- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

I don’t know what all the fuss is about with this Terrell Owens/Nicollette Sheridan thing. I mean, ABC pulled the same stunt back in the ‘70s, only then it was a naked Agnes Moorehead jumping into the arms of Bubba Smith.

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Or maybe it was in the ‘80s, and a starkers Barbara Stanwyck leaped into the embrace of Fridge Perry.

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Then again, it might have been Herve Villechaize and “Too Tall” Jones. My memory’s a little fuzzy.

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Give T.O. credit. Not only did he catch the Desperate Housewife without a bobble, he had the self-restraint not to spike her.

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Steve Spurrier was seeing green when he agreed to succeed Lou Holtz at South Carolina, but it was different kind of green — the green jacket worn by Augusta National members.

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According to the readers of Esquire magazine, the “hottest host” on TV’s “The View” is Elisabeth Hasselbeck, wife of the Redskins’ Tim (with 41 percent of the vote, nearly double that of runner-up Meredith Vieira). But then, we already knew that, didn’t we?

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In 1996, Larry Brown earned MVP honors in the Super Bowl, signed a free agent deal with the Raiders worth $12.5 million over five years — and two seasons later was released (whereupon he rejoined the Cowboys).

In 2002, Dexter Jackson earned MVP honors in the Super Bowl, signed a free agent deal with the Cardinals worth $14 million over five years — and two seasons later was released (freeing him to rejoin the Buccaneers this week).

Moral: Beware low-profile defensive backs who have One Big Day in the Ultimate Game.

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Just wondering: Is the NBA really that concerned about Vince Carter listening to music on his iPod during pregame warmups, or is it just afraid he’s grooving to the R&B; album produced by Ron Artest?

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In the current issue of American Heritage, Roger Kahn picks the 10 best nonfiction sports books ever written. His choices, in chronological order:

• “Pitching in a Pinch” by Christy Mathewson (1912).

• “Match Play and the Spin of the Ball” by Bill Tilden (1925).

• “Farewell to Sport” by Paul Gallico (1938).

• “Sports Page” by Stanley Woodward (1949).

• “White Hopes and Other Tigers” by John Lardner (1951).

• “Wait Till Next Year: The Life Story of Jackie Robinson” by Carl T. Rowan with Jackie Robinson (1960).

• “The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played” by Lawrence Ritter (1966).

• “Nobody Asked Me, But …” by Jimmy Cannon (1978).

• “To Absent Friends” by Red Smith (1982).

• “Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston” by Howard Bryant (2002).

How many of them have you read? I’m batting .500. (The problem, alas, is that half the books are out of print. But if you’re resourceful, you can track down copies of them. I found a used “Sports Page,” for instance, on the Internet a few years back.)

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It was in “Sports Page” that I learned that newspapers once used carrier pigeons to transport photographers’ film. Woodward: “The New York Journal-American employs them to good advantage within metropolitan limits. About the fifth inning of the ball game at Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds, you are likely to see a flight of birds take off out of the press box, circle overhead once or twice, then head for South Street and the coop on the roof of the Journal-American building.”

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Woodward, who wrote for (and was later sports editor of) the New York Herald Tribune, also had an interesting take on sportswriting and alcohol: “A couple of jolts when you’ve got a tough story to handle may help you, provided you’re not already soaked in the stuff. … Personally, I have seldom undertaken a tough outdoor assignment in cold weather without a pint in my pocket. I have always tried to pace myself and to resort to cork-pulling only when frozen physically and mentally. Sometimes a bad lead will stick in your mind. You can’t get untracked and you can’t get rid of the idea even though you know it’s bad. A nip at this point is apt to relax the tension and remove the fine edge of self-consciousness.”

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Hey, it’s always worked for me.

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Trivia question: The Montreal Expos never had a player win the MVP Award, but three MVP recipients did break in with them. One is Vlady Guerrero, the newly crowned AL MVP. Who are the other two? (Answer below.)

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I’m not sure what to make of this, but …: The Red Sox won the World Series on Oct. 27 — the birthday of Pumpsie Green, the franchise’s first black player. (The Sox were the Redskins of baseball — the last club to integrate. Green, a middle infielder, joined them in 1959.)

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Glad to hear our baseball team-to-be has traded for “troubled outfielder” Jose Guillen. Now maybe Sean Taylor will have somebody to hang with.

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The Wizards are getting way too much credit for this Singles Night business. After all, at Seattle’s Safeco Field, home of Ichiro Suzuki, every night is Singles Night.

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Can you believe Ichiro had 225 singles this year (23 more than the previous major league record by Wee Willie Keeler in 1898)? What’s just as unbelievable, though, is that he — a singles hitter! — led the American League in intentional walks with 19 (four more than Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro). It’s the second time he’s topped the AL in IBBs, too; he also did it in 2002, when he had 27 (nine more than anyone else).

Leading the league in singles and intentional walks … bet that hasn’t been done too often.

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This week’s Blast from the Sports Past was the resurrection of Art Houtteman. Who knew, until Freddy Adu won the MLS title with D.C. United at the age of 15, that pitcher Houtteman was the previous youngest athlete to play on a championship team in an American professional league?

(Certainly not me. I’d never heard of the guy — even though he finished his career with the Orioles in 1957.)

Houtteman was 18 years, 64 days old when the Tigers took the World Series from the Cardinals in 1945. He didn’t appear in the Series — he pitched in just 13 games for Detroit all season — but his claim to fame remained undisturbed until Freddy the Great came along.

Art was no Adu, but he did go 19-12 with the ‘50 Tigers and racked up 15 victories in two other seasons. (Lifetime record: 87-91.) How Cleveland manager Al Lopez used him in the pennant-winning season of ‘54 is kind of interesting. “Bob Feller could no longer pitch every fourth day,” Indians teammate Al Smith explains in “We Played the Game,” Danny Peary’s oral history of the era, “so he and Art Houtteman split time. Houtteman went 15-7, and Feller 13-3.”

Why don’t they ever do that nowadays with aging pitchers, instead of just throwing them on the scrap heap? But anyway …

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Houtteman had some tough breaks in life — thus his nickname, “Hard Luck.” He missed the entire ‘51 season after fracturing his skull in a car accident, and another car crash involving his wife and mother resulted in the death of his baby daughter. (He also came within one out of a no-hitter in 1952, only to see it broken up.)

Here’s hoping things go a little smoother for Freddy, that everything is seashells and balloons (as Al McGuire would say).

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Answer to trivia question: The other two ex-Expos to win the MVP Award are Larry Walker (with the Rockies in ‘97) and Andre Dawson (with the Cubs in ‘87). Dawson and Guerrero both won it in their first year with their new teams. (In other words, watch out for Brad Wilkerson in his first season with the Washington Nationals.)

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And finally …

News item: Portraits of dictator Kim Jong-il are taken down in North Korea, and his title of “Dear Leader” is dropped.

Comment: It’s only a matter of time, I suppose, before his golf records are removed from the books, including that memorable 34 — 38 under par — he shot a few years back in his first round ever.

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Memo to Al Geiberger, Chip Beck and David Duval, all of whom have carded 59s on the PGA Tour:

Don’t get your hopes up too far, but happy days might be here again.

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