A retirement is something like driving into a dead end street. There isn't much else you can do except go back.

The pot of memories keeps stirring for a sportswriter. Erny Pinckert dies. You remember Pinckert as a great competitor for the Redskins who led the league in fun-loving.

There was that party at the old Burlington Hotel after the Redskins had won the Eastern title. The party had run out of liquid refreshment and Pinckert asked Sammy Baugh and me to get some more. As we were coming back to the party, we ran into coach Ray Flaherty. The Redskins still had the championship game to play with the Chicago Bears and Flaherty didn't appreciate the celebration. He fined Baugh (who didn't drink) $200 and even fined me in his rage. Pinckert never got caught, although Flaherty suspected him.

Sportswriters have always pointed proudly to the men who have become well-known in other fields. Scotty Broun, Westbrook Pegler, Bob Considine, Bob Ruark and Paul Gallico (who wrote the memorable "Farewell to Sports" when he quit) were all sportswriters in good standing and each went back nostalgically to write a piece or two because the fun and games never leave you.

Long before George Plimpton took up writing about athletes through first-hand experience of their games, others had done it, and well.

Gallico was a member of the Columbia University crew before he became a sportswriter. He was a big man - 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds. He decided he would get into the ring with Jack Dempsey, then the heavyweight champion. Dempsey didn't read the papers and didn't know Gallico.

Some practical jokers told Dempsey he was getting a new sparring partner, a young kid with dynamite in his hands, and to be careful. Dempsey came out slamming away in the workout and had Gallico out in record time.

I went the whole route, too, when I first came to Washington. I sparred with George Abrams, a middleweight contender and a fine fighter. Abrams wasn't supposed to have much of a punch but I can feel the sting to this day.

I worked out with Sammy Baugh, one of the greatest passers of football history. Baugh could throw bullets. I turned the wrong way, the ball hit me in the side of the face, and I had a black eye for a week. I rode a race horse in a workout, drove a midget auto car and other foolishness. But, as Plimpton proved, a guy can make a buck living that dangerously.

I remember covering the Muhammad Ali-Al Lewis fight in Dublin, Ireland, in 1972. Ali was sluggish but he finally scored a knockout in the 11th round. Then came a mass of fans who stormed the ring.

Ali admitted that he had never been so frightened in his life and the next day the Dublin papers rebuked the "sporting fans" for their lack of sportsmanship. It was said that this was "a shame Ireland would not soon forget." How innocent those days were.

There were also the America's Cup races I covered at Newport, R.I., in 1967 and 1970. It's a fascinating world, that world of 12-meter sloops. The American yacht, Intrepid, defeated Dame Pattie, the Australian challenger, in 1967, and Gretel II, the second Aussie boat in 1970.

The U.S. has never lost a race since the Americans beat England off the Isle of Wight in 1851.But then, the New York Yacht Club is the ruling body and this could be comparable to the time an Irishman named Mike McTeague defended his title against Battling Siki in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day. McTeague won.

Baseball was my life for 20 years and I'm still unconvinced there is any other sport like it.

The World Series were always pure excitement and I covered them all from 1946 through 1976 - with two years out fulfilling an obligation in the Korean War.

There were all those deadlines that had to be met. There were all those communications changes - from the Mosse code operators who used to send the copy to the teletypes, the telecopiers and now the computers.

James Cagney, the actor, told of how it was to get old. He told of an old man who was weeping and of a young girl who was trying to comfort him.

"Old man," she said, "why do you weep?"

"Because," he answers, "I thought the years of my youth were mine to keep."

Thel really aren't.