- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

What a week. The Duke lacrosse players were declared innocent, Jim Marshall received a pardon for his felony drug conviction and Jayson Williams, I’m told, might get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Rifle Association.

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So I’m reading about the Angels-Indians series being moved to Milwaukee because of snow, and I’m thinking: Hey, maybe we can get the Nationals to move a series to Milwaukee — or even the entire season.

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Why not? This is the franchise, remember, that once played “home” games in San Juan.

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According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nats are “the first team in major league history not to score in the first three innings in any of its first 10 games of the season.”

You’ve gotta appreciate a club that refuses to give its fans false hope.

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Elsewhere in baseball, a sports agent was convicted in Florida of smuggling major league prospects out of Cuba. This is what happens when the anti-smoking movement goes too far: We start sneaking ballplayers out of Cuba instead of cigars.

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News item: On ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning,” SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott says rappers who use language like “nappy-headed hos” — Don Imus’ infamous last words — “mean it in an affectionate way.”

Comment: In the future, the only ho Stuart should be allowed to talk about is Chan Ho Park.

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Strangely, I don’t find myself hating Barry Bonds these days nearly as much as I find myself loathing Brad Halsey, Byung-Hyun Kim, Brian Moehler, Jose Valverde, Felix Hernandez, Dan Haren, Chad Billingsley, Brett Myers, Brian Sweeney, Jeff Francis, Chan Ho Park, Livan Hernandez, Tim Hudson (twice over), Sean Marshall, Les Walrond, Aaron Harang, David Wells, Brian Fuentes, Chris Spurling, Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Zach Duke and Shawn Chacon. They’re the pitchers who served up homers Nos. 715 through 737.

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Fearless prediction: Whoever delivers gopher ball No. 756 will become the New Ralph Branca.

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This ambidextrous reliever for Creighton, Pat Venditte — was he voted captain of the team or did he have to settle for sergeant at arms?

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In resurrecting 44-year-old Kevin Willis, the Dallas Mavericks also breathed life into the name of Nat Hickey. And who, you ask, is Nat Hickey? He’s the only player older than Willis to appear in an NBA game. Nat was two days shy of 46 when he played for the Providence Steamrollers against the New York Knicks on Jan. 29, 1948.

Naturally, the Sunday Column had to find out the story behind the story. Here it is (in 200 words or less):

Hickey was a famous player in the ‘20s and ‘30s — a member of the Original (New York) Celtics, pro basketball’s first super team. One sportswriter considered him “the most amazing [shooter]” of his era. He was essentially retired, though, when the Steamrollers, in last place with a 2-17 record, hired him as their coach midway through the ‘47-48 season. (The man he replaced was none other than Hank Soar, a longtime major league umpire who also did some footballing for the New York Giants.)

On the night in question, “Providence, hit hard by injuries, was short-handed,” the New York Times reported, “so Hickey played the last five minutes of the first half. During that brief spell, a seven-point Steamroller deficit pyramided to 19 points, with Hickey’s four personal fouls contributing that many points to the Knickerbocker total.”

Providence rallied in the fourth quarter and actually took the lead, but the Knicks regrouped and escaped with a 75-73 victory. It was the only game Hickey appeared in all season — and the last of his career. As for his coaching, well, there wasn’t much he could do to save the Steamrollers. They finished 6-42, the second worst winning percentage (.125) in NBA history, and his contract wasn’t renewed.

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When they weren’t beating up on league opponents, the Original Celtics — Joe Lapchick (the future St. John’s coach), Pete Barry and Dutch Dehnert were some of the others — barnstormed the country with an act similar to the Globetrotters’. In fact, I came across a funny newspaper photo of Hickey taken during a 1939 exhibition in Cleveland. With his right hand, he’s trying to dribble around a defender; with his left, he’s carrying “a micro-wave transmitter which broadcasts by short wave without the use of wires,” the caption says. “As he played, Hickey broadcast an account of the contest — said to be the first time the stunt has ever been done.”

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Trivia question: Willis made his NBA debut Oct. 26, 1984. Which of the following stories wasn’t in the headlines that day?

a. Walter Mondale’s campaign manager tells him that President Reagan seems to have an insurmountable lead in the polls less than two weeks before the election.

b. Three Bulgarians and four Turks are indicted on charges of conspiring to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981.

c. Ron Meyer is out and Raymond Berry in as coach of the New England Patriots.

d. Moses parts the Red Sea.

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Correction of the Year (but remember, it’s early):

“Due to a reporting error in Wednesday’s editions, the Boston Herald listed Peabody High School’s Courtney Corning as one of its players to watch in Division I softball this season. Corning, a Greater Boston League all-star in softball, died Jan. 5 from injuries sustained in a car accident. … The Herald regrets the error.”

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Did you see that “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David sat down with Jets management recently to give his Favorite Team advice on the upcoming draft? You know, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by this. Isn’t Kremer doing sideline reporting for “Sunday Night Football”?

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David is also said to be working on a new HBO Original Series — “Kiper.”

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Larry should do lunch sometime with Bradford Dillman, the erstwhile actor. About a decade ago, Dillman published a book, “Inside the New York Giants,” that rated every player drafted by the club from 1967 to ‘94.

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Poor Bradford. He hasn’t been the same since “Escape from the Planet of the Apes.”

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And finally …

Two LSU football players were suspended from the team after being accused of burglarizing a campus apartment and using a stolen credit card. The school obviously decided that if it didn’t take action, Roger Goodell might step in.

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