To know Rudolph was to remember her

November 14, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

Reading time: Two minutes

The first moment anyone laid eyes on "Skeeter," they knew they were in the presence of a star. It was 1959 at the Pan-American Games in Chicago when Wilma Rudolph arrived. "And people who knew her even a little bit will never forget her," said 1960 Rome Olympics teammate Al Cantello when word arrived Wilma had died of brain cancer over the weekend.

"All Italy, and that includes all the Olympic athletes, fell in love with her. The nickname 'La Gazelle' appeared all over the newspapers and television every day," Navy's track and cross country coach continued. "An unbelievably nice and unpretentious small-town girl.

"This is typical Wilma. They had a testimonial for [gold medalist] Charlie Jenkins one time and she flew up at her own expense and thought nothing of it. Charlie was on the '56 team, not '60. I talked to her a month ago, asking what she was doing in tTC Nashville. She said she wanted to be with her mother. You knew it was near the end."

* If it was anybody but Martina Navratilova, upon her retirement from tennis at the conclusion of the Virginia Slims Championships in New York this week, saying, "I gave 10 more years than the game had a right to expect," you would say it was just another ungrateful athlete flashing his/her true colors. Not Martina.

For years, it was mostly her -- with a huge assist from Chris Evert -- holding up the game here, there and everywhere around the world. Martina's unselfish ways in the matter of arranging her appearances over two decades saved more than a few tournaments from going belly-up. There's no one who even remotely resembles her present in the women's game today.

* The locked-out hockey players stage three 20-minute games pitting four squads in a round-robin, hitting is nonexistent and 14,000 show up in Hamilton, Ontario, to cheer wildly. Must have been the accompanying shootout contest.

* In the final analysis, the Orioles raise their ticket prices to create about $90,000 more revenue per game, complaining they "lost" $15 million (inflated) due to the strike . . . which, of course, the owners caused. To make ends meet, why doesn't the ballclub have a deal where for $2,000 you can be the first base coach for a game?

* You have to like former baseball players head Marvin Miller's description of the owners' latest proposal to end the strike by sending in a different person (John Harrington of the Red Sox instead of Richard Ravitch) to forward the same old line: "The typical snake oil salesman is somebody talking to a group of rubes who are so fascinated by the words coming out, whether they understand them or not; you might be able to sell a product like that. But if you're talking to ordinary people

with ordinary intelligence, no."

* What do the figures 88, 71 and 67 have in common? Nothing, as you can see, but they do constitute the point totals run up by Sunday's opponents for the Eastern Division title of the CFL, Baltimore and Winnipeg, in three games against each other. Matthews' Marauders won an exhibition in OT, 45-43, lost on the road, 39-32, and romped at home, 57-10. A defensive struggle is not forecast.

* Headline writers and beat reporters should have a ball with the latest 7-foot-1 recruit to show up at George Washington University to play hoops. The man being rushed into the void left by Yinka Dare, who defected to the NBA, is Alexander Koul from Belarus (ex-Soviet Union). Look out for "Koul and the Gang."

* Miami had not given up a touchdown to a Big East Conference foe in five games until Pitt snuck one in in the late going of a 17-12 win by the Hurricanes, who were favored by 33. . . . Even forgetting Scott Milanovich getting sacked all over the place, Maryland's rushers could muster just 21 yards in 13 attempts against Virginia. On 64 plays, the Terps passed the ball 51 times. Great balance. . . . Age discrimination is nothing to be made light of, but Allie "Goodbye" Sherman being named head of the troubled Off-track Betting operation in New York at age 71 is far out. Mayor Rudy Giuliani says he doesn't need the vote of the Giants' football fans anyway.

* Obviously, Dennis Rodman isn't as loosely strung as we've all been thinking. The rebounding demon is on indefinite leave from the San Antonio Spurs and is still collecting his $30,000 per ballgame.

* The Washington Bullets continue fantasizing about hijacking Chris Webber from the Golden State Warriors when the club should have some qualms about an overall No. 1 pick in the draft who is named Rookie of the Year, then heads for the escape hatch in a multi-year contract after just one season.

* One of the great quotes in college football history, an utterance long thought to be in jest, was when a former president of Oklahoma said, "We want to built a school the football team can be proud of." These days, the Sooners are attempting to jettison coach Gary Gibbs so new school president David Boren won't have to fire the guy when he assumes the position Thursday.

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