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He’s Older Than a Lot of Old Guys

Phil Niekro, the Cleveland knuckleballer, is 47. If you don’t think that’s old, Bill James puts it into perspective in “The Bill James Baseball Abstract of 1986.” He writes:

“Did you know that Phil Niekro is five years older than Denny McLain? Phil Niekro is older than Ron Santo. Phil Niekro is older than Joe Torre. Phil Niekro is older than Lou Brock or Carl Yastrzemski. Phil Niekro is older than Joe Pepitone. Phil Niekro is older than Richie Allen.

“Do you remember Zoilo Versalles, who was the American League MVP 21 years ago? Phil Niekro is older than Zoilo Versalles. Phil Niekro is older than Tony LaRussa, Doug Rader or Ken Harrelson of the White Sox.

“Phil Niekro is older than Martin Luther King or either of the Kennedys were at the time of their assassinations. Phil Niekro is older than Boog Powell. Phil Niekro is more than 10 years older than I am.

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“Funny thing, though. He doesn’t look a day over 60.”

Ouch: After rejecting late-season overtures from the New Jersey Nets, Wilt Chamberlain, 49, told the New York Daily News: “They said I would only have to play about eight minutes a game. I would guarantee you this much--I’d have grabbed at least five rebounds in eight minutes. And I know there’s at least one seven-foot center in the NBA who can barely do that in 35 minutes.”

He wasn’t talking about Rich Kelley.

Trivia Time: How many points did Wilt Chamberlain score against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in their final meeting? (Answer below.)

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If Tom Niedenfuer had walked Jack Clark to fill the bases, what would Andy Van Slyke have done on that fateful day last October?

Nobody knows, but if it makes Tom Lasorda feel any better, Van Slyke faced a similar situation Thursday night against the New York Mets and singled to drive in two runs for St. Louis.

Add St. Louis: Not all the Cardinals were sorry to see Joaquin Andujar go to Oakland.

Said Willie McGee: “The clubhouse is so quiet, it’s refreshing just to walk in there. God knows what it’s like in Oakland. You know how he is. He’d come in here after a game screaming and yelling, calling us Punch and Judys, or something. We didn’t need that. After a while, that becomes pretty old.”

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Steve Yeager, after being kissed by Morganna (The Kissing Bandit) Roberts in Seattle, bounced out the next time up.

Asked if his concentration had been affected, he said: “I hope so. You’re not a male if that doesn’t ruin your concentration.”

It-had-to-happen dept.: “This is the kind of shot he usually gets close,” said ESPN’s John Schroeder as Jack Nicklaus prepared to hit on the par-three 14th hole in the Houston Open Friday.

Nicklaus promptly bounced one on the cart path and wound up with a bogey. He had to birdie the 18th to survive the cut.

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Trivia Time: None. In the next-to-last game of the 1972-73 season, Chamberlain’s last, he didn’t take a single shot against the Milwaukee Bucks, explaining that he was double-teamed. The Bucks beat the Lakers, 85-84, on a 16-foot jumper by Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar scored 24 points and had 18 rebounds. Chamberlain had 14 rebounds.

Quotebook

St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog, moaning about the team’s .221 batting average after a blanking in Chicago: “I don’t think anyone’s ever won without a run. At least that’s what Casey Stengel said.”


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