A 66-1 horse came in at the NBA draft lottery on Sunday. Should they close the betting windows? Jack McCloskey, general manager of the Minnesota Timber-wolves, says yes. After the T-Wolves drew the fifth pick in the June 30 college draft despite having the league's second-worst season record, 19-63, McCloskey grumbled, "We'll get a good player, but it won't be the guy we wanted." What a swell way to begin a relationship with Calbert Cheaney or J.R. Ryder, who figure to be the best players still available when Minnesota makes its selection.
Yes, Jack, you can curse the good fortune of the Orlando Magic, which had a 41-41 record and barely missed the playoffs. Under the lottery's weighted system, the Magic had only one of the 66 Ping-Pong balls used to determine the first three picks, yet Orlando got the top choice for the second year in a row. And, yes, it was a bad day for doormats like the Dallas Mavericks (who had the worst record, 11-71—and 11 balls—but will pick only fourth) and yourselves. But there are only so many ways to set up a draft. Does anyone really want to go back to a system in which all teams picked in inverse order of their records, an arrangement that invited tanking in late-season games?
Besides, getting a high draft choice doesn't guarantee success. Look at the No. 1 picks who've gone bust—LaRue Martin and Kent Benson come to mind. Whether the Magic drafts Chris Webber and teams him with last year's No. 1, Shaquille O'Neal, or trades down for, say, another pick and a veteran player (a deal with the Golden State Warriors, who have the third selection, is possible), the Magic will have to clear an awful lot of space under the salary cap.
And how about John Nash's idea? By rights, Nash, general manager of the Washington Bullets, should be as upset as McCloskey, having drawn only the sixth pick even though the Bullets had the NBA's third-worst record. But Nash suggests opening up the draft so that even the elite teams get a shot at No. 1. "Something bothers me about the principle that just because you're bad, you should get the best player," he says.
The Chicago Cubs have bought a parcel of land near Wrigley Field for eventual use as a parking lot. For now, though, the Cubs have taken over a car wash on the site that they're running at a nice profit. "We don't have any labor problems with the car wash," says Mark McGuire, the club's executive vice-president. The Cubs have taken such a shine to the new venture that McGuire says, "Maybe we can keep it and divest our-selves of the baseball team."
The U.S. Olympic Committee is to be commended for increasing the bonus money it awards Americans who win Olympic medals. Although the sums—$15,000 for gold, $10,000 for silver and $7,500 for bronze—pale next to the loot paid out in other countries (for example, each of Spain's 13 gold medalists in Barcelona got an $80,000 bonus from the national sports federation and a $1 million pension from a bank), they represent a big leap forward for the USOC, which previously gave $2,500 to those who placed in the top eight at the Games.
One cavil: The USOC's largesse doesn't benefit college athletes, who are barred by NCAA rules from accepting money; it's time the NCAA relaxed its rigid stance and allowed collegians to put Olympic bonuses in trust funds. Another: USOC officials are fretting about the p.r. fallout of paying bonuses to Dream Teamers, tennis pros and other well-heeled Olympians. They should lighten up. One expects that the Michael Jordans and Jennifer Capriatis will be savvy enough to give their 15 grand to charity without any coaxing.
That gulp you've been hearing of late is the sound of NHL refs swallowing their whistles at key moments of playoff games. To wit: During the New York Islanders' 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens last Saturday in Game 4 of the Wales Conference finals, Montreal hatchet man Lyle Odelein clubbed New York's Ray Ferraro in the head with a stick. The blow felled Ferraro and put him out of action, but ref Dan Marouelli didn't call anything.
Such oversights have been most common in overtime. During a bungled line change in OT of the Canadiens' 2-1 win in Game 3 last Thursday, seven Canadiens—two over the limit—circled the ice in front of referee Kerry Fraser. No call. A nanosecond later, an egregious trip by Montreal's Benoit Brunet of Islander Brad Dalgarno went unheeded by Fraser. Brunet promptly set up the game-winning goal by Guy Carbonneau.
This year's playoffs have produced an unprecedented 28 overtime periods adding up to 279 minutes, during which a grand total of six penalties resulting in power plays have been called. That's one power play every 46 minutes, compared with a regular-season average of one every six minutes.
Nobody wants to see playoff games decided by borderline penalties. But the refs' refusal to punish even brazen infractions can be explained only by a collective failure of nerve that gives players license to clutch and trip and gouge. Such behavior has tarnished the NHL's otherwise exciting postseason.
Still Charlie Hustle
Pete Rose is going to Cooperstown.
He will sign autographs for money at a memorabilia emporium in the picturesque village on the two days preceding Reggie Jackson's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Aug. 1. Rose, of course, already would be in the shrine himself had he not been banned for life from the game for his gambling activities and unsavory associations.
Rose's publicist, Doug Welsh, told Tim Sullivan of The Cincinnati Enquirer that Rose asked Jackson if he objected to Rose's appearance and that Jackson assured Rose he did not. Welsh also noted that Rose will be out of Cooperstown by the day of the induction. But what else was Jackson going to say? If he had said, "Pete, maybe you shouldn't be there," Jackson might have been accused of trying to curb Rose for his own self-aggrandizement. Somebody should tell Rose that he is showing all greed and no grace—and that such an unseemly public appearance will only hurt his chances of being welcomed back to the game.
The pregame notes that pro team publicists prepare for the press tend to be a bland mix of canned quotes and statistical minutiae, but Richard Griffin, who has been the Montreal Expos' p.r. man since 1973, dishes up far richer fare. Here is a sampling.
•When the porcine star of a pregame promotion at Montreal's Jarry Park took ill, Griffin wrote: "The greased pig competition had to be canceled because the pig pulled a hamstring."
•On the 20th anniversary of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters, Griffin named an all-Watergate team that included a Ford at first base—Dan, who played for Minnesota, California and Baltimore and was known, Griffin wrote, for his "pardon-me swing at the plate." Griffin passed on Otis and Donell Nixon but made Russ Nixon the manager, because during his 12-year career as a catcher, Nixon had been "master of the caught stealing."
•Griffin wrote a travel guide for a 28-day Expo road trip in 1991 that included this sage advice: "Fifty-six bars of Neutrogena soap are not an acceptable present to your wife."
•When 6'10" Randy Johnson made his major league debut with the Expos in 1988, Griffin noted that he was the tallest pitcher in team—and major league—history but not the highest. Griffin reserved that honor for Bill (Spaceman) Lee.
•Griffin once listed the Expos' next-day pitcher as "Undecided" and provided a biographical note that said the mythical player's favorite color was plaid and his favorite food was waffles.
•Griffin billed a day-game matchup between pitchers Dennis Martinez of Montreal and Ramon Martinez of the Los Angeles Dodgers as "a revival of the two-Martinez lunch."
•On the 1991 death of Dr. Seuss, Griffin included with his pregame notes a four-page poetic tribute that contained these lines:
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the warm spring-like air that let baseball abound.
He knew every fan was unearthing his glove,
To go to the Stade and cheer Expos they loved.
The American Professional Soccer League, a fledgling outfit with big-time aspirations, has a new logo. It features a silhouetted player and a red, white and blue color scheme, design elements that you may find familiar (above).
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Mike Fisher notes that quarterback Hugh Millen, who came to the Dallas Cowboys in April in a trade with the New England Patriots, is a nice fit for Dallas except for his birthday: Nov. 22, 1963. To which we would like to add that Millen has happier connections to presidents, having attended Roosevelt High in Seattle and the University of Washington.
They Wrote It
•Jim Henneman in the Baltimore Sun: "Owner Marge Schott says the Reds have embarrassed her so far this year. Does that mean they're even?"
They Said It
•Rusty Fricke, Cincinnati Rocker kicker, shrugging off the Arena Football League-record 60-yard field goal he booted in 1991: "I had the air-conditioning at my back."
•Don Nelson, Golden State Warrior general manager-coach, who was one of the 11 team representatives shown below (far right, top row) at the NBA draft lottery, discussing the experience: "If you don't get lucky, you just sit there like a big dork."