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Sports Fans, Now's Time to Win One for Yourself

March 19, 1987|DAVID LARSEN | Times Staff Writer

- In Wisconsin, Jo Penewell stood nude in front of the family TV set during a football game just to prove that her husband was a hopeless sports nut. His reaction: "Get the hell out of the way so I can see this play!"

- In Oregon, as Anne Holbert's husband was driving her to a hospital to give birth to their first child, he told her he would be leaving at 1 p.m. to watch the National Basketball Assn. playoff game.

- In Northern California, Barbara Hegarty and Carol Pence bake cookies in the shape of San Francisco 49er helmets and jerseys and present one to each player before any Rams or playoff games.

- In Southern California, Gary Samrick moved from Glendora to Glendale in order to be closer to the Dodger Stadium he frequents so often.

Sports zealots all, and all of them candidates in a nationwide search to determine the most avid among them. Until March 27, in 50 words or less, fans or people who know of them are submitting entries to the Fisher Nuts Salutes America's Nuttiest Sports Nuts contest in Tinley Park, Ill.

Illinois, of course, is home of the Chicago baseball team in the National League, of which former catcher Joe Garagiola once said: "One thing you learned as a Cubs fan: When you bought your ticket, you could bank on seeing the bottom of the ninth."

In the Game at Last

Be that as it may, the 12th player, the 10th player, the sixth player--depending on the sport--is finally getting his day in court, or maybe on the court. To fracture the metaphor, when the dust has settled at home plate, one of the thousands of entrants will emerge as the nuttiest nut of them all, and will be fittingly rewarded.

Jo Penewell of Beloit, Wis., can make a good case for her husband, Don.

"It happened about 6 p.m. on a Sunday last football season," she said by phone. "He was, as usual, watching a game on the tube. I put on a robe in my bedroom, came down and stood in front of the set, and disrobed."

Which is when she was unceremoniously told to depart.

But after 10 years of a happy marriage, including sharing the house with eight children, Jo shrugs it all off as something that goes with the territory.

"Let's face it," she philosophized, "I'm a football widow and I think I've adjusted to it."

Anne Holbert of Rhododendron, Ore., recalled the Saturday in 1976 when she and her husband, Bill, were about to become parents for the first time:

"He had said beforehand that he hoped I didn't have the baby on that day, because a National Basketball Assn. playoff game was scheduled," she said by phone. "And wouldn't you know it, at 6:30 a.m. he was in our car, driving me to the hospital."

Her husband said that after arriving at the hospital, he watched part of the game on the waiting room TV set, then joined his wife just before she gave birth to a daughter, then returned to his rightful place in front of television.

A couple of years later their second child, another daughter, was born--on New Year's Day, the day of total football.

Once again, sports nut Bill followed a similar routine: "I managed to watch one of the early bowl games, saw our baby born, then went to a friend's house to watch the Rose Bowl."

When her husband, a 42-year-old paper broker, is out of town on business, Anne makes sure she tapes the sporting events for him.

The couple have been happily married 13 years, although the wife said she has never really gotten into sports that much.

Quite the opposite is true of Barbara Hegarty and Carol Pence, who show high degrees of support for the San Francisco 49ers.

The degrees are in the ovens of their homes in Cupertino, near San Jose. They are the team cookie ladies.

"In 1979, I happened to be looking for Halloween cookie cutters," Hegarty said by phone. "In one store I found a cutter shaped like a football helmet."

And a tradition began. The women take the cookies they bake, put on one layer of maple frosting, then use tubes of red and white to complete the team colors.

Before the Rams games and any playoff contests, both home and away, the two fans put each cookie inside a plastic sandwich bag.

"We go to the Redwood City training camp, and first we pass out enough for the staff and coaches," Hegarty said. "Then we stand outside the locker room, and hand each player a

In these parts, not only did Samrick change residences in order to be closer to Chavez Ravine, but he made sure his new apartment had room for his collection of about 5,000 player cards, plus assorted autographed baseballs, and vintage handwritten letters from players.

Although the 24-year-old Samrick, an accountant, keeps up with the modern game, he still has a fondness for the names of yesteryear. One of his baseballs is signed by fireballer Bob Feller.

"About 500 of my cards involve baseball," he said. "When I was younger, I got a lot of them simply by writing to the players and enclosing self-addressed, stamped envelopes."

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