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After 20 Years, He’s Poultry in Motion

He has made a living out of playing chicken. This is Ted Giannoulas’ 20-year anniversary having a fowl ball, in case you wanted to send a card.

As the San Diego Chicken and The Famous Chicken, he has performed tens of thousands of times for an estimated 55 million fans, at baseball games, basketball games, football games, conventions and banquets. A professional poultry. People putting their money where his beak is.

It can be a high-risk occupation at times. Take the night at the Dodger-Padre game in San Diego when he repeatedly stomped on an L.A. cap during a Mexico hat dance. Leaving the stadium with his costume under his arm, Giannoulas ran into Tom Lasorda as Lasorda returned from the lunchroom with his plate and mouth full of pasta.

As the Chicken remembers it, Lasorda got close to him and began screaming about the sanctity of the Dodger logo.

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“I’m frightened, not from his bark, but from the the fact that the pasta could go down his esophagus at any moment,” Giannoulas said. “I was frightened for the man’s life, not for myself. . . .All I can see before me is the next day’s headlines: ‘Chicken Chokes Lasorda.’ ”

Add Chicken: “Maybe, thankfully, The Chicken act reminds us all that it’s still a game,” Giannoulas said. “To the fans, it pushes the happy button in this day of lockouts, walkouts and acrimonious negotiations.”

Or maybe not. Giannoulas won’t work Padre games, once his home base, because, according to a club official, the team can’t match the money the Chicken is able to get elsewhere.

Trivia time: What current NBA team played home games in El Paso, San Antonio and the Astrodome in the early 1970s?

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Perspective I: Eric Cotton has braved wind, rain, searing sun and dark of night, sitting on the roof of a Baltimore bar to protest the baseball strike.

He has worked on his tan. He has caught up on his reading while preparing to return to graduate school. He has learned about mankind.

“There’s a lot more bald people in the world than I thought,” he said.

Perspective II: Remember the picture of the baseball bargaining session the other day, the one where owners and players and lawyers sat around a big table in a New York hotel room? It was just as crowded outside.

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Fourteen camera crews. About 100 reporters. Fans. Two player agents. Comic Jackie Mason--don’t ask--and noted divorce lawyer Raoul Felder.

“This is my specialty,” Felder said. “Greed. Avarice. Self-interest.”

Trivia answer: The Houston Rockets. Their current home, the Summit, opened in 1975.

Quotebook: Detroit Piston rookie Grant Hill, on his father, former NFL running back Calvin Hill: “He’s given me so much advice throughout my life, I think I’ve heard it all by now. The best was, ‘It’s not how much you make, it’s how much you save.’ I guess that explains why he was so cheap when I was growing up.”

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