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Putting the ‘drag’ in drag racing

Headline in the Arizona Republic during a National Hot Rod Association event at Firebird Raceway Park: “Mom, son fly in Top Fuel qualifying.”

“Mom” turned out to be Connie Kalitta, 59 - drag-racing legend and father of fellow driver Scott Kalitta.

Guess that explains why the marriage to Shirley Muldowney didn’t work out.

But who inspired the Burt Young character?

Chuck Wepner, the fringe heavyweight known as the “Bayonne Bleeder” who earned momentary fame when he was granted a shot at then-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in 1975, was the inspiration for the “Rocky” character.

He also served as technical adviser for the 1976 film, which won the best-picture Oscar and international fame for Sylvester Stallone.

“They were shooting the movie and Stallone’s going, ‘Yo, Adrian!”’ Wepner recalled. “I thought it was going to bomb.

“At the end of the shoot, they offer me $70,000 against 1 percent of the gross. I take the $70,000. I figure a bird in the hand, right? Then ‘Rocky’ turns into a smash hit with four sequels that, all told, gross $820 million. If I had taken the 1 percent, that’s $8.2 million to me. It was like when I backed Custer at the Little Bighorn.”

Bathroom humor

There’s no Fernando Valenzuela-like mania surrounding Suns center Horacio Llamas yet - but there is a nickname.

“Bano, Bano,” Suns coach Danny Ainge yells, running a play for Llamas, the first Mexican-born player in the NBA.

Bano is Spanish for bathroom.

“It’s tough to be a rookie in this league,” Ainge said.

Llamas got the nickname from Kevin Johnson not long after signing with the Suns on Feb. 21, because, well, he’s always in the bathroom.

In the Suns’ locker room, only Ainge, KJ and Llamas, himself, seem to know the word’s meaning.

“Most of my teammates aren’t bilingual, so I tell them it means ‘Great Warrior,”’ KJ said.

An early second guess

New Raiders coach Joe Bugel said the signing of Desmond Howard was “probably the easiest decision I had to make in my first two weeks on the job.”

To which Ron Borges of the Boston Globe commented: “The hard part will be trying to explain it a year from now.”

We suggest he ask for uniform No. 5

Spring training has been very profitable for Reds pitcher Scott Service.

Last week, Service purchased five Quick Picks on the Florida Fantasy Five, a daily five-number game. He got all five on the fifth, and won about $35,000.

A few days later, Service bought gas at a convenience store near Plant City and on his way out the door said to the clerk, “Oh, give me five bucks worth of Quick Picks.” Service had all five numbers again, and got nearly $22,000.

Service was asked if he’d consider being a spokesman for the Florida Lottery?

“Only if they pay me as much as I’ve won already,” he said.

Great. He wants an incentive clause after baseball, too.

The last word …

“Peyton Manning stayed at Tennessee and I left. They got the better of that deal.”

- New Northwestern basketball coach Kevin O’Neill

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo



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