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KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS



TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Harry Merlo, accepting an award at the 2011 Oregon Sports Awards hosted by Nike, died Monday at age 91.Knocking it around on a variety of sporting subjects …

• Kevin Harlan walked into Moda Center on Thursday night wearing some outrageous Nike sneakers. But there was method to the madness to the purple, pink, red and blue shoes.

“Craig Sager designed them,” said the veteran NBA play-by-play voice, the reference to the fabled sideline reporter who is battling cancer. “Guys in the studio have them. The broadcast crew is wearing them tonight.”

Nike will auction off 100 pairs of the limited edition “Sager Strong Air Force One,” with proceeds going to the SagerStrong Foundation.

• The author of Sager’s soon-to-be-released autobiography, “Living Out Loud, Craig Sager,” was in Portland on Thursday.

Brian Curtis spoke to a group at Nike and then was on to address a Homecoming Weekend gathering in Corvallis, the latter on the subject of his book, “Fields of Battle,” on the 1942 “Transplanted” Rose Bowl bame.

OSU officials are commemorating the 75th anniversary of Oregon State’s participation in the game that was held in Durham, North Carolina, instead of Pasadena, California, due to the threat of Japanese invasion during World War II. The Beavers beat Duke, 20-16, the only Rose Bowl victory in the program’s history.

Oregon State players will be wearing throwback helmets (no, not leather) and uniforms during the game, and each will be presented with a surprise special gift provided by Nike.

Between 65 and 70 family members of players from the ’41 team will be introduced between the first and second quarter, along with the last living player — halfback Andy Landforce of Corvallis, who turns 100 in February. The grandson and great-grandson of coach Lon Stiner — Lon Stiner III and IV — will be on hand along with two of his granddaughters.

• Oregon State has invited the Mayor of Rip City, Blazer broadcasting legend Bill Schonely, to handle coin flip honors for the Nov. 26 Civil War Game at Reser.

“I’m thrilled,” says the Schonz, who won’t turn 100 for 13 more years. “It’s going to be sensational. I love watching the Civil War game. I’m honored to be a part of it.”

• A fabled name from Oregon sporting lore died on Monday — former Louisiana-Pacific CEO Harry Merlo, at age 91.

Merlo was a man of many interests, and fortunately for the state’s sports fans, athletics was one of them.

A former light heavyweight boxing champion in the Marine Corps, Merlo sponsored the Louisiana Pacific Coast Indoor pro tennis tournament from 1978-76, underwrote the 1981 Davis Cup semifinals at Memorial Coliseum (L-P eventually became the U.S. Davis Cup sponsor), owned the Timbers in the 1980s and put up the money for Clive Charles’ soccer complex at the University of Portland that became Merlo Field.

“He was a leader who stepped up for sports in the city of Portland — first in tennis, then in soccer,” says Brian Parrott, who had a long friendship and working relationship with Merlo, including a run as director Davis Cup stagings. “After Harry Glickman, Harry and Phil Knight did the most for sports in Oregon, because they stood behind them financially.

“Harry was a terrific guy. He was fun. Very competitive. He set a high standard. He wasn’t tough to work for, though. He was good to work for, because he wanted everything to be first-class.”

I was fortunate enough to know Harry and enjoyed a delightful dinner with him and wife Flo at their home a couple of years ago. Over an after-dinner drink, Harry played some of his favorite tunes on the harmonica, and he was damn good. A fine, generous man he was. He will be missed.

• Brian Grant learned quickly his first turn as radio analyst alongside Trail Blazers play-by-play man Brian Wheeler Tuesday night in Portland’s 113-104 win over Utah wasn’t as easy as it may seem.

“I have a lot of respect for what Brian and all broadcasters do, because it’s not as simple as sitting down and speaking,” says Grant, the former Blazers forward who is scheduled to work alongside Wheeler for 11 home games this season, including the first four. “It’s timing. I know a lot of things, but it’s hard to get them out at the right time. Brian’s a great coach. I’ll try to get better with each broadcast.”

Wheeler is glad to be working with Grant.

“Brian finally decided to do something with his communications degree from Xavier,” Wheeler cracked. “It’s a good opportunity for him. He’s one of the beloved Blazers of all time. I figure I’m going to look better by just being next to him.”

• Don Lovell has an interest in the World Series that goes beyond being a fan.

“I’m rooting for Terry,” says the former Madison High and Portland State standout, referencing Terry Francona, the manager of the Cleveland Indians.

Lovell was teammates with Francona when both played for Triple-A Buffalo in 1987 and in Colorado Springs in 1988 in the Indians organization.

“We roomed together for quite awhile and got to know each other pretty well,” says Lovell, 53, a first baseman and outfielder who spent five years in the minor leagues and now runs The Barbers franchises, including 25 shops in the Portland area. “We were both playing first base, because neither one of us could throw anymore.

“Terry is a good, solid guy. That’s why guys like to play for him. I’m not surprised at the success he’s had as a manager.”

The Buffalo team included Boston manager John Farrell, former Kansas City manager Trey Hilman and current Royals general manager Luis Medina.

“Also, Jay Bell, who will one day be a manager in the big leagues,” Lovell says.

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Twitter: @kerryeggers

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