Hitting the Highway
Just as NFL players put themselves up for bid by opting for free agency, so has Los Angeles Ram owner Georgia Frontiere declared her team a free agent. In notifying the city of Anaheim last week of their intention to use an escape clause in their lease for Anaheim Stadium, the Rams in effect told the NFL: We may be moving, and there's nothing you can do about it.
And there isn't. The league has been losing antitrust cases for 35 years, and, should it challenge Frontiere, it would almost certainly lose this one as well. The loss would be expensive, as was the $51 million (reduced from an original judgment of $114 million) awarded former New England Patriot owner Billy Sullivan in another antitrust case, decided on Oct. 22.
Fittingly, the Sullivan case also looms over the New England franchise, whose owner, James Busch Orthwein, is threatening to sell to the highest bidder (page 74). Again, before the Sullivan verdict the league would have fought Orthwein, but now it seems disinclined to do so.
The Rams' decision to pursue free agency is rife with irony. When Al Davis sought to move his Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982, the NFL had a rule preventing one franchise from moving into direct competition with another. That rule gave the Rams a veto over the Raiders' move, which the Rams exercised. Davis went to court and won an $18 million judgment, which the league was still paying in installments to the maverick owner as recently as 1990.
If the Rams do indeed move to Baltimore, it will be interesting to hear Frontiere's comments. She married former Baltimore Colt owner Carroll Rosenbloom in 1966, six years before trading the Colts to Robert Irsay for the Rams, and NFL insiders say part of the reason for the swap was Frontiere's desire to get out of Baltimore.
Conceivably, both the Rams and the Patriots could stay at home. There is talk of restructuring the Anaheim Stadium lease to make it more attractive to the Rams, and of fixing up the place, at a cost of as much as $100 million. And though Orthwein seems bent on selling, the Patriots could well end up with a local owner if a long-talked-about domed stadium is built in Boston. But it's more likely that the Rams and the Patriots, both of whom seem to need a change of environment to restore past glories, will hit the road, with Baltimore, Memphis and St. Louis—the three most recent expansion losers—ready to roll out the red carpet.
Harvey Haddix, who died of emphysema last week at age 68, will forever be remembered for the 12 innings of perfect baseball he threw for the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 26, 1959, arguably the best-pitched game in history. He eventually lost his masterpiece 1-0 on a Joe Adcock home run in the 13th. (Because Adcock passed Hank Aaron while running the bases, his drive officially became only a double.) Haddix once said: "Every single day I put on a uniform for the rest of my life, I was asked about the perfect game. Every single day."
No player should be made to feel he is failing his team by pursuing his Olympic dream, but that's just what happened to Derek Plante, the 23-year-old rookie center of the Buffalo Sabres. In September, Plante, who is from Duluth, Minn., and played the past four seasons for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, signed a contract under which he would play with the Sabres for three months before joining the U.S. Olympic team in mid-January. Plante scored 11 goals in Is first 20 games with Buffalo, but as of Sunday he'd had only three in his last 16. Still, Buffalo considers him a key to its playoff hopes. As the date of Plante's departure approached, Sabre management began pressuring him to skip Lillehammer. Team owner Seymour H. Knox met privately with Plante to add weight to earlier appeals by coach John Muckler and general manager Gerry Meehan.
Plante caved in and on Dec. 31 told Team USA coach Tim Taylor that he would not be going to Norway. Publicly, Plante has been philosophical about his decision, but privately it hurt. "Every kid dreams of playing in the Olympics," Plante said. The Sabres could have allowed Plante to fulfill his dream, but they chose to make it tough on him, and there wasn't much else that a loyal rookie could have done under the circumstances.
Feel the Burn
The stairclimbing machine, that fixture of the '90s fitness center, is anything but a new invention. At the turn of the century, according to Suzanne Schlosberg, author of The Ultimate Workout Log, primitive stair machines were used for punishment in federal penitentiaries. The devices were hooked up to electric generators, and inmates were forced to climb for hours to help provide the prisons with electricity. Now we know why the darn things are so much fun.
Dude Dining: Part Deux
When last we left Lenny Dykstra (SI, Dec. 6, 1993), he was winning a battle with a stuffy French ma‚Äö√†√∂‚àö√útre d' over the right to keep his hat on while dining at La Tour d'Argent, one of the world's snootiest restaurants. In case you missed it, Lenny's table manners have been under question stateside, too. While lunching at the Villa Strafford, a swanky restaurant in the Philadelphia suburb of Wayne on Dec. 22, Dude got into a shouting match with a Pennsylvania state senator.
Dykstra entered the restaurant with free-lance journalist Bob Klapisch, their attire distinctly below the standards of the tony inn, which was not unsual for Dude and certainly not for a sportswriter. The scruffily dressed duo was directed to a table next to Senator Earl Baker, a Chester County Republican, who was dining with his wife, a secretary and an aide. Dykstra's conversation was peppered, characteristically, with the F-word, and Baker immediately called him on it. Dykstra told Baker, "Take it easy, dude," and resumed talking to Klapisch, again with a few F's. Baker challenged him again, the men rose and got in each other's face, and at one point Dykstra told Baker, "I'm going to drop you, dude." Eventually they were separated by Klapisch and the maitre d' and sat back down.
Klapisch feels that Baker was spoiling for a confrontation. But the senator claims that after he made his initial plea to Dykstra "in a loud and stern voice," Dykstra deliberately "kept it up, even louder" after that.
Baker has been mentioned as a gubernatorial hopeful, and it will be interesting to see if he needs Dykstra's support somewhere down the line. As for Dude needing support, well, he probably won't need much: He just signed a four-year, $24.9 million contract extension.
Up and Down
When President Clinton visited the Arkansas basketball locker room following the Razorbacks' 129-63 win over Texas Southern on Dec. 28, coach Nolan Richardson presented him with a pair of knee-length Arkansas uniform shorts. "You're running around here in those Marilyn Monroes," said Richardson, referring to Clinton's propensity for jogging in short shorts (inset). Many young fans don't remember "Marilyn Monroes," but they were de rigueur for more than 50 years. Ironically, the longer baggies favored by today's players harken back to the earliest days of basketball, when shin-length pants and high socks were in favor.
The Early Line
SI's projected first round of the April NFL draft includes 10 nonseniors (shown in color), four of them in the first five picks of the draft. Note that only the first 20 draft positions were decided through last weekend's playoff games:
1 Bengals Dan Wilkinson, Ohio State DE
2 Colts Marshall Faulk, San Diego St. RB
3 Redskins Trent Dilfer, Fresno State QB
4 Patriots Antonio Langham, Alabama CB
5 Rams Heath Shuler, Tennessee QB
6 Buccaneers Aaron Taylor, Notre Dame OT
7 Falcons Trev Alberts, Nebraska OLB
8 Seahawks Bryant Young, Notre Dame DT
9 Browns Aaron Glenn, Texas A&M CB
10 Cardinals John Thierry, Alcorn State OLB
11 Bears Charles Johnson, Colorado WR
12 Eagles Jamir Miller, UCLA LB
13 Saints Doug Nussmeier, Idaho QB
14 Jets Fernando Smith, Jackson State DE
15 49ers *Darnay Scott, San Diego State WR
16 Dolphins Romeo Bandison, Oregon DL
17 Steelers Johnnie Morton, USC WR
18 Vikings #William Floyd, Florida State RB
19 Vikings Bernard Williams, Georgia OT
20 Lions Marcus Spears, Northwestern La. OT
Raiders Bam Morris, Texas Tech RB
Packers Errict Rhett, Florida RB
Giants Willie McGinest, USC LB
49ers Thomas Randolph, Kansas State CB
Chiefs Cory Fleming, Tennessee WR
Oilers David Palmer, Alabama WR/KR
Bills Chuck Levy, Arizona RB/WR
Cowboys Tim Ruddy, Notre Dame C
*Acquired in trade with Chargers
#Acquired in trade with Broncos
•Arnold Weber (SCORECARD, Jan. 10), the president of Northwestern and a front-runner for the barely remembered office of baseball commissioner, is a member of the board of directors of the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Cubs and holds the telecast rights to seven major league teams.
Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox and one of the most powerful figures in baseball, is a member of the board of trustees of...Northwestern.
Small world, isn't it?
•At week's end a group that includes Wayne Huizenga, the Blockbuster Video tycoon, was considered the leader in the battle to buy Paramount Communications, the parent company of Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers. Since the NHL prohibits an individual or company from owning more than one team in the league, and since Huizenga already owns the NHL Florida Panthers, one must assume the league is watching the possible transaction with interest.
•Mike Tyson has been granted a hearing by the Indiana court of appeals on a technicality and may be back in court as early as next month. While sources say there is virtually no chance that Tyson's conviction will be overturned, the hearing represents a possible battleground for the case's two colorful and combative attorneys, Alan Dershowitz and prosecutor Greg Garrison, who will probably take the stand. "When I'm done with him," says Garrison of Dershowitz, "he'll wish he died as a child."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
When the Pro-Line Cap Co., a leading manufacturer of athletic caps, was told by federal inspectors that one of its plants near Fort Worth did not have enough women's rest rooms to accommodate its staff, the company responded not by building more rest rooms but by firing 30 women.
They Said It
The former world's No. 1-ranked tennis player, on his current slump: "At the moment, my best surface is my bed."