Morning briefing

Times Staff Writer

Regimen was a real work of Art

Former Times sportswriter John Hall was once assigned to spend a training day with Art Aragon, boxing’s original “Golden Boy,” who died this week of cancer.

“So we went to a drive-in restaurant on Wilshire and had a soda while seeing this carhop he was romancing,” Hall told The Times’ Lance Pugmire. “Then we drove over to [actress] Lita Baron’s home.

“She was married to [actor] Rory Calhoun at the time. He went in and did his thing, and I waited in the car. Then we went over to [radio personality] Bob Kelley’s home and sat around the pool having a beer. That was my day with Art getting ready for a fight.”


And fight fans wondered why Aragon never won a world title.

Trivia time

UCLA lost only once when it won the national basketball championship in 1995. Who beat the Bruins?

Fat chance

Columnists are still crying blasphemy over major league baseball having Opening Day in Japan.

From Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I imagine Japan will reciprocate this breach of tradition by opening the sumo season at Fenway Park.”

The last samurai

If nothing else, Oakland Athletics starter Rich Harden can be considered a warrior.

He not only struck out nine Red Sox batters as the A’s won, 5-1, to earn a split with Boston in Tokyo, he left with a samurai sword he purchased as a memento.

It’s from the early Edo period, circa 1650. Isn’t that the year the Chicago Cubs last won a World Series?

The big ingrate

Pat Riley is perplexed by Shaquille O'Neal’s continuous criticism of the Miami Heat, which traded the aging center to Phoenix when it became clear the Heat would not come close to making the playoffs.

“He wanted to go to a contender and we sent him there,” Riley, the Heat’s coach, told the Boston Globe. “We sent him to Utopia and we’re left here with the carnage and I don’t know why he’s not happy.”

The term ungrateful floats to mind.

How’s this

for a bracket?

The Birmingham News, commemorating the Southeastern Conference’s 75th anniversary, points out that the SEC is second only to the Big 12 when it comes to NCAA infractions, since the NCAA began tracking major cases in 1953.

The numbers: Big 12 (55), SEC (48), Pac-10 (41) and Big Ten (40).

Division I schools most penalized: Arizona State and Southern Methodist, eight times each. UCLA has been caught cheating six times, USC five. But who’s counting?

Tall ball

Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins may be 5 feet 7, but “on the field,” he tells Men’s Journal magazine, “I’m 6-2.”

(Insert steroid joke here.)

Small ball

Seriously, Rollins, the NL MVP, says being so small has one distinct advantage: “It makes me more efficient at catching grounds balls. I’m already really low to the ground.”

As for those high hoppers, though, forget it.

Posting up

Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune chimes in on women’s basketball: “LSU’s Sylvia ‘Big Syl’ Fowles, who could come to Chicago as the WNBA draft’s No. 2 choice, has a little Shaquille O'Neal in her.

“Her middle name is Shaqueria.”

Trivia answer

Oregon, 82-72, in the Pac-10 opener, after which the Bruins won 26 in a row en route to claiming the title.

And finally

From Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Let’s be honest, most fans who watch the NCAA tournament couldn’t name five college basketball players. They watch for the spectacle, not the sport. It’s more about what’s happening on their bracket than what’s happening on the floor.”