So Long, Joe
The Red Sox fire a good wan for no good reason
The Boston Red Sox just don't get it, do they? On Oct. 8 they fired their 60-year-old manager, Joe Morgan, after four seasons in which they had finished first, third, first and second in the American League Fast, and hired Butch Hobson, the 40-year-old manager of their Pawtucket, R.I., Triple A affiliate. Four managers lost their jobs last week and another quit (page 38), but the biggest surprise and the biggest shame was Morgan's getting the ax.
It's bad enough that Boston canned its first skipper to finish first twice since Bill Carrigan did it in 1915 and '16. But Morgan was also a man with a delightfully sane sense of values—he went mushrooming with his grandson on the day of an American League Championship Series game last year.
October 20, 1991
He talked as if he came from a John R. Tunis novel. He would say a team was "smacking the pea around the yard" or a player was "smoking one over the bricks." Having grown up in Walpole, Mass., where he still lives, and graduated from Boston College, Morgan understood the New England mind. It didn't bother him that he was torched in the local newspapers because he knew the Sox were an obsession. In a town where every man is a baseball manager, Morgan was Everyman.
He never managed by the book, yet many of his unconventional moves worked. The Sox came up short this year, but it was hardly Morgan's fault. On the final Sunday of the season, he brought his team out onto the field and told the Fenway faithful. "Have a good autumn, a good winter, and we'll have a better year next year." It would have been better if Morgan's overpaid, underachieving players had offered a public apology. Instead, Tom Brunansky, Jack Clark and Roger Clemens let it be known that they would be happier if Morgan were out. So, two days after the season ended, general manager Lou Gorman fired Morgan. It was a disgraceful move. A good man was let go for no good reason.
That was on Tuesday. On Thursday the Red Sox announced that they were bringing back Don Zimmer as a third base coach. Zimmer, who did less than Morgan did as a Red Sox manager with more talent, will now serve as a reminder as to why the Red Sox haven't won the World Series in 73 years.
Poor CBS: The eyes of the nation were not on the ball
CBS can't get a break. Last year—its first under a four-year, $1.06 billion contract to televise major league baseball—the network lost more than $100 million on its baseball coverage (SCORECARD, Sept. 23). Then this season the baseball gods conspired to deal the network another blow when Atlanta, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, none of them in big TV markets, and a Canadian team, Toronto, won their divisions.
Still, CBS was hoping that a rip-roaring postseason would help make up for some of its bad luck. The first game of the ALCS on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 8, drew an 11.6 rating, better than an average Tuesday night at CBS, but still disappointing. The next night's National League opener was better, drawing 14.0.
Just when things were looking up for CBS, along came the resumption of the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, which, with their lurid flavor, captured the nation's attention. According to A.C. Nielsen's survey of 25 television markets on Friday night, when Judge Thomas was testifying on ABC and NBC and the Twins and Blue Jays were playing Game 3 of the ALCS, the overnight ratings were a blowout: The hearing attracted a combined 26.5 on the two networks, while CBS's baseball coverage drew a 10.1—believed to be the smallest audience ever for a prime-time postseason baseball game.
Ironically, CBS finally got a terrific game on Friday night, with the Twins defeating the Blue Jays 3-2 in 10 innings. The Washington senators, however, beat both of them.
A Familiar Ring
George Foreman's next foe is not that Jimmy Ellis
When it was announced recently that 42-year-old George Foreman had signed for a Dec. 7 fight with Jimmy Ellis, some people immediately assumed that Foreman had finally found a fighter close to his age, namely, the Jimmy Ellis who was the WBA heavyweight champ in 1968. Unfortunately for vintage fight huffs, and perhaps for Big George himself, this Jimmy Ellis is a 27-year-old former ML linebacker from Boise, Idaho, and not the 51-year-old from Louisville.
Did Foreman know which Jimmy Ellis he was getting? "Of course I knew," says Foreman. "I just hope he is not as good a boxer as the first Jimmy Ellis." For-his part, the new Ellis wants to make it clear he is neither a potato farmer, as early reports had it, nor a tomato can. He grew up in Redondo Beach, Calif., where he played high school football and sparred regularly with his older brother, John, a professional heavyweight. Jimmy went to Boise State on a football scholarship even though, he says, "I didn't know where Idaho was." Drafted in 1987 by the Los Angeles Raiders, Ellis saw action during that season's players' strike but was cut when the walkout ended. He returned to Boise to finish his degree and then headed for the gym.
"I figured he was there to work off some aggression, but he stuck with it." says John, who is now his brother's trainer, promoter and. along with Raider Howie Long, co-manager. Unlike his namesake, the 6'3", 225-pound Ellis is not a slick boxer. Since turning pro in February 1989, he has a record of 16-0-1 with 15 knockouts. "I'm used to slamming into guys and knocking them around." he says.
Now Ellis is eager to knock around the venerable Foreman. "I was a kid listening on the radio when he fought Ali," says Ellis. "But when I get in the ring, I can't worry about respect. I want to make sure that when people hear the name Jimmy Ellis, they think of me."
Leo Durocher belonged in Cooperstown before he died
Leo Durocher, who died on Oct. 7 at the age of 86, was once described as "a man of many facets, all turned on." Durocher was a gambler, a pool shark, a card player, a clotheshorse (he loved expensive suits), a ballplayer, a manager, a broadcaster, a sometime actor, a friend of the famous and, at all times, a talker. He had a loud, brassy voice and used it incessantly.
Leo the Lip, as he was called, talked so much that people tended to forget his baseball virtues. He was a superb shortstop, a shrewd if weak-hitting batter and a brilliant leader. Only five managers in major league history won more games than Durocher's 2,008.
Durocher, a French-Canadian from Springfield, Mass., broke into the majors with the Yankees in 1925. Babe Ruth didn't like Durocher—a lot of people didn't like Leo—and the story went around that he had stolen the Babe's watch, a fable without foundation. The Yankees let him go to the Cincinnati Reds for the waiver price. A few years later Branch Rickey, then running the Cardinals, traded a fine pitcher, Paul Derringer, for Durocher, and he made Rickey look good by becoming the spark of the fiery Gashouse Gang Cardinals, who won the World Series in 1934.
When Durocher became player-manager of the moribund Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939, he had no managing experience, but the job fit him like a glove. In 1941 the Dodgers won their first pennant in 21 years. However, the pugnacious Durocher antagonized baseball's executives by fighting with fans, arguing with umpires and consorting off the field with alleged gamblers. The culmination came in 1947 when baseball commissioner A.B. (Happy) Chandler suspended him for a year, a harsh and unjustifiable sentence.
His transfer as manager from Brooklyn to the hated New York Giants in July 1948 stunned fans of both teams and, for that matter, Durocher. Undaunted, he pushed the complacent Giants owners into trading longtime stars for the aggressive players he wanted, and in 1951 his rebuilt Giants beat Brooklyn for the pennant on Bobby Thomson's famous home run. In the 1954 World Series, Durocher's Giants swept the heavily favored Cleveland Indians.
He left the Giants in 1955, did some broad-casting, served as a coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers and in 1966 returned to managing with the Chicago Cubs, who hadn't finished higher than fifth for 20 years. Durocher brought them home second or third for five straight seasons. Later he managed the Houston Astros before retiring for good in '73.
Durocher was both damned and praised. Some players hated him: others said Durocher was the best manager they had ever seen. Vain, opinionated, self-serving, obscene in language and bullying in behavior, he was nonetheless a formidable, unforgettable force for more than 40 years. That he was not named to the Hall of Fame long before his death is a disgrace.
—ROBERT W. CREAMER
They use fowl language at the Yellville Turkey Trot
There's more to turkey calling than just gobble, gobble. There is, for instance, the Early Morning Fly Down and Cackle call. Also, the Lost Old Hen in Spring, the Assembly Cluck, the Lost Kee-Kee of a Young Bird in the Fall and, simply, the Mating.
Those five were the required categories at the 46th Annual National Wild Turkey Calling Contest, held last Saturday in, yes, Yellville, Ark. The winner of this year's Yellville contest, the country's oldest and most prestigious turkey calling contest, was Mac Drake, a 37-year-old deputy sheriff from Columbus, Ga.
But the turkey calling contest was only part of the annual Yellville Turkey Trot. The festival also included a parade, a dance, a beauty pageant, Mr. and Ms. Drumstick contests (for best-looking legs) and several Turkey Flybys, in which live birds are released from passing aircraft. The flybys have caused many animal rights activists concern, but the promoters are quick to point out that turkeys can fly. Indeed, the toms tossed from a plane on Saturday, after looking as if they might plummet to the earth like Butterballs, spread their wings and glided to the ground.
Come to think of it, why not add another category to next year's contest: Tom Pushed from an Airplane Making What He Thinks Will Be His Last Call call?
—MICHAEL RAY TAYLOR
[Thumb Up]To Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jose Rijo, for buying two ambulances for the police department and the hospital in his hometown of San Cristóbal in the Dominican Republic.
[Thumb Down]To the Reds, for their refusal to award Rijo a $62,500 bonus he would have received had he pitched 205 innings this season. Rijo, who won 15 games despite missing five weeks with an ankle injury, pitched 204‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√±‚àö¬® innings.
[Thumb Down]To Walt Nadzak, athletic director at The Citadel, for not granting scholarship releases to two freshman athletes that would have allowed them to transfer to another Southern Conference school. The two students left The Citadel after humiliating hazing incidents.
THEY SAID IT
John Gutekunst, University of Minnesota football coach, after his Gophers lost to Colorado 58-0 on Sept. 21: "The new NCAA rule says we have to have one day oft each week. I just didn't think they'd take game day off."
Frank Layden, Utah Jazz president, on a former player: "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'Coach, I don't know and I don't care.' "
Making a List
The marathon season is in full swing, with races the next few weeks in Detroit, Chicago and New York City. Halloween is also approaching, so here is a list of 10 notable marathon impostors—runners who only pretended they ran the entire race:
1. Spiridon Belokas, in the 1896 Olympics in Athens. Belokas finished third, but later admitted that he had ridden part of the way in a carriage.
2. Fred Lorz, in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. The apparent winner, Lorz was photographed with President Roosevelt's daughter before it was discovered that lie had hitched a ride for 11 miles.
3. George Plimpton, in the 1947 Boston Marathon. After some of his fellow Harvard students challenged him. Plimpton jumped in and ran for several miles—and a participatory journalist was born.
4. Norbert Sudhaus, in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Just before Frank Shorter entered the Olympic Stadium, Sudhaus, a German student, bolted onto the track. When asked what he thought of the guy who came in ahead of him, Shorter said, "What guy?"
5. Rosie Ruiz, in the 1980 Boston Marathon. In the most famous marathon hoax ever, Ruiz (above) appeared to have won the race, until it was discovered that she ran only the last mile or so.
6. Marie Evangelista, in the 1985 Pittsburgh Marathon. Evangelista ran 15 miles, hopped on a city bus for 10 miles and then ran across the finish. After she was given a medal as the top finisher among local women, she said, "They just put the thing around my neck, and I kept walking."
7. John Bell, in the 1986 New York Marathon. After he was declared the winner in the 40-and-over division, it-was revealed that Bell had taken a detour through Past Harlem, saving himself about five miles.
8. The Sean Sweeney impersonator, in the 1987 Boston Marathon. Sweeney was too ill to participate in the race, but this still-unidentified man "won" the 50-59 age division with Sweeney's number on his bib. "I don't know who ran it or why, but I know it wasn't me," Sweeney said. It was later discovered that the impostor did not run the whole race.
9. Richard Roodberg, in the 1990 Los Angeles and Boston Marathons. When asked why he did not appear on videotapes taken at checkpoints along the Boston race, Rood berg said, "Must have been bad camera angles or something."
10. Abbes Tehami, in the 1991 Brussels Marathon, Tehami's coach ran the first nine miles of the course as number 62; then Tehami put on the number and won the race. Tehami's ruse was discovered when journalists noticed that the number 62 who finished the race did not have a mustache and the number 62 who started the race did.
That Bud's Not Beer
After the final out was made in the New York Mets' last game of the season, Ralph Kiner, the Mets broadcaster, long renowned for his verbal miscues, said, "We'll be back to wrap things up and talk about David Cone's 19-strikeout performance, after this word from Bud Black." Kiner, of course, meant the sponsor, Bud Light, and not the pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
Replay: 25 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Flashing across our Oct. 17, 1966, cover was New York Jet quarterback Joe Namath, whom we described as "pro football's very own Beatle." We also reported the trade of another free spirit named Joe. Joe Don Looney was dealt from the Detroit Lions to the Washington Redskins after he refused to go into a game to relay a play, saying to Lion coach Harry Gilmer, "If you want a messenger, call Western Union."