HE ALWAYS WAS SECRETIVE
On the front page of the Oct. 30 St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch, a photograph showing the world champion Minnesota Twins during their visit to the White House ran with this caption: "President Reagan proudly displays his Twins uniform shirt as Twins players and staff gather around on Thursday. Onlookers, from left, are Frank Viola, Howard Fox, ah unidentified Secret Service agent in dark glasses, Sal Butera, Kent Hrbek and Steve Lombardozzi."
The unnamed Secret Service agent in dark glasses was actually mysterious future Hall of Famer and current Twins pitcher Steve Carlton.
TIGER ON THE LOOSE
November 9, 1987
On the field, Auburn quarterback Jeff Burger is a straight drop-back passer, but the way he has been avoiding suspensions off the gridiron makes him one of the great scrambling quarterbacks of all time. During the summer Auburn revoked Burger's eligibility when assistant coach Pat Sullivan bailed him out of jail—he'd been arrested for illegally carrying a concealed weapon—in violation of NCAA regulations. Then, before the Tigers played their first game, the NCAA reinstated him. Burger also faced academic suspension for plagiarism, but he was saved by Auburn's vice-president for academic affairs, Warren Brandt, who overturned a decision by the school's Academic Honesty Committee.
On Oct. 11, Burger accepted a free airplane ride from a teammate's friend to go dove hunting, thus violating an NCAA rule against "extra benefits." Auburn declared Burger ineligible on Oct. 28—and asked the NCAA to restore his eligibility immediately, which the NCAA obligingly did the next day.
Auburn did impose four conditions on Burger: 1) He had to repay the teammate's friend for the airfare; 2) he had to write letters of apology to Auburn president Jim Martin and SEC commissioner Harvey Schiller for initially refusing to cooperate in the investigation of the hunting trip; 3) he must perform 40 hours of community service before Dec. 23; and 4) he could not start against Florida Saturday night.
Auburn coach Pat Dye turned the last condition into a joke when he sent Burger in to replace starting quarterback Reggie Slack after one play. Burger then led the Tigers to a 29-6 victory over the Gators.
In the meantime, an Iowa State freshman volleyball player, Tracy Graham, remains ineligible even to practice with her team because she took the ACT college entrance examination on a date not approved by the NCAA (SCORECARD, Sept. 28). Iowa State has so far made four separate requests for immediate relief to four different NCAA committees on behalf of this model student-athlete, but they have all been denied.
THE COURT'S MERCY
A recent case in Atlanta Traffic Court involved a baseball fan who was ticketed for ignoring a DO NOT ENTER sign on a street near Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The fan, who attends 30 to 40 Braves games a year, claimed he hadn't noticed the sign in question, and his lawyer produced several witnesses who testified that when they traveled to the ballpark to watch the Braves with the defendant, they hadn't noticed it either. Judge Barry Zimmerman finally cut off the testimony of the third witness by saying, "Are you going to tell me you go to 30 Braves games a year, too? Is this going to be an insanity defense?"
Zimmerman then dismissed the charges. The judge figured the defendant had suffered enough.
FORGET IT (CONT.)
When the clock struck midnight on Halloween, an unclaimed pari-mutuel ticket from Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., turned into a $58,850.80 pumpkin. That's because time ran out on the owner of the Pik Six ticket that was purchased on Dec. 8, 1985, for $1,944 and was worth $77,434.80 before taxes. It's believed to be the largest uncashed wager in the history of horse racing, as we mentioned in our SCORECARD of Oct. 6, 1986.
That report, however, incorrectly gave the deadline for cashing the ticket as Nov. 1, 1988. While we feel pretty dumb about that, think how the person who bought the ticket would feel—in the unlikely event that he (or she) ever discovered the mistake. Said Turfway mutuel manager Gerry Kramer as the clock ticked away, "If a bettor is serious enough to play $1,900 on the Pik Six, you would think he (or she) would be conscientious enough to triple-check and hang on to the ticket. We want to pay out the money. The racetrack operator doesn't benefit from the money being taken out of circulation." One educated guess as to why no one has come forward to collect the money: The ticketseller erred when keying in the horse numbers, and the buyer, not realizing the ticket was a winner, threw it away. That's why racetrack scavengers, called "stoopers," keep an eye to the ground.
The trick may have been on that poor bettor, but the treat will be on the Kentucky State Racing Commission, which will put the money into a health and welfare fund for needy racetrack personnel. So instead of one happy ending, there will be many.
Three controversial calls in Game 7 of the World Series have revived cries for the use of instant replay in baseball, or at least during the Series. Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth flatly rejects the notion, and we agree with his stance.
An instant-replay system would consume time and interrupt the natural flow of the game, as did the epidemic of bat removals during the short-lived corking controversies this summer. And there's no certainty that stationary cameras can consistently prove whether a player is out or safe.
Worse, instant replays would undermine the umpires' authority. Baseball umpires enjoy a level of control on the field unrivaled by officials in any other sport, and though they may sometimes overstep their authority, their strong presence is essential to the game. "It's naive to think that technology will be able to replace judgment," says National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti. "One of the beauties of baseball is that a single game is made up of an enormous variety of judgments—by the players, the managers and the umpires. If the object of the game was perfection, we'd have machines pitching and hitting."
The irony of the missed calls in Game 7 was that they were made by home plate umpire Dave Phillips and first base umpire Lee Weyer, two of the more respected men in blue. The same holds true for Don Denkinger, who missed a crucial play at first base in Game 6 of the 1985 Series. These were accidents, and they don't happen all that often.
If baseball wanted to improve the quality of umpiring in its showcase events, it would do away with the rotation system now in effect for the All-Star Game, the League Championship Series and the World Series. As things stand, every umpire must work one of those events at least once every three years. The leagues should select their best each year for their most important games.
THE LOWDOWN ON A HIGH-STICKING
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia flyers were playing an exciting 2-2 hockey game in Madison Square Garden on Oct. 26 when, deep into the third period, Flyer right wing Dave Brown blindsided Ranger right wing Tomas Sandstrom with a vicious cross-check to the neck and jaw. Sandstrom lay semiconscious on the ice for a frightening minute before he was helped from the arena and taken to a hospital for X-rays, which showed no fractures. Brown was given a match penalty, and on Monday the NHL suspended him for a total of 15 games.
Nearly as reprehensible as Brown's act of violence were the reactions of Flyer partisans. Here, for instance, is a partial transcript of the call of the play on Philadelphia TV station WGBS by Bob Taylor and Gene Hart:
Hart—"He [Sandstrom] is now going to play dead and hopes that he gets another five-minute major as he did last year in the game in Philadelphia.
Taylor—"...He's going to go down there to make sure he doesn't get up [because] he might have to answer to it.... Acting school."
The announcers issued a mild apology the next night. In his story on the game in the Philadelphia Daily News, Jay Greenberg wrote: "Regular season hockey doesn't get any better than this, even though the finger-waggers and moralists were later heard claiming that the high stick...in the third period had spoiled everything."
The Flyers responded to the incident by signing free agent and noted enforcer Nick Fotiu—no doubt in anticipation of the suspension of Brown.
The reaction that counts is the one from the league, and although it ranks as one of the stiffest suspensions ever handed down, it still is not strong enough to quiet us finger-waggers and moralists. Brown should have been banished for at least 20 games, and the Flyers should not have been allowed to replace Brown on their roster.
THEY SAID IT
•Billy Tubbs, Oklahoma basketball coach, on the similarity of his offense to that of the football Sooners: "We like to run, and nobody likes to pass."
•Bob Brenly, San Francisco Giants catcher, on the outrageous wardrobe of teammate Kevin Mitchell: "He's the only guy I know who does his clothes shopping at the San Diego Zoo. He puts five animals on the endangered species list with one outfit."