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This Team Buried With the Hopes of Its Sponsor

If soccer is a dying sport, then the small Italian town of San Felice Castello near Naples has a jump on the afterlife.

The local amateur team, Stella Azzurra, is sponsored by a funeral parlor, wears black in honor of that connection and distributes jewel boxes in the shape of coffins to deserving fans.

“The president of the team, Franco Maiulo, and I are close friends and we decided to do this sponsorship to attract attention to the team and our town,” said Antonio Lettieri, who owns the funeral home.

Lettieri apparently has a gift for publicity. His parlor has a distinctive name of its own: Lettieri Last Travel.

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Trivia time: Hill Gail’s victory in the 1952 Kentucky Derby was notable for what reason?

Contract this: Don’t count Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard among the few fans of baseball’s owners.

“One of life’s greatest mysteries, right up there with how Gene Hackman manages to make a movie every seven minutes, is how these clowns ever got rich in the first place,” LeBatard wrote after the owners decided to consider reducing the number of teams.

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“If you put all these guys in a room with flooding and a leaking roof, they would vote unanimously to paint the walls.”

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Time travel: The untidy way in which baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced the possible contraction prompted Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle to point out that Selig is “a former car salesman ... who graduated from hawking Oldsmobiles to steering major league baseball toward the middle of the last century.”

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Desert not dessert: Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post commented the other day on the hapless history of the Washington Wizards/Bullets.

“Since 1990, the team’s record is 344-648,” Kornheiser wrote. “That’s not a dry spell, that’s Yemen.”

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On a roll: Reflecting on what might have been had Randy Johnson stayed with the Mariners, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Art Thiel had this to say: “After losing seven consecutive postseason games over five years with three teams, Johnson suddenly won five in a row, including the last two [World] Series games (or, as the contests are known in Seoul, the Byung-Hyun Kim Reclamation Project).”

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Lights out: In retrospect, comparing his players to prostitutes from Hamburg’s St. Pauli red light district was not the best motivational tactic German soccer Coach Eduard Geyer could have hit upon.

“All they do is smoke cigarettes, drink too much and sleep around,” Geyer said of his players, who promptly went out and lost, 4-0, at St. Pauli.

“He should have left our girls alone,” said striker Nico Patschinski, who scored two of the goals.

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Trivia answer: It was the first time the Derby was televised nationwide.

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And finally: According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota Twin owner Carl Pohlad, 86, has $120 million invested in the team and would net $250 million if baseball owners decide to fold the team.

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Forbes’ 2001 ranking of the 400 richest Americans lists Pohlad at No. 110 with a net worth of $1.8 billion.

“He must want 109th place,” said Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.


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