Jerry Tarkanian's friends offer a dubious bounty
When last we left beleaguered UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, he and the university had agreed that he would step down after next season. The news came on June 7, 12 days after the Las Vegas Review-Journal published photographs showing three Runnin' Rebel players sitting in a hot tub with Richard (the Fixer) Perry and playing basketball with Perry in his driveway (SCORECARD, June 17). Perry has twice been convicted on charges of sports bribery, and while Tarkanian says he warned his players to stay away from Perry, the photos, taken in 1989, were the last straws as far as UNLV was concerned.
Last week a group of Tarkanian's supporters again focused the spotlight on the lame-duck coach. The Committee to Uncover the Tarkanian Conspiracy placed an ad, in the style of an Old West wanted poster, in the Las Vegas Sun. The ad, which the Review-Journal refused to run, offered two $5,000 rewards: one to anyone with "verifiable information concerning the name of the person who received these photographs at the University," and the second for identifying "the person who delivered the photographs" to the paper, and "the person at the University who caused the delivery of these pictures to the Review-Journal."
Clearly, the committee believes that some university official gave the photos to the paper to embarrass Tarkanian and force him out. The committee's theory is absurd. With the UNLV basketball program about to go on NCAA probation and with 29 more alleged rules violations hanging over its head, Tarkanian has done more than enough to embarrass himself and the university. Incidentally, Tarkanian has said he does not believe any conspiracy exists.
The committee's bounty could be laughed off if it wasn't so dangerous. Perry is a reputed associate of the Lucchese crime family, and while there is no apparent connection between Perry and the committee, Perry just might like to find out who sent the photos to the newspaper. The source of the photos, whose identity has been protected by the Review-Journal, was quoted in the paper last week as saying that the reward offer "could only mislead the public and possibly cause harm to innocent people, not to mention me physically."
So far, the only member of the committee to step forward is Freddie Glusman, its organizer. A Las Vegas restaurateur, Glusman is a friend of Tarkanian's who, according to an investigation by the Nevada attorney general's office, controlled at least 38 season tickets to Runnin' Rebel games during the '89-90 season. The Sun quoted Glusman as asking, "Why would [the Review-Journal] refuse this ad unless they had something to do with orchestrating the coach's demise? Why don't they want to see the truth? Who are they covering up for?"
The Review-Journal provided an answer to the deluded Glusman in an editorial: "The management...rejected the ad on the grounds of long-standing journalistic principles, compassion, common decency and concern for the very life of the news source."
Tarkanian would do well to distance himself from the committee. With friends like those, he doesn't need enemies.
Two superstars have a ball playing Team Tennis
Over the past five weeks, a populist spirit sneaked into the me-first world of pro tennis. It brought some unusual scenes: Jimmy Connors leaping up from the bench to hand his fellow Los Angeles Strings their towels, Martina Navratilova restringing a racket for one of her Atlanta Thunder teammates, and Billie Jean King greeting spectators at the gate in Atlanta.
All are part of Team Tennis, which has never attracted the crowds that King had hoped it would when she launched it in 1974. Still, there was a grassroots charm to the 1991 TeamTennis final last Saturday night at the humid, beer-and-cheap-champagne-soaked DeKalb Tennis Center on the outskirts of Atlanta. The Thunder beat the Strings 27-16 before 4,000 fans, and a good time was had by all.
When King recruited Navratilova and Connors last year, she brought TeamTennis its first marquee names since the late '70s. In return, the 32-day season gave Navratilova and Connors a chance to tune up for the U.S. Open in a relaxed atmosphere. Navratilova lived in a dormitory-style apartment complex behind the DeKalb Tennis Center with her coach and teammates. She cheerfully shagged balls, did her own laundry and got a $2 haircut from teammate Mariaan de Swardt. Navratilova has fallen to No. 5 in the world rankings, but she did not lose any of her 14 sets of singles and was named the league's female Most Valuable Player. In the final, she was the difference, winning 18 games and losing only five. "This is so much fun," said Navratilova. "You don't get sick to your stomach before a match."
The 38-year-old Connors, who was the league's male Rookie of the Year, was also enchanted with his first TeamTennis season. "If you asked me what I've done for the last five weeks, I'd say I've had a ball," Connors said.
With Navratilova and Connors promising to return next season, and TeamTennis hoping to expand from 11 to 16 teams and to increase its prize money from $550,000 to $1 million, the team concept may catch on yet.
Blue v. Red
The umps file a $5 million suit against Lou Piniella
Last week Richie Phillips, the executive director of the Major League Umpires Association, filed a $5 million lawsuit for defamation of character against Cincinnati Reds manager Lou Piniella. What had Piniella done? During a game between the Reds and the Houston Astros at Riverfront Stadium on Aug. 3, home plate umpire Gary Darling reversed a call by fellow ump Dutch Rennert, who thought the ball hit by Cincinnati's Bill Doran was a home run. Darling said the ball was foul. In the wild scene that followed, Piniella and outfielder Paul O'Neill were ejected from the game and fans threw debris onto the field.
The next day Piniella was quoted as saying, "He [Darling] has a bias against us. It's obvious. I don't know why that is. But if he doesn't like us for any particular reason, he should be professional out there and call the game right."
On Aug. 7, following a meeting with National League president Bill White, Piniella issued the following apology: "Major league umpires have a very difficult job, and sometimes managers and players disagree with their calls or decisions. I overreacted in anger and frustration."
A fine may have been called for, but that should have been the end of it. Yet Phillips filed suit in Philadelphia's Common Pleas Court that same day, claiming that "Darling's sterling reputation as well as that of the entire association has been severely damaged by Piniella's remarks."
According to Floyd Abrams, a New York lawyer specializing in First Amendment cases, the lawsuit is frivolous. "The plaintiff is going to have a tough time avoiding being laughed out of court," he said. In another way, however, the lawsuit is dangerous, because it pits the umpires' union against Piniella and could make every close call against the Reds seem like part of a vendetta. The suit also reinforces the prevailing notion that umpires are arrogant and thin-skinned.
Listen to Doug Harvey, the 30-year National League veteran who was the crew chief that night in Cincinnati: "The only integrity left in baseball is in blue. There's not a ball club in all of baseball that wouldn't cheat to win a ball game."
Given the standards set forth by Phillips, even major league team should sue Harvey for defamation of character.
Debbie Doom gives Pan Am opponents perfect fits
Squint a little, and Santiago de Cuba's Micro 4 Stadium, site of the women's Softball competition at the Pan Am Games (page 22), could be Dodger Stadium. There is the same backdrop of high green hills and the same hazy sunshine. But has Dodger Stadium ever seen pitching like this? It is Aug. 6. A sparse but noisy crowd of 1,000 horn-blowing, clapping fans has gathered in the newly built little ballpark, and U.S. pitcher Debbie Doom is on the way to her second straight perfect game.
Three days earlier, in the U.S. opener, the aptly named Doom had retired 21 batters in a row, 17 by strikeout, in a 4-0 victory over the Netherlands Antilles. Now, against Nicaragua, she is striking out batter after batter. Over the speakers, between salsa selections, comes a scratchy tape of M.C. Hammer singing U Can't Touch This. Indeed. The 28-year-old Doom finishes with 18 K's in an 8-0 victory.
"The perfect games were unreal," says U.S. coach Shirley Topley, who also coaches the Majesties, the team Doom plays for when she's home in El Monte, Calif. "Back-to-back and with the heat, the foreign umpires, the pressure."
The 6'2", 165-pound Doom, with her gangling yet explosive delivery, was the most spectacular performer on a U.S. team that won all nine of its games en route to the gold medal. With Michelle Granger contributing a no-hitter and Lisa Fernandez winning five and saving another, U.S. pitchers allowed three runs and 13 hits in 60 innings.
Doom is no stranger to perfection. A 1986 UCLA graduate, she pitched five perfect games as a Bruin. In her third start, against Cuba last Friday, Doom threw four shutout innings before handing off to Fernandez. For the gold medal game on Sunday, the two switched, with Fernandez starting against Canada and Doom finishing the 14-1 rout.
Earlier in the week, on a sight-seeing expedition, several team members stopped to buy hand-rolled cigars. "Just for souvenirs," said Fernandez with a grin. Doom bought none. "I don't know anyone who smokes," she said.
No matter. She now has a couple of Cuban perfectos of her own.
Tee in China?
A scholar claims chuiwan is the forerunner of golf
Golf was invented in Scotland, aye? Um-ho, according to Ling Hongling, professor of physical education at Northwest Normal University (Old NNU) in Lanxhou, China. In an article published in the latest issue of the Australian Society for Sports History Bulletin, Ling writes that the ancient game of chuiwan is almost "identical in content" to golf. Because chuiwan—chui means "hitting," wan means "ball"—appeared in Chinese literature as far back as 943 A.D., that would give it historical precedence over the first mention of "golfe," in a 1457 Scottish statute, which is the basis for the claim that the bonny sport was invented in Scotland. What's more, Ling theorizes, the game was imported to Europe by traders who traveled to China during the Middle Ages.
Needless to say, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland, is not happy with the article. "It's a hoax," says Bobby Burnet, the R&A's historian. "It's an academic joke." Burnet says that many other writers have discovered "some sort of club and ball game" and concluded that they had found the origin of golf. "The distinguishing feature of golf is the hole," says Burnet. "You putt the ball into a hole."
In fact, Ling points out that "when playing [chuiwan], the competitors would drive the ball into each of a series of pits dug in the ground." That certainly sounds familiar. The editor of the Sports History Bulletin, Braham Dabscheck, is disappointed in the response by the R&A. "I hoped they might have thought the theory was worth investigating instead of just knocking it straight away," says Dabscheck. "It might provide an opportunity to develop the game in China and provide a bridge between East and West. I thought golfing authorities would be interested in doing that."
There's more bad news for the Royal & Ancient. Professor Ling says that chuiwan was a favorite sport of Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). That would mean that the Chinese forerunner of golf is ancient and royal.
[Thumb Up]To Reader's Digest, which has awarded a $75,000 matching grant for the construction of a track and field facility to Children's Village, a residential treatment center for abused and troubled children in Dobbs Ferry, N. Y.
[Thumb Up]To Jay Vavra, Wes Toller and Jorg Graff, USC graduate students in fisheries biology, who discovered illegal gill nets while surfing off Manhattan Beach, Calif. After alerting police, they helped apprehend one fisherman as he was hauling in the nets.
[Thumb Down]To National league president Bill White, who chose not to suspend Reds pitcher Rob Dibble for throwing a ball at the Cubs' Doug Dascenzo as Dascenzo ran to first base. White did fine Dibble an undisclosed amount, but because Dibble had already been suspended twice this season, more stringent action was in order.
THEY SAID IT
Roy Green, the Cleveland Browns veteran wide receiver: "Maybe I have lost a step, but I had a few to lose."
Larry Andersen, San Diego Padres reliever, on being brought in by manager Greg Riddoch with a 3-2 lead in the ninth, the bases loaded and none out: "I took the ball from Greg, and I said, 'Th-th-th-thanks.' "
Making a List
The 45th Little League World Series begins on Aug. 20 in Williamsport, Pa. Although none of the Little League stars from Taiwan (page 60) have gone on to play major league baseball, a number of Series veterans have made the grade in pro sports. Here are the Little Leaguers who hit it big.
Jim Barbieri, Schenectady, N.Y., 1954—DODGERS, OF
Billy Connors, Schenectady, '54—CUBS AND METS, P
Ken Hubbs, Colton, Calif., '54—CUBS, 2B
Boog Powell (right), Lakeland, Fla., '54—ORIOLES, INDIANS AND DODGERS, 1B
Carl Taylor, Lakeland, '54—PIRATES, CARDINALS AND ROYALS, C-OF
Hector Torres, Monterrey, Mexico, '58—ASTROS, CUBS, EXPOS, PADRES AND BLUE JAYS, IF
Keith Lampard, Portland, Ore., '58—ASTROS, OF
Rick Wise, Portland, '58—PHILLIES, CARDINALS, RED SOX, INDIANS AND PADRES, P
Larvell Blanks, Del Rio, Texas, '62—BRAVES, INDIANS AND RANGERS, IF
Brian Sipe, El Cajon, Calif., '63—CLEVELAND BROWNS AND NEW JERSEY GENERALS, QUARTERBACK
Jim Pankovits, Richmond, '68—ASTROS, IF*
Turk Schonert, Garden Grove, Calif., '68—CINCINNATI BENGALS, ATLANTA FALCONS AND NEW YORK JETS, QUARTERBACK*
Carney Lansford, Santa Clara, Calif., '69—ANGELS, RED SOX AND A'S, 1B-3B*
Lloyd McClendon Gary, bid., '71—REDS, CUBS AND PIRATES, C-OF*
Gale Gilbert, Red Bluff, Calif., '74—SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AND BUFFALO BILLS, QUARTERBACK*
Charlie Hayes, Hattiesburg, Miss., '77—GIANTS AND PHILLIES, 3B*
Gary Sheffield, Belmont Heights, Fla., '80—BREWERS, 3B*
Derek Bell, Belmont Heights, '80 and '81—BLUE JAYS, OF*
Pierre Turgeon, Rouyn, Quebec, '82—BUFFALO SABRES, CENTER*
Mild Blue Yonder
A forward on the Jacksonville University basketball team, Al Powell, recently quit school, citing the disciplinarian methods of new coach Matt Kilcullen. Powell then enlisted in the Air Force.
Replay: 20 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
In our Aug. 23, 1971, cover story, actor Steve McQueen revealed that he entered motorcycle and car races under the name Harvey Mushman. At the '71 Pan Am Games, in Cali, Colombia, heavyweight Duane Bobick beat Teófilo Stevenson of Cuba, who went on to win three Olympic gold medals. And in the final of the U.S. Girls Junior Golf Championships, Hollis Stacy, 17, defeated Amy Alcott, 15.