Even with shirt on, Tatu still wears out defenses

February 25, 1994|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Sun Staff Writer

He has been throwing his jersey into the stands to celebrate a goal for about 13 years. It has become Tatu's calling card.

One time after he hurled his jersey, a woman fan caught it and lighted it on fire, bringing security guards scurrying to extinguish the blaze. Another time, a fan threw Tatu's jersey back on the field, to the delight of the crowd.

In part because he scores often enough to strain the team's jersey budget and in part because it is unwise to incite a hostile crowd, Tatu no longer throws his jersey after scoring on the road.

When he and the Wichita Wings visit the Spirit tonight at the Baltimore Arena, he will keep his shirt on. The 32-year-old Brazilian is the Wings' No. 3 scorer with 72 points, including 20 goals, despite missing four games last month with a broken wrist.

When Tatu came to this country in 1981 to play for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League, the club suggested he throw his shirt to the crowd after scoring, the idea being to generate excitement. The idea caught on.

Tatu used to take bags of shirts to each city. People came to games carrying signs that urged their team: "Don't let Tatu take his shirt off."

In his years with the Dallas Sidekicks in the old Major Soccer League, Tatu had many a battle against the Blast. He came close to the Blast bench one time after scoring and the players threw water on him "to cool him off."

Tatu was indeed hot. He won three MSL scoring titles and was twice the Most Valuable Player. Spirit coach Kenny Cooper, then directing the Blast, recalls a game in which Tatu scored five goals and threw a jersey to the crowd after each one.

"I worried he'd run out of jerseys and take off his shorts," Cooper said.

In a game at Dallas, the Blast's Keith Furphy announced to Cooper that he was going to score. Would it be OK to take off his shirt?

"Do you think anyone would want it?" Cooper said.

Born Antonio Carlos Pecorari, Tatu inherited his nickname from his father. In Portuguese, their native language, it means "armadillo," a moniker pinned on the elder Pecorari because, as a railroad worker, he was always digging under the tracks.

Last summer, the Spirit's Eric Dade played with Tatu on the Dallas Sidekicks of the Continental Indoor Soccer League. Tatu was the league's MVP and scoring champion.

"We used to tease him, saying to keep his shirt on because nobody wanted to see that ugly, fat body," Dade said. "He scored so many goals at home that he finally had to throw road jerseys into the stands."

SPIRIT TONIGHT

Opponent: Wichita Wings

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7:35

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WAMD (970 AM)

Tickets: Many available

Outlook: This is the opener of a three-games-in-three-nights stretch for the Spirit. Tomorrow night's home game against the St. Louis Ambush will be followed by a visit Sunday to the Dayton Dynamo. The Spirit (20-6), the NPSL's winningest team, is 14-1 at home, losing only to the Detroit Rockers on Dec. 17. Wichita (14-14), fourth in the National Division and 4-10 on the road, is led by Dale Ervine (95 points), Terry Woodberry (75) and Tatu (72). Paul Wright (101) leads the Spirit. Cris Vaccaro is the league's top-rated goalie, with an 11.38 goals-against average. Wichita's Kris Peat is No. 4 (12.71). The first 3,000 fans will receive Spirit rally towels.

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