BAD WORDS, BAD LAW
Frank Deford reports from the U.S. Open: John McEnroe worried out loud Saturday night that he would be a candidate for "crucifixion" in the press because of the unbelievably filthy language he shouted at Richard Ings, the chair umpire, and at a TV technician during his match against Slobodan Zivojinovic. Well, don't you worry your fretful little head about us, Junior. Instead we salute you for getting away with what is surely the vilest verbal exhibition in sports history.
McEnroe not only assaulted two perfectly decent men with gutter language of the worst sort, but he also did it in a crowded public arena, and over the air. CBS mercifully had cut away for a commercial in the U.S. at the time, but no one knows how many millions of people heard the outburst around the world over the network's international feed.
In any other sport, McEnroe would have been thrown out of the game and then suspended for a significant period of time. Instead he was only assessed a one-game penalty on the court, and then later fined $17,500 and suspended for two months by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC). The money is chicken feed to McEnroe, and the two months off—probably starting around the end of this month—will come during a downtime in tennis. Even the one-game penalty was a big, fat nothing, inasmuch as Zivojinovic, a superb server, was at the top of his form and would surely have held serve.
The umpire, Ings, is only 22; still, he's one of the five regular MIPTC chair officials. But did he dare pull the plug on the U.S. Open's favorite American drawing card? And McEnroe knows just how far this celebrity license goes. Once he had taken Ings to the brink, he never uttered another of his (as he primly calls them) "bad words." "I'm an old pro in that situation," he boasted afterward.
At least there are now some long-term teeth in tennis discipline. The next time McEnroe accumulates $7,500 in fines in any 12-month period, his suspension will be for 4 months—and the time after that, 6 months. But the punishment should be more appropriate to the crime. If the chair umpires are afraid to default a box-office star from a televised Grand Slam tournament, then the MIPTC should not merely suspend him from two months of bush-league activity; it should hold him out of comparable future tournaments—say, next year's Wimbledon in this case.
And let's have some sense of proportion in the financial penalty. Mats Wilander, the most gentle of sportsmen, faces a possible fine of $60,000 for—get this—missing a press conference that was scheduled to hype a tournament. The message is clear in men's tennis. An assault on decency is a mere faux pas, but it's a mortal sin to cross anybody with a wallet in a business suit.
Henry Aaron, look out. Mashin' Mike Macenko (SCORECARD, July 20), the slugging second baseman for those behemoths of softball, Steele's Sports, has passed Hammerin' Hank's record of 755 home runs ... and he did it in one season. On Aug. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind., Macenko hit Nos. 755, 756, 757, 758, 759, 760, 761 and 762 in 57-7 and 55-3 wins over Yogi's and the Glenn Center All-Stars, respectively. About the only real goal left for Macenko, who had a .751 BA and 1,422 RBIs with three weeks left in the season, was to hit that toll-free number—800.
MR. POTATO DEAD
It was the 137th game of a 140-game season, and Dave Bresnahan, the catcher for the Williams-port (Pa.) Bills, was feeling bored. The Bills, a Cleveland Indians farm team, were in seventh place in the Class AA Eastern League, 26 games out of first, and Bresnahan had decided to shake things up a little bit. He ended up getting a lot more than he bargained for.
"Some of the players were sitting around having a beer one night," Bresnahan says, "and I told them I had read somewhere about the potato trick. They said, 'Let's do it.' "
On Aug. 31, Bresnahan peeled a potato, and during that night's game against Reading he kept it in a mitt in the dugout, waiting for the right moment. With Reading's Rick Lundblade on third in the fifth inning, Bresnahan told plate umpire Scott Potter that he was having trouble with his mitt and needed to get a different one. When he came back from the dugout, the potato was hidden in his glove.
While setting up for the next pitch, Bresnahan switched the potato to his free hand, caught the ball and immediately fired the potato wildly over the head of third baseman Oscar Mejia. When Lundblade saw what he thought was the ball fly into leftfield, he came trotting home, only to be tagged out by a smiling Bresnahan.
Because Bresnahan had deceived the runner, Potter ruled Lundblade safe, which didn't particularly please Bills manager Orlando Gomez. The flinty Gomez yanked Bresnahan from the game at the end of the inning and fined him $50; the next day the Indians gave him his unconditional release. "You can't fool around with the integrity of the game," huffed Jeff Scott, Cleveland's director of player development. "Once you get on the field, the game is sacred." Surprised by the team's reaction, Bresnahan said he was "just trying to put some fun into the game. I mean, it's not like it was the seventh game of the World Series."
A 25-year-old backup catcher hitting .149 in the minors isn't exactly a prospect, and as one Indians official said, "I guess he just decided to retire himself." Still, Bresnahan said he had no idea he would be treated like Mr. Potato Head. "Bresnahan took it pretty hard when I told him he was released," said Gomez, sounding faintly satisfied with himself. "But I won't tolerate that kind of stuff."
Two days later Gomez allowed Oscar Mejia to play every position, including pitcher, in the Bills' final game. The club had the nerve to promote that game as Potato Night, allowing any fan with a potato in for a dollar instead of the customary $2.75. In lieu of paying his fine, Bresnahan dumped 50 potatoes on Gomez's desk, and he then went into the stands and autographed potatoes, adding the inscription, "This spud's for you." When last heard from, Bresnahan said he was thinking he might run for governor of Idaho.
There's no need to panic, but we just thought we would let you know that Gary Cohen, who was the Bird for the Baltimore Orioles last year, is now working as an air traffic controller in Virginia.
NOT GETTING OLDER, JUST BETTER
At the NBA'S summer league a few years ago in Los Angeles, some assistant coaches and a reporter slipped away from the airport hotel where the teams were billeted to take in the sights at Manhattan Beach. They were applying suntan lotion and staring wistfully at the scenery when suddenly Jack Ramsay, then the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, burst from a crashing wave and strode majestically out of the sea. He couldn't have looked more like Neptune if he'd been carrying a trident.
It was immediately obvious that Ramsay, who was then in his late 50's, was in considerably better shape than anyone in the by-then-slack-jawed gathering on the beach. He stopped long enough to say hello and then went loping off on a run along the strand. Ramsay was in the midst of one of the grinding workouts that have now made him, at age 62, one of the top senior triathletes in the country. He plans to compete for the first time in the U.S. triathlon series national championship on Sept. 27 in Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Ramsay competed in his first triathlon (a combination of a 9-mile run, a 1.2-mile swim and a 25-mile bike ride) five years ago. jogging 9-minute miles and taking 44 minutes to swim the mile. At a recent triathlon in Chicago, he ran 8½-minute miles and did the mile swim in 30 minutes. "And that was with 2,000 people in the water," he says.
After last season, during which he coached the Indiana Pacers into the playoffs for the first time since 1981, Ramsay rode a bike nearly 700 miles from Indianapolis to his home in Ocean City, N.J.
"I enjoy the workouts," Ramsay says. "It's not so much work as something I like to do. You've got to get out there and show them, and this helps." Asked what his players think of his training regimen, Ramsay says, "They probably question my sanity, as do many of my friends."
THEY SAID IT
•Tim Flannery, San Diego Padres second baseman, on the time he had a 14-game hitting streak: "I'm superstitious, and every night after I got a hit, I ate Chinese food and drank tequila. I had to stop hitting or die."
•John Wathan, upon informing his wife on Aug. 27 that he'd been named manager of the Kansas City Royals: "I asked her, 'How'd you like to be married to a major league manager?' And she said, 'What, is Tommy Lasorda getting a divorce?' "