- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

Most people think the Yankees will win the World Series. A few optimists say the Marlins. But the New York Post is really going out on a limb and picking the Red Sox.

• • •

I have just one thing to say to the Post:

Red Sox 5, Mets 3, sixth game of the ‘86 World Series, two out, nobody on, bottom of the 10th …

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If I were the Yankees, I would have had Hank Blalock throw out the first ball last night. (It was his homer in the All-Star Game that gave them home-field advantage in the Series.)

• • •

Random thoughts on the baseball playoffs:

1. Kevin Millar is the first player I’ve ever seen put on lip gloss in the on-deck circle.

2. It could have been worse, I suppose. It could have been mascara.

3. With his cap off, Hideki Matsui looks like an Asian Shemp Howard.

4. And Don Zimmer bears a fair resemblance to a “South Park” character (especially when he’s rolling around on the Fenway Park turf). Oh, no! They’ve killed Zim!

5. What can you say about a league batting champ who hits in the eighth spot (Bill Mueller)?

6. Jeff Conine … come back!

7. Sports Illustrated can have Trevor Hoffman. If I had to choose one closer — in all of baseball history — to finish up a game, it would be Mariano Rivera.

8. All in favor of a Third-Place Game between the Red Sox and Cubs, say aye.

• • •

Speaking of Zim, the Sunday Column is pleased to present (at no additional expense to you, the reader), “A Don Zimmer Miscellany,” featuring little-known details about America’s favorite bench coach:

• Zimmer was married in a home-plate ceremony while with the Class A Elmira Dodgers in 1951.

• Boston pitcher Bill Lee, who gave Zim the nickname “the Gerbil,” claims he actually meant it as a compliment. “I had said that Yankees manager Billy Martin was a no-good dirty rat,” he says in “Tales from the Red Sox Dugout,” “and Zimmer was not that way. He’s given his life to baseball. His fatal flaw was that … pitching is 90 percent of the game of baseball, and pitching happened to be the stuff that got him out 80 percent of the time. He was a .200 hitter, and that is what dictated the way he thought about pitchers.”

(Aside: That, perhaps, and the fact that two beanballs did much to ruin his baseball career.)

• During the 1976 season, Zimmer replaced Darrell Johnson as Red Sox manager. During the ‘82 season, Johnson replaced him as Rangers manager.

• The answer to the trivia question “Who was the last Yankee to wear No.23 before Don Mattingly?” is … Don Zimmer.

• It was Zim who instigated the Pine Tar Incident in ‘83 by pointing out to Yankees manager Billy Martin that George Brett had too much of the stuff on his bat.

• Pedro Martinez isn’t the first pitcher who has treated Zimmer roughly. In a 1984 game, the Reds’ Mario Soto got ejected and stormed back on the field, according to BaseballLibrary.com, “tackling Cubs coach Don Zimmer.”

• Zim spent his last 2 seasons in the big leagues with the expansion Washington Senators. He swatted 13 home runs for them in 83 games in ‘63 and hit another 12 dingers in ‘64.

• • •

My 13-year-old, who keeps a framed picture of Zimmer on his dresser and has all but committed his autobiography to memory, adds this nugget: “Zim also was the guy who wore No.14 on the Reds before Pete Rose.”

• • •

Hidden stat: Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte has posted a winning record in each of his nine major league seasons. That’s hard to do. You go down the list of the all-time greats and invariably they had a losing — or at least .500 — year at some point.

Pettitte’s worst season was 14-11 in ‘99; he has 149 career victories. Wish I knew who has the record for most wins by a pitcher who always finished above .500. Iron Man Joe McGinnity had 247 early in the last century, but he did have one break-even year (18-18 for the ‘07 Giants). Urban Shocker had 187 in the teens and ‘20s, but he went 12-12 with the Yankees in ‘25. Can anybody help me out here?

• • •

Another Yankees southpaw, Whitey Ford, was 232-97 through his first 14 seasons — with no record worse than 16-13. But in his last two years he tailed off to 2-5 (‘66) and 2-4 (‘67).

• • •

News item: NFL fines Warren Sapp $50,000 for, among other things, deliberately making contact with an official during warmups last Sunday at FedEx Field.

Comment: Somebody must have forgotten to tell Warren that the one-bump rule doesn’t apply to zebras.

• • •

Quote of the Week: “We don’t have the youngest clock operators here.”

— A Cowboys official after Dallas scored on an onside kick just three seconds into the game against the Eagles.

• • •

Number of the Week: 03-122024. (Number of the case filed by the Raiders’ Marcus Williams against teammate Bill Romanowski, who started a fight in training camp and broke a bone around Williams’ eye, ending his season.)

• • •

Did you hear about Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio putting a log in the locker room — “keep chopping wood” was his message — and Pro Bowl punter Chris Hansen proceeding to gash his leg with the accompanying ax? The ax was removed soon after the injury, according to reports, but the log remained. Seems the club thought it might eventually need a chopping block to put Del Rio’s head on.

• • •

Yup, just call him Jack “the Rail Splitter” Del Rio.

• • •

Steve Buscemi e-mails to say: “Good thing there was only an ax in the Jacksonville locker room and not, say, a wood chipper.”

• • •

That last item, in case you were wondering, was totally made up.

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The Staten Island ferry that crashed last week is named for “the greatest football player in the history of Staten Island — Anthony J. Barberi,” loyal reader Jim Black tells me. “Bill Shakespeare, who became a big star at Notre Dame, was from Staten Island, too, but they didn’t name a ferry after him. Barberi and I both graduated from Curtis High School in January 1932. I remember when Curtis played Erasmus Hall at Ebbets Field for the PSAL championship in ‘31. Sid Luckman [of Erasmus] went back to pass, and Barberi, who was a lineman, broke through and … Luckman threw a TD pass lying on his back. Barberi later became a legendary high school coach at Curtis. The newspapers used to say that his teams could have beaten some of the college teams.”

• • •

Ed Tapscott hires Bernie Bickerstaff to be the Charlotte Bobcats’ first coach and general manager. Why am I not surprised?

• • •

Hey, if Hubie Brown can be resurrected, why not Bernie?

• • •

Virginia Tech’s impending membership in the ACC is doing wonders for its basketball recruiting. Coach Seth Greenberg has gotten commitments from point guard Marquie Cooke (Suffolk, Va.), perhaps Tech’s best recruit since Dell Curry, and small forward Justin Holt (Tacoma Community College), who reportedly was pursued by Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech.

The Hokies’ season ticket base, meanwhile, has doubled — from 2,231 to nearly 5,000 (with a month to go).

• • •

A poll conducted by the Sports Marketing Group in Atlanta has identified the following as the most hated spectator sports: dog fighting, professional wrestling, bullfighting and professional boxing.

What, no bear baiting?

• • •

And finally …

Beginning next year, players on the women’s tennis tour could be fined $100,000 and suspended if they’re caught fixing a match. WTA officials apparently wanted to guard against the possibility that an opponent would take pity on Anna Kournikova and let her win a final.

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