It's a kick for McInally to break into the Lineup

By Cindy Starr, Post staff reporter

Pat McInally came up with the idea for Hasbro's Starting Lineup figures. But the former Cincinnati Bengals punter had to wait 10 years to see himself immortalized in plastic.

This weekend Hasbro will offer a special McInally figure at a 10th anniversary season celebration at the Cincinnati Convention Center. The 5-inch-high figure, which shows McInally preparing to punt, will be available only at the convention.

Because he retired from professional football before the former Kenner Products launched Starting Lineup in 1988, McInally was never included in the lineup of athletes produced each year. When people asked him whether he missed football, McInally would reply in the negative. ''I'd tell them the only reason I would come back is so I could be in Starting Lineup.''

McInally will be at the Convention Center signing autographs and promoting the line, which has produced thousands of passionate collectors nationwide. The convention, said Starting Lineup team leader Bill Hartglass, is expected to draw 5,000 to 7,000 people.

Although McInally collects royalties from Starting Lineup sales, he has stayed in the background in recent years and has no official title with Hasbro. ''I just talk to them and have fun,'' he said.

With a chuckle, he recalled offering his services to Bruce Stein, the former Kenner president who oversaw Starting Lineup's inception. ''I said I was fairly well known. If you want me to promote it, I will. He said, "We've got Michael Jordan, Walter Payton.' I was so humbled I went and sat in a corner and didn't stand up for eight years.''

McInally did help recruit some players for Starting Lineup, however. He recalled exploring the possibility with Terry Bradshaw, the balding quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. ''Terry looks at me - he had a big cigar in his mouth - and says, "Who cares about that little toy?' Then he pulls out his cigar and says, "Will they give me hair? If they give me hair I want to be one.' ''

Starting Lineup has spawned collectors who spend their weekends canvassing toy stores for figures. About half of all buyers are over 18 years old. Besieged by callers requesting figures from previous years, Kenner started a collector's club and launched a quarterly newsletter called ''Trading Connection'' in 1993.

The figurines have even served as catalysts for marriage. The latest edition of ''Trading Connection'' tells the story of an Indiana man and woman who met at a flea market when they both reached for a figure of Michael Jordan.

''Being the gentleman that he is,'' the newsletter stated, ''he let her have the piece for her son. They eventually got married and this June are expecting a son. They've selected the first and middle name already, Kenneth Ray - or, as they put it in their letter, KENN R.''

McInally, who lives in California with his expectant wife, Leslie, and their 2-year-old son Jack, has been working on a project that explores how athletes achieved greatness and how they used failure as a stepping stone to success. Failing, McInally said, is ''the only way they get better.''

McInally was inducted into the Harvard University Hall of Fame this week. Years ago his number was on the verge of being retired at Harvard, but the move was nixed at the last minute by economics giant John Kenneth Galbraith.

''They got to final OK, and John Kenneth Galbraith stands up and says, "We've never retired the blue books of our most revered scholars. Why then would we retire the number of a mere gridder?' ''

Of course, now McInally has something better: No. 87 emblazoned on his very own Starting Lineup figure.

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About the convention

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday at Albert B. Sabin Convention Center.

Admission: $5 children and adults.

Highlights: Attendees can purchase products and preview the entire 1997 line. A Starting Lineup sculptor will be at work Sunday. Special figures for sale are Starting Lineup creator Pat McInally in his Bengals uniform and Reds catcher Johnny Bench.

Publication date: 05-22-97

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