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JERRY CROWE

Magic Johnson turns 50

Text messages from press row . . .

August 14, 2009|JERRY CROWE

Happy 50th birthday to Magic Johnson. . . .

Eighteen years ago, when Johnson made his bombshell announcement that he was HIV-positive, few expected the Lakers' star would see his 33rd birthday, much less his 50th. . . .

"His impact on increasing awareness that you can live with the disease has been phenomenal," says Cynthia Davis, director of HIV education and outreach at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. "Even today, 30 years into the epidemic, there are people who aren't educated and feel that it's a death sentence." . . .

So robust and energetic that some have wrongly assumed him cured, Johnson has said he owes his well-being -- and perhaps his life -- to the multi-drug cocktail he takes every day. . . .

"The reason he's still alive," Davis says, "is that he caught the infection early on before it had an opportunity to destroy his immune system, he changed his lifestyle and he went on these drugs." . . .

Johnson's wife, his kids and his fans -- not to mention AIDS/HIV activists such as Davis -- are all grateful. . . .

Here's to 50 more. . . .

Tiger Woods, leading the PGA Championship after Thursday's opening round, told reporters last week that he recently found an old putter while cleaning out the garage at his home in Windermere, Fla. -- one that he'd used to win the Masters. . . .

Said Woods, incredulous, "It's just sitting over there." . . .

Fans in Philadelphia boo everybody, so Michael Vick probably couldn't have landed in a more perfect place. . . .

The Dodgers and Angels have built their comfortable leads in different ways, Matt Kemp and the Dodgers plowing through division foes with impunity in the National League West and the Angels struggling within the American League West while steamrollering almost everybody else. . . .

The Angels, as noted in USA Today, could become only the fourth team since the start of division play in 1969 to win its division despite a sub-.500 record against division foes. . . .

In a Sports Illustrated survey of 380 major leaguers, 41% said the opposing hitter they most feared with a game on the line was Albert Pujols, while 18% picked Manny Ramirez. . . .

No other player earned more than 6% of the vote. . . .

Just asking: Has the globe-trotting, fun-loving Shaquille O'Neal spent any time in a gym this summer preparing for his first season with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers? . . .

James might wonder too. . . .

Twenty years ago, reader Steve Vanderpool e-mails to remind, a freshman quarterback named Todd Marinovich stepped into the breach after starter Pat O'Hara suffered a broken leg, leading USC to a third consecutive Pacific 10 Conference title. . . .

But Marinovich, unlike Matt Barkley, was a redshirt freshman. . . .

Cold War rekindled: At Saratoga Springs on Thursday, the Statue of Liberty Division of the New York Stallion Series for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies was won by Mother Russia. . . .

In other words, Mother Russia claimed the Statue of Liberty! . . .

At least France didn't get it back. . . .

Former Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn says his all-time favorite sports-themed song "by far" is Sister Wynona Carr's "The Ball Game," which he calls "gospel with a strong touch of humor" and allmusic.com describes as "a vividly metaphorical tale of a showdown between Jesus and Satan." . . .

In the lyric, Jesus is at the plate, Satan on the mound. . . .

Runners-up on Hilburn's list: John Fogerty's "Centerfield" ("A real baseball fan paying tribute to the game itself") and Danny Kaye's "D-O-D-G-E-R-S Song (Oh, Really? No, O'Malley)." . . .

Reader Kevin Ausmus, who says Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus is a distant relative, nominates "Ogasawara," a rocking ode to Japanese slugger Michihiro Ogasawara that just happens to have been recorded by Ausmus' band, Desperation Squad. . . .

Ogasawara, a Yomiuri Giants first baseman, helped Japan win World Baseball Classic titles in 2006 and 2009. . . .

Sugar Shane Mosley and actor David Arquette are scheduled to play in the celebrity division this weekend at the Lakers 3 on 3 basketball tournament outside Staples Center. . . .

Admission is free. . . .

Rick Pitino, who admitted to having consensual sex on a restaurant table with a woman accused of trying to extort him, includes on his website, rickpitino.com, a tab for "restaurant reviews," reader Doug Thomson of West Los Angeles e-mails to note. . . .

Nothing comes up when the tab is clicked, so one can only imagine what Pitino looks for in a restaurant.

--

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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