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Thursday November 30, 2000

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By Ryan Finley

Arizona Daily Wildcat

...My hero is this close (imagine me holding my thumb and forefinger really close together) to becoming another statistic.

I tell people that I have a beer gut because of Tony Gwynn, the portly - and talented - right fielder for the San Diego Padres. In reality, it's a combination of Louie's and Sausage Deli, but that doesn't matter.

What does matter is the fact that Gwynn, who has been a Padre since the 1983 season, could very well be bursting out of an Indians, Tigers or (horror of horrors!) Yankees jersey when he reports for training camp in March.

The Padres, a team that seemingly resigned themselves to permanent mediocrity following a 1998 National League Pennant, won't pay the man more than $1 million dollars a year to finish out his Hall of Fame career.

Big deal, right? Well, to me, it's a huge damn deal. To put things in perspective, I was running around the house in G.I. Joe underoos the last time Gwynn wasn't in the Pads' brown - now blue - pinstripes.

The man has played through five jersey changes, three hat changes and about a dozen haircuts, including the Afro he sported as a rookie. There is more salt than pepper now in his on-again, off-again goatee. He's slow. He can't get to balls. He's frail.

Big deal.

He's hit singles off pitchers who are now dead. Dead! His son, little Tony, is 19-years-old and playing ball at San Diego State. If the Padres renew his deal, it's possible that the two could play in the major leagues at the same time. How cool would that be? ...

...In college basketball, I was amazed to see former UCLA star and broadcaster Bill Walton commenting during the Arizona-Purdue basketball game last Saturday. Walton - whose son is UA small forward Luke Walton - managed to keep himself under control throughout most of the game, although he let it slip that he was unhappy with his son's Grateful Dead-inspired tattoo.

... Luke, make it up to your dad by doing me one favor - grow the "Wolfman" beard that your #32 dad sported when he was playing for the Portland Traiblazers in the late 1970s.

Your dad won an NBA title with the beard, and there's no doubt in my mind that a little facial hair is the only thing separating this year's Wildcats team from a national title.

It would be a lot like when Ricky Vaughn broke out the horn-rimmed glasses in "Major League". You could get some of Arizona's blue-haired alums to wear fake red beards and fangs to the games. Imagine the possibilities, Luke. I can hear "Truckin'" playing right now...

...About a week ago, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was honored following his 500th victory. Blue Devils brass renamed the floor "Coach K" court, which says less about the man and more about the fact that even an arena full of Duke students couldn't spell the name Krzyzewski...

Ryan Finley is a junior majoring in journalism and can be reached at