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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Smart Thinking Is Plato Could Wrestle This Issue

May 20, 1999|RANDY HARVEY

One of my favorite Monty Python sketches placed great thinkers such as Socrates, Aristotle and Plato on a soccer field. They proved to be pretty good at the game, once they figured it out.

From a historical perspective, however, Monty Python's writers underestimated Plato's instinctive athletic ability.

Ed Derse, the Amateur Athletic Foundation's research director, found details Wednesday in the book, "Sources for the History of Greek Athletics," about Plato's distinguished wrestling career.

Included was the information that his given name of Aristocles was changed by his wrestling coach to Plato, which means "broad shouldered." In that sense, he was an early version of one of those Brazilian soccer players, like Pele or Bebeto.

I called Derse after learning that Plato was among the inaugural class of 20 elected Tuesday into the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame in Kingston, R.I.

It's a select group, including Anita DeFrantz, a bronze-medalist rower, the first female vice president of the International Olympic Committee and, as president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation on West Adams Boulevard, Derse's boss.

Others included Arthur Ashe, Bill Bradley, Roger Bannister, George Bush, Gerald Ford, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Tenley Albright Blakeley, Ken Dryden, Bobby Jones, Paul Robeson and Byron "Whizzer" White.

I'm even more impressed with this Hall of Fame than most. I mean, it's one thing to be elected into a Hall that includes Babe Ruth but another altogether to enter one with Plato.

*

If you ask people to name athletes least likely to be elected to the International Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, most would start with Yogi Berra.

That wouldn't be fair because he wasn't as dumb as it seemed from some of his comments. As he once argued in self-defense, "I really didn't say everything I said."

Most anecdotes about him have been repeated ad nauseam. One that hasn't involved a personal experience that L.A. radio talk show host Irv Kaze had with Berra over dinner several years ago at Scandia.

Berra, according to Kaze, ate his main course down to the last bite before asking what it was he had been eating.

"Veal cutlet," Kaze said.

Berra pushed the plate away.

"I don't like veal cutlet," he said.

The athlete who, in my mind, makes Berra look like Einstein was Edgar Jones, the basketball player who showed up in Jerry Tarkanian's office on the first day of classes at Nevada Las Vegas and announced he was reporting for duty.

"I'd love to have you, Edgar," Tark said, "but you signed with Reno."

Jones, who had false teeth, refused to leave them in a locker at a gym where he worked out in Detroit, fearing they would be stolen. So he left them in the glove compartment of his car. His car was stolen.

*

Although he played with the Yankees, Berra will be inducted Friday into the Brooklyn Dodger Hall of Fame. . . .

Berra faced the Dodgers in six World Series. In the last three, in 1953, '55 and '56, he hit. .429, .417 and .360. . . .

USC's Athletic Hall of Fame will induct new members Saturday night at Pasadena's Ritz-Carlton Huntington. . . .

Jerry Buss should be there in time after the Laker game, but Mark McGwire probably won't make it even though he'll be within a 15-minute drive at Dodger Stadium. . . .

The San Antonio Spurs are the only team with three Wooden Award winners--David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Sean Elliott. They all made John Wooden proud by finishing school before turning pro. . . .

Track nut Wilt Chamberlain co-founded the Suzuki Rock 'N' Roll Marathon, which will be run Sunday in San Diego. . . .

In this week's Sports Illustrated, he says, "Maybe if I had been raised in California, I'd be known for the decathlon rather than for missing foul shots." . . .

Believe it or not, Chamberlain, a career .511 free-throw shooter, could beat any Laker teammate, including Jerry West, from the line during practices. . . .

But he didn't shoot free throws well during games, according to teammates, because he didn't like standing at the line in front of a crowd as the sole center of attention. . . .

I said you could believe it or not.

*

While wondering if Tiger Woods will bow out of that exhibition against David Duval now that Davis Love III is No. 2 in the world rankings, I was thinking: Jake Plummer and the Cardinals would be better for Los Angeles than an expansion team, I'd love to see a Dominik Hasek-Patrick Roy matchup in the Stanley Cup finals, I'm shocked Cincinnati scored 24 against the Bronco defense.

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com.

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