SEPARATING THE TWINS?
Major league baseball owners gave the Minnesota Twins permission
to shop for a new home last week. The decision is notable in
that it gives not only Minnesota owner Carl Pohlad, who is
unhappy with his Metrodome lease, but also other owners new
leverage to greenmail taxpayers into building them stadiums. A
big league team last changed cities in 1972, when the Washington
Senators became the Texas Rangers. Since then, owners have used
baseball's antitrust exemption to prevent or discourage each
other from pulling up stakes.
Now owners seem to be telling their brethren whose teams play in
unattractive ballparks--the Twins, the Philadelphia Phillies and
the Pittsburgh Pirates among them--that they can threaten to
bolt if lawmakers rebuff their proposals for a state- or
city-subsidized stadium, as has happened in Minnesota. Asked if
the Twins' freedom to court other cities would help him petition
the Pennsylvania legislature for a new park, Phillies owner Bill
Giles told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Yes, you got it."
In other words, the decision regarding the Twins is really about
public posturing. "The Twins aren't moving--I'd say there's a
99.9 percent chance they'll stay," says Mike Veeck, president of
the St. Paul Saints, an independent minor league team that sells
out all its games in a 6,329-seat stadium 15 minutes from the
Metrodome. Veeck is also part of a Twin Cities group that has
offered $80 million to $90 million to buy the Twins from Pohlad,
the eightysomething billionaire banker who has 1) said he won't
sell the team and 2) demanded a $200 million ballpark be built
with taxpayer money, lest he 3) move his franchise. A disc
jockey on KQRS spoke for Minnesotans turned off by Pohlad's
threats when he told the Twins last week, "Don't let the door
hit you in the butt on the way out of town."
Even Pohlad acknowledges that there may be no place to move his
moribund ball club, which at week's end was drawing only 18,000
fans per home game. All the prospective suitors have significant
shortcomings, from player-union objections (Mexico City), to
populations smaller than that of the Twin Cities
(Raleigh-Durham, Las Vegas), to a history of failed franchises
(Washington). No, permission to fly the coop is just one more
feint in the owner-taxpayer game of chicken.
When C.J. Bruton, a 6'2" point guard from Australia, signed a
letter of intent with Iowa State earlier this year, he was
upfront about his basketball experience. Yes, in 1994 he had
played for money with the Perth Wildcats of Australia's National
Basketball League, but not for much ($11,100) and not with
particular distinction (limited minutes in only 22 games). He
knew that other Australians, including several former Perth
players, had competed in the NBL and then gone on to successful
careers at U.S. colleges. No big deal, right?
Wrong. Bruton, who led another Iowa school, Indian Hills
Community College, to this year's junior college national title,
was recently declared ineligible by the NCAA, which deemed him a
professional. But according to Dave Adkins, a former agent for
Cal Bruton, C.J.'s father and a onetime Australian pro star,
C.J.'s case should be no different from those of dozens of other
foreigners who, after playing for money abroad, have petitioned
the NCAA and gained eligibility. He points in particular to
Andrew Gaze, an Australian who boosted Seton Hall to the 1989
NCAA championship game months after leading the NBL in scoring.
"He was paid much more than C.J., he was a better player, and he
was older," says Adkins. "We don't understand this at all."
"They told me that I'm considered a professional player and that
they weren't going to let me in," says Bruton, 21. "At first I
was shocked. But I figured I could appeal the decision, and I
was confident it would be O.K." In fact, he couldn't appeal,
though he wrote twice to the NCAA to explain his position. Only
a school can appeal, and Iowa State, against coach Tim Floyd's
wishes, chose not to do so because, an Iowa State source said,
officials did not want to buck the NCAA. The Cyclones' athletic
director, Eugene Smith, did not return calls from SI.
Though Bruton says he wants to complete college, he was left
with little choice but to declare for the June 25 NBA draft
(page 50), in which he could be picked in the second round. Most
likely, he will play next season in Australia or in the CBA. For
now, he's suiting up in a summer league in Ottumwa, Iowa.
WHAT, NO SIDNEY GREEN?
When journeyman center Danny Schayes of the Orlando Magic
stepped ably in for injured teammate Rony Seikaly last month
during an NBA playoff series against the Miami Heat, the
reverberations rippled out over the Internet. A Web site, Famous
cgi-bin/famousjews.html), invites people to cast votes for
Judaism's greatest sports figures. Pitcher Sandy Koufax ranks
first, followed by former Connecticut basketball guard Doron
Sheffer, swimmer Mark Spitz, catcher Moe Berg and Olympic
sprinter turned sportscaster Marty Glickman. After his showing
Danny jumped from No. 73 to No. 23.
But to put to rest that famous line from Airplane!--a flight
attendant, asked for some light reading, responds, "How about
this leaflet, Famous Jewish Sports Legends?"--we advise the site
keepers to vet the list. In the current rankings the sixth and
ninth greatest Jewish sports figures of all time are,
respectively, Christians Bill Parcells and Ryne Sandberg.
It used to be that college football recruiting was conducted
almost entirely in the five months between the start of a
prospect's senior season and the February signing date. That
timetable, however, has changed in the last five years. Now many
of the most sought after players orally commit before their
senior year begins. "By the end of this summer," says Dick
Baird, recruiting coordinator at Washington, "I'll bet there are
250 kids already committed to major schools."
Division I coaches agree that Penn State's Joe Paterno hatched
this trend in the early '90s. He realized that videotape on
juniors was as readily available as it was on seniors. "I said
to the staff, 'Let's do a better job of evaluating kids quicker,
make up our minds and see if they want to make a commitment,'"
Paterno recalls. "The first year we did it, we got eight or
nine; I was amazed." Last year Penn State received commitments
from 13 of its 21 eventual signees before school opened in
Because NCAA rules forbid a high school recruit from making an
official campus visit or meeting with a college coach before his
senior year, some offers are tendered without the coach and
player having met. One way around that problem is for players to
pay to attend summer camps hosted by various colleges and
permitted by the NCAA. Camps have become a vital tool for
colleges to use in evaluating prospects and a means for athletes
to meet the school's coaching staff. "We see them in our camp,
and we're able to offer [a scholarship] sooner--everything is
speeded up," says Tim Cassidy, Texas A&M's director of football
operations. Notre Dame rookie head coach Bob Davie has made it a
priority to bring more prospects to the Irish's summer camp.
Given the trend, the NCAA membership would do well to create an
early-signing period for football, like the one it has for
basketball, which insulates a signed player from further
recruitment during his season. "Early commitments are good for
the schools, and they're good for the players," says Paterno.
"They let the kids enjoy their senior year."
More than 200 participants are expected to turn out this Sunday
for the first Wreck Beach Bare Buns Fun Run in Vancouver. The
7-km race--which bills itself as the only nude-running event in
North America to be held on public land--will take place along
the beachfront of Pacific Spirit Regional Park during the lowest
tide of the year. Participants will receive a T-shirt.
AT HOME AT LAST
Paul Caligiuri would seem to be just the sort of homebred player
Major League Soccer officials say they need. A defender for the
U.S. in two World Cups, he scored the most important goal in
American soccer history, a 25-yard blast that defeated Trinidad
and Tobago 1-0 and sent the U.S. to the Cup in 1990. But for the
first 13 games of this season, MLS and its byzantine system had
consigned Caligiuri to the Los Angeles Galaxy's inactive roster.
His time in limbo ended on Monday when the Galaxy cleared room
under its $1.3 million salary cap by trading defender Mark
Semioli to the New York/New Jersey MetroStars. After 19 months,
one lawsuit and untold hours of frustration, Caligiuri at last
would be able to play in his native Southern California.
In December 1995, while competing for FC St. Pauli in Germany,
Caligiuri received a guaranteed three-year, $330,000 deal from
MLS, with the understanding that he would play for the Galaxy. A
month later the league, which employs a so-called single-entity
system, under which MLS signs all players and assigns them to
teams, sent Caligiuri a letter saying that his agent, Cory
Clemetson, had voided the contract, which Clemetson denied. MLS
then tendered Caligiuri a three-year deal (only one year was
guaranteed) at a base salary of $80,000. Caligiuri took it and
accepted an assignment to the Columbus Crew, but he also sued
the league. In March an arbitrator in Los Angeles ruled in favor
of Caligiuri and said the terms of the first deal should apply.
Caligiuri's wages put L.A. over the cap, and the team placed him
on its inactive list. To Clemetson, Caligiuri was a victim of
the league's caprice. "The cap is a device MLS uses to suit its
convenience," he said.
While MLS commissioner Doug Logan denied Clemetson's
allegations, the league's handling of Caligiuri underlined flaws
in the system, which in February prompted 10 players to file a
class-action suit against MLS, claiming that the league's
restraints on players violated antitrust laws. Instead of
putting its best product on the field, MLS allowed a star to sit
while one of the league's top-drawing teams foundered in last
place. As Caligiuri put it, "I feel that I've been victimized.
But I haven't done anything wrong."
NCAA team championships won in the 1996-97 school year by
Stanford, a record.
Bonus, in dollars, earned by San Diego Padres leftfielder Ricky
Henderson for every plate appearance he makes between 300 and
600. At week's end he had 103.
Foals sired by Albatross, a 29-year-old pacer whose offspring
have won $126 million, more than the offspring of any other horse.
29.79 to 1
Ratio of career dollars fined ($185,500) to career points scored
(6,225) for the Chicago Bulls' Dennis Rodman after he was zapped
for $50,000 last week for disparaging remarks he made about
Feet of field to be plowed by each contestant in next week's
World Championship Rotary Tiller Race in Emerson, Ark.
Holes played in major tournaments by Jack Nicklaus, as of his
par-4 on the 10th at Congressional in the final round of the
Games since the last San Diego Padres' home rainout, which
occurred in 1983.
GETTING THEIR SHARES
The Chicago Bulls won their fifth title in seven years last
week; the Detroit Red Wings clinched their first Stanley Cup
since 1955 earlier this month. While those championships meant
different things to each team, they shared a common, gratifying
element: moolah. Divvying up the postseason booty is one of the
rites of pro sports, during which the runners-up have their
wounds salved by cash. Here are the most recent champs' and
near-champs' playoff cuts.
LEAGUE WINNER'S SHARE LOSER'S SHARE
MAJOR LEAGUE New York Yankees Atlanta Braves
BASEBALL $216,870.08 $143,678.36
NBA* Chicago Bulls Utah Jazz
NHL* Detroit Red Wings Philadelphia Flyers
NFL Green Bay Packers New England Patriots
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER D.C. United L.A. Galaxy
WORLD LEAGUE OF Scottish Claymores Frankfort Galaxy
AMERICAN FOOTBALL $3,000 $1,500
ABL Columbus Quest Richmond Rage
*Estimated shares. Playoff pool has yet to be divided.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The Meadowdale (Ohio) High girls' 4x400-meter relay team was
disqualified in the semifinals of the state track and field
championships because the colors of the runners' sports bras
Green Bay Packers second-year running back, when asked to
compare his academic work at Minnesota with learning football
plays at minicamp: "The studying is a lot more words. The
playbook is a lot more pictures."