Advice columnist Ann Landers is right: You can't create fiction more unusual than truth. Ann sometimes is accused of making up letters to lure oddball responses to sell papers. She replies that nobody can do that better than Life ItsOwnSelf. After nearly 40 years of handling ``letters to the editor,'' I second the motion.
Same way with names. Seeing a recent basketball review discussing Iowa's Acie Earl reminded me how many unusual names you run across, in and out of sports. But in athletics, people with extra-special handles draw more attention.
How about bizarre combinations? Martha Sue Harp, wife of former Kansas basketball coach Dick Harp, once worked as a secretary for a cemetery association in Heavener, Okla. She can relate lots of tales, like the four girls in one family Acey, Icey, Jocie and Dicey. Acie Earl isn't so unusual, huh?
Martha Sue also recalls four boys in one family Hurl, Burl, Url and Murl. And you thought Huey, Dewey and Louie were wild!
YOU'D HAVE a tough time making up a more charismatic moniker than Baskerville Holmes, once a basketeer at Memphis State. Haskell Institute in its high school days had a darned good quarterback named Laverne Buffalomeat. The transition from Laverne to the surname always struck me like something from cartoonist Al Capp's fertile ``L'il Abner'' mindset.
Now lest anyone decide I'm ridiculing anyone, my given names are Billy Francis. (Thank God they gave me Dad's first name rather than his middle one, Engelbert.) As for Billy instead of William, I guess Mom figured I'd never grow up. (My wife often praises Mom's clairvoyance.)
Names can lead to delicate situations. Like when Wyoming came here for football with a standout end named Mack Balls. This guy was in on a lot of plays. Let Max Falkenstien tell you how Mack had radio announcers verbally tiptoeing through the electronic tulips. Max and the other throats were relieved when Mack and the Cowboys departed for Laramie.
Wonder if they ran tapes of their narratives to see how well, or poorly, they did.
DUE TO PLAY football this fall at Oklahoma State are Tharon Tircuit and Chaucer Funchess. Kansas has Ashaundai Smith. The Jayhawks long ago featured a fellow whose name can win a lot of trivia contests Zvonimir Kvaternik, who was a star guard here from 1931-33. Zonie obviously had a lot more going for him than a super handle. He later played with the pro Pittsburgh Steelers, and now lives in Kansas City.
I always figured Auburn's Tucker Frederickson would wind up as the president of a big bank or major mahatma for a stock brokerage. With a Beacon Hill name like that, you oughta be Brooks Brothers. KU basketball star Jeffrey Balfour had an ideal name for an executive, and that he was as head of Kansas Power & Light.
Why, don't ask, but I used to snicker every time they talked about Ohio State fullback Hubert Bobo. Nobody knew one football great by anything other than Bronko Nagurski. Suppose his name had been Francis, worse, Billy. Who would have had guts enough to address this powerful Minnesota-Chicago Bear hall-of-famer by anything but Bronko, even if they knew he was a Murgatroyd?
NICKNAMES have been a great part of sports lore. ESPN whiz Chris Berman has a wonderful knack for developing labels of a bizarre and exotic nature. Real names are just as fascinating. It seems more and more American athletes are shoving such old standards as Joe, Sam, John, Chuck, Bill, Tom, Dick, Billy Bob, Bobby Jack and such into the background. Imagine anyone with ``sissy'' names like Jay Berwanger or Albie Booth making All-America in the 1930s. You know they had to be good. Same for Beattie Feathers. Roman Gabriel sounds like somebody in a soapie. There was war hero Nile Kinnick for a different twist; Banks McFadden shoulda been a socialite.
There was Marchy Schwartz, at Notre Dame? Yelberton Abraham Tittle wild even for LSU in Cajun Country. Aramis Dandoy should've been driving a chariot in ``Spartacus'' rather than starring at Southern Cal. At least the mascot was a Trojan. You expected Robbie Bosco to hype some sugary milk drink to eat holes in kids' teeth. Jarvis Redwine, heck, sounds like a guitar picker who sings through his nose.
BUT YOU CAN'T make 'em up wilder than they are. These and thousands of other guys didn't need nicknames. As for that, my all-time favorites remain The Owl Without a Vowel: Bill Mlkvy of Temple basketball; and Ding Dong Danny From Dumas: TCU tailback Danny Ray McKown from Dumas, Tex.
But you can look a long time and never find a more conversational real name than Zvonimir Kvaternik. He's definitely in the Twilight Zonie. Rack up still another win for Kansas.