Last Tuesday the Daily Racing Form criticized the tactics of trainer Woody Stephens in the Preakness. SI's William Nack responds:
As it justifiably proclaims on its masthead, the Form is "America's Turf Authority." Horseplayers around the nation daily consult its past-performance charts like so many historians studying the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Form, impartial chronicler of racing, rarely takes a strong editorial stance.
So the horse racing world was struck with a sense of dismay and disbelief when the Form, in a front-page editorial entitled "The Spoiler," accused Stephens of "dishonorable tactics," "unsportinglike[sic] conduct," and "contemptuous action" for his part in bringing about the defeat in the Preakness of Winning Colors, the filly who had won the Kentucky Derby.
June 5, 1988
Stephens did no more than instruct jockey Pat Day to send his colt, Forty Niner, to the lead against the front-running filly rather than allow her to steal off alone, as she had in winning both the Kentucky and Santa Anita derbies. The two horses brushed a few times, and no doubt the duel for the lead ultimately hurt Winning Colors—she finished third—but as Clinton Pitts Jr., the chief steward at Pimlico, said, "There was never any bumping hard enough to be construed as a bump."
Yet the editorial claimed that Stephens "set out to insure the defeat of Winning Colors...rather than concentrate on how he would plan to win the race with his own horse." The diatribe reached a crescendo with: "The puzzlement is why Stephens...would stoop to such dishonorable tactics."
The real puzzlement is why the Form took such a wrongheaded stance. To make matters worse, on the day after the editorial appeared. Gene Klein, the owner of Winning Colors, said that Stephens was a "despicable, jealous old man" who should be "ruled off the track." Both the Form and Klein owe Stephens a big apology.
Work in sports doesn't seem to rate, at least not very highly, according to the recently published Jobs Rated Almanac. Of the 250 kinds of employment listed, the highest ranked sports-related job—way down at No. 135—is that of sports instructor. Other rankings: major league baseball umpire (153), NCAA basketball coach (159), race car driver (204), jockey (209), NBA player (214), major league baseball player (222) and NFL player (241).
The ratings system is complex—it's based on analyzing jobs in 96 different ways—but the determining factors can be boiled down to these six: salary, stress, work environment, growth potential, security and physical demands. While professional athletes are paid very well, their salaries are offset by their lack of job security and the rigorous physical and psychological demands of their calling.
The No. 1 job turned out to be that of actuary, followed by computer programmer, computer systems analyst, mathematician and statistician. "These jobs are performed in clean, well-lighted, comfortable surroundings," says Les Krantz, the editor and publisher of the Almanac. "They tend to be pampered jobs."
Still, it's hard to believe that the only occupations worse than a pro football player are cowboy, lumberjack, (oil field) roustabout, dairy farmer, seaman, roofer, construction worker, fisherman and migrant worker. Even Krantz admits, "Just about everything I grew up wanting to be—a cowboy, a fireman, a baseball player—doesn't look so good anymore. All my childhood dreams are shattered."
TWO REAL PROS
Last Wednesday, just before the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, Hall of Fame golfer Byron Nelson, 76, and Dick Taylor, the 63-year-old editor-in-chief of Golf World magazine, suffered arrhythmic heart disturbances within minutes of each other. As the two waited for ambulances to arrive, Taylor made a special request. "Put me in with Byron," he said. "I want an exclusive."
Nelson and Taylor are recovering nicely from their scares.
Baseball, or any sport, for that matter, demands that its decisions be made fairly and with an even hand. Yet recent decisions handed down by the presidents of the National and American leagues are anything but even-handed. National League president A. Bartlett Giamatti suspended Cincinnati manager Pete Rose for 30 days and fined him $10,000 for pushing umpire Dave Pallone (SI, May 9). The punishment was overly severe, but more appropriate than the laughably lenient $300 fine that American League president Bobby Brown imposed on Yankee manager Billy Martin for kicking dirt on umpire Tim Welke (SCORECARD, May 30).
Last week Giamatti seemed to contradict his law-and-order stance by suspending Dodger star Pedro Guerrero for four days and fining him $1,000 for throwing a bat at Mets pitcher David Cone, who had just hit him with a curve. Said Rose, "How can that be? Is throwing a bat less than shoving an umpire after the umpire hits you in the face first? If he [Guerrero] had thrown the bat at an umpire, he'd have got life. I heard the other day that when Giamatti was at Yale, he wanted to be American League president. I wish he had made it."
Throwing a bat is one of the basic taboos in baseball because it is inherently dangerous. It can also incite an on-field brawl, as it nearly did when Guerrero flung his bat at Cone. When Bert Campaneris of the A's threw his bat at Detroit pitcher Lerrin LaGrow during the 1972 American League Championship Series, he was given an immediate three-game suspension and $500 fine and then another seven-day suspension at the beginning of the 1973 season.
The next time a player intentionally throws his bat at someone, we suggest that Giamatti or Brown throw the book at the player.
During the NCAA Final Four in Kansas City, four college basketball coaches were arrested for allegedly trying to scalp tickets to the games (SCORECARD, April 11). One of them, former University of North Dakota assistant coach Don Rockstad, was found not guilty of the charge on May 6, and charges were recently dropped against two others, Iowa Wesleyan coach Jerry Olson and Montana State assistant Ron Anderson.
The case cost Rockstad $800 in legal fees and, more important, his reputation. Even before the Final Four he had lost his job at North Dakota after the head coach, Dave Gunther, quit to become the assistant athletic director, and he says he has been able to get only one interview for another coaching position. Says Rockstad, "I have been in coaching for 22 years and have never had an employment problem till now."
Bates Motel, a 1983 Eclipse Award-winning thoroughbred named after the setting for the scary goings-on in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, is the sire of a pretty good filly currently training at New York's Belmont Park. Movie buffs will be pleased to know that the filly's name is Last Shower.
HOW ABOUT TWO KAISERS FOR A PALLONE?
Baseball fans can now yell "trade the UMP!" Last Friday 100,000 sets of baseball umpire cards went on the market, thanks to Tom Nielsen, a 39-year-old executive in a San Diego construction company. "These guys stand out there for nine innings," says Nielsen. "They deserve some recognition."
Nielsen, who was an avid card collector as a kid, got the idea after talking with his friend Ed Runge, a retired American League umpire. Nielsen asked him why there weren't any ump cards, and Runge said that at one time there were. He then pulled out a 1955 Bowman Gum Co. card of himself to prove it. Nielsen also talked to Ed's son, Paul Runge, currently a National League ump, and Paul thought cards would be a great idea because the umpires were getting more and more requests from fans for autographed pictures. So Nielsen went to the Major League Umpires Association, which subjected him to an extensive background check. The umpires ultimately gave their approval to Nielsen's venture in exchange for royalties and complimentary sets of the cards.
There are 64 different cards: 60 individual cards, cards of the 1987 All-Star Game and World Series crews, a checklist card and a Jocko Conlan card, honoring the only living umpire in the Hall of Fame. The individual cards include date and place of birth, years of service and appearances in the League Championship Series. World Series and All-Star Games, as well as a brief bio. The height of each umpire is listed, but the weight is omitted—a blessing for some of the heftier men in blue.
Although Nielsen intends the first issue—which will retail for $12 to $15 a set—for serious dealers, he has been inundated with calls from just plain fans. It seems the recent incident involving Cincinnati manager Pete Rose and ump Dave Pallone has increased the visibility of all umpires. "The timing couldn't have been better," says Nielsen.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Nantz, CBS broadcaster, at a roast for University of Miami football coach Jimmy Johnson: "The only time Jimmy didn't run up a score was 27 years ago when he took the SAT."