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Redskins Hall of Famers Know It's Canton or Bust

By George Solomon
Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bobby Mitchell and Sonny Jurgensen, former Redskins and members of the exclusive club known as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were sitting around the Lansdowne Resort on Friday discussing the merits of cornerback Darrell Green and wide receiver Art Monk, who in three weeks join them in their Canton, Ohio, sanctuary.

"Darrell was so quick he could make a mistake and still catch up to the ball," Jurgensen said. "Art was fast and a big playmaker."

Mitchell's view: "The first time I met Darrell in 1983 when I was working in the Redskins' front office, I thought, 'I can't believe [GM] Bobby Beathard drafted this little kid.' Darrell then talked to me for 90 minutes, made me believe in him and trust him."

Mitchell, one of the few Hall of Fame members who excelled at two positions -- running back and wide receiver -- was asked how he would have dealt with Green. "You would never outrun him, so you'd leave your ego at the door. Quick, fast moves. Short stuff. No chance at beating him with a bomb."

And Monk? "He was big and strong. A corner could only hope to bump him," Mitchell said.

"It's all very exciting for me," Monk said. "Darrell and I would practice against each other every day. He was tough; we made each other better."

Mitchell, 73, is in his 18th year of hosting today's golf tournament at Lansdowne that benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, drawing on longtime friendships to attract about 40 Hall of Famers to the event. For a $5 donation, fans get an opportunity to hang out with many of the greatest players in NFL history and watch them golf.

Jurgensen, 73, one of the NFL's all-time best passers and a member of the Redskins' broadcast team, recently had surgery to remove a melanoma ("the size of a baseball") from his right shoulder. "I'm just so glad Art and Darrell are being inducted together, as Bobby and I were in 1983," Jurgensen said.

In a ballroom that also included former Redskins Charley Taylor, 66, and Ken Houston, 63, Jurgensen wistfully noted: "Our class is graduating."

Kastles Made of Sand

Has it really been 34 years since Billie Jean King introduced the "TeamTennis Pro League" -- now called World TeamTennis -- to the country? The venerable pioneer of women's tennis, now 64, was in Washington on Tuesday night with about 2,200 fans to inaugurate the Washington Kastles' first season in WTT with a match against the Boston Lobsters at Kastles Stadium at CityCenter DC.

It took 33 years for baseball to return to Washington. But that's about how long it's taken King to find the right time, right place and right investor (43-year-old entrepreneur Mark Ein) to put a WTT team in tennis-appreciative D.C.

"We had to work with the existing tournaments [i.e., Donald Dell's Legg Mason] and fitting a schedule into our one-month calendar of a season," King explained amid the din of a boisterous match in which the Serena Williams-led Kastles lost to Boston, 22-19.

"A lot of sports leagues have come and gone in the past 33 years," King said. "But we've stayed. I make my living doing this."

Tennis purists visiting the colorful "stadium" at 11th and H streets NW -- an oversize parking lot until a couple of weeks ago -- will be jolted when they hear rock music, team-inspired cheerleading and fans yelling at opposing players during points. "This is taking tennis to the people," King said. "It's what I care most about."

WTT's scoring formula makes no sense whatsoever to me, but non-Gator-educated fans might find two explanations in last Wednesday's Post useful when the Kastles return home Tuesday night to face the New York Sportimes without the Wimbledon finalist (note to Gilbert: Serena plays only once at home per season, thrice on the road).

"We had to create 150 extra seats to accommodate everyone," Ein said. "I had people fighting to get the last of the [expensive] box seats." These fans included Mayor Adrian Fenty, getting King's signature on two shirts for his children; former mayor Tony Williams; other pols and Wizards star Caron Butler.

Afterward, Ein was beaming as players signed autographs (Serena's two security guards were the size of NFL linemen) and gave away free rackets to kids under 15. Young fans even craved Kastles bad boy Justin Gimelstob's autograph. This is the same Gimelstob whose recent nasty comments in a radio interview about Anna Kournikova got him in big trouble. As punishment, Gimelstob was sentenced to listen to Feinstein's latest book-on-tape -- in one sitting.

Nevertheless, Ein was so excited despite his team's loss on Tuesday he even predicted similar sellouts for the rest of the month despite Serena's absence. "Serena overshadows the rest of our team," he said. "The fans will love our other players."

Spoken like an owner in the sports business for less than a month.

Mason's Jarring Departure

Sorry to see Roger Mason, a Good Counsel and University of Virginia product and favorite of mine, leave the Wizards for San Antonio. Mason, who averaged 9.1 points on 44.3 percent shooting in his second season with the Wizards, cut a deal worth $7.3 million over two years.

But pleased that the Capitals, who discarded Olie Kolzig like a old pair of shoes, kept veteran center Sergei Fedorov at $4 million for the upcoming season and re-signed forward Brooks Laich to a three-year contract worth about $6.2 million.

Fedorov, 38, helped the Caps immensely in their playoff push last season. He has charisma; a real presence. That's four Russians on the ice for Washington: Sergei, Alex (the Great) Ovechkin, Alex (Almost the Great) Semin and Viktor Kozlov. But a note to Kastles owner Ein: Do not invite Fedorov to mingle with Gimelstob at one of your matches. Trust me.

Also, how 'bout that ungrateful Tony Stewart leaving Coach Joe's racing team to become part-owner and driver for Haas CNC Racing? Fortunately, Coach Joe has 18-year-old potential superstar Joey Logano, owner of a driver's license for two years, ready to take Stewart's spot in the No. 20 Camry.

In a New York State of Mind

A July 4 weekend split between Philly and northern New Jersey visiting children and grandchildren provided an opportunity to read the New York tabloids and imagine what their coverage of the last-place Nationals might be.

With apologies to the clever headline writers at the Daily News, Post and Newsday, we offer, in good fun:

· Nats' Injuries: Capital Pains

· City to Nats: "Pay Up."

· Take a Bow-den

· Wily No Peña

· The Lerner Curve

· Nats TV: Hello. Anyone Out There?

· Custer's Last Stan

· The Final Acta

· Saturday's Postgame Movie: "Horror on Half Street"

· Nick Nicked Again

· Hitless Blunders

In keeping with the theme of all in fun, the Nats' postgame "Saturday Night Movie" selector needs help. Send your favorite baseball movie to talkback@washpost.com.

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