It's a Shame
Pete Rose could have been elected to the Hall of Fame this week, but he won't be. And he shouldn't be.
This is the week that Pete Rose would have been voted into baseball's Hall of Fame. Since a player must be retired for at least five years before his election, Rose, whose last at bat came on Aug. 17, 1986, would have gotten the call from Jack Lang, longtime executive secretary of the Baseball Writers Association of America, on Tuesday of this week. But in August 1989, Rose was banned for life by commissioner Bart Giamatti for gambling, and last February the Hall of Fame board of directors voted to make anyone banned from baseball ineligible for election.
There figured to be a fair number of symbolic write-in votes for Rose this week among the real votes for Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers and Tony Perez. Some of the writers voting for Rose will have done so in protest over the high-handed way Giamatti's successor, Fay Vincent, influenced the Hall board to eliminate Rose from consideration. Indeed, what baseball did was wrong, especially after entrusting the BBWAA with Hall of Fame elections for more than 50 years.
Still others will have voted for Rose because they believe his credentials—alltime leader in base hits (4,256), 16 All-Star Game selections, six World Series—outweigh his crime, which was betting on baseball games. Though Rose denies he placed wagers on baseball, Giamatti believed he did, and the evidence pointing to that conclusion is overwhelming. Vincent told The New York Times last week, "What Pete Rose did was to commit the capital crime in baseball. He not only bet on baseball, he bet on his own team."
January 13, 1992
The punishment for betting on baseball must be severe, lest the credibility of the game be destroyed. If that punishment means that a great player like Rose is denied induction into the Hall of Fame, so be it.
Still, we hope that someday baseball will see fit to reinstate a contrite and rehabilitated Rose. When and if Rose is elected, perhaps his plaque should contain a small cautionary note, like the one on the "plaque" above, making it clear that there is no place for gambling, in or on the game.
Slings and Arrows
And now from Barcelona, the latest on the Games
The arrival of the new year meant there were only 206 days until the beginning of the Summer Olympics. At the moment, the biggest worries in Barcelona are the not-so-secret opening ceremonies, flaming arrows and a stuffed man.
The man is known as El Negro de Banyoles, and he has been on display in the Banyoles Natural Sciences Museum since 1918. It was recently revealed that El Negro was stolen from his burial site in 1888, but the town of Banyoles, the site of the Olympic rowing competition, refuses to remove him from display, much less return him to his place of origin in Botswana. Dr. Alfonso Arcelin, a Haitian-born physician who is leading a crusade to remove El Negro from the museum, has written to IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and Magic Johnson asking for their support, but he has yet to get a response. Could this lead to a boycott of the Olympics by African nations? "I wanted to be diplomatic about this," says Arcelin, "but it seems events are gaining a momentum of their own. I can no longer be sure I control what will happen."
The Barcelona Olympic Organizing Committee (COOB) and Ovideo Bassat Sport, the company hired to stage the opening and closing ceremonies, held their first rehearsal last week, a walk-through of the opening that was supposed to be hush-hush. However, police refused to seal off the Olympic stadium, and hundreds of tourists, many with video cameras, happened upon the three-hour performance. That night, all seven TV networks ran "exclusive" footage of the event. There will be flip cards, of course, as well as a fireworks dragon and 12 castells, the 50-foot human pyramids that are a part of Catalonian culture.
Another ceremonial secret that slipped out is how the Olympic torch will be lighted. Inspired by the worldwide popularity of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Ovideo Bassat Sport has decided to have an archer fire a flaming arrow to light the torch. However, archer auditions have not gone well. The first prospect shot his arrow well over the target and ignited a small portion of the stadium, while another took too long in aiming and suffered burns on his left hand. Said one Ovideo official, "It's so hard to find a really good archer these days."
Maybe all the really good archers are already in the Olympics.
Man of Steel
After 23 seasons, Chuck Noll abdicates his throne
Last July the Pittsburgh Steelers traveled two hours by bus to the Washington Redskins' camp in Carlisle, Pa., for an 80-play scrimmage. After 79 plays, the score was tied at 19. Before the Redskins could trot out their field goal unit for a chip shot that would have won the scrimmage, the voice of, coach Chuck Noll rang from the Pittsburgh sideline. "Everybody on the buses!" he shouted, and his Steelers dutifully left the field before they could be defeated. Moral of the story: Two decades on the job hadn't softened the NFL's hardest rock.
Noll, 60, seldom gave a good interview in this media-driven age. He never gave his players pats on their backs, which drove some, most notably Terry Bradshaw, bananas. He was slow to change with the game, acting as his own special-teams coach until 1987. But when he resigned on Dec. 26, he left the biggest void atop a team since Vince Lombardi retired from the Packers in '68. In Noll's 23 seasons as Pittsburgh's coach, his steely, steady hands guided the team to 12 playoff appearances and four Super Bowl victories.
"Chuck never fell into the twin pitfalls of ego and greed," New York Giants general manager George Young says. "He always had his life and his role in football in perspective. He cared more about the teaching of football than listening to accolades and selling himself in commercials." Noll never hawked a product. Once, a friend persuaded him to have his picture taken with a local banker; Noll was embarrassed when a blowup of the photo became a billboard for the bank. That was it for Noll's endorsement career. All he wanted to do was coach...that and be invisible.
He couldn't achieve the latter—not totally, anyway—because loyal Pittsburghers loved this most unpretentious of sportsmen, and even the fans who thought the game had passed him by treated him with reverence. They adopted radioman Myron Cope's nickname for Noll: Emperor Chas. Late this season, folks around town could be heard saying, "Think the Emperor's going to retire?"
Noll's legacy? There's a clue in something he said in a recent interview. "Don't leave anything on the beach but your footprints," he said. You figure it out.
In the Trap
A pro golfer from Ghana is accused of espionage
This is a spy story without an ending. It starts in September 1990, when Martin Amadume, a 26-year-old professional golfer from Ghana, arrived in Canada, purportedly to play in the Canadian Open that month.
Amadume came to Canada from Britain, where he had been attempting to qualify for the British Open. In Britain he had learned that the Ghanaian government had collected evidence that he was a spy. Amadume stood accused of transmitting information between dissidents in Ghana and exiles abroad. Afraid that Ghanaian officials would track him down in Britain, Amadume secured a visa to travel to Canada.
Amadume went into hiding after arriving in Toronto. He eventually applied to the Canadian immigration office for status as a refugee, claiming he would be killed if he returned to Ghana, a West African country ruled by dictator Jerry Rawlings, who has been accused of human rights abuses. But on Dec. 12, immigration officials turned down the golfer's request. The Ghanaians "put me on warning that as soon as I would return, I would be arrested," Amadume said after learning of the decision. "They'll kill me."
Roman Melnyk, an immigration consultant who pleaded Amadume's case, last saw him on Dec. 31 in a holding cell at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. "He was sitting alone," Melnyk says. "He sat there with a little bag and his coat, and he was weeping." Immigration officials would not comment on the case, but Amadume was reportedly deported to Ghana. His fate is unknown.
[Thumb Up] To the University of Florida Athletic Association, which gave $2.2 million to the university for library services, its summer school program and an AIDS institute. One quarter of the donation came from the Gators' revenues from last week's Sugar Bowl.
[Thumb Up] To Green Bay Packer rookie cornerback Vinnie Clark, who donated $50,000 of his $330,000 salary to his church, the New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Cincinnati, for its youth programs.
[Thumb Down] To the unnamed coach who voted Miami third in the USA Today/CNN college football poll. He is the only one of the 59 coaches to not place the Hurricanes No. 1 or 2. Undefeated Washington finished first in that poll ahead of undefeated Miami, which was first in the Associated Press poll.
NORMAN CHAD Swimming the Channels
At this very moment, your TV set is probably on. It has to be. This is 1992, and we have just embarked upon the most endlessly maniacal, maniacally endless, hopelessly interminable, interminably hopeless sports year on TV ever. To turn off your television at any instant is to risk missing a stunning piece of sporting history or maybe just a car commercial. Yes, it's a TV jungle out there, and it's hard to tell the tropical berries from the forbidden fruit.
You need help.
I am here to help you.
I would like to make clear at this point that when I say, "I am here to help you," I am not talking about any problems you may be having with your cable bill or your cable reception or your cable pay channels. Just call the phone number you already have, and let that baby ring.
What I am here to do is provide, free of charge, a clip-and-save Discriminating Viewers' Guide to Sports TV in 1992. (Note: The following is a list of scheduled programming and does not account for "technical difficulties" that may interrupt certain telecasts. Like, did you see when NBC had to go to a Japanese feed of the Orange Bowl for 15 minutes on New Year's Day? Can you believe it—it's the national title game on network television in prime time, and we're watching it from a Sony camcorder at a bad angle? So keep in mind that those guys from NBC are always just a lug nut away from getting knocked off the air.)
Super Bowl, Jan. 26 (CBS): A big, big game". It's always a good idea to have Twister on hand to give you and your guests something to do when the score gets to 42-10.
Winter Olympics, Feb. 8-23 (CBS, TNT): It's Countdown to McCarver as CBS gears up for 116 hours of programming. More significant, cable intrudes on the Games for the first time: TNT will present 45 hours—all colorized—on weekday afternoons. (At press time it had not yet been determined whether analyst Hubie Brown will be assigned to four-man bobsled or singles luge.)
NFL Draft, April 26 (ESPN): One Sunday every year, ESPN executives turn over their entire network operation to draft dilettante Mel Kiper Jr., which is equivalent to Politburo leaders turning over the breakup of the Soviet Union to Yakov Smirnoff. Draft day is the scariest non-Dick Vitale six hours on television.
American Kennel Club National Invitational Championship, April 26 (CBS): Woof, woof. That's right, Bubba, it's a dog show. CBS, of course, is trying to tap into that lucrative 18-34 Saint Bernard market. The network's biggest concern is getting a big-name dog analyst. The telecast will last one hour, or seven hours in dog years.
America's Cup finals, May 9-19 (ESPN, ABC): Live yachting on TV! Break out the Chardonnay! For those of you who are unable to see this sailing spectacular—almost all of the races will be on cable—you can simulate the viewing experience by simply watching rainwater drip down your kitchen windowpane.
Stanley Cup finals, mid-May (SportsChannel America): Live hockey on TV! Break out the beer! For those of you who are unable to see this hockey extravaganza—hey, do you get SportsChannel America?—you can simulate the viewing experience by simply watching a friendly brawl break out in your neighborhood saloon.
Summer Olympics, July 25-Aug. 9 (NBC, pay-per-view): NBC will broadcast 161 hours—that's more than 10 hours a day for 16 days—for free. Naturally, for many people this is not enough, so NBC and its partner Cablevision are offering—not for free—three cable channels, 24 hours a day, for as much as an additional 1,080 hours of programming at costs ranging from $95 to $170. At least 77 people nationwide are expected to sign up. NBC calls it the Olympics Triple-Cast; I prefer to think of it as Ishtar II. (Those of you taking the pay-per-view plunge, please remember that NBC cannot guarantee an actual picture on your screen at all times.)
Domino's Pizza Copper Bowl, Dec. 31 (TBS): Impress your friends with a New Year's Eve bash centered around this traditional college clash of 7-3-1 football titans! Halftime is over in 30 minutes or less, or you get $3 off your next pizza.
THEY SAID IT
Charles Berkley, Philadelphia 76er forward, on the four hours he recently spent in a Milwaukee jail on an assault charge: "I got the superstar treatment. Everybody else got bologna and water. I got bologna and milk."
Stu Crimson, left wing for the Chicago Blackhawks, on why there is a color picture of him over his locker: "That's so when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes."
Reversal of Thumb
In "Judgment Calls" of the Dec. 30-Jan. 6 SCORECARD, we gave a Thumb Down to Green Bay Packer lineman Tony Mandarich for not returning a $500 appearance fee paid to his booking agent by the Boys and Girls Club of La Crosse (Wis.) for an event Mandarich missed. Mandarich has now sent the club a check for $1,000.
Former Indiana star and NBA player Steve Alford is the new basketball coach at Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and not surprisingly, he has adopted the style of his mentor, Bob Knight. Said Alford to one ref during a recent game at Kalamazoo College, "Are you a Purdue graduate, or what?"
Replay 30 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
That's the back of Don Head, Boston Bruin goalie, on our Jan. 15, 1962, cover. Inside, we reported on the Los Angeles Open, the first PGA tournament for Jack Nicklaus, who finished 46th. Worried that the 21-year-old rookie was already making too much money in endorsements, we wrote, "Nicklaus will never be a hungry golfer as Palmer and Player and Sanders and Snead and Hogan and all the other successful ones have been in their time."