John McGrath

Here’s to before-her-time Suggs and some welcome home-plate hugs

Column as I see ’em ...

Louise Suggs, co-founder of the LPGA and winner of 61 professional tournaments, died Friday at 91. During Suggs’ lifetime, the involvement of women in sports evolved from minimal participation in the Olympic Games — appointing chaperones to accompany them was expensive — to the Arizona Cardinals hiring of Jen Welter as the first female intern on an NFL coaching staff.

Such progress found Suggs at the forefront. Twelve years before Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the nationally televised “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, Suggs won a two day, 72-hole exhibition that included famously irascible golf legend Sam Snead.

Snead was not gracious in defeat under any circumstances, but losing to woman, in an exhibition, turned Slammin’ Sammy sideways.

“I finally said, ‘I don’t know what the hell you’re complaining about,’” Suggs recalled. “You weren’t even second.”

Snead put his clubs in the car trunk and his foot on the pedal.

“It was the most perfect squelch I ever heard,” Suggs said. “He burned a quarter-inch of rubber.”

▪ Chris Petersen’s second season as coach of the Washington football team began with a message reminiscent of the first one: Players either buy in all the way, or they are sent on their way.

I’ve got no idea what cornerback Naijeil Hale did to get himself booted from the program. What I do know is that when it comes to setting a tone for training camp, dismissing a potential starter is as loud and clear as a coach can get.

▪ The Single-A All-Star Game last week between the Northwest League and the Pioneer League was memorable, if for nothing else, because of its pregame pomp.

Instead of introducing the visiting team along one baseline, followed by the opponents taking the other baseline, the starting position players from each team were introduced in an alternative rotation, according to their place on the lineup card.

For instance, when the Pioneer League leadoff hitter jogged out of the dugout to home plate, he awaited his counterpart from the Northwest League. Always there was a handshake and once in a while a hug. In either case, it gave baseball’s special occasion introduction ritual, so stale after all these years, some spice.

▪ The Pro Football Hall of Fame made room Saturday night for eight more all-time great players, and yet the waiting list remains absurdly long. It starts with Jerry Kramer, the Green Bay guard responsible for the storied goal-line block that cleared the way for quarterback Bart Starr to score the deciding touchdown in the 1967 “Ice Bowl.”

Thanks to “Instant Replay,” the diary-form book he authored about the Packers’ championship season, Kramer got a lot of mileage out of the block. But it’s fair to wonder if that fame cost him Hall of Fame votes because there’s no other way to explain the shrine’s omission of somebody selected as a starter for the league’s 50-year anniversary team in 1969.

Merely earning honorable mention on a 50-year anniversary team, it seems to me, is Hall worthy. Kramer was seen as a starter, the best player at his position over half a century, and he’s still on the outside looking in.

What is that about?

▪ And then there is the late Ken Stabler, the quarterback who personified the defiantly quirky nature of Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders. Named to the 1970’s All-Decade team, Stabler earned a Super Bowl ring three years after he won Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1974.

Stabler had some problems later in life — three DUI arrests — but for better or worse, football Hall of Fame voters insist on keeping off-the-field incidents separate from a player’s body of work. Stabler’s body of work was first-ballot stuff.

▪ Stabler trivia: Between his senior season at Alabama and his rookie season with the Raiders, he played two years for the Spokane Shockers in the Continental Football League.

Organized as a fully professional operation, the CFL aspired to compete with the NFL and AFL during the late 1960s. The league folded in 1969 after a five-year run; among its alums were coaches Bill Walsh and Sam Wyche.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

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