More Than a Sunshine Patriot
Once upon a time Bill Leonard seemed to be the Benedict Arnold of sports fanatics; now, it seems, he's just plain smart. Twenty-eight years ago, when Robert Irsay purchased the Baltimore Colts, Leonard—afraid that the new owner would move Leonard's beloved hometown team—disavowed his lifelong allegiance, trading in the Colts for a hated AFC rival, the New England Patriots. Why New England? "I like the foliage," says Leonard. "And they had season tickets available."
Since switching teams, Leonard has been the fanatic to end all long-distance fanatics. He has not missed a Patriots home game since 1975 (or any Patriots game since '93), which means for 25 years Leonard has made at least eight 17-hour round trippers to Foxboro from his White Hall, Md., home. His 1982 Camaro rolled up 517,000 miles before it expired four years ago. His current vehicle, a '96 Chevy Blazer, checks in with a puny 243,000.
A Well-Aged Cheesehead
"In my opinion," says Paul Mazzoleni, the onetime owner of Paul's Standard Service in Green Bay, " Don Hutson was the greatest Packer of all time." Mazzoleni ought to know better than anyone living or dead. He saw the team's very first game, in 1919, when he was six, and served as a water boy in 1921 and '22.
This 87-year-old Cheesehead even followed the ups and downs of the Pack during World War II, while he was fighting in North Africa. He compares chasing Rommel to Packers' opponents trying to block Ray Nitschke. "They were both too elusive," he says.
John Franzen's apartment in Milwaukee would be unexceptional if not for the hundreds of books of scoresheets that spill out of his closet. Since the Brewers franchise came to town in 1970, the now retired postal clerk has attended more than 2,600 games, including a Ripkenesque 14-year string of 1,090 home games. Often seen in a T-shirt that says NO. 1 BREWERS FAN, he occupied the same County Stadium seat (eight rows behind home plate) for 28 seasons.
Next year, in the new Miller Park stadium, he'll be moving back to a front-row box in the loge level. "There will be nobody in front of me," Franzen exults. "Can you imagine anything better than an unobstructed view of the Brewers?"
The Busman's Holidays
"I Sorta get immersed in things," says Thornton Sterling, Baylor class of '36. Sorta? Since 1974, Sterling, 87, a retired IRS employee living in Waco, Texas, has traveled—by bus—to 35 states to watch his alma mater compete in all manner of sports, though he has a particular passion for football, baseball and track. (Longest trip: 59 hours to and from Eugene, Ore.) During that time he has missed fewer than a dozen baseball games and only six football games, none in the past 17 years. "I didn't attend a football game in Houston because the highway was covered in ice," says Sterling, a former Baylor centerfielder. "I like to think that proves I'm not a fanatic."