America's former middle-distance sweetheart has settled contentedly into country life
THOUGH SHE set four world records in 1980, Mary Decker Slaney has one big regret from that year: missing a chance at Olympic gold because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games. "As an athlete you know the effort and energy it takes to make the Olympics," she says. "It was really hard."
Four years later in Los Angeles, SI's 1983 Sportsman of the Year, then known simply as Mary Decker, had the defining moment of her career. In the 3,000 final she got tangled up with barefoot South African runner Zola Budd (who was competing for Great Britain) and fell. As the race continued, the American wept in anguish on the infield, having again seen her Olympic chance slip away. "Looking back, 1984 seems to have been the year I should have won a medal," says Decker Slaney. "But it's not one person's fault. It's a lot about how I ran the race. It was a strategic mistake on my part, and also inexperience on her part."
The next year she married British Olympic discus thrower Richard Slaney. Last January the two moved to a 55-acre spread in Eugene, Ore., where Decker Slaney has lived since 1980. Daughter Ashley left home last summer to attend UC San Diego. (She's a dancer, not a runner.) Decker Slaney, 47, goes on five-mile jogs at a seven-minute-mile pace--"active rest," she calls it--several days a week and gets additional exercise walking her three weimaraners, Athena, Cleo and Ranger. For the moment she is content as a homebody; sewing is a hobby. "I've always wanted to live in the country--I think it's perfect," she says. "I'm proud of the things I've done, but you evolve with life, and I have so much more life ahead of me." --Julia Morrill
His last name means 'king' in Japanese, and after belting a record 868 homers, that's how he's treated
BEFORE THERE was Ichiro there was Sadaharu Oh, who honed his home run stroke by swinging a samurai sword until he could cut a straw doll in half with one slice. In 1980--Oh's 22nd and final season with Japan's Yomiuri Giants--he hit his 868th career homer, putting him 113 in front of Hank Aaron's major league record.
Oh, a 5'11", 173-pound lefty, was known for an unorthodox batting motion in which he lifted his right foot and leaned back just before swinging--much like Mel Ott. Oh averaged a dinger once every 11 at bats. He won nine Central League MVPs, two triple crowns and 11 league titles. A solid first baseman and .301 lifetime hitter, he won the batting title five times and also set a Japanese record by hitting 55 home runs in 1964.
In 1984 Oh returned to manage the Giants and a year later kept his single-season home run record intact by having his team pitch around the Hanshin Tigers' Randy Bass, who entered the last game of the year with 54. Oh, who led the Giants to the Japan Series in 1987, resigned in 1988, and after six years as a broadcaster returned in 1995 to manage the Pacific League's Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, where he is today. Oh, 65, led the Hawks to championships in 1999 and 2003. In '01 his native Taiwan appointed to the largely ceremonial post of Ambassador at Large. --Adam Duerson
Lessons from his Steelers days shape the software magnate's management style
IN JOHN STALLWORTH'S office there are no books about his Pittsburgh Steelers career, no pictures of his over-the-shoulder touchdown grab in Super Bowl XIV, nothing to note his 2002 Hall of Fame induction. To be taken seriously in business, Stallworth felt he had to make a break from his NFL life. Otherwise, he says, "all anyone wants to talk about is football."
As president and CEO of Madison Research Corp., a Huntsville, Ala., information technology company, Stallworth, 52, presides over a workforce of 650, with offices in nine cities and revenues of $66.5 million in 2004. His management style comes, he says, "from what was good about the organization in Pittsburgh. The Rooneys and Chuck Noll had a way of making everyone feel they were vital."
Stallworth is second alltime in postseason TD catches, with 12, and when he retired in '87 he ranked 15th in career receptions. He lives in Huntsville with his wife, Flo, and dreams of retiring--again--and tending to his garden. "It'll be nice to not have to worry about the next contract," he says. "Just me and the plants." --Andrew Lawrence
Back in Germany, the former Cosmos star has a pet project: organizing the 2006 World Cup
WHEN THE World Cup kicks off next June in Munich, the face of the tournament will be organizing committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer, a German national hero who is still proud of his great American adventure of more than two decades ago. Beckenbauer may have won World Cups as a player (1974) and a coach (1990), but some of his fondest memories, he says, are of the three NASL championships he won with the New York Cosmos between 1977 and '80. "We had a good team," says Beckenbauer, 59. "The key was Pelé. When he came to the Cosmos [in '75], he woke up the country to the game."
Then again, "Der Kaiser" had a pretty big role too. Beckenbauer revolutionized the sweeper position, roaming behind the defense like a free safety and pushing forward to join the attack. He was the epitome of Teutonic style, punishing foes with laser efficiency. Now Beckenbauer is the man responsible for organizing the biggest sporting event in the world. As he concluded an interview at Frankfurt's Waldstadion near the end of June's Confederations Cup, a two-week test run for next year's main event, Beckenbauer couldn't hide the grin on his still-youthful face. "We have to go the airport and pick up my friend Pelé," he said. "He's coming for the final." Pelé and Beckenbauer, together again. Some things never change. --Grant Wahl
At 77, the NHL's iron man says he could still play--if only he could skip those @!$%&* practices
GORDIE HOWE toughed it out through the 1979-80 season, his last in the NHL, for one reason. "I played all 80 games that year," he says. "And I played most of them hurt just because I wanted to be in the lineup with my boys."
By boys he doesn't just mean teammates. Lacing up for the Hartford Whalers that season meant skating not only with center Gordie, already a Hall of Famer and the NHL's career leader in goals and points, but also two other Howes: his sons Mark and Marty, both defensemen. While the trio combined for a respectable 122 points, it was Gordie's age that drew attention. At 51 he was 11 years the senior of Bobby Hull, the league's next-oldest player, and older than all but one NHL coach. In '80 Howe became the first NHL player to play in five different decades.
Now 77, Howe is still all about family. In 2000 his wife, Colleen, generally regarded as the first lady of hockey for her work as Gordie's agent and manager, was stricken by frontal temporal dementia, which has left her for the most part bedridden and speechless, so Howe is now doing everything he can to "fulfill Colleen's legacy." That means 60-plus appearances a year signing autographs and promoting the book Mr. & Mrs. Hockey. It means completing plans for the Mr. and Mrs. Hockey Howe of Fame and Museum in Canton, Mich. It means sealing the deal on a Gordie Howe movie that's long been discussed with Howard Baldwin, a producer of Ray and former president of the Whalers. And it means keeping tabs on nine grandchildren, one of whom, Mark's 19-year-old son, Nolan, plays in a Philadelphia pickup hockey league.
Howe recently found a pair of his old hockey gloves in his Bloomfield Hills, Mich., basement. The next time he was in Philadelphia, he gave them to his grandson. "Nolie went out and scored two goals that night," Howe says, glowing. "It let me know I'm still doing something." --A.D.
Her secret to winning the Boston Marathon? Skipping 25 miles. Now she's run out of sight
SOMETHING DIDN'T seem quite right at the finish line of the 1980 Boston Marathon. Just minutes after breaking the tape as the women's champion in an apparent course record of 2:31:56, the then 26-year-old Rosie Ruiz hadn't even broken a sweat. She looked surprised that she had won, according to four-time champ Bill Rodgers, and when asked what her splits were, her infamous reply was, "What are splits?"
A few days after she accepted the medal and wreath from Governor Ed King with men's winner Rodgers, Ruiz's only advocate--a runner in a Superman costume named Stephen Marek, who at first had said he saw Ruiz at the starting line--admitted that he wasn't sure whether she had run the full race or not. The best guess was that Ruiz, who had no distance-running background, had never started the race, but rather popped out of the crowd just east of Kenmore Square and ran about a mile to the finish line, 2 1/2 minutes ahead of Jacqueline Gareau, who was declared the winner eight days later. (Thanks to Ruiz's ruse, most major marathons, including Boston, have since installed video checkpoints and required competitors to run with computerized chips attached to their shoes so race officials can monitor their progress.)
Ruiz immediately dropped out of sight after the race, eluding a huge media search party. Now Rosie Vivas (she married Aicaro Vivas in 1984 and has kept the name despite divorcing), she has never granted an interview. SI's efforts to reach her in recent weeks were unsuccessful, but this much is known: Although she was never charged with any crime in the marathon incident, she was convicted in 1982 of stealing $60,000 from the Manhattan real estate firm for which she worked. (She spent a week in jail and was eventually placed on five years' probation.) Nineteen months later, after moving to Florida, Ruiz was arrested for selling two kilos of cocaine to undercover agents at the Miami Airport Marriott; she served three weeks in jail followed by two years' probation.
Now 51, Ruiz lives in West Palm Beach, and in April 2000 she teased a reporter with a lengthy voice mail in which she said she still has her Boston medal and that she'll run a marathon again. Why not? She's been running for 25 years now. --Jaime Lowe
Sniffed at by the critics, the story of life at the Bushwood Country Club has become a classic
IT MAY not have been among the nominees for Best Picture of 1980 (Ordinary People won), but with immortal lines like "I was born to lick your face," "Your uncle molests collies" and "Noonan!" Caddyshack went on to become one of the most quoted movies of all time and is now a staple of any sports fan's collection.
Cowritten by Harold Ramis and Doug Kenney, the same duo that wrote 1978's Animal House, Caddyshack is set at the upscale Bushwood Country Club and features a deranged assistant groundskeeper (Bill Murray) who spends the film chasing a gopher. There's also a real estate developer (Rodney Dangerfield) who wants to buy the club but offends members with his crass humor. The movie opened in July to poor reviews, with The New York Times calling it "an amiable mess" and "not as funny as Cheech and Chong's Next Movie." Caddyshack did well at the box office: It was the 17th-highest-grossing film of the year.
But Ramis believes the film's timeless slapstick humor and quotable lines have kept it fresh and appealing. Chevy Chase, who played philosophical golfer Ty Webb, thinks the conflict between the characters is what keeps audiences coming back. "There was something about the relationship between Ty Webb and assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler [Bill Murray's character] and what they both represented metaphorically relative to the country club," Chase says.
President Clinton was such a big fan of the movie that he invited Chase to play golf with him at Camp David in 2000. "I kept telling him, 'Mr. President, I don't play golf,' but he didn't care," said Chase, who eventually accepted Clinton's invitation. "He stubbornly held on to the vision of me as Ty Webb, the top golfer at the club."
Last month Chase, who recently took up the game, hit the links with Murray, an average golfer, in upstate New York. For the most part, he swears, they didn't talk about Caddyshack. But Chase admits that once or twice, while he was putting, he might in fact have said "nah nah nah nah nah," just like Webb.
Ignored by the NHL, he decided no man is an Islander forever--and got into snack foods
WHEN THE chips were down--or in this case, out--you could always count on one of hockey's best goal scorers to come through. As bags of Humpty Dumpty potato chips flew out of the store during a $1 blowout at a Montreal supermarket, Mike Bossy marched into the stock room, grabbed an armful of boxes and began refilling the shelves.
"Jeez," said a customer who recognized Bossy, "I didn't realize you guys made so little money back when you played."
Bossy--who had an unrivaled nine straight 50-plus-goal seasons for the New York Islanders of the late 1970s and early '80s--always could go top shelf, but he's no stock boy. For the past two years Bossy, 48, has been the Quebec sales director for Humpty Dumpty, a snack-food manufacturer based in eastern Canada. He started out doing promotional work for the company in the late 1990s, after a three-year stint as part of the morning zoo crew on CKOI, a French-language radio station in Montreal. Bossy has also done a smattering of hockey commentary and dabbled in the restaurant business. But since he worked for three seasons on Quebec Nordiques telecasts, after a back injury ended his playing career at age 30 in 1987, Bossy has not worked for an NHL team. "To be honest, no NHL team has ever called me," says the Rosmere, Quebec, resident. "I contacted the Canadiens at least two or three times [in the mid-1990s] because I thought I could help the organization in some way. They never called back." --Michael Farber
After physical and personal troubles, this former champion is intent on making a comeback
HE WAS a free-swinging golfer, famous for his 300-yard drives, breathtaking recovery shots and imaginative short game. He was charismatic and handsome and became the youngest Masters champion in history. Jack Nicklaus? Tiger Woods? Guess again. In 1980, at the age of 23, Spain's Severiano Ballesteros dominated the field at Augusta with a wire-to-wire victory. Not only did Ballesteros eclipse Nicklaus as the youngest winner of the Masters, but he also became the first European to wear the green jacket. "By winning the Masters, I faced a future full of responsibilities and beautiful challenges," says Ballesteros. "To say nothing changed in my life afterward would be a lie."
Ballesteros won another Masters in 1983 and the British Open championship in 1979, '84 and '88. He played in eight Ryder Cups and in '97 captained Europe to victory. From 1986 through '88 Ballesteros was one of the best golfers in the world, with 12 victories. In '94 Ballesteros became the first player to reach ¬£3 million in earnings on the European tour.
Now 48, Ballesteros lives in Pedre√±a, a small shipping village in northern Spain. He owns two businesses that he founded in 1986: a golf course design company and a sports marketing company. But not all the challenges he has faced have been beautiful. Last September he was accused of assaulting a tournament official at an amateur tournament in Pedre√±a. Ballesteros wasn't disciplined for the incident, but he later expressed regret and issued a public apology. Then last December, Ballesteros and his wife, Carmen, separated after 16 years of marriage.
Ballesteros has not won a tournament on the PGA or European tours since 1995 and has been sidelined with chronic back pain and knee problems for the last two years. But he hasn't given up on making a comeback. He still practices 20 hours a week and hoped to play in this year's British Open, but withdrew last week because he said that he felt he wasn't ready to compete against the top players in the world at a course as difficult as St. Andrews. "I will return when I perform at the level I demand," he says, adding that he has become more patient with himself and is optimistic about the future. "When you are 23 years old, you enjoy a great deal of unawareness," he says. "But these are my best years." --J.M.
The Bears' spunky QB still draws a crowd wherever he goes
THE TALL, tan man in the baseball cap totes a Coors Light as he navigates a fairway at Saratoga National Golf Club, a stop on the 2005 Celebrity Players Tour. Some in the gallery point and whisper, "That's Jim McMahon." While McMahon, 45, still works some 200 days a year by his count--"charity events, speaking engagements"--with his countless links commitments, including 14 tour events this year, he admits, "Actually, it's more golf than anything." Though the tour features the likes of Mario Lemieux and Ray Romano, McMahon draws his share of attention thanks to his aggressively casual style.
It's an appropriate epilogue for the former BYU and Chicago Bears quarterback who got as much attention for stunts like mooning a helicopter during Super Bowl week as for playing football. Not that he couldn't toss the ball: In 1980 McMahon set 17 NCAA passing records and finished fifth in the Heisman voting.
Now, when he isn't talking about the glory years with fellow golfers, McMahon spends his time attending athletic events involving his four children and working in the yard at his home in Northbrook, Ill. "Three acres," he says, "takes a long damn while." --A.D.
Even in retirement the former drag racing champion can't keep herself out of the garage
IT'S HARD to imagine Shirley Muldowney piloting her orange Husqvarna riding mower around her suburban Detroit lawn; the former drag racing champion is more accustomed to machinery that travels at 335 mph, powered by 8,000 horses. Yet there's a twinkle in her eye when she talks about doing chores at her house and on her five acres in Michigan. "I've got floors to wash, animals to take care of," she says. "There's always stuff to do. We're pretty domesticated."
Muldowney, 65, broke down gender barriers in auto racing by being successful. In her 30-year career she won 31 national event races, three National Hot Rod Association titles (1977, '80, '82) and one American Hot Rod Association crown ('81).
Retired since 2003, Muldowney says life is good for her and her husband of 17 years, Rahn Tobler. The two met in 1976 when Muldowney's lead mechanic and then boyfriend, Connie Kalitta, hired Tobler to work on the crew of Muldowney's dragster. After a bitter '78 split, the three have reunited in what is now team owner Kalitta's garage--Tobler as crew chief for Kalitta's nephew Doug, Muldowney as a representative for one of Kalitta's car's sponsors.
But Muldowney's competitive instincts resurface when Danica Patrick is mentioned. "I think she is the best thing to happen to Indy car racing in 30 years, but I'm a drag racer," Muldowney says. "I certainly didn't have Danica's style, but I had the fight in me." --J.L.
Now an agent, he still regrets missing Moscow
NO ONE was more devastated by the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games than Renaldo Nehemiah. In 1979 "Skeets" had twice broken the world record in the 110-meter hurdles, running a 13.16 and a 13.00, marking him as the clear favorite for the gold. "The government took away so freely what I was doing," he says. "I still regret it, but I've moved on." A year after the Olympics, Nehemiah became the first man to break 13 seconds, blazing to a 12.93. Then he signed with the San Francisco 49ers as a wide receiver, and in 40 games over three seasons he caught 43 passes for 754 yards and four touchdowns. Nehemiah returned to track in 1986 but retired in 1992 without an Olympic or world championship medal.
Now 46, Nehemiah is the agent for U.S. Olympians Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin, who last summer in Athens won, respectively, a silver in the women's 200 and a gold in the men's 100, and Canadian 100-meter hurdler Perdita Felicien, who fell in Athens. "I told her I am proof," says Nehemiah, "that an Olympic medal does not define you." --J.M.
FACES IN THE CROWD
Whatever became of that hula hoop champ?
Sforzini, 36, who grew up in Auburn, Ala., now plays the bassoon in the Florida Orchestra. But he's still best known for winning the World Hula Hoop title at age 10. "I don't practice hooping anymore, but I won the talent show competition [doing the hula hoop] on a cruise ship three years ago."
Birch, 51, retired from competition after winning her third consecutive World Frisbee Championship. In 1996 she opened a dog day care and training business in Santa Barbara. She's throwing a Frisbee again, but not to people. "I'd reached the pinnacle," she says, "and it was time to move on."
Short, a native of England who at 14 became the youngest International Master, writes a weekly chess column for London's Sunday Telegraph. The reigning British champ, Short, 40, only plays a handful of tournaments a year. "In life I consider myself to be not old, but in chess I'm a dinosaur," he says.
She set her first world record at age 21 and kept jumping as a sergeant in the Army. She has made more than 16,000 jumps, the most by a woman. Now a pilot for U.S. Airways based in Raeford, N.C., Stearns, 49, holds 30 world records and is working toward a 31st--a 110,000-foot jump. --J.L.
THE ANNOUNCERLESS GAME
For one NFL broadcast, fans tuned in to the sound of silence
LATE IN the NFL season NBC Sports executive producer Don Ohlmeyer decided to try some avant-garde programming: The network aired the Dec. 20, 1980, New York Jets--Miami Dolphins game with no broadcasters in the booth at the Orange Bowl. Though the experiment was regarded as a flop, the game still drew a respectable 13.5 rating. (The network's average rating for the '80 regular season was 14.9.)
He never tried another announcerless game, but Ohlmeyer, who went on to become president of NBC's West Coast division before retiring from the network in 2000, maintains that his idea served a purpose. "I think people appreciated announcers a little more," he says, "and announcers learned that they didn't have to speak quite as much." --J.L.
Despite a Hall of Fame career, the Royals slugger laments coming up 10 points shy of .400
GEORGE BRETT doesn't want you to misunderstand. "I am not Ted Williams," the former Kansas City Royal says at his home in Mission Hills, Kans. But in 1980 Brett did a splendid impersonation of the Splinter, finishing the season with a .390 average. Brett was hitting .400 as late as Sept. 19. His .390 that year remains the high-water mark for any player since Williams's storied .406 in 1941. "My biggest regret is that I didn't hit .400," he says. "I really thought I was going to do it."
Brett, 52, who retired in 1993, serves as the Royals' V.P. of baseball operations and a spring training instructor, hosts a radio show and occasionally kicks the tires of his investment interests, which include a baseball-equipment manufacturer, three minor league teams and a restaurant. He and his wife, Leslie, have three sons--Jackson, 12, Duylan, 10, and Robin, 9--and what really keeps him occupied these days are his duties as assistant coach for their Little League teams. "The Royals built me a nice little office--they use it for storage," Brett says with a chuckle. "Right now I'm too busy to go to the office." --M.W.
MIRACLE ON ICE
Big bucks haven't come with the golden moment, but for most members of Team USA that's just fine
IN THE years since the Miracle on Ice, arguably the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, the 20-man roster of Team USA has quietly evolved into a group of anonymous professionals--an oral surgeon (Bill Baker), a few salesmen (Jim Craig, Steve Janaszak, Buzz Schneider), the owner of a sporting goods store (Bob Suter)--content, for the most part, with letting history speak for itself. Says agent Bob Murray, who represents 19 of the players, "The guys don't want to be perceived as overcapitalizing on it."
Others are cashing in. In 2004 Disney grossed $65 million with its movie Miracle. HBO's documentary Do You Believe in Miracles? won an Emmy in 2002 and is now available on DVD. In January the book The Boys of Winter was published. Says team captain Mike Eruzione, "People have made more money off the '80 Olympic team than we have made off ourselves." That's O.K. with most members of the squad. "I think the guys are very content with the courses their lives have taken," says Craig, who is also a motivational speaker. "I don't think there are any complaints or wishing we could or should have done more." --M.W.
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