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Bill Fralic of Pittsburgh, the 6'5", 285-pound All-Universe offensive left tackle, wandered into Niko's Gyros in the Oakland section of town for lunch the other day. It's a place that gives new meaning to the term greasy spoon. When you slide onto a stool at the counter, you really do. Manager Mike Tsouris tells Fralic of a player who supposedly signed an $18 million deal with a USFL team. Fralic says, "Was it $1 a year for 18 million years?"
Fralic then asks for a spoon. "Don't break it," says Tsouris, who clearly has in mind a long-term life for this flimsy piece of plastic.
"How about a straw?" says Fralic.
"You get a straw at home?" grouses Tsouris. A straw isn't forthcoming.
A visitor asks what the difference is between a Gyro Sandwich for $2.45 and a Gyro Plate for $3. Not adept at suffering fools, Tsouris says, "The difference is 55 cents and you get a plate."
Niko's Gyros is classic Pittsburgh—a rough, tough, no-nonsense establishment where men are men. It's a lineman's kind of place. Namby-pamby running backs don't come here, and for a wide receiver to show up would be ridiculous. Put your elbows on the counter (careful of sliding), roll up your sleeves, eat a gyro and talk sports. Women need not apply.
Seldom have a restaurant, to use the term loosely, and an athlete been so made for each other. Fralic was born—in Verona, Pa. 21 years ago—to hang out at Niko's. Just as he was born to be on the football field. Indeed, when he was 11, his dad, also named Bill, took him to sign up with the seldom defeated Morning-side Bulldogs, a team for 13-to 15-year-olds. The old man—a steelworker, of course, who as a Marine in Korea was in on the Inchon landing and was wounded twice—told coach Joe Natoli that young Bill wanted to play. "We have a rule," said Natoli. "A kid has to be 13."
"Wanna look at him?"
Natoli looked and said, "We just changed the rule."
No wonder a West Virginia University recruiter is still shaking his head over the time he saw Fralic at a practice and was told he couldn't recruit him because at that time Fralic was only in the eighth grade. Pitching in Little League at age 11, Fralic was 23-0, and he averaged 15 strikeouts for the six-inning games. The highlight of his Little League career came late that season. Fralic was on the mound and his team was ahead 25-0 in the fourth inning when the opposing manager took his team off the field. "I liked that," says Fralic.