Jack) Powell, pitcher for the Cleveland Spiders, was tried in June of 1897 on a charge of playing ball on Sunday. He was fined $5 and court costs, which came to a healthy $153. [The] owner of the Spiders announced his intention to appeal the issue, but Sunday ball in Cleveland was discontinued for the rest of the season and, as it turned out, for the rest of the century."

OK, enough about Spiders. Next week: Famous Snakes in Sports History.
(Just kidding.)

I see Marty Schottenheimer finally signed jailbird (and former Kansas City Chief) Tamarick Vanover. What a humanitarian. Schottenheimer, you may recall, brought Vanover in for a visit last season but, perhaps because of the flak he was getting for the Redskins' 0-5 start, didn't think it was wise to hire a convicted felon to return punts. (So he settled for Eric Metcalf instead.)
In San Diego, though, Schottenheimer is still in his honeymoon period, so why not? Besides, Vanover is "not only a good player," he told the locals, "but a very good person."
For the record, Vanover spent two months in a federal work camp "after pleading guilty [to] aiding and abetting the sale of a stolen vehicle that crossed state lines," according to one report. "The Chiefs cut him in 2000 after he admitted to an FBI agent that he gave former Chiefs running back Bam Morris $40,000 to buy marijuana."
Yeah, he's a class act, all right.

Number of the Week: $3,822,276. (The amount of money lost by ex-Redskin Terry Allen and current Redskins Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green in a fraudulent investment recommended to them by prison-bound agent Tank Black.)

Here's hoping Napoleon McCallum isn't the last Navy man to make the College Football Hall of Fame.

You might say these are boom time for Maryland athletics. My sources tell me:
1. The school could have sold 19,000 season tickets for the new Comcast Center, which opens in the fall. Unfortunately, the place only seats 17,500 (3,000 more than Cole Field House).
2. Merchandise sales are going through the roof. With two months to go in the fiscal year, Maryland has already sold $1.2million worth of clothing and stuff, six times what it sold the year before.

And finally
Two years' probation in men's basketball, loss of a scholarship, reduced practice time boy, the NCAA really handed Stetson its hat.


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