THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE SUBWAY RIDER
The saga of Rosie Ruiz is not without its wry elements. Ruiz is charged with finishing a race she didn't start, setting herself forever apart from the many road runners who start races they don't finish. If her accusers are correct, the 26-year-old Manhattan office worker won the Boston Marathon by running, in effect, an 880. And she was allowed to enter the Boston race on the strength of a qualifying time in the 1979 New York Marathon during which she allegedly took a shortcut of at least 16 miles by riding the subway, the modern-day equivalent, one supposes, of Pheidippides riding a goat partway from Marathon to Athens. It's tempting to compare anybody capable of pulling off such stunts with, say, streakers at a football game.
But streaking by an outsider is different from an unscrupulous competitor subverting a sports event and being adjudged an official winner. Games and races may be decided by dumb luck or wrongheaded officiating, but it is imperative that they be staged with honest effort, under conditions more or less equal for all competitors. When athletes use steroids or other drugs to gain unfair advantage, they are violating the very essence of sport. The same is true of those who resort to fraud to affect the outcome of events.
Which is what Ruiz stands accused of having done. The Cuban-born Ruiz, who moved to the U.S. with her family in 1962, told reporters last week she aspires to be an actress, and such is her theatricality that, says one friend, "if you ask her to shed five tears, she'll shed exactly five." Ruiz also revealed that she had undergone two brain operations—one to remove a "tangerine-sized" benign tumor seven years ago, the other to install a plastic plate in her head in 1978. There was other biographical information on which Ruiz would not comment: SI has learned that in 1977 a male acquaintance of Ruiz' filed a complaint with New York City police accusing her of removing credit cards from his apartment. The complainant never prosecuted and restitution apparently was made on all or part of some $1,500 worth of charges run up on the cards.
May 4, 1980
Ruiz said she began running in February 1979 and eventually was logging 100 miles a week. However, one of her roommates related that Ruiz' job with a commodities firm kept her so busy that she often had little time to run and trained instead on an exercise bicycle in her apartment. Nevertheless, she signed up for last October's New York Marathon, which required no qualifying time to enter. Although it was her first marathon, she was credited with a time of 2:56.29, 23rd best among the women and good enough to qualify for the Boston race. And so she entered the Boston event, calling her mother, a seamstress in Miami Beach, on the eve of the race and saying, "Pray for me. I have to win." Replied Juana Ruiz, "I always pray for you, dear."
No sooner did Ruiz become the first woman to cross the finish line in Boston—in 2:31.56, the third-fastest marathon time ever for a woman—than the questions began. Observers noted that Ruiz' hair wasn't matted with perspiration, that she wasn't panting and that her thighs were too flabby for an accomplished runner. Dr. Yale Markle, a chiropodist on duty at the finish line, looked at Ruiz' feet, legs, ankles and shoes and said, "She definitely didn't run the whole race." Spotters who maintained checklists of runners at various points during the race had no record of seeing Ruiz. Two Harvard students said they had seen her slip out of a crowd of spectators and enter the race about half a mile from the finish.
Nonetheless, Ruiz stoutly contended she had run the whole 26 miles, 385 yards. "I don't know how to explain what I did," she said. "I just got up this morning with a lot of energy." At a press conference three days later, she tearfully denied she had cheated. But Ruiz was vague on details of the race ("How was I greeted at Wellesley? O.K. It was O.K. everywhere"), and she only heightened the prevailing skepticism when she released stress-test results giving her resting heart rate as 76; the rate for world-class women marathoners is usually in the 50s, sometimes even lower.
New York officials, meanwhile, were taking a closer look at Ruiz' performance in last October's marathon, especially after Susan Morrow, a freelance photographer, told of having met Ruiz on a subway during that race. Morrow said that Ruiz, who was wearing running clothes, had told her she had dropped out of the race with a sprained ankle, supposedly after running 10 miles. The two women, Morrow said, left the subway near Central Park and walked to the finish line of the marathon, where Ruiz asked to have her ankle treated. Officials speculate that at this point she was accidentally credited with her finishing time; at any rate, videotape taken of the finish line showed no sign of Ruiz. And a man who claimed to have met Ruiz while jogging in Central Park in March, Marty Craven, said, "She started telling me she knew this girl who cheated in the New York Marathon by taking the subway. And I started to tell her how easy it would be to cheat in Boston."
Last Friday, asserting that the evidence indicated that "Rosie did not finish the race," Fred Lebow, the director of the New York Marathon, voided Ruiz' finish in that event. Boston Marathon officials said they would decide early this week whether to disqualify her and award the victory to the runner-up, Jacqueline Gareau of Montreal. Organizers of both races were properly chagrined. One of the charms of road racing is that plodders have traditionally competed alongside champions, yet because of the running boom, some race promoters have lately invited charges of elitism by excluding recreational runners. Another charm of road racing is that it has operated largely on the honor system. That, too, regrettably, may have to change.
Agent Ed Gottlieb insists he was serious when he placed a classified ad in San Diego newspapers last week for his client, Ozzie Smith, the Padres' stylish but weak-hitting (.211 last season, .246 so far in 1980) shortstop. It read:
Padre Baseball Player wants part-time employment to supplement income. College education, willing to work, prefer PR-type employment. Need hours tailored to baseball schedule, but would quit baseball for right opportunity.
And, well, maybe Gottlieb was serious. After all, Smith's demands that team owner Ray Kroc increase his $65,000 salary to $150,000 have fallen on deaf ears, leaving the free-spending Smith in a financial bind. And, sure enough, the ad yielded an offer of a part-time job from a trading company that, according to Gottlieb, Smith was considering.
But that's not the only result of the unique ad. Word of Smith's financial plight somehow produced a published story that he was a talented cyclist who might take a leave of absence from the Padres to race in the Tour de France, a report that Smith scotched by admitting, "I don't even own a bicycle." Then there were the mocking offers he received to deliver pizzas, mow lawns for a New York millionaire and dance nude, not to mention some patronizing comments attributed to Kroc's wife Joan that Smith could always work as a $3.50-an-hour assistant to Luis, her gardener. But the deftest putdown was the retaliatory ad placed by a San Diegan named Ron James:
Padre baseball fan wants part-time employment to supplement future ticket costs, 25 years fan education, willing to work but prefer fun PR-type job. Need hours tailored to home baseball schedule, would be willing to quit watching baseball for job as baseball agent.
WIRED FOR SOUND
In hope of injecting some much-needed life into golf telecasts, PGA Tour officials have been allowing the networks, as an experiment, to rig selected players and caddies with microphones. The innovation has enlivened things all right. At the Heritage Classic Tom Kite, not realizing the mike he was wearing was switched on, touched off a furor by remarking that John Schroeder ought to be fined and suspended for slow play. And at the Tournament of Champions, Tom Watson was overheard counseling a struggling Lee Trevino to try altering his stance. A viewer phoned and pointed out that preferring such advice to another player is illegal, whereupon Watson was penalized two strokes. Watson still won the tournament by three strokes.
The question remains whether this is the kind of liveliness golf really needs. NBC evidently thinks so, having pointedly hired Kite and Schroeder, the principals in the slow-play incident, as commentators on last weekend's Legends of Golf tournament near Austin, Texas. But might not electronic eavesdropping in sports be going too far? Television commentators, with some adroit interviewing, might have coaxed Kite into commenting openly on Schroeder's slow play—or even, heaven forbid, have risked saying something controversial themselves. As for penalizing Watson for giving advice to Trevino, another player, Dave Stockton, notes that this smacks of selective punishment. "We pros give advice all the time," Stockton says. "If the rule were enforced, I'd have been penalized 30 times this year already." Tour officials will decide sometime after this week's Houston Open whether to make the miking of players permanent, but there appears to be growing sentiment among the players that the idea be dropped. As one touring pro told SI's Jane Bachman last week, "This kind of controversy may be good for the networks, but it's not necessarily good for the players or the sport."
It was a highly emotional moment when Catcher Darrell Porter rejoined his teammates Friday night in the Kansas City Royals' clubhouse. The Royals had just beaten Baltimore 7-0 and as Porter, who had been inactive since quietly leaving the club's spring-training camp on March 15, delivered a prepared statement to sportswriters, other K.C. players gathered in the hushed room to listen.
"I am very happy to be back," Porter began, hands trembling nervously. "Six weeks ago God gave me the strength, courage and determination to face my personal problems and to seek professional help. I went to [Royal General Manager] Joe Burke and advised him that I was a drug addict and an alcoholic. My whole life was being affected. I have hurt my family, my friends, the great baseball fans of the Royals, my teammates, and I almost destroyed myself."
Porter said he had spent six weeks undergoing treatment in a rehabilitation clinic and had "graduated" earlier that same day. Then he said, "I'm sorry for what I've done and hope and pray that others will benefit from my bad experience." Porter finished by asking the writers to try to forgo personal questions and confine their interviews with him to baseball, which seemed like a fair enough request. Then his teammates crowded forward and hugged and kissed him.
THE MAGIC EYES HAVE IT
At Wimbledon this year, Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe will kindly direct their complaints to a couple of tiny electronic boxes. The boxes, each about the size of a car radio, emit a light beam that helps officials decide whether a serve is in or out. These "magic eyes" are lined up on both sides of the court in such a way that the beam is broken if a served ball hits the ground within six inches on either side of the service line. If a serve hits beyond the line, the linesman, outfitted with earphones, will hear a beep indicating a fault; and he and the umpire will see flashing red lights on boxes affixed to their chairs. If the ball hits inside or on the line, there will be no beep, only a flashing yellow light, signifying a good serve.
The magic eyes, which will be installed only on the Centre and No. 1 courts, are of limited usefulness because the beam could be broken by, say, a foot as readily as by a served ball. Because the partner of a player receiving service in doubles could, depending on where he is positioned, break the beam, the magic eyes are used in singles only. And even in singles, a disgruntled receiver could use a racket or a foot to break the beam on purpose. Partly for that reason, Wimbledon officials say that the linesman will have the right to overrule the device. To prevent spectators, in turn, from trying to overrule the linesman, the panels on which the lights flash will be carefully shielded from public view.
THEY SAID IT
•Danny Marsh, a Cambridge, Md. gas-station attendant, midway through an unsuccessful attempt to swallow a "world-record" 51 raw eggs in an hour: "This is bad, man. Give me some water."
•Herb Stevens, trainer of Blue Grass winner Rockhill Native, on assertions that his horse is too small to win the Kentucky Derby: "If size meant anything, a cow could beat a rabbit."