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Joel Pinnt’s research offers historical look at Beat Bob contest

Most you have probably never given a second thought to who has won the I Beat Bob West contest the most times. I’ve wondered periodically but never gave it much thought until a fellow named Joel Pinnt from Nederland e-mailed me about it last winter.

Pinnt, who is a transplanted Nebraska Cornhusker, forced me to ruefully admit that I really hadn’t kept year-to-year records on the contest results. He then blew me away by offering to pour through 24 years of newspaper microfilm to put together a history I could use as I saw fit.

With the contest’s 25th anniversary kicking off today, this is the perfect time to take a walk down memory lane with all you folks who have participated religiously over the years. And, hopefully, to encourage potential newcomers to flip over to page 3B and fill in picks for week one.

The contest began in 1982, at the suggestion of then Port Arthur News publisher Harry Wood. I wasn’t all that crazy about it at first, but when I saw how much interest it generated my only lament was that I couldn’t claim the idea as my own.

Over the years we’ve tinkered slightly with the format, such as going through a period where we included a “guest expert” on our newspaper panel. Those guests included the likes of Bum Phillips, Jimmy Johnson, Billy Tubbs, Greg Davis, Little Joe Washington and golfer Bruce Lietzke.

I’d call them or fax them the list of games and they would send back their selections. One December we even worked Santa Claus, complete with the requisite mug shot at the top, into Beat Bob. He does a lot better job delivering toys than picking winners.

The idea from the beginning was for readers to have a shot at prizes and publicity by beating me and posting the best overall record of the week. Finishing in the top 10 has usually been worth a cap monogrammed with “I Beat Bob West” and “Port Arthur News.”

The best record, provided it Beat Bob, has been good for helmet clocks, windbreakers, windshirts and travel bags. Our nicest gifts, in my opinion, were Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers helmet clocks featuring likenesses of Jimmy Johnson and Bum Phillips.

One year the top prize was a clock shaped in the state of Texas, with a photo of then Gov. Ann Richards. Another time, when Billy Tubbs was at Oklahoma, we gave basketball shaped clocks adorned with Tubbs’ mug.

As a bonus, the weekly winner earned the bragging rights of having his/her name and record listed in the newspaper with the following week’s games.

Our most famous winner is probably Minnesota Twins outfielder Lew Ford, who won while he was playing football at Port Neches-Groves. Another time, Lew and his brother Shelby tied for the best record and were still tied after the tiebreaker. Shelby won the playoff the following week.

For good measure, their dad, Buck Ford, also made it to the winner’s circle.

The most prolific winner has been Port Arthuran Stan Norman, who has been five times a champion. Norman won the that very first year of 1982, then didn’t win again until 1998. He also had winning weeks in 2000, 2002 and 2005.

Close behind for bragging rights is Pinnt, who had wins in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2005. E.E. Booker of Groves also claimed the top prize four times. His wins were in 1987, 1990, 1993 and 1999.

A handful of others — Jerry Broussard, Bob Carlos, Jeff Coward, the late Ford Freeman, Mike Tarver and Tom Wooley — had threepeats. Twenty five others have won twice.

Among the quirks of the contest is the fact that winning records have ranged anywhere from 14-6 to 20-0. Aside from one crazy week in 1983, when 23 different players posted 20-0 marks and Ronnie Barrow won on the tiebreaker, only four other players — David Gough in 1984, Booker in 1987, Dana Stansbury in 1993 and Bonita Fisher in 1998 — have sailed through 20-0.

Three others — A.S. Perales (1986) J.D. Evans (2002) and Keith Morvant (2005) — won with 15-0 records. Lots of players have gone 19-1 or 18-2 and lost out on the big prize, usually on the tiebreaker.

Sad to say, the contest’s namesake has never posted a perfect record. He has, however, had the best overall record four times, meaning no prizes were distributed that week.

Also noteworthy was Ryan Carlos winning back-to-back in 1988, Michelle Plokhooy tying for first in week one of 1988, then winning outright the next week and Bevil Deckert tying with his 14-year-old son Brandon in 1989 and winning the tiebreaker.

Also, in 2005, Jeff Keeney won in week one and his 17-year-old daughter, Miranda, won in week four. No to be outdone the Garcias — Maurice and 17-year-old daughter Yjaira — won in weeks five and seven.

All total, there have been 246 top-prize winners and roughly 2,500 I Beat Bob West caps passed out. The winners have ranged from A (Ricci Anderson) to Z (Beverly Zerko). The only letters in the alphabet without a winner are O, U and X.

As part of the 25th anniversary, we’ll be running the names of past winners each week in alphabetical order. Check ‘em out to see how many you know.

Perhaps the most eye-opening history lesson from all of Pinnt’s research was seeing how many schools from that very first contest in 1982 no longer exist. Seven high schools — TJ, Lincoln, Stephen F. Austin, Bishop Byrne, French, South Park and Beaumont-Charlton-Pollard have closed their doors.

Add on Lamar University, which dropped football after the 1988 season, and the Houston Oilers, who moved to Tennessee in 1996, and that’s nine teams no longer playing. That’s stunning.

Oh, well, it’s time to look ahead. Good luck to all you prognosticators in 2006. I have a feeling you’re going to need it to beat the guy whose mug runs with this column.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net. His Sportsrap radio show is moving to Wednesday’s (Sept. 6) at 8:05 p.m. on KLVI (560-AM)