Monday, March 31, 2003

Here’s good news for traditionalist baseball fans (are there any other kind in these parts?): The Virginia Fury are no more.
That ghastly nickname was offered for a Northern Virginia franchise back in 1994, when Bill Collins and his infant Virginia Baseball group were seeking an expansion team. After Collins spoke recently at a Bethesda breakfast in conjunction with the Nats Fest sponsored by the Washington Baseball History Society, a man asked him if the Fury still lived.
Collins chuckled. “That was never a real suggestion,” he said. “Major League Baseball was pressing us for a name and a logo so they could start marketing immediately if we got the franchise, and we came up with Fury. The logo had a horse jumping through a big ‘V’ as I recall.”
It says here that only one name should be considered. Any area team would be in the National League, so what could be more appropriate than Nationals? After all, that moniker was used interchangeably with Senators during the 40 years that the Griffith family owned the ballclub.
Just imagine how nostalgic old-timers could get over a headline reading “NATS LOSE 10TH IN ROW.”
Collins didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no. What he did say was, “That name is very high on our list,” which should be enough to give a lot of hope to a lot of folks.
The breakfast was pretty nostalgic by itself, considering that former Senators Paul Casanova, Tim Cullen, Bernie Allen, Chuck Hinton, Russ Kemmerer and Julio Becquer were spotted. Only Kemmerer and Becquer played for the Griffith Nats, but why quibble?
Most of the players spoke briefly, and the audience could have done a double take when Cullen referred to baseball as “affordable family entertainment.” I think somebody put something in his orange juice.
Guests at the breakfast included Annamarie Goetzinger, who grew up in West Hyattsville as possibly the only member of the Bernie Allen Fan Club. Goetzinger’s belated reward was to share a meal with her erstwhile hero and show him her wide assortment of clippings. Probably she didn’t tell him that her old man is a Yankees fan.
Bow your head
Here’s a suggestion for area baseball fans before the Baltimore Orioles open their season today at Camden Yards.
Drive to RFK Stadium and park on one of the empty lots. Notice that skies are blue (hopefully) and buds are blooming. Reflect that only 366 days remain before the 2004 season begins.
And pray, brother.
Bell and Ali
Washington sports talk show host Harold Bell must have gotten a snicker from the cover of the current Ring magazine, which includes a 1980 gabfest with Muhammad Ali in a series of “classic interviews” with famous fighters.
Bell had his own interview with Ali much earlier, in 1975, when “The Greatest” was a guest on Bell’s “Spotlight on Sports” special on WRC-TV (Channel 4). The two had other sessions on “Inside Sports,” Bell’s longtime radio program that aired on several D.C. stations.
As an interviewer, Bell tends to elicit information that others don’t. On one show, he got Ali to explain the difference between a fighter and a boxer. On another, legendary basketball coach Red Auerbach said he considered Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown the best athletes ever. On a third, Basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones opined that Wilt Chamberlain could have been as good defensively as Bill Russell if the Stilt had concentrated on ‘D.’
Now Bell is shopping around “Legends of Inside Sports,” which includes many of his interviews over the years. The radio segments would run about three minutes each and should appear as soon as a sponsor signs up for what could be a dynamite package.
Virginia hails its best
The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in Portsmouth will honor a banner class during its annual induction banquet April26. The newest members include Terry Holland, longtime University of Virginia basketball coach and athletic director; Johnny Oates, former player, coach and manager of the Baltimore Orioles; Lawrence Taylor, arguably the best linebacker in NFL history; and J.C. Snead, winner of 12 PGA Tour events
Just as deserving if less widely known are Laura Mapp, coach of three women’s sports at Bridgewater College, and Bob Thalman, football coach at Virginia Military Institute and Hampden-Sydney College. Entering the Hall’s media section will be Jerry Lindquist of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Bill Leffler of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
Dumb and dumber
There’s no telling what former major league players will do to earn a buck, even if it’s pretty lame.
For example, ex-Oriole Harold Baines, who batted .291 over 21 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, will be trying this week to outslug a group of media types in Northern Virginia, of all places.
The media hacks (literally) will confront Baines at the Hylton Branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington in Dale City on Thursday at 3:30 a stunt dreamed up by some PR man trying to flack the new Nike MX5 bat with “Rifle Barrel Technology.”
I only have one question: Rethinking retirement, Harold?
Ivy League Kareem?
Thirty-eight years after he left New York City to attend UCLA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is interested in returning as Columbia University’s basketball coach.
“It would be wonderful,” Abdul-Jabbar said last week while working the NCAA tournament as a CBS-TV analyst. “It would be the perfect progression for me. But I won’t make any comment right now. I’m going to give them the opportunity to make a decision.”
The Hall of Famer grew up in New York, starring as Lew Alcindor on Power Memorial teams that won 71 consecutive games before DeMatha High School ended the run in January 1965 at Cole Field House. Last season Abdul-Jabbar coached the Oklahoma Storm to the U.S. Basketball League championship. He also was an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers in 1999-00.
Columbia fired Armond Hill as coach two days after his team finished 2-25, the worst season in the school’s 103-year basketball history.

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