- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

Redskins great Bobby Mitchell and his “boys” — 40 of the greatest hall of famers from the NFL and NBA — have long since ceased their battles on the court and gridiron, but 13 years ago, they took up another battle against two dreaded cancers — leukemia and lymphoma.

This year, the Bobby Mitchell/Toyota Hall of Fame Classic, with its esteemed list of sports legends, raised $440,000 and climbed above the $3 million mark for cancer research.

When Mr. Mitchell became the key figure of the golf tournament in 1990, he had just 18 hall of famers participating and raised about $30,000.

“This year it is really special because we have a true shot at going over [the] $3 million mark for research,” Mr. Mitchell said before the total raised was known.

Mr. Mitchell, who retired acrimoniously this year as assistant general manager of the Washington Redskins, became involved in the benefit to honor former Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis.

Mr. Davis was traded by the Redskins to the Cleveland Browns for Mr. Mitchell but died of leukemia at age 23 in 1963 before ever playing a down.

“That was always on my mind when I got here, and when they approached me about the tournament, I said I would do it as long as it involved the Hall of Fame,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Area businessmen paid $2,500 per table to attend the banquet Saturday night at the Lansdowne Resort near Leesburg and bid lavishly on numerous items of sports memorabilia, tickets for private cruises and a host of other items during the voice and silent auctions.

Leukemia Society Senior Executive Director David Timko called the event the largest gathering of Hall of Fame sports heroes in the country —bigger than the NBA and NFL annual induction ceremonies.

“This event is one of the best around. It is certainly the society’s biggest fund-raiser, and it is now the Washington area’s largest charity golf tournament,” Mr. Timko said.

The event was sponsored by the Washington Auto Dealers.

Mr. Mitchell’s good friends and teammates Charley Taylor, Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff and Ken Houston have attended all 13 tournaments.

“The first one I did, Bobby threatened me, so I had to come,” Mr. Taylor joked at the banquet reception.

“Seriously, Bobby was my mentor when I came to the Redskins, and I owe him, and once I got involved, it was clear that the cause was the right for me.”

Mr. Huff spoke for all of the old players in remembering Pete Wysocki, who played six seasons for the Redskins and died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1999.

“We all miss Pete. We lost him to this terrible disease, and that’s why we’re here,” Mr. Huff said before the tournament’s patient honoree, Eric Vinson, was introduced.

Eric, 11, found out he had Hodgkin’s disease last May, but he has gotten a clean bill of health this year after surgery to remove a lump from his neck, followed by five rounds of chemotherapy.

His father, Harry Vinson, and his mother, Angie Vinson, tearfully expressed their pride in “Eric’s courage both with the disease and addressing the audience at the banquet.”

Eric admitted afterward that he was “very nervous.”

By Sunday, it was time to play a few rounds, and hall of famer Art Shell of the Oakland Raiders and his team — representing event sponsor The Washington Post — placed first with a score of 57. Mr. Shell’s teammates included Martin Kady, Don Bavely, Kevin Cohen and Gardner Britt.

Second place went to the Costco-sponsored team with a score of 58, led by the NFL’s greatest tight end, Kellen Winslow of the San Diego Chargers. Third place went to the First Virginia Bank team, led by Hall of Fame Cleveland Browns receiver Paul Warfield, with a score of 60.


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