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Notes : Biletnikoff, Shell, Ditka Among Finalists

January 31, 1988|BOB OATES | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Two former Raiders, wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff and offensive tackle Art Shell, survived the final cut Saturday when 28 of the 2,300 journalists here for the Super Bowl voted on 15 candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The selection committee named seven finalists in all. But the results of the balloting won't be released until Tuesday.

Among those who made the 10-man semifinal round--but not the finals--were three former coaches, Al Davis, George Allen and Bud Grant.

The writers blackballed every coach on the ballot except Mike Ditka of the Chicago Bears, who was voted on as a player. Ditka was a tight end before entering coaching.

The four other finalists are Alan Page, Jack Ham, Bob Griese and the old-timers' committee candidate, tackle Lou Rymkus of the Cleveland Browns.

In pro ball, Page played defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings, Ham was a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Griese a quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

During the selection committee's three-hour meeting Saturday morning, Raider owner Davis was the subject of a 21-minute discussion, one of the longest in the group's recent history.

By comparison, Page was considered for only 60 seconds--which seemed to be a commentary on the fact that Page was somehow overlooked by the committee last year and belongs by acclamation now. He is a former National Football League Most Valuable Player.

Allen and Davis have both had controversial careers which often brought them into conflict with sportswriters as well as NFL groups.

Otherwise, the Allen career includes an unbroken streak of 12 winning years in which he turned around two famous losers, the old Rams and the old Washington Redskins.

Also an innovator, Allen invented the nickel defense and other weapons that will be used in today's game.

Davis is the only Hall of Fame candidate who ever filled every position in football from assistant coach to club owner and commissioner.

As the last commissioner of the old American Football League, Davis made the moves that ended the war with the NFL and brought on the pro football merger of the 1970s.

But in the last two years, in a room full of sportswriters, he hasn't had the votes.

San Diegans who have watched pro football since the 1960s say the Jack Murphy field has never been in better condition than it will be today.

A crew led by George Toma, the prominent Kansas City groundskeeper, has rebuilt it since the Holiday Bowl game here Dec. 30.

Commenting on reports that the Chargers and Padres--who use the same stadium--are in a state of constant war over what kind of grass to use, Toma said: "This is the toughest (field) I've ever dealt with."

He and his crew aerated the field, reseeded it, watered it down and covered it for days with a white plastic sheet that made it "like a greenhouse."

The stadium has been expanded with temporary seating from 60,750 to about 73,000.

Dallas Cowboys safety Bill Bates has passed up the Super Bowl to spend the weekend in Hong Kong, where he will do the color commentary on the game for English-speaking listeners.

A British play-by-play announcer was brought in to work with Bates. They will use ABC's pictures.

The game starts at 8 a.m. Monday in Seoul, where a dozen NBC executives and technicians are working on television plans for the Olympics.

Scheduled for all-day conferences with Korean officials Monday and Tuesday, the NBC people sent word that they can't make the Monday a.m. meeting.

They'll be "too busy," they said.

Quote Dept.--Lines of the week:

DAN REEVES, Denver coach: "If you look at how we've been in every game (lately)--and the Redskins are always in the game--hopefully, we'll have one of those matchups that people dream about."

JOE GIBBS, Washington coach: "(Playing against John Elway) is like playing with a time bomb. Sooner or later, it's going to go off."

MARK JACKSON, Denver receiver: "Elway's throwing eliminates what we call in Denver the St. Luke's (hospital) Shot. That's where--if you have to (wait for a pass)--the defensive back (clobbers) you."

RICKY NATTIEL, Denver receiver: "The first time I (caught an Elway pass), I almost broke a finger. I had to have a splint on it for about a week."

ELWAY: "If they use (man-for-) man coverage, it definitely opens up the lanes for scrambling."

REEVES: "As you know, we have a one-man team, so we're having a one-man curfew."

JAY SCHROEDER, Washington backup quarterback: "I'm waiting in the wings. With my baseball background, I know what that's like--waiting in the bullpen."

DARRELL GREEN, Washington cornerback: "Gibbs' sensitivity is what makes him good."

RICKY HUNLEY, Denver linebacker: "You have to have the mentality of a coach when you're out on the field (for Denver)."

JOE COLLIER, Denver defensive coach: "I've seen that the teams that don't gamble as much on defense are usually the teams that come out at the end of the year with the least amount of points scored against them."

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