He's Not Heavy, He's Their Center

Pat Williams, president of the Orlando Magic, has gotten a lot of talk show and banquet circuit mileage out of jokes about Magic center Stanley Roberts' weight. Some of Williams' zingers:

--Doctors told Roberts to reduce his consumption of red meat, so he stopped putting ketchup on his hamburgers.

--Roberts' main squeeze? A doorway.

--Roberts attended the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade . . . wearing ropes.

Lately, however, Roberts has been looking better. The 7-foot rookie has lost nearly 30 pounds since arriving in Orlando and weighing in at 317. Williams, happily, has reworked his routine to take into account the svelte--relatively speaking--Stanley.

"It has created havoc," he told David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. "McDonald's and Wendy's have sued him for nonsupport. But I must say that even when Stanley came in, he carried his weight well. It just took two trips.

"But all of that is in the past. I can't use those jokes anymore. Stanley has turned over a new chin."

From the Friday the 13th file: Surely there is no player in baseball more superstitious than Turk Wendell, a pitcher acquired by the Chicago Cubs from the Atlanta Braves. Among Wendell's superstitions:

--Once he has received the ball from the catcher, he goes behind the mound and crosses himself three times. He then turns, goes to his knees and draws three crosses in the dirt behind the pitching rubber. He waves to the center fielder and second baseman. Then he pitches.

--At the end of an inning, as he trots to the dugout, he jumps over the base line and spits out a wad of licorice (three pieces). He then brushes his teeth.

Trivia time: What do the following current and former professional athletes have in common: Wilt Chamberlain, Dave Concepcion, Rickey Green, Ozzie Guillen, Tom Hodson, Chris Jacke, Dan Marino, Lance Parrish and Jay Schroeder?

The answer is none: Singing the praises of the Elias Baseball Analyst, Jayson Stark of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes:

"In what other book can you be informed that the day Cleveland pitcher Charles Nagy was born, the Indians drew 559 fans?

"In what other book can you find the startling identity of the worst base stealer in modern history (Luis Gomez--six for 28)?

"In what other book can you learn that Bernie Williams is the only Yankee ever born on Friday the 13th?"

So what else is new?Ed Fowler of the Houston Chronicle figures that with all the problems tied to the Nevada Las Vegas basketball program, there is probably little that shocks UNLV President Robert Maxson.

"If Maxson awakened to find a horse's head on the next pillow," Fowler writes, "he'd probably roll over and go back to sleep."

Earth to Mike: Oklahoma running back Mike Gaddis showed up for his physical at the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis wearing headphones. Even when questions were asked of him, Gaddis continued to listen to music.

The next day, according to Chris Mortensen of the Sporting News, Gaddis failed to appear for workouts, prompting the NFL scouts to send a representative to the players' hotel to look for him. At the hotel, the NFL rep found the door to Gaddis' room ajar and Gaddis on the bed listening to music on his headphones.

Told it was time for running backs to take the field, Gaddis responded: "Not today."

Trivia answer: They all have or had 13 as their uniform number.

Quotebook: Boston Celtic and U.S. Olympian Larry Bird, to teammate Rick Fox, who will play for the Canadian Olympic team this summer: "If you're their man, I don't think it will be tough for us."

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