By Paul Katcher
Special to Page 3
Here are the 10 best...
10. Carmine "The Big Ragoo" Ragusa, "Laverne & Shirley" boxer
There was rarely an episode when Carmine, a former Golden Gloves champion, wasn't belting out a song or shuffling his feet at The Pizza Bowl, leaving viewers to wonder: "He's supposed to be the toughest guy in town?"
Then Squiggy would walk in and we'd understand.
9. George Jefferson, "The Jeffersons" boxer
He was a feisty, little dry cleaner, all right. Stripping off his jacket, putting up his dukes, to stand up for his wacky principles and defend himself when someone might ask a question like: How lazy does one have to be to require a live-in maid for a two-bedroom apartment?
Momma jokes were off limits, of course. Unless, ironically, they involved his wife, too:
Mother Jefferson: I don't have to stay here and be insulted!
Known for keeping the beat as the drummer in the band Zack Attack, Albert Clifford Slater delivered the beat-downs when he donned a singlet and hit the mat for Bayside High School. (Beat Valley!)
In the pilot episode of "Saved By The Bell: The College Years," the cast goes through some firsts. Zack doesn't get the girl, Screech actually gets a date, and Slater, a former state champion, spends more time on his back then an auto mechanic (which is the joke they threw in the Rated G script).
Not sure if he can cut it in the big time, Slater contemplates leaving school, but asks Screech to keep it a secret. Which he does not, under serious physical threat:
Zack: What about Slater?
In the end, Slater regained his confidence and stuck with the team. Today he can be found on Hollywood Squares.
7. Ralph Kramden, "The Honeymooners" bowler/wanna-be golfer
To get out of visiting Alice's mother, Ralph claims he needs to rest for the next morning's Gotham Bus Company physical examination. Instead of staying home, under wife's orders, he leads his bowling team to victory and throws out his back in the process. His plans to mask the injury don't exactly work out.
And in "The Golfer," Ralph's big mouth gets him into a bind. After bragging his talents on the links, Ralph's boss asks him to be part of an important match. That leaves upstairs buddy Ed Norton only a few days to teach him the game from scratch. Simple stuff like addressing the ball.
Later, there was this exchange:
Ralph: How do you know so much about golf?
6. Tony Banta, "Taxi" boxer
In one poignant scene, Banta explains to Bobby why he keeps the dream alive: that because without it, he's just a cab driver. And a lousy one at that.
Alex, a taxi lifer, overhears the conversation, but isn't offended, saying, "Oh, that's OK, Tony. I'm really not a cab driver. I'm just waiting for something better to come along. Ya know, like death."
5. Oscar Madison, "The Odd Couple" sports writer
As a recognized media member, Oscar hob-nobbed with the sports stars of the day, some of whom appeared as themselves on the show: Howard Cosell, Bubba Smith and Deacon Jones among them.
Don't let the crusty Mets cap fool ya, though, Oscar had a heart of gold, always willing to offer a friend a drink:Oscar: You want brown juice or green juice?
Felix: What's the difference?
Oscar: Three weeks.
4. Cosmo Kramer/George Costanza, "Seinfeld" jacks of all trades
How much did sports play a role in their characters? Well, how much time have you got?
George was the Yankees' assistant to the traveling secretary, the guy who persuaded the Bombers to wear cotton uniforms, got George Steinbrenner his daily fix of calzones, bowled over Bette Midler in a softball game, tried to get himself fired in order to become the Mets' general manager, affectionately called Houston Astros execs a bunch of "bastards," provided hitting advice to Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter, and enjoyed a peculiar game of "frolf" (a mix of frisbee and golf).
Kramer, not to be outdone, was a ball "boy" at the U.S. Open, promised a sick kid two Paul O'Neill home runs, hit a golf ball into a whale's blow hole, painted a letter on his bare chest to support the D-E-V-I-L-S, went high-and-tight to a plate-crowding Joe Pepitone at fantasy camp, decked Mickey Mantle in an ensuing fracas, played the ponies, preferred Canadian football over the NFL, and convinced a softball teammate to dump a bucket of Gatorade on Marty Benson, the owner of the comedy club they were playing for. (The Gatorade, mixed with cold weather, gave Benson fatal pneumonia.)3. Al Bundy, "Married ... With Children" Polk high school football star
Ask anyone to name the greatest athletes in the history of high school sports and you'll hear some familiar names: Lew Alcindor, Jim Ryun, Emmitt Smith and, yes, Al Bundy.
"Touchdown Bundy" to be exact. The finest fullback in the land, MVP of Polk's city championship team, and ball carrier of four scores in the title game.
He would go on to be Shoe Salesman of the Year in 1968, a faithful consumer of Aurora White toilet-paper and viewer of his favorite television show, "Psycho Dad."
With credentials like that, is it any wonder his No. 33 Panthers jersey is readily available online and can be spotted at Halloween parties near you?
2. Charlie Brown, "Peanuts" incompetent placekicker/pitcher
But you know what they say about good things coming to those who wait. In a 1981 TV special titled, "It's Magic, Charlie Brown," our favorite blockhead is made invisible by Snoopy, and he finally kicks a ball from under Lucy's hold. Laces out, of course.
Chuck's finest moment, however, came in a March 30, 1993, strip. In his final at-bat of the season, 43 years into his baseball career, Charlie Brown crushed his first home run. And a game-winner at that.
Not just a participant, Charlie was also a fan, and his favorite player was Joe Shlabotnik, who was demoted to the minors after hitting .004 over an entire season.1. Sam Malone, "Cheers" Red Sox relief pitcher
They called him "Mayday" during his days coming out of the pen, sporting No. 16 (as did Jim Lonborg, the real-life subject of a picture that hangs at Cheers) and often a hangover. Instead of putting out fires, though, he burned down the whole street, and his career lasted just five seasons. His thirst for booze waned, his thirst for women did not, and ol' Sammy ran the best damn bar in television history (with apologies to the Regal Beagle).
In an especially memorable sports-related episode titled "Bar Wars," Wade Boggs drops by for an autograph session, as a goodwill gesture from their rivals at Gary's Old Towne Tavern. The Cheers gang is not buying it, and that leads to this initial exchange:
Boggs: Hi, I'm Wade Boggs.
Paul Katcher is a freelance writer based in New York City. He welcomes questions, comments and web links at firstname.lastname@example.org.