- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

Welcome to the Sunday Column, where the attire is always “come as you are.”

• • •

Not so in the NBA, which is instituting a dress code next month. Suze Orman probably wouldn’t approve of this, but the day after David Stern made the announcement, I cashed out my 401k and invested the money in shares of Mr. Tux.

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Just wondering: Does the dress code apply to tattoos, too? I mean, will sport coats have to be added to the ancient Egyptians adorning Rasheed Wallace’s right bicep?

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Charles Barkley on the subject (as quoted by Larry Stewart of the Los Angeles Times): “Young black kids dress like NBA players. Unfortunately, they don’t get paid like NBA players. So when they go out in the real world, what they wear is held against them. … If a well-dressed white kid and a black kid wearing a do-rag and throwback jersey came to me in a job interview, I’d hire the white kid. That’s reality. That’s the No.1 reason I support the dress code.”

• • •

Huge week for baseball in Texas. The Astros are in their first World Series, and former Rangers skipper Bobby Valentine is in the Japan Series with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

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OK, I’m kidding about the second part. But things have rarely been better in the Lone Star State, sports-wise. In addition to the ‘Stros and Valentine, Texas is second in the latest BCS rankings, the Spurs are the defending NBA champs, the Cowboys are leading the NFC East and Lance Armstrong is engaged to Sheryl Crow.

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I’m pretty sure Lance also won the Tour de France again.

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Not to be a killjoy, but the comparisons between the Astros and the 1914 Boston Braves are a bit of a stretch. Yes, they’re the only teams in major league history to reach the playoffs after being 15 games below .500, but the Braves’ comeback was much more remarkable. Consider:

• As late as July 4, after dropping a doubleheader to the Dodgers, the Braves were still 14 games under .500 (26-40). The Astros were just three games under on July4 (39-42).

• After that date, the Braves went 72-19 (including their World Series sweep of the A’s), with winning streaks of six, nine, seven, five, eight, nine and five games. The Astros went 50-31 after July4, with winning streaks of six, seven and five games.

(Much thanks to the selfless souls at BaseballLibrary.com, whose database made this item possible.)

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This Space has mentioned before what a fabulous Web site baseballmusings.com is. That’s where I found this nugget, provided by former ESPN baseball researcher David Pinto, the site’s founder:

“It’s really too bad that Frank Thomas can’t play [in the World Series] and [Jeff] Bagwell probably won’t play much. The two have the exact same birthday, born on May27, 1968. Both were outstanding offensive first basemen (Bagwell was a great defensive player as well). Both won MVP awards in 1994. Baseball Reference lists Thomas as the second most similar player to Bagwell, and Bagwell as the most similar player to Thomas. Bagwell has 449 career home runs, Thomas 448. They’ve each played their MLB careers with one franchise. Despite their greatness, neither of their teams ever made it to the World Series until now. Apart from Thomas being five inches taller than Bagwell, you might think they really were twins!”

• • •

Either that or they arrived in the same spaceship. Remember the “X-Files” episode — “The Unnatural” — that starred Jesse L. Martin as a Josh Gibson figure? One of the characters tells Mulder, “They’re all aliens, Agent Mulder — all the great ones. … See, none of the great ones fit in — not in this world, not in any other world. They’re all aliens, Mulder, until they step between the white chalk lines — until they step on the outfield grass.”

• • •

That would certainly explain David Wells.

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The word “Redskins” was nowhere to be found in the Kansas City Star last weekend, when the Snydermen were in town to face the Chiefs. Newspaper policy dictates they be identified only as “Washington” — out of respect to Native Americans.

The Star sure has come a long way. The only other time Joe Gibbs brought a team to Arrowhead Stadium — Nov.15 1992, to be precise — the paper ran a story on the Missouri-Kansas State football game that began thusly:

“COLUMBIA — Missouri slipped the banana to Kansas State on Saturday afternoon, playing monkey, monkey, who’s got the monkey in a 27-14 Big Eight victory.”

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Curious George could not be reached for comment.

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So I’m reading about the Vikings’ escapades on Lake Minnetonka, and I’m thinking Obviously, these guys have been spending too much time watching “Rome” on HBO.

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Nowadays, teams like the Vikes use boats for parties. In the old days, though, NFL teams sometimes traveled by boat. The New York Giants, in fact, braved the seas en route to their first-ever road game — at Providence in 1925. Author Barry Gottehrer’s description of the experience in “The Giants of New York”:

“The boat, carrying cargo in addition to the Giants, began to list badly in the North River, almost turned over near the Battery and barely made it to Providence the next day. The beds were too small, the water was too rough and the atmosphere decidedly non-Spartan. Heine Benkert fell asleep with a cigar in his mouth and almost set the boat afire, and another player was drunk most of the trip. Only Jim Thorpe, tired and surprisingly tame, seemed untroubled, playing solitaire under a dim deck light. It was a sick football team that arrived in Providence and lost to the Steamrollers, 14-0.”

• • •

Tough last month for the Dolphins. This week they had to deal with Hurricane Wilma, and a few weeks earlier they had to deal with ex-Hurricane Vilma (Jets linebacker Jonathan, the University of Miami product).

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Matt Leinart is still putting up great numbers for USC, but a lot of folks think teammate Reggie Bush could keep him from winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies. Trivia question: A situation like that has only happened once before. Who were the players involved? (Answer below.)

• • •

Seventy-eight years ago yesterday:

“At Richmond, spectators’ eyes were glued on Al Barnes, Virginia Military Institute halfback, as he crashed 21 yards through the University of Maryland. There was another crash. Through a great ragged hole in the massed audience a section of the wooden stands disappeared. Players, horrified, forgot the game; rushed over to assist the rescue. Four score persons were injured, over a dozen seriously.” (From the Oct.31, 1927 issue of Time magazine.)

• • •

In the space of five days last week, 16-year-old Michelle Wie was disqualified from a golf tournament and 16-year-old Freddy Adu was suspended by D.C. United for complaining about his playing time. If I were 16-year-old Nicole Vaidisova, recent winner of three straight women’s tennis tournaments, I’d be real careful about foot-faulting.

• • •

Answer to trivia question: Army’s Doc Blanchard won the Heisman in 1945 but was beaten out for the award the following year by teammate Glenn Davis. (Note: Blanchard and Davis finished 1-2 in the balloting in ‘45; in ‘46, they finished 1-4 — with Georgia’s Charley Trippi coming in second and Notre Dame’s Johnny Lujack third.)

• • •

A sixth “Rocky” movie, “Rocky Balboa,” will begin shooting next year. One possible opponent for the aging fighter, according to sources: Danica Patrick — fresh off a unanimous decision over Jaques Lazier.

• • •

“My [4-year-old] son hits harder than she does,” Lazier said after his run-in with Patrick.

Memo to Rocky: Stay away from Lazier’s kid — at least until you’ve had a few tune-ups.

• • •

Talia Shire, who played Balboa’s love interest in the previous five installments, may or may not appear in the new film. This much is certain, though: Since it’s been 15 years since the last “Rocky,” they’ll definitely have to hire new round-card girls.

• • •

Sylvester Stallone, the 59-year-old director/star, apparently plans to reprise the famous scene where Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. But this time, I’m told, he’ll be accompanied by a paramedic.

• • •

And finally …

There’s no truth to the rumor that the weigh-in scene will include a prostate exam.


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