baltimoresun.com

December 29, 2011

Catching up with ... Roy Hilton

roy-hilton-1-1228.jpg At 68, Roy Hilton still enjoys fooling people.

"They come up to me and think I'm an old basketball player. I like that," said Hilton, who, at 6-foot-6, was one of the tallest Baltimore Colts of his day.

He fooled people in other ways, back then. The Colts' 15th round draft pick in 1965, Hilton surprised everyone by making the team at defensive end and lasting 11 years in the NFL. And in Baltimore's 16-13 victory in Super Bowl V, he surprised Dallas by roaring past its All-Pro tackle, Ralph Neely, and sacking Cowboys' quarterback Craig Morton twice before halftime.

Then, in the fourth quarter, with the Colts trailing 13-6, Hilton charged the Dallas passer again. Tossing Neely aside with a head slap (it was legal then), Hilton rushed a hurried Morton and forced an interception that led to the Colts' tying touchdown.

"After the game, Mac (Colts coach Don McCafferty) came over to me, shook my hand and just said, 'Thanks,' " Hilton said. "That was the highlight of my entire career.

"See, I was fired up for the Super Bowl because, beforehand, Dallas had switched Neely from one side of its offensive line to the other. They wanted to get him away from (Colts' All-Pro defensive end) Bubba Smith. I guess they thought I was easy pickings for Neely, and it ticked me off."

Smith, who died in August, had been the first player selected overall in the 1967 draft, out of Michigan State. Hilton, who attended Jackson State, had been chosen No. 210. So it was no surprise which end got all of the ink.

"Bubba was something," Hilton said. "If he got mad and decided he was going to get the quarterback, they simply could not stop him. He was that good. He was bigger (6-foot-7) and stronger than me, though both of our legs looked like toothpicks. I had a phobia about that. During games, I wore socks all the way up to my knees, to make my legs look bigger. Even now, when I go down the street for a walk, I do the same thing."

Hilton, who lives in Randallstown, has paid for his rough play. The left knee has been replaced twice; the right one is next to go. He suffers from gout and arthritis and takes more than 10 medications a day. But you won't hear complaints from the man who played nine seasons in Baltimore during the Colts' golden era.

"I've been blessed," said Hilton, married 46 years to his high school sweetheart. "We've got six grandchildren, all of whom keep me going."

roy-hilton-1228.jpg One, Brandon Copeland (Gilman), is a junior defensive end at Penn, where he has twice made the All-Ivy League first team. Another, Marquis Sullivan (Spalding), starred in basketball at Loyola.

Having raised three daughters, Hilton now has six grandsons and dotes on every one. He attends every Penn home game and tutors Copeland in the nuances of the sport. He also goes to all Ravens' home contests with his neighbor, Lenny Moore, the Colts' Hall of Famer.

Hilton retired in 2007 from his job as security officer at Johns Hopkins University, a post Hilton held for 20 years. He still exercises regularly "to keep the body parts functioning" and takes brisk walks daily.

"When I go out in the rain, my wife, Marie, tells me what a goof I am," he said. "I may drop dead, working out, but I feel like I've got to do it."

At 225 pounds, he's lighter than his playing weight (238). There's good reason for that, Hilton said:

"When I left football, I had to start paying for my own meals."

December 15, 2011

Catching Up With ... former Colts RB Norm Bulaich

norm-bulaich-colts.jpg He had a funny name, a Texas drawl and churning legs that chewed up yardage. Remember Norm Bulaich, the Baltimore Colts' star running back in their run to the January 1971 Super Bowl? He turns 65 on Christmas.

Bulaich can't believe it, either.

When he signed up for Medicare, he told the clerk: “I don't feel 65. Will you check it out?”

She did. He was.

The Colts' top draft choice 41 years ago, Bulaich caught on quick: He led Baltimore in rushing as a rookie. Bulaich (rhymes with goulash) sparkled in the playoffs, gaining 187 total yards in successive victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders. Then came Super Bowl V, where the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, on a field goal with five seconds left.

“I carried the ball twice, to run down the clock, right before Jim O'Brien's kick,” Bulaich said. “In the huddle, I got some dirty looks from our linemen, who worried that I would mess up.

“They said, ‘Don't fumble, Bulaich. Don't gain or lose any ground. Just move a little to the right.'”

Bulaich hung on to the ball and gained 3 yards, setting up the winning 32-yard kick.

Afterward, in the champions' locker room, the rookie thought, Hey, this wasn't that hard. We can do this every year.

“Obviously, that wasn't the case,” he said.

But Bulaich's best day was yet to come. In the Colts' 1971 season opener, against the New York Jets, he punished coach Weeb Ewbank's team for a club-record 198 yards in a 22-0 victory at Memorial Stadium. Moreover, he rushed 22 times with an ankle that he had sprained early in the game.

The Jets were stunned. One of Bulaich's runs was for a 67-yard touchdown.

“Nobody's ever run like that against this team, nobody,” New York quarterback Joe Namath said. “[Bulaich] didn't stop with second effort — hell, he went all the way to fourth, that's how hard he was running.”

His effort broke the Colts' previous single-game mark of 194 yards, set by Alan Ameche in 1955. Late in the game, with Bulaich closing in on the record, coach Don McCafferty pulled him aside.

“I'll give you two carries to break [Ameche's] mark, then I'm taking you out,” McCafferty said.

Bulaich nodded and plowed ahead.

His franchise record stood for 29 years, until 2000, when it was broken by Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts.

“For that, the club held a ceremony, where I got to meet James,” Bulaich said. “I told him, ‘Edgerrin, that record was all I had left, and you took it away from me.'

“Do you know what he said? ‘I'm sorry, Mr. Bulaich.'”

Three years is all he spent in Baltimore. Slowed by pulled hamstrings, he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and, two years later, to the Miami Dolphins, where “Big Boo” was reunited with coach Don Shula, who had drafted him out of Texas Christian for the Colts. Bulaich retired in 1979 after taking a forearm to the face that broke his jaw in three places. He left, having rushed and caught passes for more than 5,100 yards.

Married 40 years, he lives in Hurst, Texas, and works as an executive for a waste management company. Bulaich has two children, four grandchildren, a 14 handicap in golf and good health. At 200 pounds, he's lighter than his playing weight (220). And he's free of the prostate cancer that rattled him five years ago.

Though he didn't play here long, Bulaich has fond remembrances of his time with the Colts.

“Are you kidding? Starting, as a rookie, in a lineup with [Johnny] Unitas, [John] Mackey, [Bill] Curry and [Tom] Matte? Oh, my gosh, I had to pinch myself,” he said. “I cherished the friendships with all of those guys. You couldn't have written a better script.

“It was a privilege for me to play in Baltimore. I wasn't a great player, but I hope I contributed to the sport.”

In his game room hangs a photograph of Unitas handing Big Boo the ball.

“I tell folks, ‘I'm number 36 in that picture. I'm nobody,” he said. “But that other guy, number 19? He's somebody.”

1971 Baltimore Sun photo of Norm Bulaich

November 23, 2011

Catching up with ... Lenny Moore


By Mike Klingaman
The Baltimore Sun

The photograph hangs in Lenny Moore’s club basement, amid the hundreds of trophies, plaques and keepsakes that chronicle the life of the Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame running back. But few treasures mean as much to Moore as the black-and-white snapshot of him and his mentor, former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, with their arms draped around one another.

Were the two to meet today, Moore said, they would again embrace. Never mind Paterno’s recent dismissal in the wake of child sex abuse charges brought against onetime Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno’s firing was a bum rap, said Moore, who remains fiercely loyal to the man who, as an assistant coach in the mid-1950s, helped shepherd him through a rocky college career. When Moore flunked out of Penn State as a junior, Paterno was among those who helped him see the light.

“What do I think of Joe? Same as before,” Moore said this week. “Penn State made a mistake in axing him.This is eating me to pieces, because I know what Joe is about. He’s a helluva guy who tries to open doors for his players, just like he did for me.”

In the Sandusky case, Moore said, Paterno “did what he was supposed to do — he reported it to the folks above him and then went back to his coaching. It’s not his job to call the cops. And now they’re talking about removing his statue from outside the stadium? C’mon!

“I’m going to call and tell Joe, ‘You’re my man, just like I was your guy when I was there. If there’s anything I can do, well, it’s done, believe me.’ “

It has been a hectic week for Moore, of Randallstown. He has delivered Thanksgiving goodies to dozens of needy families, knocking on doors in East Baltimore and handing turkeys to folks who have no idea that their greying benefactor was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1964.

“That’s not important,” he said. “What matters is bringing families together.”

Moore’s mercurial, high-stepping moves, often elegant and always electric, led the Colts to successive world championships in 1958 and 1959. Five times All-NFL, he once scored touchdowns in 18 straight games, a record that stood for 40 years.

And now?

“I’m just trying to keep this body and mind together,” said Moore, who turns 78 on Friday. Married 35 years, he has four children and eight grandchildren. He remains free of the prostate cancer he fought in 2001, the same year that Moore’s son, Les, 43, died of scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease.

Moore retired last year from his job with the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services where, for 26 years, he traveled to middle and high schools, mixing and mingling with at-risk children and trying to set them straight.

“It was something I would have done anyway,” he said, “so I figured that I might as well do it and get paid.”

A Ravens fan, he often attends home games and will watch their game with San Francisco Thursday night with heightened interest. It was in a furious 35-27 comeback victory against the 49ers that the Baltimore Colts clinched the Western Division championship in 1958. Moore and his teammates have long claimed that contest was superior to the Colts’ 23-17 sudden-death overtime win against the New York Giants for the title.

“We trailed, 27-7 at halftime,” Moore said. “We were so twisted, we didn’t know what to do. The 49ers had three Hall of Famers in the backfield (quarterback Y.A. Tittle, fullback Joe Perry and halfback Hugh McElhenny). How do you stop those guys?

“But (coach) Weeb Ewbank said, ‘Fellas, we’re not out of this. Defense? Shut them down. Offense? Go to work.’

“When we went back out there, everyone was tuned in, and Johnny (Unitas) went to war.”

Moore did his part, racing 73 yards for a TD in the fourth quarter, a dizzying sprint in which he changed direction three times.

More than half a century later, there’s growing interest among Baltimoreans to honor Moore with a bronze statue. A group of business leaders will meet Friday to discuss it.

Does Moore deserve a sculpture? He hems and haws and stares at the floor.

“If they think I’m worthy of it,” he said.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com
 

November 10, 2011

Catching up with ... Marcus Robinson

 

 

By Mike Klingaman
The Baltimore Sun

The only Raven ever to score four touchdowns in one game now runs a beauty salon in Illinois. There, amid tidy rows of mirrors, sinks and curling irons, sits Marcus Robinson, 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, making appointments and balancing the books for the family’s bustling business.

Let him make one thing clear.

“I don’t do hair,” the onetime Baltimore wide receiver said. More’s the pity. There’s magic in those supple hands.

Eight years ago, in a November comeback victory against Seattle, Robinson caught four TD passes — all in the second half — as the Ravens outlasted the favored Seahawks, 44-41 in overtime. Those receptions, of 13, 50, 25 and 9 yards, set a club single-game record.

Robinson’s effort juiced the Ravens, then a .500 team, to win five of their last six games in 2003 and take their division before losing to Tennessee in the playoffs.

That’s how much mileage they got from the win over Seattle, a game in which they trailed, 41-24 in the fourth quarter. The contest still ranks as the second biggest rally in Ravens’ history.

“It was one of those games that it was just fun to be in,” said Robinson, 36. “In the second half, it seemed like we just kept trading scores. No sooner did the offense come off the field, sit down and take a drink, than it was time to go back out.”

He caught seven passes that day, all from Anthony Wright, the Ravens’ third-string quarterback — and the only healthy one — who was making his second start for the club. By chance, Wright and Robinson had played together in college, at South Carolina, and knew each other’s strengths.

“I remember that, in the huddle, Anthony whispered, ‘I’m gonna need you, Marcus,’” the receiver said.

And Robinson replied, “I’ve got you.”

The game was the high point of both their careers. A free agent who’d signed with Baltimore after five years with the Chicago Bears, Robinson had done little to that point for the run-happy Ravens, who ranked last in the NFL in passing.

In the dressing room afterward, coach Brian Billick sidled over and asked, “Marcus, where have you been (all season)?”

And Robinson replied, ‘Well, coach, you’ve been giving the ball to Jamal (Lewis) all year.”

For his play that day, Wright was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. That award still nags at Robinson, who uses it to tease Wright, whom he calls “Tight Tight” because “he always wore tight pants in college.”

“I think Tight Tight got (the honor) because his wife had a baby right after the game,” he said. “Every time I see him, I say, ‘Man, I’m the guy who had to catch all four of those balls, and two of them were rainbows.’”

Wright, he said, just laughs.

One year after he joined the Ravens, Robinson was gone. In March, 2004, learning that Baltimore was courting Terrell Owens of the San Francisco 49ers, Robinson left town and signed with Minnesota. Except that the Owens deal fell through.

“I would like to have stayed with the Ravens,” said Robinson, who ended his career with the Vikings in 2006. “I loved the team, the camaraderie. Guys would sit in the hot tub, after workouts, or hang around in the parking lot, by their cars, and talk about their families and life, in general. There was no hurry to go your separate ways. You can’t beat that.”

Married and the father of two, Robinson lives in West Dundee, Ill. Besides the hair salon, he owns Bigtime Sports, a personal training company that serves both teens and adults. There, he puts his charges through a regimen of football fitness routines, everything from pulling sleds to ladder drills.

“Most of the adults are women, from 21 to 60,” he said. “Sometimes I have the ladies do blocking and dummy drills. They’ll line up, run curls and slants, and I’ll throw to them.

“My ladies catch the ball very well in their hands. You’d think they’d hug the ball, but they say they don’t like it hitting them in the chest. I tell them that they catch better than some of the high school boys that I’ve been training.”

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

September 9, 2011

Catching Up With ... former Ravens WR Derrick Alexander

In the beginning, the Ravens stunk. They lost nine of their first 12 games and seemed sure to fall again when the Pittsburgh Steelers rode into town Dec. 1, 1996.

At 9-3, the Steelers were playoff-bound, a first-place club expected to hand the home team its fifth straight loss. Pittsburgh was smug from the top down.

“We're playing the Baltimore Ravens, whatever their name is,” Steelers president Dan Rooney said.

That snooty attitude vexed the Ravens' Derrick Alexander, a starting wide receiver. And when he and his teammates stepped on the field at Memorial Stadium, to the jeers of thousands of Pittsburgh fans, Alexander seethed.

“There seemed to be more Steelers fans at our place than us, and they all waved those yellow ‘Terrible Towels,’” Alexander, 39, recalled. “That got us pumped up, made us want to play harder. We were thinking, 'Get these guys out of our stadium.' “

Leave, the Steelers did, upset by the Ravens, 31-17.

derrick-alexander-catching-.jpg

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August 14, 2011

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Billy Gardner

billy-gardner-orioles.jpg Once, the Orioles were a .500 ballclub. Look it up. In 1957, they finished with a record of 76-76, the only break-even season in Orioles history. More important, it was the first time the team had won as many games as it lost since it moved from St. Louis in 1954.

The Orioles turned the corner that year, thanks in part to the club's Most Valuable Player, a scrappy infielder who could spear ground balls, turn double plays and spit tobacco juice with the best.

Billy Gardner set the stage for Orioles second basemen to come. Before Bobby Grich, Robbie Alomar and Davey Johnson, there was Gardner, a wiry little journeyman with a chaw in his jaw whose play lifted the lowly Orioles to the edge of ordinary.

In 1957 — his best year in the big leagues — Gardner hit .262 and led the American League in doubles (36) and plate appearances (718). He led AL second basemen in fielding percentage. And he started every game despite a nasty string of injuries that would have benched others.

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July 21, 2011

Catching up with Orioles pitcher Jeff Ballard

ballardblog.jpgThe picture hangs on the wall of his family room in Billings, Mont., proof of the affection that fans still have for pitcher Jeff Ballard. It’s a photo of the most popular Orioles of all time — and there, standing on the field at Camden Yards among guys named Brooks and Cal and Brady and Boog, is an unassuming player with an ordinary fastball who lost more games than he won.

So why would fans, in 2004, vote Ballard among their 50 best-loved Birds?

“I wasn’t flashy, but I worked hard and got the job done,” the 47-year-old lefthander said. “I was a nice guy who signed a lot of autographs and, even when things got bad, I never carried an attitude.

“I’m honored that fans think that highly of me. Though I played my last two years in Pittsburgh, I never stopped calling myself an Oriole. Baltimore was home to my highs — and my lows.”

What a wild ride it was. Two years out of Stanford, Ballard reached the big leagues. By 30, he was out of baseball. In between, he served as the Orioles’ poster boy for both ups and downs during his time with the team (1987-91).

At one point, Ballard lost eight games in a row — a club record. Another time, he won five straight decisions in April, the first Oriole pitcher ever to accomplish that feat. His career was peppered with contradictions like that.

What won the hearts of the fans was Ballard’s gutsy role on the 1989 team that shrugged off the horrors of the previous year (remember the 0-21 start?), muscled into the pennant race and, by September, had an entire city asking, “Why Not?”

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May 27, 2011

Catching Up With ... Jimmy Lewis, Navy lacrosse

About once a week, the silver-haired Californian finds one in his mailbox — a lacrosse ball ripe for an autograph. Jimmy Lewis, 66, reads the accompanying request, signs the ball and sends it back.

Forty-five years after Lewis starred at Navy, fans still remember the Hall of Famer some call the greatest college lacrosse player ever.

Lewis sidesteps the issue.

“It's a debate with no real conclusion,” the three-time first-team All American said. “All I know is that if I were to have played today, I'd be no less driven — or successful.”

And Navy might be playing in Monday's NCAA championship at M&T Bank Stadium, instead of watching on TV.

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May 2, 2011

Catching up with ... former Oriole Eddie Watt

eddie-watt-1.jpg Eddie Watt lives in peaceful anonymity, in a speck of a town in Nebraska, where the talk is of crops and cows and Cornhusker football. The Orioles? Not a word.

Many in North Bend (pop. 1,200) don't know there's a celebrant in their midst. Mention that Watt, 70, a longtime resident, owns two World Series rings and they'd scratch their heads and say, "Eddie What?"

Watt likes it there. After 42 years in baseball — including eight with the Orioles (1966-73) as a bullpen ace — he retired in 2003 and left the game behind. Nowadays, the man with the third-best career ERA in Orioles history (2.73) spends his time bass fishing in the Platte River, golfing and playing cards with the local elders.

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December 9, 2010

Catching up with ... Navy's Joe Bellino

bellinoblog.jpg

His name is etched in Navy annals for the battles he fought and the victories he won — on land.

Fifty years ago, Joe Bellino riddled Army’s defense and led Navy to a 17-12 victory in a celebrated game in their storied series.

That afternoon in 1960, before 98,000 fans and a national TV audience, Bellino ran for 85 yards, caught two passes, scored a touchdown, returned kickoffs and, at game’s end, intercepted an Army pass on Navy’s goal line to preserve the win. His play thrust the fourth-ranked Midshipmen (9-1) into the Orange Bowl and clinched the Heisman Trophy for Bellino, a stubby, elusive back and the first Navy player to receive the coveted award.

Enter his home in Bedford, Mass. these days and you’d have trouble finding that statue. It’s downstairs, on an unobtrusive shelf in the TV room

“I’ve seen people walk in the house and look all around for it,” said Bellino, 72. “Finally, they say, ‘Joe, where the hell is your Heisman?’

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October 18, 2010

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Angelo Dagres

Who is the only Orioles rookie ever to be signed off the street and suit up for the big league team on the same day?

Angelo Dagres, 21, hadn’t played an inning of pro baseball when he trotted out to left field in Memorial Stadium that warm September night in 1955. Fans glanced at their programs, puzzled. Reporters scratched their heads. angelo-dagres-1.jpg

“My name wasn’t even in the scorecard,” said Dagres, who’d signed with the Orioles after an impressive, if hasty, tryout. “Nobody knew who I was.”

By season’s end, they knew. In eight games, Dagres hit .267, had one game-winning RBI and made several circus catches for the woebegone Orioles (57-97-2). For two weeks, he was the talk of the town.

“There’s a kid I wouldn’t take $150,000 for,” coach Luman Harris said, watching the kid take batting practice.

“He’s really a tiger, isn’t he?” Orioles manager Paul Richards said of Dagres. “He hustles from the time he steps on the field. Just how far he can go from here, you can’t tell — but he’s got an awful lot of ability.”

Dagres never again played in the majors. Booze and a brash attitude did him in, he says. Miffed at being sent to the minors, he began drinking heavily. For six years, he kicked around in the bushes until sidelined by a freak injury. In 1961, during a road trip to Columbus, Ohio, Dagres hurt his shoulder when the ceiling collapsed in his hotel room. He retired thereafter, his abbreviated big league career forgotten.

Fifty-five years later, he wishes he’d focused on baseball.

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September 17, 2010

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Jack Fisher

jack-fisher-1.jpg From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, 'Catching Up With ...'; Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of 'Catching Up With ...'

The letters roll in, more than a dozen a week, from baseball buffs seeking Jack Fisher's autograph.

“Most of them start out, ‘You were my favorite pitcher,'” Fisher said, laughing. “I don't believe them.”

In 11 years in the majors, including four with the Orioles, the husky right-hander lost more games (139) than he won (86). Only once — with the Orioles in 1960 — did Fisher have a winning record, and then just barely (12-11).

So why, at 71, does he still get fan mail?

“The homers,” Fisher said, from his home in Easton, Pa. “Everyone wants to hear about the homers.”

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July 8, 2010

Catching Up With ... former Oriole B.J. Surhoff

From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, 'Catching Up With ...'; Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of 'Catching Up With ...' bj-surhoff-1.jpg


In eight years with the Orioles, did B.J. Surhoff ever crack a smile? Surely, he had cause. It was here, in mid-career, that Surhoff (1) found his home-run swing, (2) finally landed an All-Star berth and (3) twice led the Birds to the playoffs (1996-97), where they haven’t been since.

Through it all, Surhoff’s grim visage never changed. Hit a homer, jump for joy? Not him.

“I remember that one reporter said my expression was ‘dour,’ “ he said. “I had to look that one up.”

Fans accepted Surhoff’s demeanor as proof of his resolve. They embraced his old-school work ethic, clutch hitting and gritty play, knowing he sought perfection at every turn.

Former Orioles manager Ray Miller once said that Surhoff “could go 5-for-5 at the plate, then pop up a pitch and tear himself apart.”

Persistence remains his legacy, said Surhoff, 45, who retired in 2005.

“What am I proudest of? The fact that I played right, gave everything I had – and that nobody could question my effort,” the Cockeysville resident said. “I absolutely hated to strike out. I didn’t want to be deficient in any part of the game, and I had a hard time looking at myself in the mirror if I didn’t play 100 percent.”


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May 14, 2010

Catching Up With Billy Turner, horse trainer

From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, 'Catching Up With ...'; Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of 'Catching Up With ...'

Forty-three years ago this week, a white-knuckled young horseman sat in the stands at Pimlico Race Course, gripping his program as a two-year-old thoroughbred named Salerno breezed to a seven-length victory. billy-turner.jpg

“What a thrill that was,” Billy Turner said of the win, his first as a trainer.

Ten years later, in 1977, Turner sent another of his charges – a dark brown colt with blue-collar roots – onto the same track, in the Preakness Stakes. Seattle Slew won his race, too. And the next one, which sealed the Triple Crown for Slew and thrust the curly-topped Turner into a coveted group.

Now 70, he is the lone surviving trainer of a Triple Crown winner, a distinction he rarely trumpets.

“I never really think about that,” Turner said from his home on Long Island. Then he paused.

“But I had an awfully good time doing it, didn’t I?”

Turner was 37 when he guided Seattle Slew through racing’s biggest minefield, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Of the 11 horses to win the Triple Crown, Slew is the only undefeated horse to have done so. Winning the second leg was especially sweet, said Turner, given his start here as a trainer, and the fact that he had twice ridden in the Maryland Hunt Cup as a youth.

Moreover, Seattle Slew was quartered in Monkton as a 2-year-old while being “broken” (prepared for riding) by the Turners. So their arrival at Old Hilltop for the Preakness in 1977 was pretty much of a homecoming for the Derby winner and his entourage.

“I’d never seen so many reporters,” Turner said of the media swarm that greeted him at Pimlico. “Secretariat’s Triple Crown (in 1973) still had everybody stirred up. The place was overrun with high quality horse people, from owners to blacksmiths.”

While Slew’s 1-1/2 length Preakness victory brought plaudits for Turner, he said, “I could never appreciate it at the time because of the goal I’d set. I thought that if I didn’t win the Triple Crown, then I hadn’t won a race.

“There was no relief in winning the first leg, or the second. I had to win all three. I knew that horse had the ability to do it. All I had to do was to hold things together.”

Even Seattle Slew’s win at Belmont proved bittersweet for Turner. By year’s end, he’d been sacked by the horse’s owners, who’d bucked Turner’s plan to rest the colt awhile. Slew hit the track soon after the Belmont and lost badly.

The owners also thought Turner drank too much.

“They were right,” he said. For more than a decade, both his health and career deteriorated until, in 1991, he entered a rehabilitation center in Havre de Grace.

“I’d been literally living on alcohol,” he said.

Turner listened up, quit boozing and fought his way back in the business, starting at Laurel Raceway, where he began work as a trainer in 1992. One of his horses, Punch Line, won the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap in 1996.

That same year,Turner moved his base to Belmont Park, where he now oversees about 15 horses.

“When my owners left (the state), the pressure was on me to follow,” he said. “Believe me, there’s no place I’d rather live than Maryland.”

Not that he’s complaining.

“I’ve been sober for 20 years,” Turner said. “What’s left on my bucket list? To win the Triple Crown again. It can be done.”

May 4, 2010

Catching Up With ... Former Oriole Paul Blair

From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... " paul-blair-1.jpg


Three days before Christmas, Paul Blair felt the pain. It was as if he’d hit the fence, chest first, while chasing a fly ball.

Rushed to Howard County General Hospital, Blair, the former Orioles’ outfielder, learned he had suffered a heart attack.

“Doctors said that my main (coronary) artery was 98 percent blocked,” said Blair, 66, of Woodstock. “If it had closed up, they said I could have cancelled Christmas.”

Instead, surgeons inserted a stent in the artery and prescribed four months of physical therapy for Blair, who expects to complete it this week. What are a few aerobics for a guy who spent 12 years prowling center field for Baltimore, making diving, leaping and over-the-shoulder heists that won games and wowed fans?

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April 8, 2010

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Mike Boddicker

 From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... " 

 They scoffed at his size and made fun of his fastball, which moseyed up to the plate with the nonchalance of an on-deck hitter. But Mike Boddicker shrugged off the hoots and, as a rookie, pitched the 1983 Orioles to a world title.

A year later, he won 20 games – a feat no Baltimore pitcher has accomplished since.

Boddicker did it with smarts, not speed, and with guile, not gusto.

Never mind that Hall of Famer Rod Carew called his offerings "Little League slop" and said, "I feed my dogs better stuff than Boddicker throws."

The next time they met, Carew went hitless, stymied by a stream of slow curves.

Slop? Sure, but radar guns don’t measure savvy. It’s no coincidence that, in his 14-year career, Boddicker never served up a grand-slam.

"I just threw a lot of strikes and got people out," said the 5-11 righthander, who made the All-Star team, earned a Gold Glove and won 134 games in the big leagues. But even Boddicker had to laugh at his pitching repertoire back then.

"I was pretty blessed in my career, given the mediocre crap that I threw up there," he said.

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February 24, 2010

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Ron Hansen

From time to time in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He was tall and rangy, with soft, sure hands and a schnozz that earned him the nickname "The Horn."

At 6-foot-3, the Orioles’ Ron Hansen towered over most shortstops of the day. And Hansen’s success half a century ago gave the nod to bigger men who’d later fill his shoes, guys like Cal Ripken, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.

Has it been 50 years since Hansen broke in with a bang in Baltimore, earned a starting berth on the All-Star team and was named American League Rookie of the Year – the first Oriole so honored?

"I was blessed," said Hansen, 71. "People my size weren’t supposed to play shortstop, but I lasted 15 years.

"I was never a fast guy, as my records show (9 stolen bases lifetime), but my first couple of steps were good and my lateral movement was quick."

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December 30, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Rick Volk

 Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He arrived at Colts camp with the face of a high school freshman and the savvy of a seasoned pro. Never mind that Rick Volk looked like Opie Taylor and got carded in bars until he turned 30. He started every game at safety as a Baltimore rookie in 1967 and played in the first of three Pro Bowls, en route to a stellar 12-year NFL career.

Agile and aggressive, Volk anchored the Colts defense for nine seasons. Mostly, though, he’s remembered for his role in the team’s two Super Bowl appearances.

In the 1971 game, he helped KO the Dallas Cowboys with a late interception. Two years earlier, during the loss to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, Volk himself was knocked out -- twice -- and went into convulsions after the game.

1967 Sun file photo 

"The team doctor kept me from swallowing my tongue," said Volk, 64. "He used to show me the bite marks on his hand to prove it."


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December 15, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Raymond Berry

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

Think of Baltimore sports in its glory days and two pictures come to mind.

One is of the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson – airborne, outstretched and spearing a line drive headed past third base.

The other is of the Colts’ Raymond Berry, same pose, his body parallel to the frozen turf while hauling in a sideline pass.

Berry, 76, smiles at the analogy of the two men whose focus and work ethic made them shoo-in Hall of Famers.

"We were a whole lot alike," he said. "Not too many balls got by either of us."

Was there ever a football receiver as resolute as Berry, the Colts’ go-to guy for 13 years and two NFL championships? Obsessed with perfection, he pored over grainy game films, night after night, looking for an edge against the Colts’ next foe. 

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December 8, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Randy McMillan

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ..." . Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He’ll be 51 next week, but the gift that Randy McMillan wants most, no one else can bestow.

"I want to be able to walk under my own power," .said McMillan, one-time fullback for the Baltimore Colts. "Maybe not 100 percent. But doctors say I’m capable, and I’ve got to be able to do that."

Injured seven years ago in a car crash that damaged his spine, McMillan – the Colts’ No. 1 draft pick in 1981 – uses crutches to get around his condo in Towson. Next month, he’ll receive steroid injections in an effort to kick-start the healing process that has slowed of late.

Meanwhile, McMillan works to strengthen his legs, inching his way along neighborhood streets with all of the might he can muster.

It’s a fight he’s determined to win.

2005 Sun file photo by Andre F. Chung

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December 3, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Bullet Gene Shue

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sporrtswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

 He grew up in Govans, a poor kid on welfare who never owned a basketball. But that didn’t stop Gene Shue from making his name in the game.

He starred at Towson Catholic and then at Maryland, where Shue broke all of the Terps’ scoring records and made All-American. A first-round draft pick in 1954, he played a decade in the pros, earning a rep as a defensive guard and making the All-Star team five times.

Then Shue moved to coaching where, over 22 years, he developed a knack for turning train-wreck pro teams into winners. Twice, he was named NBA Coach of the Year.

Not bad for the once-skinny tyke from Willow Ave.

"I’ve had a charmed life, to be able to pursue the thing I really love," said Shue, who turns 78 this month.

"I’ve been blessed."

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November 25, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Joe Washington

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... " 

He wore silver football shoes, the right color for a mercurial runner. Was there ever a seam so small that Joe Washington couldn’t sneak through it? For three years, he rallied Colts fans, feinting and dashing and dancing for yardage, a ray of hope on a team spinning in reverse.

"Yeah, they were lean times," Washington, 56, said of his hitch in Baltimore (1978-80). "But I never thought I had limits. I could get in and out of places that other guys couldn’t dream of.

"My feet had a mind of their own."

Getting Little Joe proved a bonanza for the Colts. Remember Washington’s debut on Monday Night Football? Acquired a month earlier from San Diego in a trade for Lydell Mitchell, he put on a show that made a believer of acerbic Howard Cosell.

In the fourth quarter of a game at New England, Washington scored three touchdowns – all by different means – to upset the Patriots, 34-27 in a driving rain in September, 1978.

First, he threw an option pass 54 yards to Roger Carr for a TD. Moments later, he caught a 23-yard scoring pass from Colts’ quarterback Bill Troup.

"That ball was right on the money," Washington recalled. "Ray Charles probably could have caught it."

Then, with 1:18 left in a tie game, the onetime Oklahoma All-American ran a kickoff back 90 yards to win it.

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November 19, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt David Lee

 Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He had one of the shortest names of anyone to play for the Baltimore Colts – and one of the longest careers here.

For 13 years, David Lee punted for the Colts, sending spirals airborne and often pinning opponents near their goal line. Twice, he won the NFL punting crown (1966 and 1969) while helping Baltimore to six division titles and a Super Bowl victory.

Lee retired in 1978, having punted 838 times for more than 34,000 yards, or nearly 20 miles. But it was one lousy kick, early in his career, that the All Pro remembers most.

"I shanked a punt, stormed off the field, tore off my helmet and started to swing at the water cooler," Lee said.

Then John Unitas tapped his 6-foot-4 teammate on the shoulder.

"You’ve got to forget about that (bleeping) kick," the Colts’ quarterback said, "because you may have to do it again in five minutes."

Lee nodded and cooled off.

"At that moment, I knew what made John tick – bad plays never affected him," he said. "I never forgot."

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November 10, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Alex Sandusky

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He is 77, the last surviving offensive lineman from the Baltimore Colts’ halcyon days of the 1950s. Half a century ago, guard Alex Sandusky made a living carving out daylight for runners named Lenny and L.G. and The Horse, and rebuffing assaults on a slope-shouldered young quarterback who’d won the hearts of Colts fans.

It was Sandusky’s job to safeguard John Unitas, which he did for more than a decade.

"You took pride in protecting John. Everyone was focused on that," said Sandusky, a Colt from 1954 through 1966. "Unitas was our bread-and-butter. When he called plays in the huddle, it was like a priest talking in church."

1966 Baltimore Sun file photo

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November 3, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt John Dutton

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

For five years he manned the trenches for Baltimore, stalking quarterbacks and dropping ball carriers in their tracks. During the 1970s, few players could stuff the run like John Dutton, the Colts’ 6-foot-7, 290-pound All Pro defensive end.

dutton300.jpgSo what does Dutton do now?

He sells stop signs.

He used to be one.

A member of Baltimore’s celebrated "Sack Pack," Dutton helped the Colts to three straight American Football Conference East championships (1975-77).

Driven by their young front four – Dutton, Fred Cook, Joe Ehrmann and Mike Barnes – those Colts won 31 of 42 regular-season games, but lost each year in the playoffs.

"What chemistry we had," said Dutton, 58, who owns a sign-making company in Dallas. "All four of us were tough to block, and quarterbacks couldn’t just sit in the pocket. One of us was always breaking free to make a sack."

Too often, it was Dutton, a first-round draft pick from Nebraska who had a career-high 17 sacks in 1975, his second year in the pros. Three times, he nailed Kansas City’s Len Dawson in a 28-14 victory. The game ball sits on a shelf in Dutton’s den, beside his battle-scarred Colts helmet and three Pro Bowl trophies.

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October 27, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Roger Carr

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his\her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

Bert Jones backpedaled, ducked the rush and threw. Fifty yards away, Roger Carr gathered in the football and, having outrun two defenders, streaked into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown.

Then, as the Memorial Stadium crowd of 50,374 roared, the young Baltimore Colts receiver leaped high in the end zone, reached over the crossbar ... and spiked the ball.

The fans went nuts. So did Carr, who would add two more TDs that afternoon in a stellar performance during the Colts’ 1976 home opener. He finished with six receptions for 198 yards in a 28-27 victory over Cincinnati.

Thirty-three years later, Carr, now 57, recalled the buzz he felt that day, a sense that he’d finally arrived in the NFL.

"That’s the game that really got me going," said Carr, a first-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech in 1974. "I’d made other catches, sure, but that day told me that I belonged. That’s why I spiked the ball. When I crossed the goal line, I felt as though I’d busted through."

1976 Sun file photo by Carl D. Harris

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October 20, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Lou Michaels

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He was the most prolific placekicker in Baltimore Colts history, a rugged miner’s son with coal-black hair, a snarly look and a square-toed shoe that booted 107 field goals for the team in its heyday.

Famous, Lou Michaels was not. Other Colts made more spectacular kicks. Steve Myhra’s field goal sent the 1958 NFL championship game into sudden-death, and Jim O’Brien’s three-pointer won the 1971 Super Bowl.

But no kicker teed it up more times here than Michaels, who played six seasons (1964 through 1969), during which the Colts won 63 games, lost 17 and tied 4.

"Nowhere in there can you find a game where we lost because I missed a field goal," said Michaels, 74.

1965 Sun file photo

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October 14, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Gino Marchetti

Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... " 

Three months shy of his 84th birthday, Gino Marchetti sees life as an all-out pass rush. Forget old age – he hurdles it as nimbly as he did all of those blockers before sacking the quarterback.

Gino Marchetti at his West Chester, Pa., home in 2003. (Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)  

Marchetti walks up to three miles a day and bowls four times a week. In West Chester, Pa., where the Baltimore Colts Hall of Famer lives, they’re still buzzing about the 299 game Marchetti rolled a couple of years ago, one pin shy of a perfect score.

This year, he took up painting – not with brush and palette, but with roller and paint tray. He painted the master bedroom, plus the homes of two of his seven children. Then, feeling restless, Marchetti built a cedar closet in the basement for his wife, Joan.

How long can he keep up the pace?

"As long as I’m breathing," he said. "Hell, I’ll go on until I can’t open my eyes any more, until I join (John) Unitas up there in the sky – I hope."

As a player, patience was not Marchetti’s forte. Sundays found him prowling the Colts' dressing room, end to end, five hours before kickoff.

"I probably walked 30 miles before each game," he said.

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October 6, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Bullet Earl Monroe

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

 He wasn’t much to look at – a slender, 6-foot-3 guard with knobby knees, creaky hips and elbows that looked as if they’d been run through a pencil sharpener.

But, oh, could Earl Monroe play basketball.

For four years, Monroe wowed the crowds in Baltimore with circus shots, between-the-legs dribbles and no-look passes. Head fakes, stutter steps? Earl The Pearl wrote the book. Double pumps, reverse layups? Fans howled. Monroe suckered teams with triple spins that would have awed Kimmie Meissner.

AP Photo/2007

"God couldn’t go one-on-one with Earl Monroe," the Bullets’ Ray Scott once said of his Hall of Fame teammate.

From the time Monroe hit town as a rookie in 1967, the Civic Center was his juke joint. A first-round draft pick out of little Winston-Salem, he scored 22 points in his first game and a team-record 56 that same season against the Los Angeles Lakers. With Baltimore, he won Rookie of the Year, made All-NBA first team and led the once-dreadful Bullets to the NBA finals in 1971.

On the court, Monroe was a wizard long before the team moved to Washington and changed its nickname.

And then he was gone, packed off to New York, the Bullets’ archrival, following a contract dispute with Baltimore management. Though Monroe played nine years with the Knicks and helped them win an NBA championship, his edge had gone pffft, harnessed by a team that frowned on spontaneity.

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September 29, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Gary Cuozzo

 Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

Forty-four years later, Gary Cuozzo recalls every nuance of his first NFL start. Who wouldn’t, having replaced John Unitas in the lineup and passed for five touchdowns?

It was the game of his life for Cuozzo, then the Baltimore Colts’ understudy, who made pro football history on a brisk November day in 1965. No quarterback, before or since, has done what Cuozzo did in his first full game.

Subbing for an injured Unitas, he led the Colts to a 41-21 victory in Minnesota, the seventh straight win for the playoff-bound club. Under a withering pass rush led by the Vikings’ Carl Eller, a Hall of Famer, Cuozzo completed 16 of 26 passes for 201 yards and five touchdowns.

His performance outshone even Unitas who, 12 times in his career, had passed for four TDs – but never five.

Cuozzo’s effort earned him the game ball, though now he doesn’t know its whereabouts.

1965 Sun file photo

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September 22, 2009

Catching Up With ... Dorothy Hamill

She has an island fantasy camp to run this week, a fall wedding -- her own -- to plan, an Olympic hopeful to mentor and a televised holiday show to prep for.

Yet Dorothy Hamill, the figure skater crowned "America's Sweetheart" after her gold medal performance at the 1976 Winter Olympics, still finds time to stop for a phone call to her summer home on Nantucket to catch up.

Although she wasn't a summer camper growing up, Hamill started to get the bug to run a skating camp one year when she was packing her reluctant daughter off to an adventure.

David Hobby/2007 Baltimore Sun file photo

"Alex said, 'I don't want to go to camp' and I'm thinking, 'Well I do,'" says Hamill, laughing. "Baltimore has a great adult skating community and I thought, 'This would be a gas to put together for adults who still want to learn and challenge themselves and not drop off the face of the earth just because they're getting older.'"

She recruited longtime collaborators Nathan Birch and Tim Murphy and added Peter Carruthers, the 1984 Olympic silver medalist in pairs with sister Kitty, and Randy Gardner, who with partner Tai Babilonia won a world title and five national championships.

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September 15, 2009

Catching Up With ... Former Colt Jim Mutscheller

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... " 

Leafing though his mail on Monday, Jim Mutscheller assumed it was just another autograph request – until he examined the postmark.

The letter was from Czechoslovakia. In his best English, the writer asked Mutscheller, 79, to sign two bubble-gum cards of the Baltimore Colts tight end in his heyday.

Mutscheller complied and sent the football cards back around the world.

"In all these years, this is the first time I ever got (fan mail) from a foreign country," he said. "I thought, ‘Man, I’m really getting popular.’ "

1961 Baltimore Sun file photo

Has it been 50 years since he helped the Colts to their second straight world title? In 1959, when most NFL tight ends were more brawn than hands, Mutscheller caught 44 passes for 700 yards and eight touchdowns. And in Baltimore’s 31-16 championship victory over the New York Giants, no one had more receptions than Mutscheller, a solid if slow-footed pass threat who made up in grit what he lacked in speed.

As a blocker, he had few peers. Twice, in eight seasons with the Colts, he won the club’s Lineman of the Year award, eclipsing such players as Hall of Famers Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti.

Remember the 1958 championship game and the classic photo of the Colts’ Alan Ameche busting into the end zone for the game-winning TD? Though you don’t see him, Mutscheller helped lead the way.

"I caught (New York Giants’ linebacker) Cliff Livingston just right and drove us both out of the picture," he said.

That game was perhaps his finest. Among his three receptions was a third-quarter grab of a John Unitas pass that had sailed.

"I had to go up pretty high to get it," Mutscheller recalled. "I was still airborne when (safety) Jimmy Patton nailed me and I landed on my head.

"When I stood up, in the middle of Yankee Stadium, I kept thinking, ‘Where am I?’ "

He recovered to make a stellar play in overtime. On second-and-goal from the Giants’ seven-yard line, Unitas hit Mutscheller at the one, where he slipped on some ice and slid out of bounds.

Ameche’s touchdown followed.

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September 8, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Fred Miller

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He lives in Upperco, in a weathered old farmhouse on 46 acres that he bought for a song when he retired from football. There’s a sweet spring-fed pond out back full of catfish and bass, a vegetable patch stuffed with sweet corn and beans, and a woodpile large enough to keep the home fires burning all winter.

Fred Miller doesn’t want for much. And if he did, you wouldn’t hear a peep from the 69-year-old tackle, a mainstay on the Baltimore Colts’ defensive line during their heyday.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Miller spent a decade here (1963-72), much of it as defensive captain of the Colts. Though undersized at 250 pounds, he anchored the club’s front four despite chronic back spasms and bum knees that would have sidelined most others.

Baltimore Sun photo by Doug Kapustin

Teammates called Miller "a pro’s pro" and paid heed when he spoke, which wasn’t often.

"Fred never has a bad game, and he’ll never tell you he’s in pain," head coach John Sandusky once said.

Sun file photo

The son of a Louisiana farmer, Miller plowed through enemy lines, dragged down runners and helped the Colts to Super Bowls in 1969 and 1971. Guess which one he’d rather recall.

"The one we won," he said of the Colts’ victory over Dallas in Super Bowl V. "That was one of the hardest hitting games I ever played. The next morning, when I got up for breakfast, I could hardly lift my arms to cut my pancakes. First time that ever happened."

Trouble is, said Miller, "nobody will let us forget the ‘other’ Super Bowl (a loss to the New York Jets two years earlier). Every year, at Super Bowl time, when I turn on the NFL Channel, they’re running that game in its entirety."

That’s when Miller sighs and hits the remote.

"When we lost, we didn’t know it would last forever," he said.

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September 1, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Bob Vogel

 Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

Pound for pound, he was the smallest offensive tackle of his day, and maybe the smartest. It wasn’t size but savvy that made Bob Vogel one of football’s top lineman and a pillar of the Baltimore Colts’ storied front wall.

Vogel, the team’s top draft choice in 1963, spent the next decade taming sack packs and clearing paths for Colts’ runners despite a 240-pound frame that even then was underwhelming.

"I wasn’t one of those guys who could lift the stadium," said Vogel, from Ohio State. "I was purely a technician. That’s how I survived."

As a rookie, Vogel was so good that Baltimore shifted tackle Jim Parker, a Hall of Famer, to guard to accommodate him. A five-time Pro Bowler, Vogel helped the Colts to two Super Bowls (III and V) and then retired from the game at the age of 30, his dignity intact.

"I just walked away in 1972 and said, ‘It’s over,’ " said Vogel, 68. "I loved every minute of the game, but it was painful to see so many of my teammates stay too long. They either got hurt, mad, benched or traded. For so many guys, their identity is wrapped up in football. It’s who they are, like Brett Favre. To me, that’s sad."

Vogel traded the mayhem for a more selfless life. Witness the 48 foster children that he and his wife, Andrea, have cared for through the years. Or the prisons that Vogel visits, Good Book in hand, in a bid to turn inmates’ lives around. Or the mission trips he makes regularly to places like Honduras and Cuba, to bring health care to the poor.

"Football was a good experience, but this is the Lord’s will for my life," said Vogel, of Sunbury, Ohio.

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August 25, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Mike Devereaux

devereaux1.jpg Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He hit the Orioles’ first-ever home run at Camden Yards in 1992, but that poke is long forgotten. What Baltimore fondly recalls of Mike Devereaux is his game-winning homer in the summer of 1989 during the Orioles’ improbable pennant run

By the All-Star break, those Birds seemed a team of destiny, a rag-tag bunch that could do no wrong. Devereaux proved that. On July 15, in a game fixed in the minds of Orioles’ fans, the rookie slammed a walk-off, two-run homer that curled around the left-field foul pole at Memorial Stadium and gave the home team an 11-9 comeback victory over California.

If ever a moment defined a season, that was it. Devereaux’s hit triggered celebrations among the 47,000 fans at Memorial Stadium and howls of protest from the Angels, who claimed the ball was foul. For days, TV showed replays of the homer. Fair or foul? Twenty years later, it’s still the question most often asked of Devereaux when he returns to Baltimore.

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August 18, 2009

Catching Up With . . . former Oriole Don Stanhouse

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... "  Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With  ... "

It has been 30 years since he starred on the mound, a master of comic relief for the Orioles. Was there ever a closer like Don Stanhouse, the big righthander with the Harpo Marx hair, the wacky demeanor and a knack for making every save an adventure?

The stopper for Baltimore’s 1979 American League champions, Stanhouse won 7 of 10 games, saved 21 more and compiled a 2.85 earned run average. But it was the way he pitched – creating a jam, then escaping it – that drove Orioles manager Earl Weaver nuts.

"He (Weaver) would bring me in, then disappear down the tunnel and start chain-smoking his Raleighs," recalled Stanhouse, who was nicknamed "Fullpack" for that reason.

In the AL playoffs, with the Orioles enjoying a 9-4 lead over California, Weaver summoned his frizzy-haired All-Star in the ninth. Stanhouse promptly surrendered four runs before ending the game with the bases full.

Later, asked why he hadn’t yanked Stanhouse, Weaver replied, "I still had three cigarettes left."

Acquired in 1978, Stanhouse perked up the Orioles’ clubhouse with his quirky looks, offbeat antics and a panache right out of Woodstock.

"I’m pretty on the inside," he’d say. "When they took X-rays of my head, they found flowers."

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August 11, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Mickey Tettleton

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

No player personified the 1989 Orioles more than Mickey Tettleton, the poster boy for the "Why Not?" crew that nearly won a pennant. Spurned by other clubs, Tettleton joined Baltimore and blossomed in that magical summer as the no-name Orioles gave fans the ride of their lives.

That the Birds battled Toronto to the wire before losing the American League flag was due greatly to Tettleton, the Popeye-armed journeyman catcher who batted with a chaw in his cheek and a stance all his own.

So what if he stood soldier-straight at the plate, abandoning the hitter’s crouch? Tettleton hit a club-high 26 home runs in 1989, made the All-Star team and carried the Orioles for half a season.

His appetite was legend. Froot Loops were his fancy and when word got out, boxes of the kids’ cereal flew off local supermarket shelves.

"I literally ate Froot Loops every day," said Tettleton, 48. "I was superstitious about stuff like that."

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August 4, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Jimmy Orr

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sports reporter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

Colts receiver Jimmy Orr catches a third touchdown pass against the Rams during a game in 1964. (Baltimore Sun photo Paul Hutchins)

They called it Orrsville, that patch of paydirt in the Baltimore Colts’ end zone where No. 28 plied his trade. How many teams were buried there, in the closed end of Memorial Stadium, beaten by a scoring pass to the elusive Jimmy Orr?

"I must have caught 45 or 50 touchdowns in that right corner," said Orr, a favorite Colts receiver in the 1960s. "It was sloped some, a little downhill, which helped me, speed-wise. I wasn’t all that fast."

But Orr had sure hands and he ran smart routes, which made him All-Pro -- and the club’s deep threat for much of his 10 years with the Colts. In 1968, at an age when his legs should have quit, he led the NFL with an average of 25.6 yards per catch. Orr was 33 at the time.

Fans loved the tough, cigar-smoking flanker with the southern drawl, who played and partied hard. Injured during a close game in 1965, Orr was hurried to the hospital at halftime for X-rays.

"There were 17 people ahead of me in the emergency room at Union Memorial," Orr said. "But they had the game on the radio and when someone recognized me, all of those people sent me to the front of the line."

Told he had a shoulder separation, Orr shrugged and returned to the ballpark for the final quarter. When he trotted onto the field from the Orioles’ dugout, "a roar built until it just about lifted Memorial Stadium off the ground," The Sun reported.

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July 28, 2009

Catching Up With ... Former Colt Marty Domres

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

domres1.jpg

He didn’t have a crew-cut, wear high tops or walk with a funny, stoop-shouldered gait. Had Marty Domres looked the part, would it have mattered? Whoever replaced John Unitas as quarterback of the Baltimore Colts was sure to get booed.

The job fell to Domres, and when he took Unitas' place in 1972, the fans let him have it. No matter that Domres was a bright, articulate Ivy League grad who’d been a No. 1 draft pick. Unitas was their hardscrabble, free-agent, blue-collar icon.

Truth is, the two men hit it off swell. And while Domres only played three full years in Baltimore, he eventually settled here, stayed friends with Unitas and often played golf with him in retirement at Hillendale Country Club.

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July 21, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Wally Bunker

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

Forty-five years ago, he was baseball’s boy wonder, a pitching phenom who, as a teenager, nearly fetched the 1964 Orioles a pennant.

Then Wally Bunker was gone. Overnight, or so it seemed, he vanished, done in by a bum right arm that finished his career almost as quickly as it had begun. The Orioles’ stopper at 19, he quit the game at 26.

Bitter? Not Bunker.

"No complaints," he said from his home in Ridgeland, S.C. "Playing baseball was magnificent, a dream come true. I was definitely really good, with a great sinker, but ... what can you do? I walked away in 1971, entered the real world and never touched a ball again."

1968 Baltimore Sun file photo by Paul Hutchins

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July 14, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Stu Miller

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

At 81, Stu Miller has finally reached the age where his changeup is slower than when he pitched for the Orioles.

Has anyone ever thrown such lazy lobs with such success? Miller’s soft offerings baffled hitters for 16 years and made him one of the top relief pitchers in Orioles’ history.

A wisp of a player, Miller was already 35 when Baltimore acquired him from San Francisco in 1963. For the next five years, the 5-foot-9 righthander flummoxed American League sluggers and anchored a bullpen which ranked among the best.

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July 7, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Gary Roenicke

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With  ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He still has the wild, shaggy locks that once swept beneath his Orioles cap, except the hair is now streaked with gray. And he hasn’t gained a pound in 30 years, though age has caused some seismic shifts.

"My weight is proportionately different from when I played," said Gary Roenicke, 54. "Gravity takes over."

Has it been three decades since Roenicke’s bat and glove helped the Orioles to an American League flag in 1979 and, four years later, to a World Series title? The man known as "Rhino" hit 106 home runs for Baltimore, played stellar defense and accepted his position as a role player – though he sure didn’t like it.

Roenicke still works for the club, as a full-time scout. And, no, he doesn’t share the job with John Lowenstein, the left fielder with whom Roenicke platooned for much of his eight years in Baltimore.

That two-headed monster, the brainstorm of Orioles manager Earl Weaver, blossomed in 1982 when the right-handed Roenicke and Lowenstein, a lefty, combined for 45 homers and 140 RBI, while batting .292.

Publicly, Roenicke shrugged off his part-time role.

"How can you argue when you’re winning?" he said. "But if I could change anything, I probably would have asked why I didn’t play a little more."   

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June 30, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Oriole Floyd Rayford

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

It happens every time Double-A Bowie hosts New Britain (Conn.) in an Eastern League game. Someone in the stands points out the visitors’ stubby hitting coach and the cry goes up.

"Hey there, Sugar Bear!"

Floyd Rayford smiles, saunters over and signs autographs.

More than 20 years after he last played for Baltimore, Rayford remains a crowd favorite.

"Orioles fans never forget," he said.

How could they? In the 1980s, few players won more hearts over than Rayford, the roly-poly, self-effacing utility player who looked like he’d never met a push-up. Yet he stuck in the big leagues for seven years, six of them with the Orioles, who could plug him into four positions – first base, second, third and catcher – without missing a beat.

Floyd Rayford doing a commercial for the Baltimore Symphony in 1984. (Baltimore Sun file photo by Irving H. Phillips)

"I never had a great body, but it was suitable to play everywhere," said Rayford. "I liked catching best. I was too busy back there to be nervous. It wasn’t like playing third base. There’s no time to get butterflies when you’re catching."

His hitting was unremarkable, save for 1985 when he hit 18 home runs and batted .306.

The reason?

"I got divorced in mid-season," Rayford said. "I thought, ‘Hell, I’ve got to pay her every month so I better start hitting.’ Alimony can be a tremendous motivator."

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June 23, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Colt Ray Brown

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called. "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

On one wall of Ray Brown’s office hangs his law diploma and other professional awards. Across the room are a different set of treasures – team photos of the 1958 and 1959 world champion Baltimore Colts, for whom Brown played.

Guess where his visitors head first.

Ray Brown"It’s always football," said Brown, 72, a Mississippi attorney who helped put the Colts on the NFL map.

Don’t remember Ray Brown? He played three seasons in Baltimore, then quit the game to join the bar. Yet he had a big role in the team’s first title run 51 years ago.

A rookie safety in 1958, Brown started every game for the Colts, the only first-year player to do so that season. His eight interceptions tied for the club lead. He also punted, and his lofty 51-yard average in the Colts’ 23-17 sudden-death victory over the New York Giants remains an NFL championship game record.

His secret that day?

"Adrenalin," Brown said.

All of this, he achieved while also attending law school at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

"I’d get up every morning, grab a brown-bag lunch from my wife and go to classes," he said. "Then I’d zip up to Memorial Stadium and eat lunch while studying films. After practice, I’d go home and work on my law briefs."

Did he ever sleep?

"It wasn’t that bad," Brown said of the regimen. "Those were great times with the Colts. We were grateful to be playing, and there were no prima donnas or (sports) agents or drugs. It was a different game."

In 1959, besides his defensive chores, Brown became understudy to quarterback to John Unitas.Ray Brown

"John called most of his own plays, but occasionally Weeb (Ewbank, the coach) would send one in," Brown said. Once, he recalled, Ewbank relayed to Unitas these directions: "Just score."

The Colts repeated as champs.

Brown played one more year and then, at age 25, he walked away. Why? The Colts had slipped to fourth place. Brown needed knee surgery. And he was near to getting that law degree, which came in 1962.

His diligence paid off. That summer, he took a coveted job as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark. Two years after leaving football, Brown walked those hallowed halls in Washington, D.C. But it couldn’t match the thrill of stepping on the field at Yankee Stadium for the ’58 title game, he said.

"What a fantastic time we had," said Brown. "I remember driving home from New York with my family after the game, stopping for dinner at a Howard Johnson’s and having the waitress say, ‘Mr. Brown, your family’s meal has been paid for by a Colts’ fan (who’d already left the restaurant).’

"The guy hadn’t even asked for autographs. That’s how grateful people were that we’d won."

A practicing attorney for 46 years, Brown started his own law firm in 1987 and still works from his home in Gautier, Miss. Married 51 years, he has three children, eight grandchildren and a cranky right knee that is giving him fits "from kicking thousands of punts as a player."

Past president of the Mississippi Bar, Brown wears his ’58 Colts championship ring and, on occasion, the blue-and-white team jacket that the club gave him. At 195 pounds, he hasn’t gained an ounce.

Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal selected an all-time law football team including, among others, former President Gerald Ford, the late Supreme Court Justice Byron (Whizzer) White . . . and Brown, the Colts’ fifth-round draft pick from Mississippi.

"When I saw that article, I thought, ‘My goodness,’ " Brown said. "Then I framed it and hung it on the wall with the rest."

Top photo: AP; Bottom photo: George C. Cook / Baltimore Sun

June 16, 2009

Catching Up With ... former Bullet Don Ohl

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

Every year during the NBA playoffs, Don Ohl’s eyes brighten, his step quickens and his heart beats a little faster -- but not dangerously so for Ohl, 73, a survivor of six-way bypass surgery.

The playoffs always brought out the best in the onetime star of the Baltimore Bullets. More than 40 years later, the man nicknamed "Waxie" for his crewcut still holds the Washington Wizards’ franchise record for highest postseason scoring average.

In 13 playoff appearances for Baltimore in 1965 and 1966, Ohl averaged 26.2 points per game, stellar work for a 6-foot-3 guard who practically carried those upstart Bullets on his back at crunch time.

"I always played best in big games," Ohl said from his hometown of Edwardsville, Ill. "But I was proudest of my defense against top guards like (Cincinnati’s) Oscar Robertson, (Los Angeles’) Jerry West and (Boston’s) Sam Jones."

He paused in thought.

"I wasn’t a terrible player, was I?"

In a 1965 game at the Civic Center, Bullets guard Don Ohl makes a shot over New York's Willis Reed. (Sun file photo by Paul Hutchins)

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June 9, 2009

Catching Up With ... Milt Pappas

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He won 209 games in the big leagues, pitched one no-hitter and played in two All-Star Games as an Oriole. Yet Milt Pappas’ legacy will always be the part he played in the biggest trade in team history -- the one that brought Frank Robinson to Baltimore.

pappas1.jpg

Never mind that in nine years here, Pappas never had a losing season. Or that he won 25 games for the Orioles before his 21st birthday. That Pappas was the bait that hooked F. Robby from Cincinnati in 1965 is what baseball fans remember.

Nearly half a century later, Pappas shrugs it off.

"That doesn’t bother me," the 70-year-old right-hander said of the deal. "There’s nothing I could have done to prevent it. What frosted me was that, two days before I was sent to the Reds, the Orioles told me I wouldn’t be traded. It rained that day, so I took my wife to the movies."

The feature? The Cincinnati Kid.

"I should’ve known," Pappas said.

Robinson led the Orioles to a world championship in 1966. Pappas won 12 games for the seventh-place Reds.

"That season was hard," he said.

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June 2, 2009

Catching Up With ... ex-Oriole Jim Gentile

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

The Oriole hitter with the hurricane swing turns 75 on Wednesday.

Happy birthday, Diamond Jim. What’s the best gift for someone your age?

"To live to be 76," Jim Gentile said.

In the early 1960s, he was Baltimore’s tempestuous slugger, a fiery first baseman with a whip-like cut that battered the air and roused the crowds, contact or no. Watching Gentile flail was as entertaining as seeing his home runs soar out of Memorial Stadium. Strikeouts begat tantrums, broken bats, smashed water coolers and ejections. But if Gentile’s ire prepared the city for the coming of Earl Weaver, his muscle lay the groundwork for Frank Robinson’s arrival.


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May 26, 2009

Catching Up With ex-Oriole Dick Hall

Each Tuesday in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his\her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

He was a tall, gangly relief pitcher with a lofty IQ and a low ERA. The Orioles’ Dick Hall could compute batting averages in his head. Most of those who faced him watched their numbers fall.

Other pitchers threw harder than Hall but few threw any smarter than the 6-foot-6 right-hander, a graduate of Swarthmore College and a cog in the Orioles’ bullpen during the club’s finest years.

In nine seasons with Baltimore, Hall won 65 games, saved 58 more and had an ERA of 2.89. He helped the Birds win a couple of World Series (1966 and 1970) and two more American League flags (1969 and 1971).

He had pinpoint control despite a herky-jerky motion that one reporter said made him look like "a drunken giraffe on roller skates."

Fans chuckled at his awkward, near-sidearm delivery, and so did the pitcher.

"People said I threw like a girl," said Hall, now 78 and living in Timonium. "Hey, as long as it worked, they could say anything they wanted."

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May 19, 2009

Catching Up With ... Eric Davis

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and let's you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He spent only two years in Baltimore, but few players have touched Orioles fans more deeply than Eric Davis.

It was here that Davis learned he had colon cancer, here that he fought it and here that he beat it. When the Orioles outfielder hit a dramatic ninth-inning home run against the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the 1997 American League Championship Series – with chemotherapy drugs coursing through his veins – all of baseball applauded.

Eric Davis connects for a solo homer off Paul Assenmacher in the ninth inning of the 1997 ALCS.

The pinch-hit blast won the game for the Birds and froze Davis’ image forever.

"I will be a role model for cancer patients for the rest of my life," he said. "But you know what? When I was getting chemo, those people inspired me.

"Circulating through the children’s ward and seeing terminally ill kids, heads shaved, smiling and having a ball despite the tubes and needles sticking into them, I thought: What do I have to worry about? If God takes me, at least I’ve lived for 35 years.

"Every (get-well) letter I got touched my heart; I kept them all. But those patients helped me more than I ever could have helped them."

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May 12, 2009

Catching Up With ... Jack Marin

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "

When he chose pro basketball over a medical career, folks thought Jack Marin should have his head examined. Play for the bedraggled Baltimore Bullets rather than become a doctor? 

Forty-three years later, Marin has no regrets. The Bullets’ top draft pick in 1966 wouldn’t change a thing. His six years in Baltimore convinced him that it was more fun to take shots on the court than to give them in a hospital.

"I thought I’d play ball for a couple of years to get money for med school," said Marin, a Duke grad who averaged 15 points a game over 11 NBA seasons. "I didn’t know that I’d find the game so enjoyable and challenging.

"I guess I just wanted to be an adolescent a while longer."

Now 64, Marin is a lawyer living in Durham, N.C. While he once battled guys like John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas, he now represents them as outside counsel to the National Basketball Retired Players Association.

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May 5, 2009

Catching Up With Gus Triandos

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

The weathered metal street sign hangs atop the wet bar in his home, a green-and-white reminder of his baseball years in Baltimore. "Triandos Drive," it reads.

"That is my favorite memento," said Gus Triandos, 78, onetime Orioles slugger. Half a century later, he remains one of only three players to have a road named for him (with Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, Jr.).

A burly, brooding, slow-footed catcher, Triandos was the Orioles’ first power hitter – the favorite of fans when he rattled the fences and the goat when he didn’t. But the three-time All Star accomplished enough that in 1962, when he moved into a new development in Timonium, a street there took his name.

"Some years ago, they replaced the street sign and mailed the old one to me," said Triandos, of San Jose, Cal. "It’s one of my few (keepsakes). I didn’t save much stuff over the years. I never wanted to be in situations where I had to bore guests with my exploits."

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April 28, 2009

Catching Up With former Oriole Tom Phoebus

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With . . ."  Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

He was short and squat, with a single eyebrow that rolled across his forehead like thunderclouds approaching. Don’t mess with me, his visage said. His right arm backed that up.

Forty-one years ago, Tom Phoebus spun a no-hitter for the Orioles, a 6-0 victory over Boston on a cool, wet afternoon at Memorial Stadium. When Phoebus fanned Joe Foy for the final out, the crowd of 14,000 was fit to bust.

The hero was one of their own.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Phoebus was the Oriole next door. His effort on April 27, 1968 evoked a sense of local pride for the hard-throwing pitcher from Mount St. Joseph who’d grown up playing stickball on the streets of Hampden.

"What a great thrill it was to throw a no-hitter in my hometown," said Phoebus, now 67 and a resident of Palm City, Fla. "My dream was to play for the Orioles. As kids (in the 1950s) we would go to games, sit in the bleachers for 50 cents and ride the right fielder of the opposing team."

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April 21, 2009

Catching Up With ex-Colt Don McCauley

Each Tuesday in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..." Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With . . . "

He was a first-round draft pick in 1971, a rugged tailback from North Carolina who looked a little like Robert Redford and ran a lot like Tom Matte.

For the next 11 years, Don McCauley would serve the Baltimore Colts as an unassuming role player with a healthy work ethic and a me-last mindset. At a funky time in Baltimore football history – he played for seven different head coaches – McCauley was the quintessential Colt, a throwback who seldom griped or put himself above the team.

A money-grubbing No. 1 draft choice he was not, despite having smashed O.J. Simpson’s single-season NCAA rushing record.

"I loved football so much that I would have played for nothing," said McCauley, who signed for a $47,500 bonus. "Nowadays that’s less than what the guy holding the chains on the sidelines makes."

He retired in 1982, having gained more than 5,600 yards and scored 58 touchdowns, gaudy numbers for a guy who spent his life shuffling from tailback to fullback and often not starting at all.

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April 14, 2009

Catching Up With: Dee Pillette

Each week in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sports writer Mike Klingaman will track down a former local sports figure and let you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With ..."  Let him know who you'd like him to find, and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ..."

The man who pitched the modern-day Orioles to their first big league victory lives quietly in a San Jose, Calif., trailer park. At 86, Duane (Dee) Pillette spends his days in relative anonymity, puttering around the neighborhood and helping folks with home repairs – a clogged sink here, a blown circuit there.

As he works, Pillette shrugs off the arthritis in his left hip, as he once did the nagging bone spurs in his elbow that ended his baseball career.

But not before he made history for the fledgling Orioles exactly 45 years ago.

On April 14, 1954, Pillette – a lithe, graying right-hander with a nasty sinker – stopped the Tigers, 3-2 on six hits before a ho-hum crowd of 5,000 in Detroit.

In Baltimore, though, folks went nuts over Pillette’s complete-game road victory, which hyped the celebration the following day when the Orioles arrived for their home opener.

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April 7, 2009

Catching Up With: Sam Horn

Each week in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sports writer Mike Klingaman will track down a former local sports figure and let you know what’s going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With..." Let him know who you’d like him to find, and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With..."

Could Sam Horn’s Orioles debut have been any more dramatic?

Rescued from the minors just days before the 1990 opener, and rocked by his mother’s recent stroke, Horn hit a pair of three-run home runs to help the Birds defeat Kansas City, 7-6 in 11 innings.

For the day, the strapping Horn had four hits – all with bats he borrowed from teammates because his clubs had not yet arrived. That game, he dedicated to his mother, which he’d still like to think played a part in her recovery.

Sam Horn is congratulated after hitting a home run in 1991. (Sun photo by Bo Rader)

"Has it been 19 years?" Horn said. "For me, the date (April 9) never gets old. I’ve moved on, but the thought of that game will be there as long as I live."

Now 45, he works as a good-will ambassador for the Boston Red Sox, the club that originally signed and then surrendered the would-be slugger. The Orioles took one look at the hard-swinging Horn, 6 feet 5 and 240 pounds, dismissed his porous fielding and named him their designated hitter on Opening Day.

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March 31, 2009

Catching Up With: Bob Turley

Each week in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sports writer Mike Klingaman will track down a former local sports figure and let you know what's going on in his/her life in a segment called "Catching Up With..." Let him know who you'd like him to find.

Fifty-five years later, Bob Turley remembers the first big-league baseball game ever played at Memorial Stadium. Why not? He won it.

Sun photo by Leroy Merriken. From left, Vern Stephens, Bob Turley and Clint Courtney. Stephens and Courtney both hit home runs in the Orioles' 3-1 victory over the White Sox on Opening Day on April 15, 1954.

Turley, a hefty, hard-throwing young right-hander, pitched the Orioles to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox, juicing the crowd of 46,354 that turned out on a gray, drizzly day to welcome Baltimore back to the majors.

The Orioles would lose 100 games that year but on April 15, 1954 they were baseball’s darlings.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous going out there," said Turley, now 78. "But I pitched the whole game. Had to. Back then, if you didn’t go nine, they sent you back to the minors."

Four times that day, Turley fanned batters for the third out with runners on base. Twice he struck out Sox cleanup hitter Minnie Minoso who, the Baltimore News Post reported, "swung so viciously he spun around and landed on the seat of his pants."

Continue reading "Catching Up With: Bob Turley" »

March 24, 2009

Catching Up With: Wes Unseld

Each week in the Toy Department, veteran Sun sports writer Mike Klingamen will track down a former local sports figure and let you know what's going on in their lives in a segment called "Catching Up With..."

Ran into Wes Unseld the other day. The Basketball Hall of Famer they called "The Baby Bull" was coming out of – where else? – a meat market near his home in Westminster.

Having turned 63 two weeks ago, he’s still the big galoot who put the Baltimore Bullets on the map 40 years ago. His first season in the pros (1968-69), Unseld took the Bullets from worst-to-first while winning both Rookie-of-the-Year and MVP honors. Only one other basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, has ever done that.

Oh, the fun we kids had that year in the Civic Center, scarfing cheap weiners and whooping with every rebound the 6-foot-6 Unseld grabbed against taller centers – and every fast break he started with those crisp outlet passes. How he managed to outmuscle the Chamberlains, Russells and Reeds of the league was a mystery.

What was the secret, Wes?

"I was country-strong," he said. "I didn’t lift weights or work on some Nautilus machine. I grew up in Kentucky, carrying block and brick in construction work with my dad."

Nowadays, Unseld operates a private school in West Baltimore with his wife, Connie. There, the five-time NBA all-star does everything from typing memos to cutting the grass to teaching youngsters how to bake bread. The man once dubbed "Wes Unselfish" is still a team player.

On weekends, he said, "I dilly dally in photography and woodworking. Got a wood shop at the house."

What does Unseld make?

"My wife calls it ‘expensive kindling,’ " he said, then paused. "I think she’s right."

He still follows the Washington Wizards (nee Bullets), the team he later coached and helped run, as well as the University of Louisville, his alma mater.

"Could I have played center today? Why not?" Unseld said. "The guys I played against – Chamberlain, (Kareem Abdul) Jabbar, (Nate) Thurmond – were taller than these guys they’ve got now. The difference is, basketball is more a game of specialty than in the past. Used to be that you had to do everything pretty well – dribble, shoot and play defense. Now, if you’re just a great shooter, you’re a star."

In Unseld’s neighborhood, his house is the one with no hoop in the driveway. The old Bullet, who has had one ankle fused and both knees replaced, hasn’t played pick-up ball in 20 years.

"The game was good to me," he said, "but it almost killed me, too."

 

 

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