A DECISION ON URINALYSIS
Angel Cordero Jr. and Bill Shoemaker are two of the winningest jockeys in history, but last week they came up losers. In the first federal court test of a rule requiring urinalysis for athletes, U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Brotman issued a preliminary decision upholding the New Jersey Racing Commission's rule requiring jockeys to submit to random urine sampling and breathalyzer tests. When the spot checks began in April, Shoemaker, Cordero and other riders brought suit, arguing that the procedures are demeaning and an invasion of privacy. Brotman wasn't swayed. Unless he reconsiders after a full hearing in June, Garden State jockeys can anticipate being handed a jar after they dismount. Ballplayers and other athletes should take note that at least one federal judge believes random drug testing is constitutional.
SPRING HOPES ETERNAL
David Dixon, the New Orleans art dealer and sports entrepreneur—he's the mind behind the USFL and World Championship Tennis—lectured at the Harvard Business School the other day on populist football. Dixon proposed a January-to-June, fan-owned league that he would call America's Football Teams, Inc. He would form one big corporation with 12 subsidiary teams in major football markets.
"If you think Harvard students get worked up against Yale," Dixon said, "try out a stadium with 60,000 owners! We'll have to build moats around the fields." He envisions every ticket as a kind of stock certificate that would eventually give each owner a vote in the election of his team's board of directors, and maybe the selection of the coach, quarterback and the next play on third-and-seven. "Everyone will want a piece of the rock," Dixon went on. "Every little kid in town will have to own a share of stock. Every big kid." Players would be paid from a percentage of gate receipts.
May 26, 1985
"There you have it," concluded Dixon, "an incredibly simple, painless system of stock distribution; every club solidly in the black, always; fast-paced, action-packed 2½-hour games; local drawing-card players; top coaches...Why, that could be the best football league in history!" But when a franchise slips out of town in the middle of the night, half the city will go with it.
THE TRAVELS OF MARCO BALDI
Basketball recruiting is ruthless in the U.S., but in Italy it's downright feudal. Marco Baldi, a 6'11", 240-pound high school All-America at Long Island Lutheran, returned home two weeks ago to play for his club team, Simac of Milan, in the Italian junior championships. Baldi, a senior at Lutheran, saw Maryland assistant coach Ron Bradley on the same plane. He bumped into Lou Carnesecca, the St. John's coach, at JFK Airport. When he played in the tournament, USC assistant coach Dave Spencer watched from the stands with Carnesecca.
Maybe the three Americans were looking for good buys in Italian sportswear, but they surely wanted an audience with the 18-year-old Baldi—fair game here and abroad. "It's international intrigue—cloak-and-dagger stuff," says Bob McKillop, Baldi's coach at Lutheran, where the senior averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds this season. "I might quit and write a mystery about this."
The real mystery is where this son of an Aosta, Italy, banker will attend college. The list has been whittled down to USC, Maryland and St. John's. He says he prefers St. John's, but the decision is not entirely his. Simac owns the rights to Baldi, and has told him to visit USC before he makes his decision. "If they say, 'Go to Southern Cal,' " says McKillop, "he's gotta go." Spencer, it turns out, once played for the Simac coach.
Italian teams practically sew up ballplayers at birth. Though Baldi is not a pro, if he ever wants to play professionally in Italy, he must follow Simac's orders. There's no such thing as a free agent on the Italian market.
When Simac needs a center, Baldi may have to drop out of school. "I can't even say how long they'll let him play," says McKillop. "That's the way the system works." A couple of years ago McKillop had a 7'0" Italian center named Augusto Binelli. But Binelli's team, Granarolo, feared he would wind up in the NBA and wouldn't let him go to college here. Now, that U.S. high school All-America is playing in Bologna.
THE ESSENCE OF COOL
They used to say Cool Papa Bell, the great Negro leagues ballplayer, was so fast he could turn off a light switch and be in bed before the room got dark. The 83-year-old Bell recently discussed the tale with Jack Etkin, a sportswriter for The Kansas City Star and Times.
As Bell tells it, his old roommie, Satchel Paige, once boasted that he could do that. But, says Bell, the fact was that Paige couldn't and he could. "He didn't realize," Bell explains, "that his bed was farther from the light switch than mine. Anyone could do it if his bed was as close to the switch as mine."
YANKEES GO HOME
At a time when Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone of Japan wants his countrymen to buy American, protectionism is rearing its head in Japanese baseball. Some fans and officials want to get rid of the gaijin, as foreigners are called. And most gaijin ballplayers are American. "Gaijin on certain teams have behaved in a way that could easily be called sabotage," says Ryoichi Shibusawa, a Central League official.
Shibusawa says high salaries lavished on the foreign stars demoralize Japanese players. The Hankyu Braves reportedly gave former Minnesota Twins first baseman Greg (Boomer) Wells a three-year, $1.3 million contract after he won the Triple Crown of Japan last year. The highest-paid native slugger, Koji Yamamoto of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, received only a one-year deal reportedly worth $340,000. But the disaffection with Americans is not confined to money. Critics also say that gaijin players lack honor and fighting spirit as defined by the Japanese.
Japan's 12 major league teams are allowed two foreign players each, but the feeling is spreading that the imports may no longer be necessary. The Carp won the '84 Central League title with one of their gaijin out the final week with an injury and the other mainly on the bench. This season they're playing without a gaijin on the roster.
The "Ban the Foreigners" rallying cry is hardly new in Japan. Players from the U.S. were banished before World War II, when even American baseball lingo like "strike" and "ball" was purged. In the postwar Americanization of Japan, baseball boomed, and by the early '60s the Japanese were hiring big leaguers from the States. But retreads like Don Newcombe and Larry Doby disappointed Asian fans with second-rate play. In 1963 the gaijin allowance was reduced from three to two.
Japanese fans' disenchantment with foreigners hit bottom in 1973 with the arrival of the inimitable Joe Pepitone. The Yakult Atoms bought Pepitone's contract from the Atlanta Braves for around $70,000 and paid him as much in salary. However, Pepitone showed up for only 14 games, batted .163 and developed mysterious ailments that kept him off the field but allowed him to go nightclubbing. He bolted for home late that season.
Problems with gaijin flared anew when three Americans didn't make it through the '84 campaign. Two years ago former Chicago Cub Jim Tracy batted .303 with 19 homers for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales. But in the third game of last season he drew a walk and was lifted for a pinch runner. Tracy thought his manager was punishing him for missing a fly ball. He refused to play again until the manager gave him an explanation. He didn't get one and left Japan.
Ex-major-leaguer Don Money had a cup of kohi during the season with the Kintetsu Buffalos. Even though the club agreed to pay the 37-year-old Money $450,000 a year, he didn't care for his accommodations and the long commute to the stadium. He quit after playing in just 30 of 130 games.
The Hankyu Braves signed onetime Texas Ranger Bump Wills for $326,000. In midsummer Wills missed a sign, and his angry manager took him out of the lineup. Wills was assigned to a farm team. He balked, which left the Braves the option of putting up with him or paying him off. They paid.
American players gripe that Japanese managers punish them to teach humility and use them as scapegoats when the team loses. "If Don Money hits 35 homers and bats .270 in Japan, they'd say he didn't hit for a high enough average," says Money. "If I batted .310 and hit 20 home runs, they'd say I didn't hit for enough power." But their Japanese detractors say U.S. imports are greedy and disloyal.
"Maybe these guys are playing by American customs or rules," says a disillusioned Sakae Okada, president of the Braves. "If this kind of thing continues, I think most people would agree simply to be done with them."
IT WON'T BE SIMPLE, SIMON
Simon Le Bon is one of the new generation of superstars created out of the electroluminescence of rock video. Swooning teenagers melt when they see the Duran Duran vocalist pout photogenically on MTV. Now the 26-year-old dreamboat has the boat of his dreams. He has entered his 76-foot yacht, Colt Cars, in this year's Whitbred Round the World Race, a perilous seven-month, 27,000-mile event. Several crewmen have drowned and many boats have been dismasted in three previous runnings. There's talk of filming Le Bon on board the yacht, which will be skippered by Skip Novak, a veteran of the last two Whitbreds.
The British-born Le Bon was introduced to the sea at eight, when his vicar took him to the Norfolk Broads for a dip in the surf. He decided then he would someday sail around the world. But his trip will only be semicircular. The singing sailor has recording commitments at the same time the race shoves off from Portsmouth, England in late September. He plans to pick up Colt Cars after the rigorous crossing from Cape Town, South Africa to Auckland, New Zealand. He'll be aboard, though, for the equally difficult journey from Auckland to South America, around Cape Horn to Punta del Este, Uruguay. Then it's across the Atlantic to Portsmouth, and the limousine ride back to London. "Of course I'm frightened," says Le Bon. "I'm bloody terrified."
Le Bon voyage.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Knight, Indiana University basketball coach, on reports that he's considering going into the furniture business: "I've already told prospective customers that after I open the store, when anybody buys a sofa, I'll throw in a chair."
•Joe Altobelli, Baltimore Orioles manager, after the team scored four runs in one inning against Kansas City on no hits, no errors and six walks: "There was a lot of everything in this game, including a lot of nothing."