Fred Biletnikoff, Pete Banaszak, Phil Villapiano: Oakland Raiders of 1976-79 along with Kenny Stabler; they'll tell you they were friendly, too, with convicted bookmaker Nick Dudich -- and insist it had nothing to do with gambling.
Meanwhile, The New York Times has delved further into the Houston Oiler quarterback's dealings during his Oakland days and come up with another name: Anthony Romano.
Romano: "identified," the Times reported yesterday, "by law enforcement sources as a convicted felon and a member of the Magaddino organized crime family of Buffalo." Romano: owner of a company called America's Leaders that worked up a deal to market 2,500 lithographs of an autographed Stabler portrait; a deal sanctioned by NFL Properties Inc. three months before it learned of Romano's background. Stabler's lawyer said neither he nor his client ever met or knew about Romano when the arrangement was negotiated in hopes of a $280,000 gross for America's Leaders, $28,000 for Stabler, $17,000 for NFL Properties and $30,000 for Easter Seals.
At $112 a copy, about 25 of the 2,500 lithographs were sold. Stabler got $1,000. Easter Seals says it "never got a penny."
But back to Dudich:
"We'd be going out to dinner and see Nick," Biletnikoff told The Oakland Tribune, remembering 1978 training camp. "We'd ask him to join us. He was a great guy."
"Everybody knew the guy. I can say 15 to 20 guys on the team right now knew him well," said Banaszak.
"We sat down a number of times and had beers with Nick at the airport after a game . . ." said Villapiano, who has since moved on to the Buffalo Bills.
"Never at any time did Nick pump us for football information. Never". . .
George Steinbrenner, after firing Gene Michael as Yankee manager: "I feel like a father scorned. I feel like I have a son who has done something wrong and isn't mature enough to admit it. This is the worst thing to happen to me since I got the Yankees."
Michael, first utterance since the ax fell: "I must refute certain allegations (by the owner) . . . I never complained about front office interference . . . and I never failed to cooperate with the front office with two exceptions, when the dugout was called during games by Yankee personnel other than the owner (and Michael hung up the phone). I also don't feel that I always go public with my statements, which has been alleged". . . .
JoAnne Carner came from three strokes back starting Labor Day to shoot 66 and win the LPGA's $125,000 Rail Charity Classic in Springfield, Ill., by two, with 205 for 54 holes . . .
Action impends today in federal court, New York, and Wednesday in federal court, Boston, over Danny Ainge, who has filed a grievance with the baseball players association over the Toronto Blue Jays' refusal to relent and let him bargain with the NBA's Boston Celtics . . .
Fight promoter Don King has set Nov. 6, someplace, for Larry Holmes versus challenger Renaldo Snipes, and March, in Las Vegas, for Holmes and Gerry Cooney . . .
Q. today, A. tomorrow: The NCAA henceforth will reserve the MEAC football champion an automatic berth in the Division I-AA playoffs, an opportunity for Howard U.'s squad to emulate the Bison basketballers of last season. Two ties on Howard's 1980 record were a factor in its being passed over for the Gold Bowl. Now, at least two I-AA conferences, Ohio Valley and Yankee, have moved to break 60-minute ties in league games. How?