Born to Lose
Miami and Denver will get the same old leftovers
Faye Throneberry. Marion Zipfel. Merritt Ranew. Choo Choo Coleman.
Those were some of the not-quite-household names in the original baseball expansion drafts, in 1960 and '61. Back then the Los Angeles Angels, Washington Senators, Houston Colt .45s and New York Mets each paid $2 million to join the major leagues. Last week baseball's ownership committee recommended that Denver and Miami be given the right to pay entry fees of $95 million apiece. And what will the two new franchises be getting for their money? Faye Throneberry. Marion Zipfel. Merritt Ranew. Choo Choo Coleman.
Thirty years ago, major league teams were able to protect 15 players from the draft. That tradition continued when the two leagues decided to expand in 1968 and the American League grew again, in '76. Lou Gorman, now the Boston Red Sox general manager, represented the Kansas City Royals at the '68 American League draft, and he recalls, "After we took three players—Roger Nelson, Joe Foy and Jim Rooker—Ewing Kauffman [the Royals' owner] asked me what was left. I told him not much. He said, 'Why don't we just give 'em the money and not take the players?' "
June 23, 1991
Plans for the coming expansion draft, in November 1992, call for much the same setup as the earlier ones had: Each established club gets to freeze 15 players, an additional three players after it loses one, and another three after a second player is chosen. The one significant change this time is that the other league will be adding to the pool for the first time. Commissioner Fay Vincent ruled two weeks ago that each American League club will get $3 million of the $190 million expansion fee and that, in return, each team must provide players for the draft pool. (Predictably, both leagues griped about the deal.)
The inclusion of American League players means merely that Miami and Denver will have more mediocre players to choose from, not better ones. As former Houston Astro general manager Tal Smith, who conducted a couple of mock drafts as a consultant to several of the expansion groups, says, "You're not going to see a whole lot of quality. The new teams may be able to get a few fading veterans, but that's all."
In their first year of competition, the 10 previous expansion teams had a combined winning percentage of .369. The worst, of course, was Choo Choo's 1962 Mets, with .250; the best was Throneberry's '61 Angels, at .435. It's time to change the rules. Decreasing the number of players who can be protected by existing teams would be a big help. So would giving the new teams priority in next year's amateur draft.
The Denver and Miami baseball people are too happy now to complain. But for $95 million, they deserve competitive teams. All baseball fans deserve that.
Jack McCallum assesses the upcoming NBA draft
There is no clear-cut No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft, scheduled for June 26 at Madison Square Garden, but there is a lot of talent at the top. Here's a quick look at what the teams with the 11 lottery picks are likely to do:
1. Hornets—They might surprise and go for Dikembe Mutombo of Georgetown, but they'll probably play it safe with UNLV forward Larry Johnson.
2. Nets—Syracuse swingman Billy Owens is the probable choice, but some in the organization want Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson.
3. Kings—They covet only one man—point guard Anderson. He will be their quarterback from Day 1.
4. Nuggets—They want to go big. And Mutombo, who is 7'2" and 245 pounds, is big.
5. Heat—Facing a question mark at point guard (restricted free-agent Sherman Douglas is unsigned), the Heat is hot for Anderson. If it can't trade up to get him, it'll settle for Doug Smith, the Missouri power forward.
6. Mavericks—They could take New Mexico center Luc Longley as insurance for the troubled Roy Tarpley and the hobbled James Donaldson. But they're more likely to select multitalented guard Steve Smith of Michigan State.
7. Timberwolves—They have their eyes fixed on a power forward, and Arizona's Brian Williams is that man.
8. Nuggets again (from the Bullets)—They need a defender—now there's an understatement—and UNLV forward Stacey Augmon is a Dennis Rodman type with better offensive skills.
9. Clippers—Like the Heat, they are desperate for a point guard. UNLV's Greg Anthony is the probable pick, although they might take Terrell Brandon of Oregon.
10. Magic—Having finished the season with journeyman Greg Kite in the pivot, the Magic will take the 7'2" Longley. If he's gone, the pick will be Nebraska's Rich King, who is also 7'2".
11. Cavaliers—They want a shooting guard, and Temple's Mark Macon is the obvious choice.
A Man of Character
Happy Chandler was the players' commissioner
A.B. (Happy) Chandler, who died last week at 92, was baseball's second commissioner and easily its most colorful. In 1945 he gave up a U.S. Senate seat from Kentucky to become commissioner after the death of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. He took the job for both love and money; it paid $50,000 a year, a nice raise from his $10,000 Senate salary.
As a young man in the early 1920s, Chandler was a pitcher on a semipro team, the Lexington Reos, and one of his teammates was Earle Combs, who went on to become the center-fielder on the legendary New York Yankee teams of the '20s. "Earle always laughed at me," Chandler once recalled. "Said I couldn't hit." Maybe not, but Chandler would join Combs in baseball's Hall of Fame in '82.
Chandler's plaque in Cooperstown calls him "the players' commissioner," and he was. One of his most significant accomplishments was signing baseball's first TV contract on the condition that much of the revenue go to the players' pension fund.
But Chandler's greatest contribution was the role he played in breaking the color barrier. As he told the story, the owners had a secret meeting in the winter of 1947 and voted 15-1 against letting the Brooklyn Dodgers put Jackie Robinson on their roster. Soon after that, Dodger G.M. Branch Rickey traveled to Versailles, Ky., to enlist the commissioner's support. Chandler told Rickey to go ahead with his plan to call up Robinson. "I figured that someday I'd have to meet my Maker and that He'd ask me why I didn't let that boy play," Chandler once said. "I was afraid that if I told Him it was because he was black, that wouldn't be sufficient."
—WILLIAM F. REED
Grand jury: No evidence that Dan Fouts was shot
For a year and a half, two San Diego County grand juries investigated charges of corruption in the San Diego police department, including an allegation that Charger quarterback Dan Fouts was shot in 1983 and that the police covered up the incident (SCORECARD, July 30, 1990). According to a story last July in The San Diego Union, former Charger running back Chuck Muncie testified that Fouts had been shot. Fouts has denied being shot, and police have denied any wrongdoing.
Last week the grand jury issued its findings: "The weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that a Charger player was not shot and that therefore San Diego Police officers did not participate in any 'cover up' of such an incident." A new grand jury will be convened on July 1, but it is unlikely that it will reexamine Muncie's allegations.
The National throws in the towel after 16 months
The front-page streamer read THE FAT LADY SINGS OUR SONG. But she had been humming the tune at The National for months, so last week, after losing a reported $100 million in just 16 months, the nation's first and only all-sports daily called it quits. The 393rd and final edition of the New York-based tabloid appeared last Thursday.
When The National debuted on Jan. 31, 1990, it was a promising rookie with a wealth of talent, not to mention cash. Owner Emilio Azcàrraga, a Mexican broadcasting mogul, gave each employee a gold coin worth $500 to commemorate the launch.
But there were setbacks almost from the start. A Sunday edition was canceled after nine months. The plan to localize coverage in virtually every major league city was abandoned. According to The National, the paper needed a circulation of 500,000 to break even, but the highest circulation it ever claimed was 281,000. After the price of 50 cents a copy was raised to 75 cents in January, circulation fell below 200,000.
Azcàrraga came to New York last week to meet with his executives, and afterward he decided to shut down The National. Staffers knew the paper was in trouble, but they were still surprised. A dozen new employees had been hired in the week before Azcàrraga pulled the plug. "We could go on no longer," says Frank Deford, editor and publisher of The National and a former writer for SI. "We had done our best, but it reached a point where he [Azcàrraga] had to get out."
The National was launched at a time when many advertisers were cutting back on their ad budgets. Distribution was also a major difficulty. Dow Jones & Co., owner of The Wall Street Journal, was contracted to deliver the paper, but the trucks couldn't always wait as long as The National wanted, so the paper often didn't have the latest scores. "People were so demanding of late scores," says Deford. "It would have been a piece of cake if we were The Wall Street Journal and all our games were played in the daytime."
But even under the best of circumstances, there just may not have been enough of a demand for The National. Says media analyst John Morton, "While the interest in sports is growing, it is well served. People have their local papers, USA Today, national magazines and TV. Did they really need more?"
The Good Father
A priest sinks a prayer shot worth $57,000
Counting his heroics during Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Bruce Correio's career scoring record at the Los Angeles Forum is now 4 for 5 from the free throw line, 1 for 1 from three-point range and $61,000. That's a pretty secular stats line for a Catholic priest.
With 3:35 left in the third quarter of the June 12 series-clinching game, the Chicago Bulls, who were leading the Lakers 73-71, called a timeout. A red carpet was promptly rolled onto the Forum floor, and Correio, clad in civilian clothes, dribbled a basketball onto the floor. It was time for the Wherehouse/Maxell Half-court Shootout, a contest in which a fan tries to sink a shot from half court to win a cash jackpot. For this game, the shot was worth $57,000. "I just wanted to make sure it wouldn't be an air ball," says the 5'8" associate pastor of St. Genevieve's Church in Panorama City, Calif. (He is so wild about basketball that his parishioners call him Father J.)
Father Bruce had actually been in a similar situation at the Forum on April Fool's Day 1990. Then, he sank four of five free throws, worth a grand apiece. This time, the 35-year-old priest swished his Magic-style hook, much to the surprise of everyone, including Laker play-by-play man Chick Hearn. Noting Correio's place of employment, Hearn said, "He must be the janitor."
No, but the good father did clean up. Father Bruce will donate most of his winnings to a high school in his parish that is building a gym and to a former parish of his that needs a new church.
[Thumb Up] To President George Bush for attending a Class A Carolina League game in Frederick, Md., on June 8. Said the President, who was staying at nearby Camp David, "It's such a nice night, I thought I'd like to go to a game with my grandson."
[Thumb Up] To a fourth-grade class at Jessup (Md.) Elementary School, which, after noticing that the World Book Encyclopedia lacked an entry for track legend Wilma Rudolph, petitioned successfully to have her bio included in the 1991 edition.
[Thumb Down] To Jerry Krause, chief of operations for the Chicago Bulls, for turning away former Bulls star Chet Walker from a victory party on June 12. "This is a private party for the Bulls, their families and friends," Krause told Walker, who had been invited by team owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
THEY SAID IT
Actor Billy Crystal, revealing that the current San Antonio Spur coach was his boyhood idol: "I wanted to be Larry Brown. I walked like him. I talked like him. I even moved four times."
Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodger broadcaster, during a game between the Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs: "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day.... Aren't we all?"
Making a List
Chicago, basking in the glow of the Bulls' first NBA title, can now turn its attention to the Cubs and the White Sox, who were both close to the .500 mark as of Sunday. They also happen to be the two most championship-starved teams in all of pro sports. Here is a list of the franchises with the 10 longest droughts.
Chicago Cubs (1908)
Chicago White Sox (1917)
Boston Red Sox (1918)
New York Rangers (1940)
Cleveland Indians (1948)
Los Angeles Rams (1951)
New York/San Francisco
Detroit Red Wings (1955)
Replay 5 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Raymond Floyd and his six-year-old daughter, Christina, graced the June 23, 1986, cover after the 43-year-old father of three won the U.S. Open on Father's Day. In INSIDE BASEBALL, an unnamed G.M. denigrated the Yankees' farm system, saying, "There isn't anything left...and don't let them try to fool you with Doug Drabek."
There is talk that The Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club may move from Wimbledon, which is bursting at the seams, to a more spacious grass court venue in Basingstoke, 50 miles west of London. While traditionalists may blanch, Basingstoke does have one thing going for it. The town's motto is Steadfast in service.