Even `death' can't melt memories of snow job

Patriots plow driver, alive and well, retraces little patch of history

Sports Plus

January 13, 2002|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

Miami Dolphins fans must have thought they were seeing a ghost.

On Dec. 22, in the final regular-season game at Foxboro Stadium, the New England Patriots brought back players, coaches and celebrities from the team's 31-year run at the much-disparaged facility.

One of the loudest ovations came when Mark Henderson drove a John Deere tractor out to midfield for the coin toss.

Back in 1982, Henderson - then a convict out on work release - steered a tractor onto Foxboro's snow-covered artificial turf and, much to the chagrin of enraged Dolphins coach Don Shula, cleared a spot for John Smith, who made a 33-yard field goal to beat Miami.

A few years ago, several media outlets reported Henderson's death. Erroneously.

Henderson told the Boston Herald last month that another Mark Henderson "very close to my age, but from North Attleboro [Mass.], was the one who died. Everyone assumed he was me, and I kept my mouth shut."

Why?

"It was their mistake, not mine," he replied, referring to newspaper and on-air reports.

Henderson said attempts to correct the record failed.

"Friends called talk shows and one called `The Score' [a radio station in Providence, R.I.] three years ago and said, `This man isn't dead. He was just at my wedding.' "

Despite their shared place in Patriots history, Henderson says he is less than thrilled with Smith, who benefited from his timely plowing.

"Smith keeps saying I was in prison for armed robbery," Henderson said. "That's not true."

What is accurate?

"I was convicted for burglary," Henderson said.

Knocked out cold

For four months, the World Boxing Organization had a dead man ranked in the top 10 of its super middleweight division.

Darrin Morris died in October 2000 of HIV-related meningitis at the age of 32. By January 2001, he was still No. 5.

"It is sometimes hard to get all the information on boxers, and we obviously missed the fact that Darrin was dead," WBO president Francisco Valcarcel said. "It is regrettable."

Twice after his death, Morris moved up in the rankings despite having not fought since 1999.

At least the comment that accompanied Morris' ranking on the WBO Web site in December 2000 was accurate:

"No recent activity."

Another dead ringer

The WBO is in good company. Last March, the more widely respected World Boxing Association moved Sandile Sobandla up from No. 14 to No. 13 in the bantamweight division. On the first day of the previous month, Sobandla died in an auto accident.

Wrote Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle: "A good, solid ranking for Rocky Marciano is no longer out of the question."

He kidded because he cared

Thomas Speers, known to listeners on sports-talk radio shows in Boston as "Butch from the Cape," died late last year of cancer at the age of 58.

Speers delighted in poking fun at New England teams.

"Maybe I've got Red Sox cancer," he told WBZ-TV in Boston, "the kind everybody beats."

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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