Career Made of Beer
This is an article from the July 31, 2000 issue
Do football and froth go together? They do for these former NFL
players, all of whom either own or manage distributorships for
major brewing companies.
Kenny Adamson, guard Coors Sacramento
Louis Bullard, tackle Miller Richmond
Deron Cherry, defensive back Anheuser-Busch Kansas City, Mo.
Curtis Greer, defensive end Anheuser-Busch Fairfield, N.J.
Larry Kaminski, center Miller Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Tom Louderback, linebacker Coors Oakland
Clark Miller, defensive end Coors Napa, Calif.
Joe Montana, quarterback Coors Kansas City, Mo.
Maurice (Mo) Moorman, guard Coors Louisville
Jim Plunkett, quarterback Coors Stockton, Calif.
Bob Scarpitto, wide receiver Coors Merced, Calif.
Barty Smith, running back Miller Richmond
Perhaps inspired by time in the trainer's room, these athletes
have gone on to careers in medicine.
Steve Arlin, MLB pitcher Endodontist San Diego
Gary Cuozzo, NFL quarterback Orthodontist Lincroft, N.J.
Eric Heiden, Orthopedic surgeon Sacramento
Olympic speed skater
Alec Kessler, Orthopedic surgery Charlotte
NBA forward-center resident
Dot Richardson, Orthopedic surgeon Los Angeles
Olympic softball infielder
Doug Swift, NFL linebacker Anesthesiologist Philadelphia
Ron Taylor, MLB pitcher Toronto Blue Jays Toronto
Debi Thomas, Orthopedic surgery Little Rock
Olympic figure skater fellow
A Coke and a Smile
Having cut nearly 50 commercials before he had cut his full set
of adult teeth, nine-year-old Tommy Okon could only watch with a
pro's smug detachment as his costar in a 1979 Coca-Cola ad--6'4",
260-pound Mean Joe Greene--had to slug down 27 bottles of Coke
during dozens of takes until he got his part right. Okon,
meanwhile, slipped easily into character as the smiling,
wide-eyed kid who melts Greene's battle-weary heart by offering
kind words and a bottle of the Real Thing after a tough game. "We
were a Giants family, but my favorite AFC team was the Steelers,"
says Okon, 30, a Queens, N.Y., native. "Mean Joe was a hero to
Okon, the sales manager for a stone-importing company in College
Point, N.Y., still talks to Greene, the Arizona Cardinals'
defensive line coach. "I had no idea the commercial was going to
affect people the way it did," says Okon, who has a 19-month-old
daughter, Allie; his wife, Kristin, is expecting a second child
in August. "It's beer and baby formula these days," he says, with
a familiar grin.
Just Say No
These former pro football players are all special agents for
the federal government's Drug Enforcement Administration.
Keith Bishop, NFL guard Dallas
R.C. Gamble, NFL running back Arlington, Va.
Lee Paige, NFL defensive back Nassau, Bahamas
Melvin Patterson, WLAF wide receiver Austin
Bob Patton, NFL center San Diego
Cecil Turner, NFL wide receiver Houston
Oh, the Agony of it All
He remembers entering the starting gates and racing downhill at
65 mph. The next thing Vinko Bogataj remembers is waking up in
the snow. Most Americans can fill in the blank, since Bogataj's
skis-over-ski-cap tumble has symbolized the "agony of defeat" on
ABC's Wide World of Sports since 1971. Eight years passed before
Bogataj--whose famous crash occurred at the 1970 International Ski
Flying Championship--learned that his fall had been immortalized,
which made him a minor celebrity and allowed him to hobnob with
the likes of Frank Sinatra and O.J. Simpson. Today Bogataj, 52,
and his wife, Lilijana, live in his native Slovenia, where they
raised two daughters. A truck driver who enjoys oil painting,
Bogataj still isn't sure what to make of his peculiar notoriety.
"I think it's a bit unusual," he says. "But the crash was nasty
and thrilling. It was good for TV."
Three's a Crowd
They were just a couple of crazy kids. But 17-year-olds Cliff
Courtenay (below) and Britt Gaston became intruders on the most
famous home run trot of all time: Hank Aaron's circling the bases
at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974, after hitting
his 715th home run to break Babe Ruth's career record.
"There's a debate now between the two of us about how much we
planned this," says Courtenay, now 44 and an optometrist in
Valdosta, Ga. "I don't remember much of a plan, but Britt does.
Whatever the case, it was a classic example of thinking with a
17-year-old brain." Gaston says the Southwood School seniors
crouched in the aisle near the field along the first base line.
When Hammerin' Hank connected, they vaulted a railing, stepped on
a conveniently placed rolled-up tarp and ran past a security
force that had all turned the other way, watching Aaron.
Courtenay and Gaston caught up with Aaron near second base; after
slapping the slugger on the back, they tried to peel off toward
the third base stands and jump back into the crowd. They didn't
make it. They were apprehended, brought to a holding area under
the stadium and then taken to a downtown jail, from which they
were bailed out at 2 a.m. by Gaston's irate father. ("He was not
a happy camper," Gaston says. "It was a long, quiet ride home.")
All charges were dismissed.
"We didn't mean any harm," Courtenay says. "We didn't know about
any of the threats and letters that Aaron had been getting. I
thought a lot of people probably would run onto the field. That's
a kid thinking, right there. But when we got out there, it was
The pair were roommates for a couple of years at Mercer
University, then at Georgia, but are linked now mostly by their
17-year-old moment. "My kids have seen the tape a bunch of
times," says Gaston, 44, who owns a sign supply company, Regional
Graphics, in Mount Pleasant, S.C. "They tell me they're going to
run on the field when Ken Griffey Jr. breaks Aaron's record.
They're nine and 11, so I guess by the time Griffey's ready,
they'll be ready. I don't encourage 'em, but if they wanted to do
it, well, I probably wouldn't be a good one to tell them that
My Dinner with Marvin
No athlete ever had a more fitting nickname than Marvin (Bad
News) Barnes. The former ABA star did it all: cocaine, heroin,
booze, prostitutes, jail time. Senior writer Jack McCallum paid
him a visit in Portsmouth, Va., to see if there was any good
news. McCallum's report:
At 47, Barnes looks great--big smile, bright eyes, gleaming pate.
He would pose only with his family (left; he's the tall one). His
request to be paid for an interview had been denied, but we
agreed to have dinner ("On SI's dollar," Marvin said); he brought
along 12 friends and family members. His chief source of income
is multimillionaire Ozzie Silna, owner of the old Spirits of St.
Louis, whom Barnes calls "Daddy." Barnes seems to spend much of
his time on soul-saving projects at the Mt. Carmel Baptist
Church. After dinner, as I was leaving, Marvin asked for money
("Just $40, Jack.") to take his father-in-law out for a drink. "I
don't think I should do that," I said. A discussion ensued. I
gave him $40. Nobody ever said he wasn't charming.
After answering the call for years in the sports world, these
athletes went on to answer a higher calling.
Larry Braziel, Founder and pastor, Fort Worth, Texas
NFL defensive back PowerTeen Ministry
Bernie Carbo, Founder, Mobile
MLB outfielder Diamond Club Ministry
Margaret Court, Founder and senior minister, Perth, Australia
tennis player Victory Life Centre
Bill Glass, Founder and CEO, Dallas
NFL defensive end Bill Glass Ministries
Rosey Grier, Ordained minister Los Angeles
NFL defensive tackle
Ken Hutcherson, Pastor, Kirkland, Wash.
NFL linebacker Antioch Bible Church
Pat Kelly, Founder, Baltimore
MLB outfielder Life Line Ministries
Meadowlark Lemon, Ordained minister, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Globetrotter Meadowlark Lemon Ministries
Scott McGregor, Associate pastor, Baltimore
MLB pitcher Rock City Church
Jeff Siemon, Divisional director, Edina, Minn.
NFL linebacker Search Ministries
Billy Thompson, Assistant pastor, Miami
NBA forward Jesus People Ministries Church
Luke Witte, Pastor, Charlotte
NBA center Forest Hill Church
Yes, athletes have their share, or more, of legal woes, but bad
behavior landed these former pros behind bars.
Greg (Cadillac) Anderson, NBA center
Sentenced to five months in prison in June 1999 after he was
charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to
distribute it; he was also fined $5,000 and placed in a
supervised release program for four years.
Raphel Cherry, NFL safety
Sentenced in August 1999 to life in prison for the first-degree
murder of his estranged wife. (Earlier this month, the Arkansas
Supreme Court granted him a new trial on the grounds that jurors
had discussed the probable outcome of his case before beginning
Darryl Henley, NFL cornerback
Indicted in 1993 on cocaine trafficking charges and pleaded
guilty to trying to arrange the murder of the trial judge and a
key witness (a former Los Angeles Rams cheerleader); he is in
the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., until March 28, 2031.
Denny McLain, MLB pitcher
Convicted in 1996 of stealing $3 million from the pension fund
of Peet Packing, a meatpacking firm that he and a partner
purchased in 1993; currently serving an eight-year term in the
McKean Federal Correctional Institute in Bradford, Pa.
Tommy Morrison, heavyweight boxer
Pleaded guilty last January to numerous charges ranging from
drug to firearm possession; serving 10 years in prison, with
eight years suspended, in Texarkana, Ark.; could be released for
good behavior in January 2001.
Art Schlichter, NFL quarterback
Has spent four of the past six years in prison on various
charges; currently in Marion County Jail, Indianapolis, awaiting
trial on federal charges of money laundering. Also indicted on
charges in Ohio for using another man's credit and bank cards.
Sammie Smith, NFL running back
Pleaded guilty in March 1996 to conspiring to distribute crack
and powder cocaine; serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in the Federal
Prison Camp in Pensacola, Fla.
His posterboard signs, inscribed simply JOHN 3:16, were seen by
millions on TV at countless major sporting events. Today his
flock consists of seven men who gather for prayers each morning
outside a psychiatric services unit of the California State
Prison in Sacramento. Rollen Stewart, 55, was sentenced to three
life terms in 1993 for holding a hotel maid at gunpoint at the
Hyatt Los Angeles Airport Hotel, demanding a worldwide press
conference to announce that Judgment Day was imminent. He accepts
his fate. "Look at all of the apostles who were persecuted for
their faith," he says from a prison pay phone. "I did what I
thought I had to do. We're talking about eternity here."
A Horn of Plenty
When Stanford trombonist Gary Tyrrell got mowed down by Cal
safety Kevin Moen at the climax of the Play, the
highlight-hallowed, five-lateral kickoff return through the
Stanford band that gave Cal a 25-20 win at the end of the Big
Game of Nov. 20, 1982, he thought the collision was no big deal.
But in the 17 years since, Tyrrell has enjoyed a unique and
lasting celebrity. His trombone now rests in the College Football
Hall of Fame in South Bend. "If Stanford had won, I'd take that,"
says Tyrrell, 39, now the chief financial officer for a Silicon
Valley venture capital firm and the brewmaster of a homemade beer
labeled Trombone Guy Amber Ale. "But the people I've met because
of the Play are a real treasure."
Among the pals he has made is Moen, also 39 and now a husband,
father of two and a partner in a real estate firm in Palos
Verdes, Calif. "People will say, 'This is the guy who scored the
touchdown!'" Moen says. "As if it happened five years ago instead
of nearly 20."
Trade of the Century?
Lefthanded pitchers are supposed to be flakes. Fritz Peterson
and Mike Kekich were both lefties; in 1972 they were teammates
with the New York Yankees, best friends with adjoining lockers
and chummy spouses and noted pranksters who specialized in the
old padlocking-a-stray-suitcase-to-a-pole gag. But none of that
prepared the rest of baseball--not to mention the rest of
America--for the news that broke on March 5, 1973. The next
day's New York Times headline read: "2 Yankees Disclose Family
Exchange." Beneath it, the pitchers described the strangest
trade in baseball history: The previous October, Fritz (far
right) had swapped his wife, Marilyn, his two kids and a poodle
for Susanne Kekich (second from right), the two Kekich children
and a Bedlington terrier. "It wasn't a wife swap," stressed
Kekich to those who sought to focus on the more lurid details,
which included most everyone. "It was a life swap." Fritz &
Marilyn & Mike & Susanne quickly became the most celebrated
names in sports. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who said he
was "appalled" at the exchange but powerless to reverse it,
received more mail on the trade than on the introduction of the
designated hitter rule that same spring.
And what of the outcome? Details are hard to come by. Peterson
and Kekich have kept low public profiles in recent years, and
both declined to speak to SI. Over the years they both have run
afoul of the IRS. Peterson once declared bankruptcy, and Kekich
has been sued for nonpayment of student loans--in the scheme of
things, mere miniscandals compared to their '73 soap opera.
Peterson, though, seems to have gotten the better of the deal. He
and Susanne are still married, have four children of their own
and live outside Chicago. Peterson now works as a casino-boat
dealer in Elgin, Ill., after a failed foray into real estate. The
IRS couldn't touch his baseball pension of $37,000 a year, his
reward for a lifetime 133-131 record and 3.30 ERA.
The Mike & Marilyn combination, however, quickly unraveled. Three
months after the pitchers went public, Kekich was shipped off to
Cleveland and would start only eight more games in the majors. He
is remarried and living in Albuquerque, where his current
occupation is unknown; he made unsuccessful attempts at a career
in medicine and a paramedic business. Marilyn has taken her two
children and opted for what one report calls "Midwestern
obscurity"--which, presumably, is not a place where kooky New York
lefthanders swap wives.
Maybe Hollywood can relate--and, indeed, Matt Damon and Ben
Affleck have optioned a screenplay on the Peterson-Kekich saga.
The question is, will anyone believe it?
Famed for Hair
Since retiring, Oscar Gamble (left), the man whose mountainous
'do once spoke to a generation (and bugged the Boss of the
Yankees), has lived in Montgomery, Ala., with his wife, Lovell,
and the four youngest of his six children, conducting baseball
clinics and giving sons Sean, 17, and Shane, 13, one heck of a
private batting instructor. "I didn't realize baseball would stay
with me so much," he says. Gamble, 50, recently filed for his
sports agent's license. His salt-and-pepper hair is cropped
close, but you'll have to take our word--the onetime star of the
'fro show politely refused to doff his cap for the photo.
Famed for Bare
Before we wanted to be like Mike, Mike wanted to be like Slick.
His Airness, newly hairless, admitted he took the look from Slick
Watts, the convivial '70s Seattle guard. Last year Watts returned
to teaching elementary school in Seattle (his job for the first
12 years after exiting the NBA in 1979) while running his Slick
'n' Clean upholstery and carpet cleaning business (motto: "Call
us on your carpet"). "To those kids, I'm a father figure and a
friend," he says. "Plus, I was watching too much Jerry Springer."
Look, Up in the Sky...
His name is James Miller, but he's better known as Fan Man since
landing in a Caesars Palace ring during a 1993 Evander
Holyfield-Riddick Bowe heavyweight title fight. He still
paraglides, though recent antics have been confined to his
hamlet of Valdez, Alaska. But Miller, 37, hints cryptically at
"a trip to Russia, maybe China."
It's Not Over Over There
Sometimes you just wonder, "Whatever happened to so-and-so?"
These notable names (listed with their most recent team) are
still at it, but away from the USA.
Chris Corchiani, guard Italy (Pepsi Rimini)
Richard Dumas, forward Bosnia and Herzegovina (CBC Siroki)
Tyus Edney, guard Italy (Benetton Treviso)
Jo Jo English, guard Israel (Maccabi-Haparpar Kiryat
Andrew Gaze, guard Australia (Melbourne Tigers)
Nadav Henefeld, forward Israel (Maccabi-Elite Tel Aviv)
Charles O'Bannon, forward Poland (Zepter Slask Wroclaw)
Edgar Padilla, guard Puerto Rico (Cangrejeros de Santurce)
Rumeal Robinson, guard Cyprus (Achilleas Kaimakli)
Shea Seals, guard France (Villeurbanne-Lyon)
Roy Tarpley, center Russia (Ural Great)
Scotty Thurman, guard Cyprus (Apoel Nicosia)
Carmelo Travieso, guard Puerto Rico (Titanes de Morovis)
Tony Fernandez, infielder Japan (Seibu Lions)
Jason Jacome, pitcher Japan (Yakult Swallows)
Reggie Jefferson, outfielder Japan (Seibu Lions)
Orlando Merced, outfielder Japan (Orix BlueWave)
Melvin Nieves, outfielder Japan (Fukuoka Daiei Hawks)
Dave Nilsson, catcher Japan (Chunichi Dragons)
Jon Nunnally, outfielder Japan (Orix BlueWave)
Karl (Tuffy) Rhodes, outfielder Japan (Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes)
Tony Tarasco, outfielder Japan (Hanshin Tigers)
Jay Barker, quarterback CFL (Toronto Argonauts)
Kerwin Bell, quarterback CFL (Winnipeg Blue Bombers)
Darren Flutie, wide receiver CFL (Hamilton Tiger-Cats)
Ron Powlus, quarterback NFL Europe (Amsterdam Admirals)
Have You Seen This Man?
John Brisker was mean. The 6'5", 225-pound forward not only
terrorized opponents with his elbows and fists but also struck
fear in his own teammates during six seasons with Pittsburgh in
the ABA and the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics from 1969 to '75. "He
was an excellent player," said Pittsburgh teammate Charlie
Williams. "But say something wrong to the guy, and you had this
feeling he would reach into his bag, take out a gun and shoot
In March 1978 Brisker headed to Liberia, claiming he wanted to
start an import/export business; he called his girlfriend from
Uganda four times in April. That's where the known facts end.
He's never been heard from again. Some say Brisker became a
mercenary. Others say he was invited to Uganda by Idi Amin, a big
hoops fan, and killed by a firing squad when Amin was toppled in
'79. A King County (Wash.) court declared Brisker legally dead in
1985, mainly to settle his meager estate. But nobody knows for
sure. Not Brisker's family or friends, not the State Department,
not the FBI, not SI, despite investigations.
So if you're in Africa and see a solidly built man in his early
50s who looks something like the computer-enhanced picture at
right, call us.
For more then-and-now photos, archival coverage from past SPORTS
ILLUSTRATED issues, and interviews and chats with selected
athletes, go to cnnsi.com.