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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

His Sphere of Influence Included Baseball

February 21, 2001|ROBYN NORWOOD

There is great sadness in NASCAR circles at the death of Dale Earnhardt, and it extends to the baseball world as well.

Earnhardt was part-owner of a minor league team in the North Carolina town where he grew up.

In a tip of the hat to Earnhardt, the team's name was changed to the Kannapolis Intimidators in November when he bought a piece of the team, previously known as the Piedmont Boll Weevils.

Formerly Philadelphia's Class A affiliate, the team is now part of the Chicago White Sox organization.

"Right now, the focus is on the family," said Todd Parnell, the Intimidators' vice president and general manager. "This is a program Dale really wanted to be a part of. Our understanding is the family wants to do its best to keep doing the things Dale wanted to do.

"My thing here in my office is I don't want the baseball team to be the story. The story is the tragic loss of an American hero."

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More Earnhardt: Carolina Panther tight ends coach Don Breaux told the Charlotte Observer about meeting Earnhardt in 1996, when some of the city's biggest sports stars gathered for a photo shoot: Earnhardt, Panther quarterback Kerry Collins and Hornet guard Dell Curry.

Breaux told Earnhardt he became a racing fan while working for the Washington Redskins under Joe Gibbs, who later became a racing owner.

"I remember saying to Dale, 'I sure enjoy watching you compete, but I've got to be honest with you and tell you I root for Bobby Labonte because of my association with Coach Gibbs,' " Breaux said.

"Dale told me that was OK, and he said, 'Coach Gibbs is a good man, and he's always telling me I'd be a good football player because I'd play with pain.' "

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Trivia time: Which future basketball Hall of Famers joined Guy Rodgers on the All-American first team in 1958?

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Pound for pound: The Independent, a British publication, reports the Manchester United soccer team is the most valuable brand in European sports, but still ranks second to the Dallas Cowboys overall.

And while David Beckham is a bigger name in England than Troy Aikman, this description of the former Super Bowl champions has to be painful:

"The Dallas Cowboys, an American football team best known for its cheerleaders. . . . "

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Black and blue book: Ulf Samuelsson, long considered one of the NHL's dirtiest players, quietly retired last week after 16 seasons. Among his post-hockey pursuits? Selling used cars.

"I'd buy a car off me," Samuelsson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'm an honest fellow."

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Also for sale: A hockey stick that is said to be the world's oldest at about 150 is for sale in Canada at--gulp--$3 million, with $1 million of the proceeds targeted for cancer research.

The Hockey Hall of Fame reportedly hopes someone will buy the stick and allow the Toronto museum to display it.

Pay that much for a piece of memorabilia, and nobody should tell you where to stick it.

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Big-time wrestlers: According to Wrestling Digest, there is no wrestler bigger than Big Show, at 7 feet 2 and 500 pounds.

More impressive in his way is Rikishi. At 6-1 and 401 pounds, he'd make a rather imposing XFL fullback.

"Rounding" out the top five are No. 3 Sid Vicious (6-8, 318), No. 4 Mike Awesome (6-6, 292 pounds) and No. 5 Viscera (6-6, 497 pounds).

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Trivia answer: Wilt Chamberlain of Kansas, Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati and Elgin Baylor of Seattle were on the 1958 Sporting News All-American team with Rodgers, who played at Temple and died Monday at 65.

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And finally: From a list of Earnhardt's best-remembered quotes, courtesy of the Charlotte Observer: "I want to give more than 100% every race, and if that's aggressive, then I reckon I am."

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