SEE NO EVIL
One of the more appalling off-the-field incidents involving athletes this year was a dispute in January that began when three Georgia Tech football players, apparently drunk, verbally abused two young women at a pizza parlor near campus (SI, Feb. 27). One of the players, 6'4", 245-pound linebacker Kevin Salisbury, ended up punching Tech student Lisa Steffee in the face, breaking her nose. Salisbury and 6'7", 321-pound offensive tackle Mike Mooney then beat up Steffee's boyfriend. An off-duty policeman and Jim Lavin, a 6'5", 272-pound guard, also became involved in the fracas.
Soon afterward Mooney pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and was fined $975. Lavin pleaded guilty to one count of disorderly conduct and was fined $650. In March the two players violated their university-imposed probation, had their scholarships revoked and left school. Salisbury remained on scholarship, and still awaits trial on a charge of aggravated battery.
Astonishingly, not one of the three players will miss a game because of his misdeeds. Coach Bobby Ross has given Mooney and Lavin, who attended summer school, their scholarships back and told them they have clean slates. Salisbury has never been punished, even though he admitted hitting Steffee, who had to undergo plastic surgery as a result of the blow.
August 20, 1989
A school with integrity would tell players like Salisbury, Mooney and Lavin to stay off the football field for a while—maybe all season—and think about what they did. Georgia Tech has decided to forgive and forget and concentrate on football.
A SOUND PHILOSOPHY
By contrast, defending national champion Notre Dame did not hesitate to bar three of its top football players from playing this season. Defensive tackle George Williams was declared academically ineligible, and tailback Tony Brooks and All-America linebacker Michael Stonebreaker were dropped for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.
Brooks, the second-leading rusher for the Irish last season, was not even allowed to reenroll in the university. He had been suspended from spring practice for an unspecified rules violation and had withdrawn from school after being implicated in a hit-and-run accident. Stonebreaker had suffered serious knee and hip injuries in a February automobile accident in which he was driving while intoxicated. The university placed him on probation, but he apparently violated that probation recently by driving a friend's car on campus. "These matters are handled by university officials," said Irish coach Lou Holtz in announcing the banishments. "They do not consult with me."
Holtz seemed to find the punishment a bit harsh, but he bit the bullet. "If you cannot support the university, you need not be employed here," he said. "Notre Dame has a philosophy, and I trust that philosophy."
AND CLEAN UP YOUR ACT
To his credit, San Diego Padres pitcher Bruce Hurst never uses profanity. He does lose his temper at times. When a spectator got excessively abusive toward him the other day, Hurst really lost control and snapped, "Oh, go wash your car!"
SRO IN BUFFALO
Buffalo Bison president Bob Rich Jr. says that each of his Triple A team's home games is a "happening." Bison fans are treated to fireworks, ethnic nights, giveaways, concerts, a costumed mascot (Buster Bison) and terrific ballpark food (everything from manicotti to Buffalo chicken wings). On Broadway Night, 400 fans were given top hats and tuxedo T-shirts and were brought onto the field to set an unofficial world record for the longest Rockette-style kick line. On Kentucky Derby day, local personalities raced around the field on hobbyhorses.
All of which helps explain why Rich's club, which plays in the American Association, has outdrawn the White Sox and Braves this season and is about to pass the million mark in attendance for the second year in a row. In 1988 the Bisons drew a minor league record 1,186,651 fans for 72 home games. Only one other minor league team, the 1983 Louisville Redbirds, has ever brought in a million spectators in a season.
Remarkably, two-year-old Pilot Field, at which the Bisons play, seats only 19,500, and the team isn't even in first place. "Buffalo is just a great sports town," says Rich. Some might say it's a Rich sports town: Bob Jr. is also vice-chairman of the NHL Sabres, and his family—owners of Rich Products, the nation's largest privately held frozen food manufacturer—contributed to the building of Rich Stadium, in which the NFL Bills play.
Rich is angling for a major league baseball franchise. He points out that Pilot Field could be expanded to accommodate 40,000, and he estimates that a big league team would attract two million fans a year. "Sure it snows in Buffalo, but not during baseball season," says Rich. "During the season we get more sunshine than any other city in the American League East. Buffalo summers are delightful."
DYNAMIC DUO DIVORCE
The most successful doubles partnership in tennis history has ended not with a bang but a whimper. "We've kind of grown apart," a despondent-sounding Pam Shriver said in announcing that she would no longer team with Martina Navratilova.
Shriver said that she and Navratilova had been having more and more scheduling conflicts and that by Wimbledon last month, playing together "wasn't fun.... It had lost its lightness." Navratilova and Shriver lost at Wimbledon, just as they had at two of the previous three Grand Slam events. The edge had come off their once dominant game, and Navratilova apparently thought the time had come to find a new partner. She will play with Hana Mandlikova at the U.S. Open later this month; Shriver is still looking for a partner.
Since teaming up in 1981, Navratilova and Shriver had won a record 74 doubles championships, including 20 Grand Slam titles, also a record. Between April 1983 and July 1985 they ran off a 109-match winning streak, the longest of any doubles team in history. In 1984 they swept all four Grand Slam events. Until Shriver and Navratilova came along, the most accomplished doubles team—men or women—had been the American duo of Louise Brough and Margaret Osborne duPont, who won 19 majors between 1942 and 1957. Shriver and Navratilova won more Grand Slam doubles titles in eight years than Brough and duPont did in 15.
Three years ago, at a restaurant in England, Shriver wrote PARTNERS FOR LIFE on a napkin, and both she and Navratilova giddily signed it. But times change. Said Shriver, "It will be interesting to play against her at the U.S. Open."
HAVE BALL, WILL TRAVEL
The brief Arena Football League season will come to an end on Friday night when the Detroit Drive and the Pittsburgh Gladiators meet for the championship at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. This year five teams barnstormed the country in a five-week regular season, and four made the playoffs. "This was a bridge season to keep us operating [so that we can] re-stage next year," says Arenaball founder and president Jim Foster, whose league nearly collapsed when franchise operators rebelled in March.
The bridge was a shaky one. Attendance averaged about 5,600 per game, down from 9,000 in '88 and 11,000 in '87, and the league would have folded but for an influx of cash from one sponsor, Little Caesars pizza. Players were paid $250 per week if their team won and $200 if their team lost.
Games were spirited. At one last month, Gladiator coach Joe Haering punched Foster in the head in a dispute over an officiating call. In the Drive's 43-10 playoff win over the Chicago Bruisers last Friday in Detroit, Reggie Smith of the Bruisers began to charge the stands when the crowd of 6,457 booed him and showered him with toy footballs for protesting a call. Fortunately, teammates restrained the 5'7", 170-pound receiver.
The spectators seemed to enjoy this craziness, which suggests there still may be hope for Arenaball. Said one woman, a Detroit Lion fan, after the Drive-Bruisers game, "I found more excitement here tonight than I've seen in several Lion seasons."
FAST BEYOND HIS YEARS?
As noted in last week's story on the World Veterans Championships (SI, Aug. 14), the race is on among masters runners—those 40 and older—to break the four-minute barrier in the mile. The recognized masters record of 4:05.39 was set in June by 40-year-old Wilson Waigwa of Kenya.
But has the four-minute barrier already fallen to a masters runner? Waigwa's countryman Mike Boit, an Olympic bronze medalist at 800 meters in 1972, may have been 40 back in 1985, when he ran a 3:53.28 mile. No one knows Boit's real age, including Boit, whose Nandi tribe—unlike the Kikuyu tribe that Waigwa belongs to—kept few birth or baptismal records until the 1960s. The Jan. 1, 1949, birth date on Boit's passport is a rough guess.
An assortment of evidence hints that Boit is considerably older than 40, including the dates on which he entered school and ran his first outstanding track times. But the most telling fact is that he underwent circumcision, the Nandi rite of passage into manhood, in 1959. "That's the clincher," says Kimeli Chepsiror, Boit's cousin. "Nandi boys are circumcised between 15 and 18—14 at the earliest. There is no way Mike can be less than 44." Boit also admits being "quite a bit older" than Chepsiror, who knows that his own age is 40.
Boit, who ran a 3:55.69 mile as recently as 1987, downplays the debate about his age. "It's probably a little off," he says of his passport birth date, "but it's close enough." While others argue the matter, he hopes to step up his training and perhaps break four minutes again.
IT CARRIED THE WATER
It was the strangest birdie in the 24-year history of the Valencia (Calif.) Country Club. Two club employees found a dead pigeon near the driving range. A band on the bird's leg read 88 SEOUL, indicating that the bird was one of 2,400 pigeons released 6,000 miles away at the Olympic opening ceremonies last September.
"It's pretty unlikely that it made a transpacific passage on its own," says John Trapp, an ornithologist with the U.S. Office of Migratory Bird Management in Arlington, Va. "There are a couple of places, like the Hawaiian Islands, where the bird could have made land while coming across. Or perhaps it was a ship-assisted passage."
That noted, we prefer to let our minds soar and think of it as an Olympian effort.
ARMED WITH A MIRACLE
When Pitcher Dave Dravecky walked into the San Francisco Giants clubhouse in spring training, teammate Kevin Mitchell looked at Dravecky's left arm and said, "My god, it looks like Jaws took a bite out of you!" Mitchell wasn't joking. Last October a surgeon removed a cancerous tumor—and half of the deltoid muscle surrounding it—from Dravecky's pitching arm. The surgeon told Dravecky his six-year major league career was over, and no one—save Dravecky and his wife, Jan—doubted that prognosis.
Dravecky, 33, put his faith in God and grueling therapy sessions. He lifted weights and modified his throwing style to derive power from his shoulder and body instead of his arm. His fastball crept back over 80 mph. He rediscovered his control and deft ability to change speeds. Dravecky was a pitcher reborn.
On Thursday came the clincher. Dravecky took the mound at Candlestick Park for his first big league start since May 1988, and he beat Cincinnati 4-3. A crowd of 34,810 gave Dravecky more than half a dozen standing ovations. Jan cried and cried. "I've been in five World Series," said San Francisco manager Roger Craig later. "I've seen Don Larsen pitch a perfect game. But I don't think I've seen a game with as much excitement as there was out there today."
Dravecky hit speeds as high as 88 on the radar gun, walked only one batter and took a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning, when he hung a slider that Reds second baseman Luis Quinones belted for a three-run homer. Dravecky was removed for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the eighth, prompting a thunderous curtain call. He stepped out of the dugout, waved thanks and then punched a fist—the left one—in the air.
Dravecky said he hadn't felt nervous, that he had worked out any jitters in three performances for Giants farm teams in late July and early August. Because of injuries to other starting pitchers, the Giants will count on Dravecky to help keep them in first place in the National League West. That's fine with Dravecky. As San Francisco catcher Terry Kennedy put it after Thursday's game, "It was like he'd never been away."
THEY SAID IT
•Chi Chi Rodriguez, senior golfer, who claims he eats steak every day: "They say red meat is bad for you, but I never saw a sick-looking tiger."
•Dennis Erickson, University of Miami football coach, giving his definition of a fan: "A guy who sits on the 40, criticizes the coaches and the players, and has all the answers. Then he leaves the stadium and can't find his car."
•Sparky Anderson, manager of the woebegone Detroit Tigers, upon hearing that Michigan Governor James Blanchard has declared Sept. 10 Sparky Anderson Day in the state: "How do you get a day out of a year like this?"