- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2003

It remains highly doubtful that Washington will get a major league baseball team to call its own — after all, Portland, Ore., San Juan and Monterrey are just as deserving, right? — but if and when it happens, Christos Joannou will be ready.

Joannou, who describes himself as a free-lance graphics artist/entrepreneur, has created and is already selling attractive caps he designed for a Washington team — available in black, white and gray.

The caps feature a (naturally) red, white and blue “W” with the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol dome poking out of a baseball. They’re extremely attractive and destined to be collector’s items as possibly the ones worn by Washington’s first team since 1971 or a symbol of another and likely last effort to return baseball to a city that was home to American League teams for 71 years.

Joannou also has created a logo with the same “W,” plus renderings of an illuminated Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol. He’ll attempt to sell the logo to the owners of a District team if and when.

Major League Baseball, which has done nothing substantial to help us land the Montreal Expos, stuck its corporate nose into Joannou’s business recently when it decreed that his logo couldn’t say “Washington Senators” because of copyright violations. So Joannou did a quick fix, and the word “Senators” vanished faster than Bob Short’s expansion team following the 1971 season. That’s no loss, though: Any new area team here should be called the Nationals, the original name of the city’s first American League club 102 years ago.

Joannou, a 30-year-old resident of Vienna, has enlisted the help of two older men who actually can remember Washington teams. Retired realtor Sidney Hais, 88, an eyewitness to the Senators’ only World Series championship in 1924, has provided counseling. Writer Vance Garnett, 66, is handling promotional material and public relations.

To find out more about Joannou’s efforts, check his Web site at washingtonlogo.com. You might even find a picture of a man putting the horse before the cart, but why not? For this area’s long-deprived baseball fans, a bit of optimism can’t hurt, whatever the real odds.

Cal looks back

Although the Baltimore Orioles no longer are affiliated with the Rochester Red Wings, their longtime Class AAA farm club, the greatest Oriole this side of Brooks Robinson still has fond memories of the city.

“I was here when I learned I was going to the big leagues,” said Cal Ripken, who batted .288 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI in 114 games for the Red Wings as a 20-year-old in 1981. “Twenty-two years ago — it almost seems like it was yesterday.”

Mr. Consecutive Games, who will be inducted into the Orioles’ Hall of Fame on Sept.6 and is certain to join the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2007, talked about his days in Rochester before Friday’s ceremony inducting him into the Red Wings’ shrine.

“Part of making it in the major leagues is talent and part is having the confidence to know you can do it,” Ripken said. “This is where I gained that confidence.”

Actually, Ripken’s memories of Rochester go back even further. He spent the summers of 1969 and 1970 in Rochester while his father, the late Cal Ripken Sr., managed the Red Wings.

Cal’s short tenure in Rochester may be taken as a sign of things to come. He played every game before being called up by the Orioles when the two-month major league strike ended in August. During that season, he hit three homers in one game, played in a 33-inning game that remains the longest in baseball history and was voted the International League’s Rookie of the Year.

Harold Bell’s gang

Harold Bell, Washington’s pioneer sports talk host and a longtime community activist, hasn’t been on the air regularly for a while now, which just goes to show that some radio executives may not be the brightest bulbs burning. But his friends and disciples include all manner of notable natterers.

Guys who appeared on Bell’s old “Inside Sports” program include former D.C. sportscasters Nick Charles, Martin Wyatt, Dan Patrick, James Brown, David Aldridge, David DuPree, Glenn Harris and Butch McAdams. You could include John Thompson, except that he really isn’t a radio guy. (If you don’t believe me, catch his show on WTEM-AM some afternoon.)

That’s a pretty impressive list of talking heads, but the question remains: Why doesn’t somebody who owns a station stick a microphone in front of Bell and get out of the way?

Ryan’s express falters

As one of 10 lucky (?) contest winners, Kevin Szymanski got to face three pitches from all-time strikeout king Nolan Ryan recently at Ryan’s Class AA ballpark in Round Rock, Texas. Actually, though, he only got to see one.

“My goal is truly not to hit anybody,” Ryan, 56, told the Austin American-Statesman before taking the mound.

“OK, folks, Szymanski steps in, waves the bat, and here’s Nolie’s first pitch

Wham, right in the back. Luckily, the presumably bruised Szymanski didn’t charge the mound, because Ryan is 56 these days. Actually, he considered it a badge of honor.

“It didn’t hurt,” insisted Szymanski, 28, of Encino, Calif. “Actually, it’s cooler this way. I’ll be able to tell my kids that I got drilled by Nolan Ryan.”

And lived to tell the tale.

Serena acting up

The really sad thing about Serena Williams’ recent knee surgery is not that it prevented her from (presumably) wrapping up the U.S. Open championship in a nice, neat bundle.

No, the really sad thing about Serena Williams’ recent knee surgery is that it delayed her appearance in “Street Time,” the original series on the Showtime cable network — or so a news release last week would have us believe.

Shooting has been rescheduled from mid-August until Sept.8, so we can only hope the world doesn’t come to an end in the next week. Williams will play a wrongly convicted gang member who has just been paroled (and who retaliates by ripping vicious first serves off the noggins of those who put her behind bars?).

“I’m really excited about doing [this],” Serena says, and you can’t hardly blame her. If she can translate her tennis success to acting, she might even be rich some day.

Eat your heart out, Venus.

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