- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

News item: The NFL won’t discipline four players who tested positive for THG, a designer steroid.

Comment: Having to finish out the season with the Raiders, the league figures, is punishment enough.

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If you ask me, Steve Spurrier’s reclaiming of the playcalling duties has less to do with the Redskins’ offense being in shambles than with Miami being in Florida.

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In case you missed it, another Redskins record bit the dust last Sunday. The Broncos’ Shannon Sharpe caught his 61st career touchdown pass, breaking the mark for tight ends set by Jerry Smith from 1965 to ‘77. Smith, alas, is better remembered for being the first professional athlete to die of complications from AIDS than for being one of the best tight ends in the history of the game.

One of Sonny Jurgensen’s (and later Billy Kilmer’s) go-to guys, Smith had 421 receptions for 5,496 yards with the Redskins. Unfortunately, another tight end named Smith — the Cardinals’ Jackie, now in the Hall of Fame — had 480 receptions for 7,918 yards in virtually the same period (1963-78). He didn’t have Jerry’s nose for the end zone, though, scoring a mere 40 times.

Jerry’s best season was ‘67. In one six-game stretch that year, he had four multiple-touchdown games — three against the Rams, two against the 49ers, two against the Cowboys and two against the Eagles. Nine TDs in six games! There’s a record for tight ends that might never be beaten.

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The item two weeks ago on notable safeties in football history brought this e-mail from my friend Robert, the Virginia Tech zealot: “I can’t believe you ignored the funniest intentional safety in Washington Redskins history. If memory serves, it was when Jack Pardee was coach, and they started 6-0 and finished 8-8 [1978]. It was Monday night, and President Carter was there and the Redskins were up 9-3. [Joe] Theismann takes the ball on the last play of the game, runs out of his own end zone and then spikes the ball in front of a Cowboy [Harvey Martin?] as if he had just scored a TD. May not have been the smartest thing for Joey T. to do, but it was funny.”

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The things you learn about a guy after he’s gone: Former Redskins quarterback Rob Johnson, now with the Raiders, is part owner of a horse that won the ninth race at Hollywood Park last weekend, paying a whopping $58.20.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 2-year-old filly is named Mary Swanson — after the lead female character in the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” (The part, you may recall, was played by Lauren Holly. Jim Carrey, as Lloyd Christmas, and Jeff Daniels, as Harry Dunne, had the title roles.)

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Trivia question: What well-known athlete played “Sea Bass” in that same movie? (Answer below.)

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Alabama, I’ve gotta believe, would have won more than four football games by now if Mike Price had been coaching ‘em.

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But then, the entertainment budget probably would have been shot to heck, so there’s a tradeoff.

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In its December issue, Esquire magazine lists “30 + 7 Ways to Improve the World.” The sports-related ones:

• A law that requires overpaid pro athletes to buy everything for the rest of their lives at inflated stadium prices.

• A new MLB rule that permits a pitcher to hit one batter per inning (two if he’s playing the Yanks).

• The 11-foot rim.

cWooden rackets for men’s professional tennis, so points last longer than six femtoseconds.

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Noticed in Ken Brett’s obituary the other day that he set a major league record for pitchers by homering in four straight games for the Phillies in 1973. Naturally, I had to find out more, so I went to retrosheet.org, which has the box scores for all the games played that season. For the record, Brett’s four homers were all bases-empty jobs — off Bill Greif of the Padres, Charlie Hough of the Dodgers, Ray Sadecki of the Mets and Tom Walker of the Expos. And get this: He went 4-0 as a starting pitcher in that span, with three complete games. At the end of his streak, he was hitting .313 and slugging .750.

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In fact, Ken Brett was a better hitter than the much celebrated Mike Hampton. In 347 career at-bats — barely half a season — he had 10 home runs, 18 doubles and 44 RBI, batted .262 and slugged .406. Hampton’s current numbers are 575 at-bats, 12 homers, 15 doubles, 60 RBI, .247 batting average, .353 slugging percentage.

• • •

The Sunday Column also would like to pay its respects to former Arizona State basketball coach Ned Wulk, who died recently at 83. Ned, whose team I had the pleasure of covering in the early ‘80s, won maybe the quietest 495 games in college basketball history. (Ever hear of him? Didn’t think so.) He had some talented clubs, though. Indeed, his entire starting lineup in 1979-80 went on to the NBA — Alton Lister, Kurt Nimphius, Sam Williams and the dynamite backcourt of Fat Lever and Byron Scott, the current Nets coach. Lever became an NBA All-Star, and the five went on to play a combined 52 seasons in the league and score 37,058 points.

Ned was a good coach — how his teams could run the fast break! — and an even better man. And the program, you’ll note, hasn’t been the same since he left in ‘82.

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Answer to trivia question: Boston Bruins star Cam Neely played “Sea Bass” in “Dumb and Dumber.”

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Just in time for the holidays, B.P. Robert Stephen Silverman has come out with “The 100 Greatest Jews in Sports: Ranked According to Achievement” (Scarecrow Press, $26.95). His top 10 (followed by selected others):

1. Hank Greenberg, baseball

2. Sandy Koufax, baseball

3. Sid Luckman, football

4. Dolph Schayes, basketball

5. Ron Mix, football

6. Shawn Green, baseball

7. Benny Leonard, boxing

8. Ken Holtzman, baseball

9. Dick Savitt, tennis

10. Benny Friedman, football

12. Buddy Myer, Senators great

44. Steve Stone, former Oriole

49. Harold Solomon, D.C. tennis star

70. Mike Epstein, slugger for Senators II

86. Ernie Grunfeld, basketball/Wizards president

• • •

Silverman uses an elaborate point system to determine his rankings, and God bless him for it. But how could he possibly put Rudy LaRusso (30th) ahead of Mark Spitz (32nd)? LaRusso was a nice basketball player, but he was basically the third wheel on the Elgin Baylor-Jerry West Lakers teams of the ‘60s. Spitz, on the other hand, won seven gold medals in swimming at the ‘72 Olympics — setting seven records in the process.

Or to put it another way: How many kids had a full-length poster of Rudy LaRusso hanging on a wall in their bedroom?

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For sheer impact, Spitz would have to rate somewhere in the top 10 (bumping Holtzman, perhaps?)

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Also, it seems like boxer Abe Atell (24th) should be dropped a spot or two for his involvement in the Black Sox scandal in 1919.

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And maybe it’s just me, but comparing Ron Blomberg to Danny Schayes is kind of like comparing apples to Orangemen.

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On the cover, incidentally, is Jay Fiedler, wearing a No. 11 Vikings jersey in 1998, getting off a pass before the Redskins’ Ken Harvey unloads on him.

• • •

And finally …

It was only a matter of time before they let transsexuals compete in the Olympics. I mean, how long has basketball had the crossover dribble?

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