Ensign and running back Napoleon McCallum was informed by the Department of the Navy last week that he will not be allowed to play with the Los Angeles Raiders while he is on active duty. This decision, by the recently appointed Secretary of the Navy, James H. Webb Jr., means that McCallum, who was permitted to practice and play with the Raiders last year, will have to fulfill the remaining three and a half years of his five-year service commitment before resuming his pro football career. McCallum is considering resigning from the Navy and requesting Reserve status.
"I feel everything I've done was in vain," he said. "I put a lot of effort and time in ensuring that what I did last year would work. From all indications, it did work. Everybody is happy except the new secretary."
It seems to us that McCallum and David Robinson, who will have to wait two years before playing for the San Antonio Spurs, would be doing the Navy a great service by performing as living recruitment posters. Still, whether athletes can or cannot forgo their commitments is a decision for the Navy and Secretary Webb, who once boxed Ollie North at Annapolis.
August 16, 1987
What's troubling about McCallum's case is that he was led to believe by previous Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. that he could be an officer and a Raider. An older code than the Navy's appears to be applicable here. A promise, after all, is a promise.
The groundskeepers at Calgary's Foothills Baseball Stadium had a problem. It was the day before a Pacific Coast League doubleheader between Calgary and Albuquerque and the field was wet from heavy rains. What to do? Well, someone came up with an idea for a surefire absorbent, so off went the crew to various stores in Calgary to pick up, yep, cat litter. Seven hundred and fifty pounds of it. They spread it all that night, turning the batter's box into a litter box.
The twin bill went off without a hitch. No, the umpires did not holler "me-out." But there were lots of fe-line drives, runners stranded at the catty corners and....
HORSE OF A DIFFERENT CHOLER
He's Dansin is a 7-year-old bay with excellent bloodlines (his grandfather was Nijinsky) and considerable talent on turf. He's Dansin has a problem, though. The horse is claustrophobic, so much so that of the 1,400 horses stabled at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, He's Dansin is the only one who lives outside in a corral. "I'm convinced he's a manic-depressive," says his owner and trainer, Susan Walsh.
Horses who move around a lot in the barn are called stall-walkers, but He's Dansin, says Walsh, "is more of a stall-galloper." He was perfectly normal as a foal, but once he was weaned from his mother, he was off and running in his stall. Walsh tried everything, and she did not lack for suggestions. She suspended two snow tires in his stall to keep He's Dansin from moving around. "The next morning we'd come in and there would be tread marks on him." She tried giving him a stable pet, a goat named Jerry. "It worked for one day. Then he trained Jerry, and when we came in, they were both running around." She painted the stall pink. "Someone told me that manic-depressives love pink. No effect." She put a mirror in his stall. "He would look in the mirror over his shoulder as he sped by."
In the meantime He's Dansin was a disappointment on the track because, as Walsh says, "he was exhausted." When the horse was five, Walsh finally gave up and built him a corral. He's Dansin stopped leaving his races in the stall and started earning his keep, winning two stakes races on grass and approximately $45,000. He should be one of the favorites in the mile-and-a-16th Beacon Hill Stakes this Sunday.
The horse now spends his days and nights outside in relative luxury, with a large umbrella to shield him from the sun, plenty of blankets to keep him warm at night and a black cat named Pittsburgh for company. The only drawback to this arrangement is that He's Dansin likes to eat his umbrellas—he's now working on his fifth.
A STRIKING PROBLEM
While umpires frisk pitchers and managers demand that bats be X-rayed (page 34), there is a much bigger threat to baseball's integrity than simple cheating: the shrinking and unpredictable strike zone. As Peter Gammons wrote in What Ever Happened to the Strike Zone? (SI, April 6): "[It] determines a great deal more than balls and strikes. It determines what's hit or isn't hit, who's called out and who isn't. It determines who's on the defensive and who's on the offensive.... The strike zone is the very heartbeat of a game."
The smaller strike zone—much lower and a little farther outside than it should be—is one of the major reasons for the marked increase in scoring. While each umpire has his own particular strike zone, some seem to delight in "squeezing" certain pitchers or certain teams. Others call balls and strikes according to the count or according to who's at bat.
A single call can have a profound effect. Take, for example, a July 18 game in Boston. Oakland's Dennis Eckersley had Jim Rice 0 and 2 with two outs in the ninth and threw him a waist-high fastball on the outside part of the plate. It was clearly a strike, but umpire Tim Tschida called it a ball. The count went to 2 and 2, Rice hit a two-run homer to tie the game, and the Red Sox went on to beat the Athletics in the 10th inning.
The current tempest over corking and scuffing will subside. In the meantime, commissioner Peter Ueberroth would be well advised to check on the heartbeat of the game.
GREAT ON THE SAFETY BLITZ
The football team at Georgia Southwestern College in Americus has a junior free safety whose real name is Michael Crash Landin.
SUNSET IN SUNRISE FOR THE HAWK
The return of the hawk, a one-act play starring Aaron Pryor, the hawk himself, opened and closed at the Sunrise (Fla.) Musical Theatre Saturday night. Actually, the comeback fight by the onetime junior welterweight champ against car salesman Bobby Joe Young lasted only 29 seconds into the seventh round. That's when referee Bernie Soto counted out Pryor, who knelt on one knee blessing himself.
It was a bizarre ending for a veteran of the bizarre. The 31-year-old Pryor was the victim not only of Young but also of drugs and other Miami vices. This was his first bout since March 1985. Since that time Pryor has self-destroyed the fighter who once knocked out 32 of his 36 opponents. In February he was arrested and charged with one count of sexual battery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, two counts of aggravated battery and six counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. Pryor spent two weeks in jail before he was released on bail. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and his trial is to begin Aug. 17.
Why was he fighting again? He certainly needed the money, although the $25,000 he received for Saturday's bout is small change compared with the $4 million he earned earlier in his professional career. "In the last two years," Pryor admitted a few days before the fight, "I spent more than $500,000 on cocaine on the streets of Miami. I got robbed, I got shot, I got beaten and I got arrested. I went to jail. That's why I'm fighting. I'm fighting for my life."
Pryor says he turned his life around in jail. "What really woke me up was the day I was walking by this guy in a maximum-security cell. As I passed, he said, 'Hey, Pryor, can I have your autograph?' Here was this guy looking up to me like I was someone special. I felt so ashamed. Then Sugar Ray Leonard won after his retirement, and that gave me something to reach for."
Unfortunately his reach exceeded his grasp. Pryor didn't train long enough after such an extended layoff. Besides, Young was no bum but rather a former welterweight contender with a record of 29-5-2. In the first round Young tagged Pryor with a right, knocking him down. In the third Pryor showed flashes of his old self, but that's all they were, flashes. At the start of the seventh Pryor caught a short, hard right to his left ear and went down. He quickly got up, but when Soto's count hit seven, Pryor genuflected and made the sign of the cross. A once-great career was over.
THEY SAID IT
•Chuck Armstrong, the Seattle Mariners' chief operating officer, on the organization's placing third in a local corporate spelling bee: "We're really pleased. This is the highest the Mariners have ever finished."
•Irving Rudd, veteran publicist, on the ego of boxer Hector Camacho: "His greatest dream is to die in his own arms."