SHORTFALLS AND SURPRISES
This is an article from the Nov. 21, 1988 issue
SI's Robert Sullivan attended last weekend's USOC executive board meeting in Minneapolis. He reports:
•The Turner Broadcasting System announced that it will produce a weekly show called US Olympic Gold featuring world-class competition. The show will debut on superstation TBS on Jan. 7 with a boxing matchup between the U.S. and South Korea. "We hope every Olympic sport will appear at least once in the first 12 to 18 months, and that some will appear on a six-, eight-or nine-times-a-year basis," TBS senior executive vice-president Robert Wussler said.
•The USOC is facing a $5 million to $8 million shortfall in its most recent quadrennial budget of $149.9 million. Contributing factors: A direct-mail campaign conducted during the Seoul Games to solicit contributions didn't do as well as anticipated, and recent state and local fund-raising failed to meet quotas. Also, the 1988 Olympic coin program has fizzled and will be lucky to net half the projected $50 million. The Seoul Games obviously didn't generate much enthusiasm in the U.S. for things Olympian, as NBC's disappointing TV ratings also indicated.
•USOC president Robert Helmick was nominated for another four-year term and will almost certainly be reelected at next February's House of Delegates meeting in Portland, Ore. New York Yankee boss George Steinbrenner, for the past four years a public-sector board member, was nominated for one of three USOC vice-presidential posts, reflecting his increasing clout in the organization. The Steinbrenner-chaired Olympic Overview Commission, established during the Calgary Winter Games and charged with finding ways to strengthen the U.S. Olympic movement, is expected to complete its report in time for the February convention.
•A battle over the USOC executive director's job may be shaping up. Baaron Pittenger, who now holds the position, wants to stay on for at least four more years, but some USOC members are said to favor dumping the quiet, Harvard-educated Pittenger in favor of a more dynamic, higher-profile type. Mike Jacki, the executive director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation, is known to be interested. And strangely enough, Southeastern Conference commissioner Harvey Schiller—who held the USOC post for only 19 days last January before quitting and returning to the SEC for personal and health reasons—is back in the picture. "I'm a big Harvey Schiller man," said Steinbrenner. These days, that's no minor endorsement.
REACH FOR A TISSUE
A joke making the rounds has it that Oakland A's slugger Jose Canseco, whose team hit a paltry .177 in losing the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, ought to make a commerical for Kleenex. His line would be, "They pop up one at a time."
BEATEN LIKE A DRUM
Four members of the Marshall University football team took a pounding the other night—from music students, no less. The players sat onstage in the packed, 460-seat Smith Recital Hall in Huntington, W.Va., as tuxedoed members of Marshall's percussion ensemble whacked them on the shoulder pads and helmets with an assortment of implements, including drumsticks, mallets, brushes and little plastic toy hammers that made pops and whistles.
The percussionists were performing a six-minute composition written by ensemble director Ben Miller and entitled Chaumpin'! in honor of Thundering Herd football coach George Chaump. Miller decided to compose the piece after watching a Marshall game; he found the sounds of colliding pads and helmets intriguing and realized that a football-related number might attract more people to his ensemble's fall concert, which typically draws about 300. "I wanted there to be an audience for my students, who I think play very well," he says.
Miller scheduled the football number as the finale of the otherwise traditional percussion concert. The listeners gave Chaumpin'!, which had a zany, tickey-tock flavor to it, a standing ovation, but Miller didn't take the cheering too seriously. ''We're not talking Beethoven here," he said.
ONE THET GOT AWAYE
You think little things don't count in college football recruiting? Michigan sophomore running back Tony Boles, who has rushed for 1,256 yards this season, says he always dreamed of attending Georgia. He was born in Thomasville, Ga., and rooted for the Bulldogs even after his family moved to Florida and then to Michigan. But Boles changed his mind as soon as the first recruiting letter arrived from Georgia coach Vince Dooley's office. It was addressed to "Tony Bowles." Boles figured if the Dawgs couldn't even spell his name right, they really didn't care about him very much. So he went to Michigan.
As noted recently in our LETTERS column (Nov. 7), Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach, Calif., boasts eight Olympic medal winners among its alumni, including four medalists from this year's Games in Seoul. There must be something in the name: Woodrow Wilson High of Dallas is the only high school to have produced two Heisman Trophy winners, Davey O'Brien (TCU, 1938) and Tim Brown (Notre Dame, 1987).
IT WAS A SPLENDID OCCASION
You're not going to make me cry," Ted Williams said last Thursday night. He had just watched videotaped tributes to him from Ronald Reagan and George Bush and then turned away from the crowd of 4,000 in Boston's Wang Center to wipe his eyes.
The event was "An Evening with #9 and Friends," and it was the first time that the former Red Sox great, who's now 70, had ever agreed to a night honoring him. He had consented on this occasion only because it was a charity affair benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund, a cause Williams has supported for more than 40 years.
The stage was set as a fishing lodge, in recognition of Williams's lifelong love of angling, and one by one friends and luminaries stopped in to pay tribute. Among them were former big leaguers Joe and Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr and Bob Feller, former House Speaker Tip O'Neill, horror novelist Stephen King and U.S. Senator John Glenn, who flew in the same Korean War squadron as Williams. Doerr best summed up Williams by comparing him to General George Patton: "No retreat, no compromise."
Glenn told of Williams's radioing a message to him while their squadron was on a bombing mission over North Korea in 1953: "He said to me, 'I think I'm in a little trouble.' Sure enough, his plane had been hit. He flew back, took it down without landing gear, and within a minute of his escaping, the plane just melted on the runway." Glenn pointed out that Williams lost five years in the prime of his career while serving in World War II and Korea, "but it only makes him more of a hero."
"I just wish I could have voted for you," answered Williams, who campaigned for his old fishing and tennis pal Bush in this year's presidential race. "But you had to be a——Democrat."
The presence of Joe DiMaggio made the evening particularly special. He and Williams had rarely appeared together, even during their playing careers. "We weren't close," said the Yankee Clipper. "But in our days, fraternization was strictly forbidden, so our relationship was his team against my team, except for the All-Star Game. We never hunted or fished or went out to dinner together, so there wasn't really any relationship between us. What we had, more than anything else, was admiration for one another."
"One reason Ted and Joe never got to know one another is that they are so much alike," observed Dom DiMaggio, the former Red Sox centerfielder, who appeared in three All-Star Games with his brother and Williams. "They were both terribly competitive, and because the press tried to pry into each one's private life, each withdrew. Hey, except for the All-Star Games, I hardly ever saw Joe, either."
For his part, Williams called Joe DiMaggio "the best player of my time." Joe D, in turn, described Williams as "absolutely the best hitter I ever saw." He added, "I never felt the comparisons between us were fair. It was either Ted, or it was me. But I realize now that it was flattering, because what people were saying was that at that time we were the best." Last week the Splendid Splinter finally allowed himself to bask in some of that acclaim.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Fox, Los Angeles Kings right wing, complaining about the skating surface at a Culver City, Calif., practice rink: "I've seen better ice on my windshield."