- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

Maybe it’s just me, but Mike Price saying, “There was no sex involved,” sounds a lot like Bill Clinton saying, “I didn’t inhale.”

Two more reasons to hate the French (as pointed out by my 12-year-old): The exotic dancer at the center of the Price controversy is named “Destiny” Boudreaux, and the college kid who took the pictures of Larry Eustachy is named Sean Devereaux.

Abe Pollin’s cold-blooded dismissal of Michael Jordan is nothing new for lovable ol’ Abe. His axing of Capitals general manager David Poile in 1997 followed pretty much the same script. Poile, under whom the Caps had missed the playoffs just once in 15 seasons, walked into Pollin’s office that spring thinking he was going to get a contract extension, but the owner fired him “using vulgar language in a meeting that lasted minutes,” one of my spies tells me.

Speaking of the Caps, it’s kind of fitting that the announcement of Calle Johansson’s departure came on the same day as Jordan’s exit from the Wizards — and thus got precious little media attention. Calle always was overlooked despite 15 superb seasons in Washington.

Memo to Bob Ryan, the Boston Globe’s embattled columnist: The only guy who can joke about hitting a woman these days — and get away with it — is Ralph Kramden.

(“Bang! Zoom!”)

(“To the moon, Alice!”)

It didn’t happen this way, but it could have:

Jack Nicholson to referee Mark Wunderlich (after Shaquille O’Neal was called for his third foul Friday night): “Hold that [expletive deleted] whistle, will ya? You’re gonna foul him out all by yourself.”

Wunderlich: “You want me to hold the whistle?”

Nicholson: “I want you to hold it between your knees.”

Fascinating story by Joe Depriest of the Charlotte Observer last Sunday on Belus Smawley, a North Carolinian who was one of the earliest practitioners of the jump shot. Author John Christgau (“Origins of the Jump Shot”), the foremost authority on the subject, told Depriest that Smawley, then a high schooler, and Kenny Sailors of Wyoming both began experimenting with the shot in 1934. “They were operating independently and had no idea anybody else was doing anything as daring,” he said.

There weren’t any basketball courts near Smawley’s farm outside Ellenboro, so he and his buddies played in an abandoned railroad depot. “The depot was open-ended and had high ceilings,” his brother Fred said. “We nailed old peach baskets on each end. We didn’t have a real basketball, just an old rubber ball about half the size. [Belus would] jump in the air, turn around and seem to hang there. You couldn’t guard him. You couldn’t keep him from shooting. He was a natural, I reckon. … He didn’t know he was making history.”

Smawley played at Appalachian State before moving on to the NBA, finishing up with the original Baltimore Bullets in the early ‘50s. (One of his teammates on the ‘50-51 Bullets was none other than Sailors. Bemus outscored him, averaging 12.2 points to Kenny’s 8.2.) When he died last month at 85, his wife “had him buried in the gray jacket with a red emblem from the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame,” Depriest reports.

The movie “A Mighty Wind” isn’t about sports, but it does have a funny sports-related joke. Bob Balaban’s character says his overprotective mother made him wear a football helmet when he played chess as a child. She was afraid he’d lose his balance and “impale myself on a pointy bishop,” he explains.

The 10-year, $102million contract recently signed by Daunte Culpepper reminds me that the Vikings drafted Culpepper with a first-round pick they got from the Redskins in the Brad Johnson trade. The Vikes also received second- and third-rounders in the deal. They used the No.2 to select Fred Robbins, their starting nose tackle, and traded the No.3 to the Steelers, who turned it into Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter.

All that for two years of Brad Johnson.

The sons of great coaches don’t necessarily make great coaches themselves — as the Alabama football program may soon find out with Mike Shula. Some other sons who tried to follow in their famous dads’ footsteps:

Terry and Tommy Bowden — Father Bobby has become a college football icon at Florida State. Terry resigned at Auburn in ‘98 — in the middle of a losing season — and Tommy is under fire at Clemson after last year’s 7-6 finish.

Bob Francis — Father Emile is in the Hockey Hall of Fame for his decade of fine work with the Rangers (1965-75). Bob is over .500 after four seasons in Phoenix, but his clubs haven’t done anything in the playoffs.

Wade Phillips — Father Bum guided the Houston Oilers to two AFC Championship games in the ‘70s. Wade was 0-3 in the postseason with the Broncos and Bills.

David Shula (Mike’s brother) — Father Don won an NFL record 347 games. David’s total in four-plus years with the Bengals (1992 to 1996): 19 (vs. 52 losses).

Jan van Breda Kolff — Father Butch coached in two NBA Finals with the Lakers (1968, 1969) and in one NCAA Final Four with Princeton (in ‘65, when he had Bill Bradley). Jan has had two NCAA tourney teams in 12 seasons and recently lost his job at scandalized St. Bonaventure.

Moral: Beware of Donn Nelson.

Not to mention Skip Holtz.

Did you see that the Devil Rays called up John Rocker from the minors? Lou Piniella must have felt his pitching staff didn’t have enough imbalance.

I just noticed something: There’s only one letter difference between Bosox and Botox.

Possible future line: If Theo Epstein acquires any more aging veterans for the stretch drive, they’re going to start calling the Bosox the Botox.

Which of the following baseball artifacts is worth the most (based on a recent auction)?

(a) A White Sox uniform worn by Hall of Fame pitcher Red Faber.

(b) Orlando Cepeda’s 1967 National League Most Valuable Player Award.

(c) A bat from the 1959 World Series autographed by Sandy Koufax.

(d) An unsigned photo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

(Answer below.)

Stat of the Week: 1 hour, 56 minutes.

(Average length of the last three games started by the A’s Mark Mulder, my new favorite player.)

Mulder might be a fast worker, but he’s no Wilbur Cooper. Cooper, who pitched in the big leagues from 1912 to ‘26, was so in tune with Pirates catcher Walter Schmidt that “they often went the entire game without calling any pitches,” according to thebaseballpage.com. He once beat Grover Cleveland Alexander at Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl in less than an hour.

• • •

Like Mulder, Cooper was a lefty — and like Mulder, he was a pretty good one. His 161 wins from 1917 to ‘24 led the majors, and his 202 victories for the Pirates are still the club record. He also has the unusual distinction of being scouted by a future President of the United States.

“Cooper played his first professional ball with Marion (Ohio) in 1911,” the Web site says. “The publisher of the local newspaper was Warren G. Harding, who also owned the baseball team. The story goes that Harding recognized Cooper’s ability and told Pirates owner Barney Dreyfuss about [him]. After the [next] season, Dreyfuss bought Cooper from Columbus, for whom he [pitched in 12].”

• • •

Just to show you how times have changed, the Yankees and St. Louis Browns completed a doubleheader in 1926 in a mere 2 hours, 7 minutes. Of course, it was the last day of the season, which might have had something to do with it. (Also, the teams had played another twinbill the day before.)

• • •

Doug Dull, the incoming sports information director at Maryland, is no relation to Dick Dull, the school’s athletic director in the ‘80s. “Maryland just likes Dull guys, I guess,” an office wise guy says.

• • •

Answer to baseball artifacts question: (a) Faber’s uniform is worth the most ($37,982), followed by (d) the unsigned picture of Ruth and Gehrig ($27,121), (c) the bat autographed by Koufax ($25,692) and (b) Cepeda’s MVP Award ($23,546).

Don’t ask me why.

(Thanks to Dwight Chapin of the San Francisco Chronicle, who came up with this information.)

• • •

In response to last Sunday’s item on the latest “Chicken Soup” book, “Chicken Soup for the Soul of NASCAR,” Neal from Gaithersburg writes:

“I don’t think too many NASCAR fans are partial to chicken soup. How about ‘Bud Light and Pork Rinds for the Soul of NASCAR?’ ”

• • •

And finally…

News item: “Suspicious” photo raises questions about Funny Cide’s victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Comment: Worst-case scenario: The horse gets DQ’d, and its name gets changed to Funny Business.

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