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They’d Have Had Little Use for ‘Big Bertha’

Shiny sticks will be out en masse Wednesday when the pro-amateur launches the Nissan L.A. Open at Riveria Country Club, the oldest civic-sponsored tournament on the PGA Tour. But a look back reveals that you don’t always need expensive golf equipment to be a winner.

In 1938, Jimmy Thompson won the championship with a putter he bought for $1. In 1941, Johnny Bulla won with bargain golf balls bought over the counter at Walgreen’s Drug Store.

Trivia time: Add Open: It took the first 42 years of the tournament for the purses, added together, to total more than $1 million. Now, the total purse for each year’s L.A. Open is $1 million.

Lighthorse Harry Cooper, winner of the first tournament in 1926, earned $3,500. This year, the 44th-place finisher will receive that much. And the winner? $180,000.

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Trivia time: Who was the first and only woman to qualify and play in the L.A. Open?

Pretty funny: Troy Aikman was a guest on the “Tonight Show” the other night, and during the monologue, Jay Leno said: “You know my favorite part of the whole Super Bowl was at the end of the game when Troy Aikman was knocked down by a photographer. Did you see that? The photographer knocked him right down. In fact, right after it happened, five Buffalo players ran up to the photographer and asked: ‘Hey, how’d you do that?’ ”

Teeth fetish: Jo Lasorda says that if there is one thing her husband Tom is good about, it’s cleaning his teeth. “You know those little floss things you get from the dentist? Well, Tommy has so many of them that when you open the medicine cabinet, they all fall out,” she says. “He spends so much time on his teeth that at night I tell him, ‘Dad, go get your teeth done so I don’t have to hear the water running so long.’ You know how it’s the little things that can bug you.”

One man’s opinion: Tom Keegan of the Southtown Economist in Chicago, on Michael Jordan’s tryout with the White Sox: “A ploy to sell tickets? I think not. The Bulls are more exciting without Jordan, so how can the White Sox be more exciting with him?”

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On the map: Jordan says he would go to the minors if he has to, prompting Steve Shaad, general manager of the Class AA Wichita Wranglers to say that Jordan can play in Kansas if his attempt to make the White Sox roster doesn’t work out.

Said Shaad: “Chicago was a one-horse town before Michael arrived. He would have a similar impact on Wichita.”

Add Jordan: General Manager Ron Schueler pitched to Jordan in batting practice. But Larry Stone of the San Francisco Examiner suggests that it might have been a better test to pit Jordan against Schueler’s 18-year old daughter, Carey. An accomplished athlete, Carey Schueler was actually drafted by the White Sox in the 43rd round last year as a left-handed pitcher.

Hope he’s better than this: The Pittsburgh Pirates had an outfielder in 1890 named Michael Jordan, who batted .096 in 37 games and struck out 19 times. He did, however, steal five bases.

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12 He’ll try anything: In 1991, then Wichita Wrangler outfielder Darrell Sherman was ejected from a game for throwing a bat onto the field. So Shaad thought he would capitalize with a Darrell Sherman Bat Throw contest the next night. Six fans were selected to throw a bat from the dugout steps onto the field.

“The fourth guy, a left-hander, looked like he had been drinking a little,” Shaad told The Times’ Mike DiGiovanna. “He was aiming for the pitcher’s mound, but hurled the bat up into the stands down the first-base side. I saw my sports-promotion life flash before my eyes. It was a definite lawsuit. Fortunately, the bat landed in a bank of empty seats. Just another stupid, off-the-cuff promotion.”

Greying whiskers: Former relief pitcher Rollie Fingers, known for his handlebar mustache, recently took part in promoting a new brush-in color gel for men’s facial hair. Said Fingers: “I’ve had my mustache for years. I grew it in ’72 when we (the Oakland A’s) won the World Series, so I kept it and we won in ’73, then again in ’74.

“I did come close to shaving it off once when I lost both ends of a doubleheader against Baltimore. I put the razor to my nose but I just couldn’t do it.”

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Add Fingers: “People come up to me all the time and say, ‘You’ve got a mustache just like Rollie Fingers,’ ” Fingers said. “They obviously recognize my mustache more than they do me.”

Trivia answer: Mildred (Babe) Didrickson in 1938.

Quotebook: Brett Ogle, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, who still seeks out inexpensive motels: “Maybe I’m a miser, but all you need is a toilet, bed and TV.”


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