The Next Bout
Mike Tyson's trial will be unlike William Smith's
As the trial of William Kennedy Smith in West Palm Beach, Fla., came to a close last week with his acquittal on sexual battery charges, the date for the next high-profile rape trial, in which heavyweight Mike Tyson will be the defendant, was being set in concrete: Jan. 27. Last Thursday, Marion County Supreme Court Judge Patricia Gifford, who will preside at the Indianapolis proceedings, denied for a second time a defense motion to postpone the trial.
It would be dicey to draw conclusions about the probable outcome of the Tyson trial in light of the Smith verdict. Tyson certainly has much in common with Smith, another prominent man accused of "date rape." Like Smith, Tyson has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman who was willingly in his company well past midnight. But the two cases may diverge in several ways.
December 23, 1991
The alleged victim. Tyson's 18-year-old accuser, who was a contestant in the Miss Black America pageant in Indianapolis at the time of the alleged rape, is a freshman at a prestigious New England college who is likely to earn more points for credibility from the jury than did the woman who filed charges against Smith.
Tyson's past troubles with women. The case against Tyson could be bolstered by allegations that he has a long history of making unwelcome advances to women. Similar allegations against Smith were ruled inadmissible by Judge Mary E. Lupo, but the prosecution may argue that advances Tyson made on other pageant contestants that day demonstrated his intentions.
Tyson as a witness. People close to the case don't expect Tyson to take the stand. Tyson obviously was less than convincing when he testified before the grand jury that indicted him in September.
The prosecutor. The state's case in Indianapolis will be presented by J. Gregory Garrison, a 43-year-old, fire-in-the-belly former prosecutor retained specifically for the trial. In the Smith trial, prosecutor Moira Lasch failed to make a strong case.
The judge. Gifford is a former sex-crimes prosecutor, and she may not be as lenient toward the defense as Lupo was.
No TV. Indiana doesn't allow telecasts of courtroom proceedings, which means home viewers won't be able to score this bout round by round, as they did during the Smith case.
Baseball will have a red-hot stove league this winter
In the course of three days last week at baseball's winter meetings in Miami Beach, such players as Bret Saberhagen, Kevin Mitchell, Wally Joyner, Gregg Jefferies, Randy Myers, Kevin McReynolds and Bip Roberts changed teams. Here are the clubs that have made significant strides so far during this off-season:
•The Cincinnati Reds are now the team to beat in the NL West. They have acquired two fine starters (Greg Swindell and Tim Belcher), a top-flight leadoff man in Roberts and a centerfielder (Dave Martinez) in case rookie Reggie Sanders, slated to replace the traded Eric Davis, doesn't pan out.
•The Seattle Mariners got the NL's top slugger, Mitchell, from the San Francisco Giants without giving up any of their starting pitchers or their closer.
•The Kansas City Royals have added four every-day players to their previously punchless offense: Joyner (first base), McReynolds (leftfield or right), Jefferies (third base or leftfield) and second baseman Keith Miller. They lost Saberhagen, but their pitching is still solid.
•The New York Mets gave up a lot in trading Jefferies, McReynolds and Miller to get Saberhagen, but they're better for it defensively with Chris Donnels penciled in at third base and Bill Pecota, also acquired from K.C., at second. Their rotation is loaded if Dwight Gooden's right shoulder is sound, and their clubhouse has a new air of maturity. G.M. Al Harazin has built the best team in the weak NL East.
Here are the clubs that lost strides:
•The Giants needed starting pitching, but they ended up trading Mitchell for three middle relievers: Billy Swift, whom they plan to start, Mike Jackson and Dave Burba. They lost patience with the mercurial Mitchell and simply didn't get enough.
•The California Angels lost out in the Bobby Bonilla sweepstakes, failed to pry free-agent Otis Nixon away from the Atlanta Braves and couldn't keep Joyner. It wasn't all the fault of new G.M. Whitey Herzog, but he seemed to have lost his touch. The Angels added only Von Hayes (no homers in 1991) and Hubie Brooks.
•The Pittsburgh Pirates lost Bonilla, and they will lose Barry Bonds to free agency after 1992 unless they trade him. If they continue to lose their best players, they will lose manager Jim Leyland, not to mention a lot of games.
There's talk George will be back to revive the Yanks
The New York Yankees were the zombies of baseball's winter meetings. With their managing general partner, Robert Nederlander, resigning to go back to his first love, the Broadway theater, chief operating officer Leonard Kleinman and general manager Gene Michael were left in charge in Miami Beach, and they squabbled openly. By the time Michael got Kleinman's permission to pursue free-agent Steve Buechele, the third baseman was headed back to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So the Yankees failed to make a single move to improve a sorry team. The inaction left some people clamoring for the return of you-know-who. Says Daniel McCarthy, a Cleveland attorney who owns 4.5% of the Yankees, "The disarray in the front office concerns me. What is wrong with those people? I want George Steinbrenner back."
Steinbrenner, who still owns 55% of the team, agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball 17 months ago, following an investigation that found he gave $40,000 to gambler Howard Spira. Commissioner Fay Vincent has indicated he will not consider the Boss's reinstatement until all lawsuits brought by Yankee brass against baseball are dropped. But one suit, brought by Kleinman against Vincent because the commissioner blocked him from becoming managing general partner, will not go away easily. Says Kleinman's attorney, Dominic Amorosa, "We're not looking to get George back into baseball; we're looking for money. George could say, 'I'll give you $10 million.' But I don't think he will."
Steinbrenner's return would still have to be approved by at least three fourths of the AL owners and half of the NL owners. They'll have to decide whether it's better to live with him or without him. Says one AL owner sympathetic to Steinbrenner, "Is the American League better off having a strong franchise in New York? Yes."
The Bishops' Mass
What happens when you cross Bo with the Fridge?
Ohio Wesleyan forward Keith Rucker has this way of taking people's breath away. It usually happens when he sets a pick for a teammate and some poor, unsuspecting rival is chaperoned into Rucker's rather substantial girth. But during a recent game against Allegheny College, Rucker had this same effect on an entire crowd, causing it to collectively gasp when he landed on a Gator forward while diving for a loose ball.
At 6'4", 340 pounds, Rucker is a three-sport star who is sort of a hybrid of Bo Jackson and William (the Refrigerator) Perry. Already a two-time small-college football All-America defensive lineman and the Division III track and field champion in both the shot put and the discus, the 22-year-old senior decided to give varsity basketball a try this season. "He came to me very eager to play," says Ohio Wesleyan coach Gene Mehaffey, whose Battling Bishops had lacked frontcourt muscle. "He's quite an athlete—he can even dunk."
Although Rucker is about a miter's length shorter than most of the players he defends, opponents find posting up against him akin to boxing out a Buick. "You see a lot of guys who try to move him around in the paint just bouncing off," says Mehaffey.
And what of the courageous few who contemplate taking a charge?
"Some of them get out of the way, and some of them don't," says Rucker. "The ones that don't usually do the next time."
Rucker is so big that he wears his size-4XL track shirt: There isn't a basketball uniform large enough to fit him. In January, he will miss two basketball games because he will be in Hawaii for the Hula Bowl. The first Division III player ever selected for college football's biggest all-star game, Rucker should go in the first four rounds of next year's NFL draft.
He doesn't think the NBA is out of the question, either. "People are usually surprised at my moves," says Rucker. "I like creating moves on the floor that no one else ever thought of—except for Michael Jordan." Now those are some pretty big words.
Americans took the wind out of the challengers' sails
Dennis Conner, skipper of Stars & Stripes, one of the candidates to defend the America's Cup for the U.S. in May, said it was all a joke. The foreign yachtsmen vying to compete for the Cup thought it was an outrage.
Whatever, it happened on Dec. 10 off Point Loma, Calif., during the first of seven training runs for the challengers. Observers noticed some strange things about the boat flying the Swedish flag. 1) Two of the crew members were wearing what looked suspiciously like blond wigs. 2) The SWE-19 identification number on its mainsail was peeling off. 3) The Swedish yacht wasn't even supposed to be in the race, and there it was, leading the other five challengers.
It turned out that the boat was actually the Stars & Stripes in disguise, and one of the blonds was Conner. Barbara Schwartz, spokesman for Team Dennis Conner, said the unexpected appearance by the defending champion "was accepted in the spirit of good humor and camaraderie in which it was intended." Not exactly, according to Stan Reid, the chairman of the challenger of record committee. Reid called Conner's antics "a gross breach of manners and sportsmanship."
The next day Stars & Stripes tried to crash the party again—and got crashed by a French tender. The French said the ramming was unintentional; others thought not. Then, last Thursday, two scuba divers of undetermined nationality were spotted trying to sneak a peek at the keel of the Stars & Stripes. This time, it was the Americans' turn to be outraged. Schwartz called the incident "a pretty serious infringement."
The whole week left Reid disgusted. "What [Conner] did was thoroughly, absolutely, totally incorrect," he said. "In Australia we have two words for a chap like him: smart aleck." We have the same two words in America. We also have spoilsport, wise guy and ugly American.
[Thumb up]To FIFA, the international soccer federation, for its recent presentation of a $1 million check to UNICEF. The money was raised at an October all-star game in Munich.
[Thumb Down]To the Ohio High School Athletic Association, for upholding the disqualification of Archibald High's Rachel Sander, winner of the Division III girls' cross-country championships, because her lights were not a solid color. An official had okayed the tights before the race, only to be overruled.
[Thumb Down]To baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, for biting the hand that feeds the major leagues $100 million a year when he said at the winter meetings, "Where would ESPN be without baseball? There are only so many tractor pulls and billiards matches you can televise."
Making a List
Santa Claus is to town, and depending on how good a sports fan you've been this year, here are 10 new gift items he might bring you
1. NFL Logo Gum. It comes in a 30-cent pack of peppermint gum or in 10-cent footballs of bubble gum in various team colors. (Mmm, mmm, black-and-silver Raider gum.)
2. "Taste my chicken and you'll say 'Say Hey.' " Willie Mays Grilled and Roasted Chicken at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, N.]., offers gift certificates from $1.99 to $18.50.
3. Nerf Bow 'N Arrow. This toy is the hottest item of the season. The Nerf ball has certainly come a long way. In fact, these foam arrows can travel as far as 35 feet. $30.
4. Joe Montana II Sports Talk Football. A video game, for the Sega Genesis system, in which you select the opponent, playing surface and weather. The game also provides a sports-caster who can spout more than 200 phrases (or 50 more than Frank Gifford). $59.95.
5. Electro-Bowl. This 7-foot alley offers electronic scoring and sound effects. But there are no pins (just while dots), no gutters and no red-and-black shoes with numbers on the heel. $70.
6. World Wrestling Federation Hockey. Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter et al. lend their own brand of mayhem to traditional tabletop hockey. Two minutes for eye-gouging. $99.
7. Nolan Ryan's Strike Zone Baseball. You throw mushy balls to the plate (left), and the computer announces the result. Tim batter moans if you bean him. After trying the game, we renamed it Matt Young's Losing the Strike Zone. $110.
8. Golf Car Ride In. This cart features a sun roof, dashboard, steering wheel, adjustable mirror, golf bag, clubs, balls and flags. For pros from two to four years old. $185.
9. The Palm Springs Open. A Compact Disc Interactive golf game designed by ABC Sports. The $800 price tag includes a Phillips CD-I player.
10. One-on-one with Jordan, Gretzky or Prince Charles. The Robb Report Ultimate Gifts Guide offers to arrange an outing on the court, ice or polo field with the royalty of their respective sports. The price is "$100,000 to $2.5 million, depending on the athlete."
THEY SAID IT
Linda Hill-McDonald, Minnesota's women's basketball coach, on last year's 6-22 team: "Things got so bad that I had to play my student manager for a while. They got really bad when she started to complain to the press that she wasn't getting enough playing time."
Dwight Gooden, New York Mets pitcher, comparing his own lucrative contract with that of new teammate Bobby Bonilla: "My great-grandkids are set for life. With him, it's his great-great-great-great-grandkids."
A Clear Conscience
One can't help but admire the principles of Los Angeles Ram head coach John Robinson. Even though the Rams are now 3-13 and his job is in obvious jeopardy, Robinson has refused the request of team owner Georgia Frontiere to put "magic crystals" around the necks of his players.
Replay 15 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
SI's first solo Sportswoman of the Year award went to Chris Evert, who posed in period garb for our cover of Dec. 20-27, 1976. (Billie jean King had shared the honor in '72 with John Wooden.) At one point in the three-hour photo session, Evert asked, "Are you sure they'll understand that's a bustle back there?"