Judge on Trial
The stench surrounding the Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cèsar Chàvez decision grew even more malodorous last week because of comments attributed to Mickey Vann, one of the two judges who robbed Whitaker by calling his Sept. 10 WBC welterweight championship fight against Chàvez a draw. First Vann was quoted by the London Daily Star as saying he had deducted a point from Whitaker for a low blow in the sixth round. Next he was quoted by Texas boxing coordinator Rick Valdes as saying he hadn't deducted a point and, in fact, "never spoke to any reporter—he's willing to testify to that."
The question of whether Vann took away a point for a low blow is significant because judges are allowed to do so only if instructed by the referee; in the Whitaker-Chàvez fight, ref Joe Cortez issued no such instructions. A one-point deduction by Vann would have meant the difference between a draw and the victory Whitaker deserved. So did Vann deduct a point? We can't say for sure, but we can address the assertion that he never spoke to a reporter. The Star's Ken Gorman says he talked to Vann and has notes of the interview. Moreover, on the morning after the fight Vann spoke at length to an SI reporter.
Vann's credibility is at issue and so, more than ever, is the fishy decision.
September 26, 1993
In 1972 a fan who ran onto the field during an NFL game in Baltimore was leveled by Colt linebacker Mike Curtis, who upended the interloper with such ferocity that the poor sap later couldn't recall having landed. Over the years countless other louts have interrupted sports events with uninvited intrusions, but they remained largely indistinguishable one from the other. That is, until last Saturday in New York, where a 15-year-old boy's foray onto the Yankee Stadium infield changed the outcome of a game.
Seconds before the Boston Red Sox's Greg Harris delivered a pitch to Yankee batter Mike Stanley, with two outs in the ninth and the Sox leading 3-1, third base umpire Tim Welke spotted the boy running onto the field. Welke called time, then Stanley hit a fly to left, which was caught, apparently ending the game. Welke's timeout—the correct call, for sure—stood. The Yankees rallied to win 4-3, conveying folk hero status on the fan. "We were all trying to get the kid back here to thank him," said Stanley. That was the wrong thing to say, especially at Yankee Stadium, where 14 crazies ran onto the field during the four-game series against the Sox.
Who knows what forces compel fans to try to shake hands with third basemen and chat up linebackers during a game. Booze is a frequent contributor, though evidently not in the case of the 15-year-old, a member of a church group visiting the stadium from Pleasantville, N.Y. But such acts are always stupid. Apart from the obvious dangers involved, it would be sad if Saturday's incident affects the American League East race, which as of Monday had the Yanks four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays.
Short of surrounding fields with barbed wire, there is little teams can do to stop these clods. Though we don't suggest that players should handle crowd security, one wonders what would have happened had a Mike Curtis been playing when the first of those 14 fans ran onto the field last week. Would the other 13 have followed?
In a recent tournament at Cincinnati's Miami Whitewater Golf Course, John Hacker of Winton Woods High met T.J. Shank of Northwest High. Shank beat Hacker on the last hole.
Further evidence that the sports world is getting more highfalutin by the minute: The University of California no longer has a physical education department; it has a department of human biodynamics. Physical education, it seems, connotes something too limited for a program of study that includes an "integrated understanding of the biology, psychology and sociology of exercise." When Cal gave this year's graduating phys-ed majors a choice of which designation they wanted on their diplomas, only one traditionalist opted for the old title.
So whatever happened to gym?
Those members of the national media who have mindlessly dismissed the allegations against Notre Dame detailed in the book Under the Tarnished Dome could learn a thing or two about journalism from, of all unlikely tutors, the editors of Blue & Gold Illustrated. Published weekly during the football season by a group of Fighting Irish boosters, the fanzine is packed with breathless minutiae about Lou Holtz's team. But instead of simply trashing Tarnished Dome as might have been expected, Blue & Gold provided its 42,000 readers with a thorough and even-handed analysis of the book.
Blue & Gold faults Tarnished Dome for dwelling on "the dark side of Holtz's personality," while ignoring the positive aspects of Irish football, such as the program's high graduation rate. But the publication concludes, "If [Tarnished Dome] doesn't completely tarnish Notre Dame's trademark Golden Dome, the halo has indeed been removed. The book also leaves questions that must be answered by Holtz, Notre Dame and the NCAA." Blue & Gold credits the book with making "a plausible case against Holtz and Notre Dame when it comes to covering up just exactly what Notre Dame is like. Human beings, not saints, run the University. Notre Dame should own up to it."
Two members of the women's pro golf tour, Marta Figueras-Dotti and Hollis Stacy, have teed off on men pros who have griped about the prospect of paying higher taxes under President Clinton's economic program. One of their targets, Greg Norman, an Australian who lives in Florida, was so upset by the tax hikes that he criticized Jack Nicklaus for having recently played a round with Clinton. Stacy and Figueras-Dotti also were irked at several U.S. Ryder Cup team members who, after being invited by Clinton to stop off at the White House on their way to England for this week's matches, at first said they wouldn't go; they relented and visited the President on Monday.
Figueras-Dotti, a Spaniard, said that the bellyaching pros don't know how good they have it. "Tell them to talk to Seve [Ballesteros]," she said. "In Spain we pay 60 percent taxes and can't get anyone to pick up the garbage." Stacy's comments on the male pros were even tougher. "They don't have a clue about what's fantasy and what's reality," she said, "and that's because most of them have never read a newspaper. They think real life is playing golf all day on perfect golf courses for millions of dollars. Real life is poor people who can't afford to eat."
Talk about blitzes! Asked by his five-year-old daughter, Paula, to sell cookies, candy and other goodies to benefit her school, New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor outdid himself by raising more than $3,000. Even parsimonious and portly general manager George Young bought $50 worth of cookies, which should be about a week's supply. Co-owner Bob Tisch visited the locker room to place an order. Linebacker Carlton Bailey, like Taylor a University of North Carolina product, spent $200 ("He's the 'backer with the biggest contract, so he has to buy the most," said Taylor), and another former Tar Heel linebacker, Tommy Thigpen, purchased cashews even though he doesn't like them. Taylor made a new buddy when he approached rookie offensive lineman Greg Bishop. "Mike," he began. "It's Greg," corrected Bishop, who bought mints, gingersnaps and wrapping paper all the same. "I just thought it looked like some good stuff," said Bishop.
O.K., would you say no to LT?
Robbie Compton, a 15-year-old basketball player at Irmo High in Columbia, S.C., dreams of filling Shaquille O'Neal's shoes—or at least the Shaq Attack Reeboks (above) that O'Neal endorses. Sadly, Robbie takes a size 16, while Shaq Attacks aren't sold in sizes larger than 15. But what of O'Neal himself, who wears a 20? Well, it seems that Reebok custom-makes pairs for him.
But wait. After learning of Robbie's plight, O'Neal and his father, Philip Harrison, called him and said they would ask Reebok to make some Shaq Attacks for Robbie. They also promised to send him an assortment of O'Neal's line of clothing.
Nice gesture, Shaq. Of course, don't be surprised if you start hearing from a lot of other size-16-and-up guys very soon.
They Wrote It
•Michael Ventre, in the Los Angeles Daily News: "It seems unfair that Buster Douglas has to pay $293,163 in back taxes when he really only worked one day in his life."
They Said It
•Ralph DeLeonardis, minor league umpire, after a disputed call: "I blew it the way I saw it."
•Andy Van Slyke, Pittsburgh Pirate centerfielder, recalling stints earlier in his career at third base: "They called me Brooks. Mel Brooks (right)."
•Carol James, wife of former University of Washington football coach Don James, who has become a radio show host: "Now that Don is a member of the media, I sometimes refuse to talk with him."