- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2006

I’ve got no problem with Jeb Bush being the next NFL commissioner — as long as he doesn’t count the Pro Bowl ballots.

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I can see it now: “Bengals Wideout Denied Trip to Hawaii Because of Hanging Chads.”

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Can you believe the cover of Sports Illustrated this week — “The Rehab of Carson Palmer”? What’s next, a photo essay of Tom Brady getting a rubdown?

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In high school football, a new policy adopted in Connecticut calls for coaches to be penalized next season if their teams win by more than 50 points. The move should reduce the number of blowouts — and increase the number of wrong-way runs.

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Good thing the 1940 NFL title game (Bears 73, Redskins 0) wasn’t played under Connecticut rules. George Halas would have been stuck with lunchroom duty for the rest of his life.

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Just wondering: If, after pulling Matt LeCroy in mid-inning, Frank Robinson had gotten similar results from emergency catcher Robert Fick, would he have put a Pitch Back behind the plate?

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And what if the Pitch Back popped a string?

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Touching gesture by Duke’s women’s lacrosse team. During their Final Four game Friday, some of the gals wore on their sweatbands the numbers of the school’s three indicted men’s lacrosse players.

Hey, what about Fred Smoot, ladies? Couldn’t you find room for his number (27), too?

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Where’s the love?

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There’s no truth to the rumor the laxwomen psyched themselves before the Final Four game by watching their favorite movie, “The Stepford Wives.”

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Elsewhere in women’s sports, Northwestern’s soccer team apologized for “the negative attention, press, and controversy our alleged hazing incident has caused the University.”

Alleged? Dearies, as my grandmother used to say, if it walks like a blindfold and quacks like a blindfold, it must be a blindfold.

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Women’s Sports III: The Whitney Mollica who pulled off a triple play for UMass in the NCAA softball tournament last Sunday is none other than Don Zimmer’s granddaughter. A freshman third baseperson, Whitney hit .400 this season and was named both Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year in the Atlantic 10.

Word of her feat quickly reached the clubhouse of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, for whom Zim works as a senior baseball advisor (while training, of course, for his rematch with Pedro Martinez). “They were trying to … get [the details] on line,” she told the Boston Globe. “Pops doesn’t really know how to use the computer, so they were doing it all for him.”

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Speaking of Boston, does any town have better educated general managers? Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins’ new GM, went to Harvard, and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox went to Yale.

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Seriously, when did you start needing an Ivy League diploma to trade Joe Thornton for a used Zamboni?

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Theo on his college experience (as told to Baseball Prospectus): “I ended up as an American Studies major at Yale, and that allowed me to write most of my papers on baseball, rock and roll — things that I wanted to write about.”

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Theo on attending law school at the University of San Diego while putting in 70-hour weeks with the Padres: “I was working full-time and going to law school full-time. That meant two things: The Padres were really cooperative with me, and I’m very thankful for that. And it also meant that I was very rarely in class. [Laughs.] I selected the classes based on my best guess on the teachers’ attendance policies. The ones who never took attendance and didn’t care became my favorite teachers.”

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Theo, by the way, got engaged last week. A story about it in the Globe contained this classic passage:

“Last night, Epstein’s father, Leslie, director of Boston University’s Creative Writing Program, declined to comment on the engagement news when reached by telephone at home. He thanked a reporter for calling in between innings [of the Red Sox-Yankees game], however.”

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Number of the Week: 60. (Combined games Durham Bulls star Delmon Young and manager John Tamargo have been suspended in recent weeks for assaulting umpires — Young for hitting an ump with a bat and Tamargo for bumping one “on multiple occasions.”)

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Robert Wuhl — I mean, hitting coach Richie Hebner — will manage the Bulls in Tamargo’s absence.

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Something I just stumbled across: During his much-traveled minor-league career, Tommy Lasorda pitched for a season in Schenectady, N.Y., under a manager named Lee Riley. Lee, it turns out, was the father of Pat Riley, the NBA coaching great.

Pat’s old man was a pretty fair ballplayer himself, a veritable Crash Davis. (the Kevin Costner character in “Bull Durham”). For instance, he hit 248 homers as a minor-leaguer; in the movie, Crash hit 247 (the “record” — and then retired). He also played briefly in the majors — with the Phillies from April 19 to April 30, 1944; Crash, you may recall, waxes nostalgic to Nuke LaLoosh about his 21 days in “the Show.”

Eerie, isn’t it?

(Unlike Crash, though, Lee was an outfielder, not a catcher.)

A quick check of my “Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball” revealed that Riley also managed Schenectady (Class C) in ‘47 (winning the league championship), Terre Haute (B) in ‘49, Utica (A) in ‘50 and Schenectady (now Class A) again in ‘51 … after which I lost track of him.

Minor league games played: 2,265.

Minor league hits: 2,418.

Minor league batting average: .314 (with a high of .372 with Beatrice in 1937, tops in the Nebraska State League).

All in all, a man worthy of respect —if not a date with Susan Sarandon.

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The NCAA has sanctioned Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson for all those illegal calls he made to recruits at Oklahoma. For the next year, Sampson won’t be allowed to phone any prospective players — though he can still, apparently, use e-mail, a bullhorn or carrier pigeons.

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It’s swell to stock your basketball program with over-aged players — as GW’s Karl Hobbs has shown with Omar Williams, Carl Elliott, Danilo Pinnock, Maureece Rice and Regis Koundjia. The flip side, though, is that not all of them will still want to be playing college hoops when they’re 23 or 24.

And so Pinnock, talented but probably not NBA-ready, has decided to turn pro after his junior season. Ouch.

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ESPN just called some guy “the most controversial bass fisherman in the country.” What, does he inject his worms with steroids or something?

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And finally …

I can’t wait for Bob Ley to do an “Outside the Lines” on this — featuring an exclusive interview with Charlie the Tuna.


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