Fans turned the All-Star Game into the Some-Star Game
The people have spoken. And what they said made no sense.
In selecting players for this week's All-Star Game, they decided that the A's Mark McGwire (batting .201 at the break) was the best first baseman in the American League, better than the Tigers' Cecil Fielder, who led the league in RBIs (65) and was tied with the A's Jose Canseco for the league lead in homers (21). Their choice for American League catcher was injury-riddled Sandy Alomar Jr. of the Indians, who had no homers, four RBIs and a .241 average. Almost any other American League catcher would have been preferable. "Even Joel Skinner deserved to go more than I did," said Alomar, referring to his backup on the Indians.
The National League voting was similarly disappointing, what with the election of Reds third baseman Chris Sabo (.269), Padres catcher Benito Santiago (.248) and Darryl Strawberry (.229) of the Dodgers, the leading vote-getter among outfielders. In their stead could have been Braves third baseman Terry Pendleton (.324), Astro catcher Craig Biggio (.315) and 1991 National League MVP Barry Bonds of the Pirates, who had 51 RBIs and 21 stolen bases at the break.
July 14, 1991
What were the fans thinking? Did the Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. (.280, nine homers) really deserve to start in the American League outfield over Canseco (21 homers, 63 RBIs), Joe Carter of the Blue Jays (.302, 19 homers, 59 RBIs) and Ruben Sierra of the Rangers (.325, 12 homers, 58 RBIs)? Hasn't anybody heard of the Royals' Danny Tartabull, third in the American League in both homers and RBIs, sixth in batting and 27th in the voting for outfielders?
The idea of having fans pick the All-Star teams is noble, provocative and—let us not forget—commercially profitable. But the time has come to change the system. Don't take the vote away from the fans. Not yet, anyway. Baseball should use the vox populi as a guide, not as the final say. Then, if there is an obvious mistake—like McGwire over Fielder—the commissioner, league president or team manager could make the adjustment.
You have to love the fans. You don't have to trust them, though.
Down on the Farm
The most successful stable in horse racing is in trouble
This weekend the movers and shakers in thoroughbred racing will gather in Lexington, Ky., for the annual select yearling sales at Keeneland, and it's a safe bet that the hottest topic on the cocktail-party circuit will be the stunning demise of Calumet Farm.
Almost everyone in racing feels a sort of proprietary interest in the 880-acre show-place just west of Lexington, because no farm has dominated the sport the way Calumet did in the 1940s and '50s.
Calumet is to racing what the Yankees are to baseball or the Celtics are to basketball, and the farm has retained its aura through the years. This spring, the Ford Motor Company ran a national television commercial shot at Calumet that exploited the farm's image as a model of American excellence. Even today, the mention of Calumet evokes memories of Whirlaway, Citation and all the others who carried the farm's colors—devil's red and blue—to victory. Calumet horses, in fact, have won the Kentucky Derby eight times.
Only a year ago, the farm seemed to be making a comeback. Its Criminal Type was on his way to becoming 1990 Horse of the Year, and his sire, Alydar—whose offspring include Alysheba, Easy Goer and Turkoman—was one of the most coveted stallions in the world. But a leg injury forced Criminal Type into retirement. Even worse, Alydar, whose stud fee was as much as $300,000, broke a leg in a freak stall accident and had to be destroyed on Nov. 15. Consequently, Calumet suffered an irreplaceable loss of revenue.
The central figure in Calumet's decline is J.T. Lundy, the farm's president from 1982 until April 3, when he was forced to resign. He took over shortly after the death of Lucille Wright Markey, who built Calumet with her first husband, Warren Wright Sr., and sustained it, after Wright's death in 1950, with the help of her second husband, Admiral Gene Markey. When Lucille died, the heirs picked Lundy, who is married to one of Lucille's granddaughters, to serve as Calumet's president.
When Lundy took over, the farm was debt-free and profitable. Today it's at least $70 million in the red and besieged by creditors, who have filed $27 million in lawsuits that accuse Calumet of reneging on payments and contracts. Lundy refuses to be interviewed, but his friends say he was mostly a victim of a sluggish economy, poor judgment in choosing stallions, and bad luck, like Alydar's injury. His critics, on the other hand, wonder how he got the farm so deeply in debt and where the money went.
Lundy's replacement, John Ward, is working with a team of bankers, lawyers and accountants to find the answers and figure out what, if anything, can be done to keep Calumet from declaring bankruptcy and being auctioned off. The land on which the farm sits is valued at slightly less than $14 million, but it probably could be sold for three or four times that because of Calumet's history.
If all or part of it must be sold, as now appears likely, at least it won't end up as a shopping mall or a subdivision. Local zoning laws prohibit commercial use of the land, and the heirs wish to maintain Calumet's tradition. Says Ward, "There will always be a Calumet Farm. But it just might look a little bit different."
—WILLIAM F. REED
A Measure of Fame
Eddie Gaedel's uniform now hangs in Cooperstown
Forty-three-inch-tall Eddie Gaedel, who was inveigled by Bill Veeck into stepping to the plate in a major league game with the promise of baseball immortality, would probably have given the shirt off his back to be ensconced in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Thirty years after his death, in 1961, the shirt off Gaedel's back—the one sporting the fraction‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬µ on it—was exactly what Cooperstown wanted. That and his pants. But where were they?
Enter Mark Purdy, a San Jose Mercury News sports columnist, amateur sleuth and Veeckophile. To make a short story short, Purdy began wondering last summer about the whereabouts of the uniform Gaedel wore on Aug. 19, 1951, when Veeck, as owner of the St. Louis Browns, sent him up to pinch-hit against the Detroit Tigers. Purdy found a clue in Veeck's autobiography, Veeck—As in Wreck, in which Veeck wrote that he outfitted Gaedel in a pint-sized Browns uniform belonging to nine-year-old Bill DeWitt Jr., the son of the Browns' vice-president. Purdy gave DeWitt, now a part-owner of the Texas Rangers, a call.
Sure enough, DeWitt still had the cream-colored uniform with the brown and orange piping. After walking on four pitches, Gaedel was lifted for a pinch runner and left the game to raucous applause. At the end of the game, DeWitt reclaimed his flannels. "I wore them for about two more years," says DeWitt. "Then I put them in a safe place."
In February, Veeck was voted into the Hall of Fame, and Purdy thought that Gaedel's uniform should be there with him. DeWitt agreed, as did Bill Guilfoile, the Hall's associate director. DeWitt sent the uniform to Coopers-town, and on June 28 it was added to the Veeck exhibit. According to Guilfoile, visitors have been lining up "four-deep in front of the display."
Veeck, who died in 1986, would have approved. He sold Gaedel on the stunt not only with the promise of $100 but also by saying, "Eddie, you'll be immortal." However, after Gaedel's moment in the sun, American League president Will Harridge removed his plate appearance from the record book. Now Gaedel's uniform is under the same roof as those of other baseball immortals.
Patrick Ewing turns down a huge offer from the Knicks
Assuming the mind of the sporting public has not lost its capacity to be boggled, Patrick Ewing's refusal a couple of weeks ago to accept the New York Knicks' contract offer of $33 million over six years, well, boggles the mind. The contract would have made Ewing the highest-paid athlete in the history of team sports. Ewing's one-two counterpunch—spurning the deal and requesting that an arbitrator decide if he can become a free agent before this season—appears to be an act of phenomenal greed.
But it's not quite that simple. First, Ewing would be within his contractual rights to request free agency, even if the Knicks had offered him $5 zillion a year. When he signed his current 10-year, $32.5 million deal before his rookie season of 1985-86, Ewing and the Knicks agreed that he could file for free agency after his sixth season if he was not one of the league's four highest-paid players. The Knicks, if they were not satisfied with Ewing's play, could terminate the contract.
Second, when Ewing's agent, David Falk, says that Ewing's stand "is not about money," he is being at least partially truthful. Should Ewing become a free agent, it is unlikely that another club will offer him as much as the Knicks, who can re-sign him at any price without that sum counting against their salary cap.
What Ewing's stand is most assuredly about is getting out of New York. If he really liked the Big Apple, he would have accepted the Knicks' offer, grabbed a trumpet and jumped onto new coach Pat Riley's bandwagon.
At the arbitration hearing on July 22 it will be the Knicks' position that Ewing, at $3.14 million for this season, is the fourth-highest-paid player in the NBA, behind the Cavaliers' John (Hot Rod) Williams ($4 million), the Rockets' Hakeem Olajuwon ($3.5 million) and the Bulls' Michael Jordan ($3.25 million). Falk will argue that the Celtics' Larry Bird also makes more money than Ewing. Bird's compensation for 1991-92 will be $7.3 million, about $4.5 million of which is a deferred signing bonus. Falk will contend that the bonus counts; the Knicks will say that it doesn't.
Shed no tears for Ewing if he loses. Even if he is stuck with the Knicks for the next four seasons, Ewing will make at least $14 million. If he wins, however, save your hostility. He has a right to his freedom.
Two for the Road
A pair of fans are visiting all 178 pro baseball parks
Bill Craib and Sue Easier are discovering America through baseball. In April, Craib, 27, and Easier, 23, left their jobs—and possibly their senses—in Hanover, N.H., to embark upon an odyssey they hope will take them to all 178 major and minor league ballparks during the 1991 season.
Craib, a radio newsman and sometime bartender, conceived of this trip in 1986, when he spent a season as sales director for the Class A Macon (Ga.) Pirates. He and Easier, who had been working as a waitress, cooled $4,000 in savings and drove off in his new Plymouth. The baseball watching started in Oakland on Opening Day and isn't supposed to finish until they see a game at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 6.
At the All-Star break, the pair had covered more than 26,000 miles and had visited exactly 100 ballparks, camping out most of the time to conserve cash. They nearly ran out of money in June, but after learning about the tour, a few minor league booster clubs gave Craib and Easier donations and the Foot Locker chain threw in $1,000. Even with those contributions, Craib says that without more sponsors the trip could end prematurely.
But, ah, what memories: the fans in Orlando, bashing one another with water balloons; those kids in San Antonio, chasing a giant tomato-headed, taco-bodied mascot around the bases; that end-of-the-world thunderstorm at Drillers Stadium in Tulsa. Craib and Easier have thrown out the ceremonial first pitch seven times, and they joined Roger Clemens as members of the Beehive Field Hall of Fame, in New Britain, Conn. Oh, yes, then there was Nolan Ryan's seventh no-hitter, at Arlington Stadium.
"This thing is building momentum," says Craib. "It's fun to come from obscurity and be somebody for a summer."
[Thumb Up]To Boris Becker, for donating $100,000 to the first of four orphan villages that Ion Tiriac, his manager, is planning to build in Romania.
[Thumb Up]To New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, for treating 43 children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida to lunch and providing them with transportation to and from their destination, Busch Gardens. Steinbrenner had come across their stranded bus on I-75 about 50 miles from Busch Gardens.
[Thumb Up]To former Minnesota Viking defensive lineman Alan Page, who received the Friend of Education Award from the National Education Association for his work in motivating students to stay in school.
THEY SAID IT
Shaun Vandiver, first-round draft choice of the Golden State Warriors, after coach Don Nelson introduced him as "Shaun Gallagher" at a press conference: "I'd like to thank Coach Riley.... I mean, Coach Nelson."
John Kruk, Philadelphia Phillie outfielder, on being named to the All-Star team: "That's the first time I got a letter from [National League president] Bill White where I didn't have to pay a fine."
Breakfast of Champions
Before a Class A game against the Greensboro (N.C.) Hornets, the Charleston (S.C.) Rainbows had a team breakfast of egg and sausage casserole, cheese grits, bacon and sugar cakes at general manager Kevin Carpenter's parents' house in Greensboro. After several of the players came down with food poisoning during the game, which the Rainbows won 4-0, Carpenter said, "My mother would never poison the team. However, if that's what it takes to get a W...."
Making a List
The Pro Beach Volleyball season, otherwise known as "tasty veebs," is in full swing. Since the first open beach volleyball tournament, at Santa Monica (Calif.) State Beach in 1945, the game has developed a language of its own. ESPN volleyball commentator Chris Marlowe, a former member of the U.S. national team and a onetime actor (Love of Life), lists 10 of his favorite volleyball terms.
Husband and Wife
When two players fail to communicate with each other, thus allowing the ball to drop between them.
A player's getting hit in the face so hard by an opponent's spike that he has to come out of the match.
Sizzle the Pits
To hit a low, hard spike that travels under a blocker's arms.
CREDIT CARD DEFENSE
When all the defensive players charge toward the net at the same time.
When the defensive players form a circle around the ball in flight but then let it drop to the sand.
A save in which a defensive player's hand (spatula) slides between the ball (flapjack) and the beach (skillet) at the last second.
When two opposing players leap above the net and hit the ball simultaneously.
A one-armed block popularized by veebs star Randy Stoklos that calls to mind King Kong swatting at airplanes.
A tough serve with a hook.
A soft serve. Serve too many lollipops and your team will get licked.
Replay 20 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Evonne Goolagong of Australia waltzed across our July 12, 1971, cover after she and countryman John Newcombe won Wimbledon singles titles. We also reported on the Third Annual National Hollerin' Contest in Spivey's Corner, N.C. According to contest cofounder Ermon Godwin Jr., "The biggest part of hollerin' [is] the plain pleasure of it—making a big noise on a fine, still summer morning."