Booking the Bengals

7-19-04, 7:15 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Chick Ludwig graduated from The Ohio State University the same day as two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.

But Ludwig didn't put him in his book.

Which gives you an idea of how tough it was to make the cut for "The Legends: Cincinnati Bengals, The Men, The Deeds, The Consequences," Ludwig's 288-page roster that hits Tri-State bookstores later this week. The $19.95 soft cover book, which can be ordered at orangefrazer.com, spans franchise founder Paul Brown to franchise quarterback Carson Palmer, even though he has yet to take a snap in a NFL game.

"The criteria was pretty much 'Did the person make an impact on the franchise?'" said Ludwig Monday. "Even though he hasn't played yet, you have to figure he's going to play a prominent role in the future. And it was a way to include guys like Ickey Woods and Greg Cook. Maybe they weren't here for that long, but there is no question they belong in any history about the team."

Ludwig, 49, fell in love with Paul Brown's first Bengals growing up on Cincinnati's West Side. For the past eight years he has covered them for The Dayton Daily News, but didn't get the idea for the book until four years ago and didn't get the initiative until head coach Marvin Lewis came along last year.

In the 40 or so days leading up to the first game ever in Paul Brown Stadium between the Bengals and Browns in September of 2000, Ludwig took turns writing profiles in The Daily News on former players from each of Paul Brown's teams. He relished finding old Bengals' heroes like Paul Robinson and Lemar Parrish, but knew there probably wouldn't be a market for a book until the good times rolled again.

"With Marvin coming in and sparking the turnaround, it just jacked up interest in everything with the Bengals," said Ludwig, who also says there have already been 1,000 pre-orders on line. "I think that had to happen first before there would be interest in a book like this. And Marvin created that, first off-the-field with his personality, and then on the field when they were in the (division) race until the last game."

Which is why Lewis is one of the four coaches profiled in the book, even though he has been to the playoffs three fewer times than Brown and one fewer Super Bowl than Forrest Gregg and Sam Wyche.

Ludwig also looked at 50 players, including Palmer, right tackle Willie Anderson, and wide receiver Chad Johnson from this year's team.

Also among the profiles are Carl Pickens, the club's moody all-time receiver who didn't return Ludwig's call. But Ludwig felt he belonged even though quarterback Boomer Esiason advised Ludwig to leave him out of the book because his toxic ways in the locker room were far from legendary.

But five guys who made it plan to join Ludwig at a 7 p.m. book signing July 28 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Rookwood Pavilion at 2692 Madison Road in Cincinnati.

On hand will be John Stofa, the first quarterback; Isaac Curtis, the gifted receiver with Olympian speed; Dave Lapham, the Super Bowl offensive lineman who has become the voice and sometimes the conscience of the team; David Fulcher, the 21st century free safety who played before his time; and Louis Breeden, the cornerback who battled the Chargers and the heat for one of the longest NFL interception returns in history at 102 yards.

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