BASEBALL AND SLEAZE (CONT.)
The network of lies, self-serving cover-ups and general sleaziness surrounding drug use in baseball becomes increasingly evident as the Curtis Strong case in Pittsburgh continues and reactions to it are made public. In an interview with Boston Globe columnist Will McDonough. Ken Moffett, former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, had some strong things to say. You'll recall that Keith Hernandez of the Mets threatened to sue Moffett (SCORECARD, Sept. 16) after Moffett implied in 1984 that Hernandez, had been linked to cocaine when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. Moffett told McDonough it had cost him "between $6,500 and $10,000 to get a lawyer to settle" the suit out of court.
"They made a fool out of me in front of everyone in baseball by making me apologize publicly," Moffett said. "That's what Hernandez wanted to settle the suit."
Hernandez denied then—and was still denying four months ago—"any involvement with cocaine, ever." After he admitted in Pittsburgh on Sept. 6 that he had indeed used cocaine over four seasons (1980-83), his agent, Jack Childers, phoned Moffett and "apologized all over the place," the former MLBPA head told McDonough. "He said he was sick over what happened. Childers said he never knew anything about it until Keith was on the stand."
Moffett said to McDonough, "Greed stops the owners from really going after the drug problem in the game. They still want to win, and they will overlook a player's drug problems if they think it will help them win.... The use of [amphetamines] is so rampant [that] if you penalized people using pills, you would have to suspend entire teams in some cases.
"People in the game know who the drug users are, but the owners do not really do anything about it because of greed and because the Players Association does not want to deal with the problem.
"There are plenty of big-time players with drug problems whose names have not yet come to the surface. This thing is a lot more widespread than in Pittsburgh.... There is a lot more to the problem than the public knows. Baseball has covered it up. And nothing will change unless the owners and the players really work together to bring it to an end."
Aaron Pryor, the International Boxing Federation junior welterweight champion, whose life appears to be coming apart at the seams (Sept. 9), is apparently on the move again. His latest odyssey began after friends brought him to the emergency ward of the South Miami Hospital shortly after midnight on Sept. 11. Pryor left the hospital at 7:45 a.m. "He wasn't discharged," said Tom Jones, a hospital spokesman. "He left on his own responsibility." Jones said he couldn't comment on why Pryor had been hospitalized. A friend says Pryor withdrew $3,000 from a bank, had his phone disconnected and left his Miami home with his girlfriend, Linda Hill, their baby, Norra, and another friend, Frank Rudisel.
"Trying to keep up with Aaron is like Mission: Impossible," said the champion's manager, Buddy LaRosa. "A friend called me to tell me that [Pryor] had been taken to a hospital. I thought he had gone to get help, but I guess he doesn't want help. After his money is gone, when he hits bottom, maybe he will reach out. My telephone number hasn't changed."
Father George Clements of the Holy Angels Church in Chicago saw Pryor later on Sept. 11. "He was still trying to deny his [drug] involvement," Father Clements said. "He told me he had just got out of the hospital that morning. He looks so very thin, so gaunt. It is very pitiful to see Aaron look like that. I feel that if something isn't done soon, he's not going to be around much longer."
Last Friday, Pryor called his trainer, Richie Giachetti, who is in Las Vegas training Larry Holmes for his fight this week with Michael Spinks. Pryor said he was driving to Boston to give a legal deposition; he and LaRosa are suing Boston-based promoter Richard Mangone for $300,000 they say is due them from a June 22, 1984 fight against Nick Furlano. Pryor promised Giachetti he would go to Las Vegas from Boston. Maybe he will. "I think I'm the only one he trusts," said Giachetti. "He's so paranoid and scared of everyone else. If I can just get him here, I think in nine or 10 weeks he will surprise everyone."
At last word, he was still out there wandering. As Father Clements said, one can only pray.
LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBOARDS
Fresno City College basketball coach John Toomasian has joined the thousands of Americans seeking happiness through personal ads. No, Toomasian is not a jilted lover on the rebound; he's just looking for a little rebounding.
A couple of weeks ago he poured out his needs and desires in the The Fresno Bee's classifieds as a "sensitive and caring basketball coach who yearns for 6'4"+ rebounders." He specifically lusted after individuals who are "physically aggressive, academically and spiritually motivated and mobile enough to duck under doorways. Agility to leap and drop ball in 18" hoop will further insure TLC."
Toomasian mentioned the rewards that would come from a meaningful relationship, including "physical contact, statewide getaways, fast-food dining and many leisure hours in aromatic gyms."
The appearance of the ad elicited 12 responses but no real prospects, and the $66 fee for running the 100-word adjust about wiped out Fresno City College's recruiting budget for the year. But one of the 12 respondents was a female, so the coach may at least have found a sympathetic shoulder to cry on.
PERILS OF THE DEEP
Rod Johnson, transportation supervisor for the Great Falls (Mont.) public schools, was scuba diving with his brother early in September in Holter Lake on the Missouri River. The 53-year-old Johnson was 55 feet down in the dark water when he felt "a bite on my right ankle," then another. When he reached with his left hand to investigate, the hand was "bitten" too and pulled close to his ankle. Johnson's face mask and oxygen regulator were knocked askew, and he was hauled rapidly upward before he realized that he had been hooked by a fisherman. He tried to break the line, but the leader was too heavy. He was rising toward the surface as fast as the air bubbles he had expelled, much too fast a rate. A diver can contract the bends—a painful and sometimes fatal accumulation of nitrogen bubbles in the blood caused by rapid decompression—if he returns to normal air pressure too quickly from the much greater pressures that exist in deep water.
Johnson broke the surface, flopping behind a trolling boat containing a happy angler vigorously cranking his fishing reel. Johnson shouted, "Hey, you've got hooks in me!" and only then did the fisherman let up. With his brother's help, Johnson rid himself of the hooks. The fisherman hurriedly reeled in his line and left.
That evening, a Sunday, Johnson began having severe pains in his neck, his left shoulder and arm and his right leg. He had the bends. Because landlocked Montana is ill equipped to treat the ailment, he was flown 600 miles by air ambulance to Seattle, where he underwent decompression therapy at Virginia Mason Hospital.
By Tuesday he seemed fully recovered, and he decided to fly home to Great Falls. But the change of air pressure in the plane brought back the bends, and the next day Johnson had to be flown to Seattle again for more decompression. A few days later he returned to Great Falls, this time by train.
As for the fisherman who landed him and then hastily departed, the amiable Johnson, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 195 pounds, said only, "He had some real heavy-duty equipment there."
A year ago William Spoor, chairman of the board of the Pillsbury Company, the food products giant, went out to Wood-hill Country Club near Minneapolis to play a round of golf for the first time in his life. On the second hole, a 131-yard par-3, he shot a hole in one. This summer Spoor paid his first visit to Canterbury Downs, Minnesota's brand-new race track. He picked the winning horse in six straight races to share (with 12 others) a Pick Six pool of $223,399.
Pondering his remarkable success. Spoor revealed his secret. "I'm lucky," he said.
JUST WHAT SHE ALWAYS WANTED
If you're looking around for a nice gift to give that bird-watching aunt of yours, you might consider a publication being issued this fall by the National Audubon Society and the Abbeville Press. Actually, it's a little more than just a thoughtful present. It's a facsimile edition of John James Audubon's The Birds of America, the most famous and most valuable collection of ornithological paintings in the world. Audubon, who was born in 1785 and died in 1851, devoted much of his life not just to his exquisite paintings but to making sure that they were reproduced as perfectly as possible in book form. The result was a masterpiece. Only 134 copies of the original edition, printed 150 years ago, are known to exist, and if you want to buy one of them for your aunt, you'll have to fork over something in the neighborhood of $2 million.
Not that the new Audubon-Abbeville facsimile is a drugstore paperback. Created jointly by the Audubon Society and Abbeville as a tribute to the 200th anniversary of Audubon's birth, it is one of the heaviest and most expensive publications ever issued, weighing in at more than 240 pounds and costing $15,000, bound. (An unbound version, mostly for dealers who will sell the prints separately, is only $12,500.) It consists of four outsize volumes (each weighing 60 pounds) of the The Birds of America paintings, plus seven smaller volumes containing commentaries by Audubon and ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson.
As many as 13 color plates were used to re-create the delicate hues of the original prints, some of which have sold for as much as $45,000 each. The quality of the reproduction is astonishing—to the untutored eye indistinguishable from the originals. The Audubon-Abbeville people are limiting the first edition to only 350 copies. Hurry, hurry.
THEY SAID IT
•Rocky Bridges, San Francisco Giants coach, on why he refuses to eat snails: "I prefer fast food."
•Jack Donohue, Canadian national basketball coach, in a postcard from China, which he visited on his way to the World University Games in Japan: "Very old civilized country. No hockey here."