It was only a thumbnail-size photo, an accolade buried deep in that week's Sports Illustrated. But to Web Wright III of Annapolis, then a 21-year-old college student, his photo in the "Faces in the Crowd" section seemed a way to drum up a date.

It was April 1988, and Wright was sitting in a bar in Morgantown, W.Va., trying to impress a woman when he saw the magazine on the counter.

"I turned to that page and laid it in front of her," said Wright, an All-America rifleman.

Result?

"She was not impressed," he said. "But I think I got a free beer from the bartender."

Wright was No. 228 of the 373 Marylanders who have appeared in "Faces" since Sports Illustrated began -- from James McKinney, a running back at Severn School who was picked in the magazine's first year (1954), to Emily Richards of Silver Spring, a field hockey goalie at St. Mary's College who was honored in the Oct. 31 issue.

A standing feature, "Faces In The Crowd" pays homage each week to six accomplished athletes, most in their teens. It's a fleeting brush with celebrity: a 40-word blurb and a one-inch head shot. Then, the next week, the magazine moves on to another batch of stamp-size wunderkinder.

What happened to those Baltimore area athletes who've been singled out? A few reached the pros. Bryan "Moose" Haas, a pitcher from Franklin High, spent 12 years in the big leagues and won 100 games, mostly for the Milwaukee Brewers. Reggie Williams, a skinny swingman out of Dunbar High, played 10 NBA seasons and averaged 12.5 points a game. And tailback Lou Carter (Arundel High) reached the NFL, lasting four years.

More often, however, those honored simply fade from sport's forefront, their exploits stowed in musty trunks and dresser drawers.

The Sun spoke with 35 people who have appeared in "Faces." Some became standouts in other fields. Glenn Meininger, goalie of Centennial High's 1987 state championship soccer team, is a Baltimore cardiologist. Dick Voith, a long-haired basketball star at Calvert Hall in 1973, is a nationally known economist. Karen Stout played field hockey at Bel Air High when tabbed by SI in 1977; now she is president of Montgomery County (Pa.) Community College.

All said they had maintained, in their work, the tenacity that won them success in sports and mention in the magazine.

"There's something within you -- call it discipline or focus -- that comes out, whether you're in the business world or on the athletic field," said Stout. "If you're lucky, you find that zone and stay in it."

Wrestling earned Ray Finch (Westminster High) a plug in SI in 1977. The two-time state champion now heads the family's lawn equipment company in Carroll County. His transition to business was a smooth one, Finch said.

"The adrenaline rush I got on the mat is the same one I get when we close a big deal today," he said.

And what of Web Wright, the rifleman at West Virginia University who had used his prominence to try to get a date? He won a gold medal in the 1995 Pan American Games, joined the Army's Marksmanship Unit and made a career in the military. Now a major, Wright returned this summer from Iraq, where he served with the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

"So far, I haven't had to use my shooting skills in combat," he said. "But I'm pretty sure that the soldiers I have trained over the years have."
Colette Yarosh Benner
Jumping right in

Name a kids' game, from marbles to Monopoly, and Maryland youngsters have ridden it into the magazine. In 1960, an 11- year-old from East Baltimore made "Faces" for her facility at jumping rope -- 150 times in 30 seconds.