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Gifford’s Gaffes Made Him an Easy Target for Cosell

In his recently published book, “The Game Behind the Game,” Terry O’Neil, new executive producer at NBC Sports who at one time worked with Howard Cosell at ABC, writes about how Cosell ridiculed Frank Gifford behind his back, calling him the Male Mannequin.

Writes O’Neil: “Howard could do a whole litany for you. He’d start with the night Frank had Mike Eischeid punting for both teams. And there was the Great Escape game. Frank had Oakland’s Warren Wells split to the top of the screen when, at the very minute, he was serving time in federal prison.

“Then there was the time Gifford confused Raider receiver Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff. Said Howard, ‘Perfectly understandable. One’s number is 21, the other 25. One’s a black man, the other has blond hair flowing out the back of his helmet.’ ”

Slick look of a champion: George Seifert, new coach of the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers, would of course like to do what the Lakers did last year and repeat.

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Seifert figures he should look the part, so he arrived at the team’s first minicamp meeting with his hair slicked back like Pat Riley’s.

Trivia: What baseball team got off to the best start after 40 games in major league history?

The idea man: Former Baltimore Oriole outfielder John Lowenstein once recommended moving first base back a foot. Why? “To eliminate close plays,” he said.

Baseball bartering: The Reno Silver Sox of the California League recently traded pitcher Tim Fortugno to the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization. Negotiations began with Silver Sox co-owner and general manager Jack Patton asking for $4,000. He settled for $2,500 and a 144 baseballs.

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That reminded California League statistician Bill Weiss, who writes a league newsletter, of some other strange minor league deals.

In the 1920s, the owner of the Omaha club traded a pitcher to St. Joseph’s for an airplane. The deal was subsequently canceled because the plane, not the pitcher, was defective.

Oyster Joe Martina, who won 355 games in a 22-year pro career, got his nickname because he was traded for a barrel of oysters.

An infielder named Leonard Dondero was once swapped for a dozen doughnuts.

Now that’s a real confidence booster.

Trivia answer: The 1984 Detroit Tigers, who were 35-5 at one point, and went on to beat the San Diego Padres in the World Series.

Quotebook: Baseball scout Ellis Clary, talking about his hometown of Valdosta, Ga.: “I really live in the boondocks. In fact, to go hunting I have to walk toward town.”


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