All right, owners, let's play the percentages
Last week major league baseball's ownership committee asked the Baseball Club of Seattle for more information about its proposed purchase of the Seattle Mariners (SI, Feb. 10). While the owners consider whether to allow the sale of the club to the group that's being bankrolled with "offshore" money, they might also want to consider that:
100% of all the baseballs used in the major leagues are made in Costa Rica;
February 17, 1992
at least 90% of all the batting gloves worn by major leaguers are made in the Far East;
at least 90% of the shoes worn by big leaguers are made "offshore";
of the 23 giant video display screens in major league stadiums, 19 were made by Japanese companies, three by a Swiss manufacturer and one by an American firm (the U.S. company is now out of business);
at least 60% of the fielders' gloves and mitts used by major league players are made outside the U.S.;
17% of the players on 40-man rosters were not born in one of the 50 states.
A Vintage Record
Mark Everett breaks a mark that had lasted for 22 years
The 600-yard run seems an anachronism in the now-metric world of track and field. It is contested only indoors, and rarely at that. It might have been forgotten altogether were it not for a stirring series of duels at the distance in 1970 between Lee Evans and Martin McGrady.
Evans is a track and field immortal. At the 1968 Olympics he won the 400 meters in 43.86, a world record that stood for 20 years. McGrady, on the other hand, was never much of a force outdoors, where he seemed stranded between distances, lacking the speed for the 400 and the strength for the 800. But over 600 yards, on a slippery board track, McGrady was nearly unbeatable. In 1970, after McGrady defeated Evans all three times they met, Evans grumbled, "I don't dig losing."
Standing 6'1", the long-legged McGrady defied the conventional wisdom that says indoor running rewards a short, compact stride. He didn't train especially hard, but he was able to tap some volatile concoction of adrenaline and guts. McGrady once explained, "My plan is to get out quick and act accordingly." He established world bests for the 600 four times, including three during that stunning 1970 season. The last of those marks, 1:07.6, which he set at the 70 AAU championships, stood almost 22 years, until last Friday night, when Mark Everett ran 1:07.53 in the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.
Everett led from the start and finished 10 yards ahead of Ian Morris of Trinidad. "If people knew the amount of training I'm doing, they'd be shocked," said Everett, a lean 23-year-old Floridian, after the race. "It's all strength, no speed. That's not being cocky, just confident."
Everett grew up in tiny Bagdad, Fla., just north of Pensacola, and was a sprinter at Milton High. At that time the school did not have a track, so Everett and his teammates improvised, running intervals measured between utility poles near the school. Everett made the 1988 U.S. Olympic team in the 800 meters but ran poorly in Seoul and did not reach the final. For the next couple of years he distinguished himself less through his running than through his creative hairdos and the wiggly Gator Dance he did whenever he won.
But last summer Everett thrived, lowering his bests to 1:43.93 for the 800 and 44.42 for the 400. At the World Championships in Tokyo last September he won the bronze medal in the 800 and a silver in the 4x400 relay. Everett now must decide whether to run the 400 or 800 at the Olympic trials in June. "This record makes me lean in both directions," Everett said after breaking McGrady's mark. "I'm still sort of in the middle."
Which, of course, was McGrady's dilemma, too.
From the Old School
A savvy Larry Holmes taught Ray Mercer a lesson
What are we to make of them, these tough and proud old men? George Foreman is fat and funny and 44, but when he steps under the hot lights dressed in short pants, the laughter stops and younger men have to fight to survive. Now there's Larry Holmes, a 42-year-old grandfather who's rounder and softer than he was when he ruled the heavyweights between 1978 and '85 but who's as proud and fierce as ever. Last Friday night in Atlantic City, Ray Mercer, a rock of a man, was no match for Holmes's cunning hammers, which battered Mercer's 30-year-old body for 12 rounds and produced a lopsided, unanimous decision.
From 1973 until '88, when he retired after getting knocked out by Mike Tyson, Holmes won 48 of 51 fights. Against Mercer, an '88 Olympic gold medalist and a 4-to-1 favorite after building an 18-0 record against eminently forgettable opponents. Holmes called on all of that experience to turn their 36-minute fistfight into a brilliant demonstration of courage and ring con.
"I'd like to fight him again," said Mercer a few minutes after leaving the 20-by 20-foot classroom, "after I learn how to box."
For most of his career Holmes was an artist walking in the shadow of the legend he was destined to follow, Muhammad Ali. And when he emerged from his dressing room to fight Mercer, some fans booed him. Once, such a reception would have infuriated Holmes, but now he only smiled. It was as though he was thinking, You want Ali, I'll give you Ali. And he did.
In an exhibition that called to mind the rope-a-doping Ali of Zaire, Holmes, who came in at 233 pounds, about 11 more than he weighed as champion, often backed into a corner and stayed there. While saving his aged legs, he punished Mercer as the younger man tried to break through a thick forest of pawing arms. The 228¾-pound Mercer is a ferocious puncher, but he became discouraged as the rockets he hurled against Holmes's head failed to produce the expected effect.
Holmes appeared to be in serious trouble only once, and that was in the first round when Mercer stung him with a jab. Holmes quickly recovered and was soon banging right hands against Mercer's head. After the fourth round, Holmes told his cornermen, "It's a party." In the seventh round the crowd began chanting: "Lar-ry! Larry! Lar-ry!" At times it almost sounded like "Ali! Ali! Ali!" Holmes had never before heard this chant, and it only made him better.
Mercer was Holmes's sixth victory in a comeback that started last April. "I came back because I honestly feel I can beat [heavyweight champion] Evander Holyfield, but if Mike Tyson comes back to win the title. I'm gone." said Holmes on Friday, three days before Tyson was convicted of rape in Indianapolis (page 22). "There's no way I want to fight him again. There are fighters I know I can beat, and there are fighters I know I can't beat. I may be older, but I'm not dumber."
After Holmes's demolition of Mercer, it was announced that Holmes and Foreman had tentatively agreed to a bout, probably in mid-June, that will surely be billed as the Battle of the Ages. The ages of the two fighters who climb into the ring for that bout will add up to 86 years.
To Tell the Truth
NHL fines Mario Lemieux for criticizing officials
In 1633 Galileo Galilei was coerced by the Inquisition into recanting a statement that, to him, seemed obvious: The earth moved around the sun. Last week Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins was fined $1,000 by NHL president John Ziegler for making a statement that, to him and almost everyone else, seemed obvious: The league's officiating stinks.
Lemieux blew up after a 6-4 road loss to the Washington Capitals on Jan. 26. That was the game in which Penguin forward Jaromir Jagr knocked referee Ron Hoggarth to his knees, one of several recent player assaults on NHL officials (SCORECARD, Feb. 10). Jagr's act was inexcusable, but it wasn't a coincidence that it occurred after the Capitals had spent much of the game tripping, holding, hooking and grabbing the swifter Penguins. According to one observer, hockey had not seen such blithe mugging since Paul Newman put the Hanson brothers on the ice for the Charlestown Chiefs in Slap Shot.
To Lemieux's disgust, Hoggarth swallowed his whistle. "It's a skating and passing game—that's what the fans want to see," Lemieux said. "The advantage is to the marginal player now. That's the way this garage league is run."
Of Hoggarth, a 20-year NHL veteran, Lemieux said, "[He] just can't keep up with us."
Lemieux was not finished: "[And] they wonder why we can't get a national TV contract." Indeed, the NHL's contract with the SportsChannel America cable network brings the league only $5.5 million in television rights fees this season, less than one third of last season's take.
Ziegler found Lemieux's statements intolerable. Lemieux is known around the NHL as a whiner, but in this case he was on target. The league's officiating is inconsistent and subjective. There are a handful of fine referees, after which the drop-off is precipitous. NHL zebras commonly turn a blind eye to infractions in the third period and overtime. St. Louis Blues star Brett Hull sniped last year, "Can you imagine an NFL referee not calling an illegal procedure just because it was in the fourth quarter? Of course not! It only happens in our league."
Isn't it better that players vent their frustration with poor officiating by openly criticizing referees than by physically abusing them? Ziegler's rime would be better spent addressing the players' complaints, rather than killing the messenger.
A minor leaguer reassesses his plan to enter politics
All the small newspaper story said was that Troy Hughes, a 21-year-old leftfielder for the Class A Macon (Ga.) Braves, was running for the Illinois state legislature. Hughes, a Republican, was challenging the incumbent Democrat, Larry Hicks, in the 107th district, located in the southern part of Illinois, near the Indiana border.
Curious about the novelty of a ballplayer doubling as a politico. I tried to contact Hughes at his off-season home in Mount Vernon. "Oh, Troy dropped out of the race," I was told by a relative of Hughes's. This seemed odd since it was only eight days after Hughes had placed his name on the ballot.
Having had no luck reaching Hughes himself. I turned to Ed Holtz, general manager of the Macon Braves. It occurred to me that Macon is 750 miles from the Illinois capital of Springfield, so I asked Holtz what would happen if Hughes were elected and there were an important legislative vote on the same day as a game? Would he excuse Hughes—a player who last season batted .300 with 80 RBIs? "No," Holtz said.
It seems that no such conflict will ever arise. When I finally reached Hughes, he said that he was withdrawing from the race. "I just couldn't do it," he said. "If I play as well as I did last season, I may have a shot at the big leagues, so I want to focus."
If Hughes ever does seriously consider a political career, he already has the vernacular down. When I asked him what pushed him to run this year, if only for two weeks, he said, "I don't want to comment on that just now. I might soon, though I can't give a definite date when."
—LISA TWYMAN BESSONE
[Thumb Up]To Rolaids, for donating $20,000 to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation at the request of California Angels pitcher Bryan Harvey, the 1991 American League Relief Man champion. Harvey's four-year-old daughter, Whitney, has the syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.
[Thumb Up]To WFAN, the all-sports radio station in New York City, for raising $2.4 million through its radiothons for a charity providing services for children with cancer.
[Thumb Down]To Eldridge Wyatt, a security guard hired to maintain order at a basketball game between Douglass and Star-Spencer high schools in Oklahoma City. In protest of rough play, he walked onto the court and berated the referee, causing a 10-minute delay.
THEY SAID IT
Vernon Maxwell, Houston Rocket guard, when asked by his coach. Don Chancy, to give a one-word description of his performance this season: "Up and down."
John Mackey, recently named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, on how he was informed of the honor: "A hotel operator called and said I had been 'indicted.' I panicked and said, 'For what?' "
Willard Scott went to stud recently...Willard the horse, of course. An auction was held on Feb. 1 to benefit the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and one of the items up for bidding was a breeding season with an 11-year-old thoroughbred named after the Today show weatherman. The horse was retired in 1989 after winning 24 of 105 races and now stands at stud at Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md. Audrey Murray, one of the owners of the farm, says of her boarder, "His first foals all looked like Willard—the thoroughbred, that is—and they all have his disposition." Soon they'll start dressing like Carmen Miranda.
Florida Marlins president Carl Barger has expressed opposition to the possible move of the Seattle Mariners to Florida. A few weeks ago Barger hired a vice-president of finance. The new employee is Jonathan Mariner.
Replay: 35 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Like many of our covers over the years, the one on the Feb. 11, 1957, issue featured a champion boxer. The subject was Ch. Barrage of Quality Hill, who was about to compete in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York City. Elsewhere in the issue we reported on another boxer—Prince Charles. During his first week at a London private school, the eight-year-old heir to the British throne traded blows with a classmate during a soccer match.