The stunt that St. Louis Blues coach Jacques Demers pulled in the second game of the team's first-round playoff series with the Minnesota North Stars was stupid. During a stoppage of play in the third period, Demers tossed five pennies onto the ice to prolong the delay and give his team more rest. As Blues defenseman Doug Gilmour picked up the pennies and the other players took a breather, referee Kerry Fraser skated to the Blues bench. "He told me, 'You were throwing pennies on the ice,' " admits Demers. "We got caught. I stopped. I won't do it again."
After the game, which the North Stars won 6-2, Blues owner Harry Ornest called the incident "a tempest in a teapot," adding, "It's like some player whose lace on a hockey glove is untied getting a timeout." The league office apparently agreed with Ornest and gave Demers only a reprimand.
But Demers's stunt wasn't the small change that the NHL's action would make it seem. A coach flouted the rules to gain an advantage and wasn't penalized. That isn't the worst of it. Because of the obvious dangers to players and other spectators, the NHL encourages arena officials and police in league cities to come down hard on fans who throw objects onto the ice. Demers's penny-pitching will only encourage such conduct. The fact that he got away with it will encourage it all the more.
April 27, 1986
FROM PINSTRIPES TO JAIL STRIPES
The enticing telegrams went out to 950 New York City fugitives at their last known addresses: Come to the Kings-bridge Armory in the Bronx for a free champagne breakfast with Yankee manager Lou Piniella and a chance at fabulous door prizes. Then we'll bring you to your box seat for the Yankee-Royals game. Signed, the Bronx Sports and Exposition Co.
It was a ploy. The invitations came from the Bronx district attorney's office, which was hoping to snare the suspected criminals. A similar sting operation in Washington, D.C. last December, which had used an offer of free Redskins tickets, had led to the arrest of 98 fugitives.
But as everyone knows, New Yorkers are a wary lot, which may explain why only three of the 950 (and three others) showed up for the free breakfast. Those few respondents were greeted by Yankee posters and paraphernalia, and a man claiming to be the team's new skipper; he was in fact detective Roy Casse.
"What do I look like, dumb?" guest Renaldo Santiago told the New York Daily News. "That guy didn't look anything like Piniella." But none of the guests realized what was happening until they were in handcuffs. Two of them were wanted on larceny charges, while Santiago—who'd unluckily received an invitation intended for another Renaldo Santiago—turned out to be wanted for nonsupport of a child. The D.A.'s office was disappointed by the sting's .003 batting average, but those nabbed were even more upset. Said Santiago, "I'm no longer a Yankee fan."
I THINK THAT I SHALL NEVER SEE
When he was running for governor of California in 1966, Ronald Reagan argued against protecting additional tracts of redwoods by saying, "A tree's a tree." Earlier this month the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to rename the 654,000-acre Angeles National Forest the Reagan National Forest. The measure's sponsor, supervisor Pete Schabarum, cited the President's "special love for the outdoors."
The resolution was immediately criticized by environmentalists. Sierra Club Southern California representative, Bob Hattoy, told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, "This Administration has...cut back the forest service budget and has promoted harmful environmental policies." He added, "Naming a national forest after Ronald Reagan is like naming a day-care center after W.C. Fields."
NERF'S KING OF THE COURT
Culled in nationwide prelims from more than 100,000 contestants, they were the six best at shooting spongy little Nerf balls through springy little hoops. Now they were gathered in Maude's, a Manhattan saloon, for the championship round. As yuppies glanced over from the bar, the six finalists warmed up by firing set shots at a cardboard backboard. NBA great Jerry West was on hand to promote the event and was challenged to take a few shots. "This is much more pressure than when we came into Madison Square Garden," he said. "At least there you knew what you were doing." As if to prove his point, he went 2 for 10 from the floor.
The Star-Spangled Banner was played on an authentic New York City boom box, and several bar patrons stood in respect. Competitors then had to attempt nine prescribed shots and one optional. Frank O'Brien, a real-estate salesman from Boston, was first up. He hit 8 of 10, including a turnaround from 15 feet, and no one could match him. During the awards ceremony. West, who is now general manager of the Lakers, expressed worry: "I hope this isn't an omen." Replied O'Brien: "I think it's a good sign—Jerry West handing the trophy to a Boston player. I think he'll get used to it."
FIRST REPRISALS, THEN PRIZES
Last week the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting went to Jeffrey Marx and Michael York, reporters for the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader who detailed alleged improper payments in the Kentucky basketball program (SI, Nov. 11, 1985). The Pulitzer provided a measure of vindication for the newspaper, which was castigated in the local community for printing its two-part series. The Herald-Leader's offices had to be evacuated because of a bomb threat, and its editors were accused of sensationalizing the story.
The paper's experience was similar to that of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and News, which in 1984 ran a series on academic problems involving the athletic departments at Georgia and Georgia Tech. That paper, too, was condemned by local fans. Two Telegraph and News reporters, Randall Savage and Jackie Crosby, won the 1985 Pulitzer for specialized reporting. Twice in a row the award has gone to newspapers for investigating allegations of wrongdoing in college sports.
Clearly these papers didn't publish their stories just to sell papers. On the contrary, there were 400 subscription cancellations by Herald-Leader readers upset with the Kentucky stories. Moreover, editor John Carroll says the paper's advertising salesmen "have met terrific resistance in the community ever since. I don't think this'll be forgotten for a generation or two." Even the Pulitzer won't convince some Lexingtonians that the Herald-Leader was acting worthily in conducting its investigation. On the day the prize was announced. Lexington's mayor, Scotty Baesler, a Wildcat basketball player in 1962-63, told a city council meeting that he felt the paper was to be commended for its award. Councilman Dick Perry quickly asked, "Can we vote on that?"
UNEARTHING THE SPACEMAN
Is there life after Fenway for former Boston ballplayers? A recent article in New England Monthly indicates that there is for some. Jim Lonborg, the 1967 A.L. Cy Young winner, is a prosperous Massachusetts dentist. Oldtime All-Stars Dom DiMaggio and Walt Dropo are successful businessmen. Tony Lupien and Eddie Pellagrini, infielders of the '40s, have enjoyed longtime careers as coaches at New England colleges.
And then there's Bill Lee, the Spaceman who refuses to come to earth. Lee, every inch a lefthander, pitched 10 seasons for the Sox and four for Montreal before being released in 1982. Since 1984 he has spent his summers in Nova Scotia, where he is a salaried player for the Moncton Mets, a team in the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League.
"It's heaven," says Lee, who batted .380 and had an ERA of 0.53 last season. "The ground is always soft, the fences are always short and most of the hitters are lefthanded hockey players." The 39-year-old Lee says he continues to play because "the baseball diamond is like a Tibetan prayer wheel. The more times around, the better." When he finally does give up the game, he would like to open a "survival school" in New England. At his envisioned Spaceman Institute a student would learn "how to play baseball and live harmoniously on the planet."
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS
On April 29, Wide World of Sports will turn 25: a quarter century of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. To commemorate the anniversary, ABC-TV will present a salute to Wide World this Saturday night. On the show, a specially commissioned assemblage will be unveiled. Artist Jim Ridlon of Syracuse, N.Y., an All-Pro defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys in 1964, created the 12½' x 8' work, using various photos, artifacts and other elements that conjure up memories of notable Wide World moments. If you look hard, you can find the helmet motorcyclist Evel Knievel wore when he tried to jump 13 buses in 1975, a ski boot used by Steve Mahre when he won a gold medal at the 1982 world championships in Austria, the tennis racket with which Chuck McKinley won Wimbledon in 1963 and a basketball bounced by those Wide World perennials, the Harlem Globetrotters. If you look real hard, you can pick out the jumping skis used by Yugoslavia's Vinko Bogataj, whose crash at the 1970 International Ski Flying Championships in West Germany is shown at the beginning of Wide World telecasts to dramatize the agony of defeat.
THEY SAID IT
•Al Michaels, ABC baseball announcer, on Reggie Jackson's need to be the center of attention: "Reggie wouldn't get in the batter's box until he knew we were back from a commercial."
•John Cirillo, New York Knicks communications director, reflecting on the team's injury-marred season: "The team picture is an X ray."
•Morganna, baseball's kissing bandit, explaining why she kissed Mariner catcher Steve Yeager on the cheek instead of the lips: "I think he chews tobacco."