Though baseball executives chirp about how championships are
built on pitching and defense, they haven't applied the
philosophy to their payrolls. Hitters, who play every day and
are thus regular gate attractions, typically draw higher
salaries. But on Sunday the Atlanta Braves made an emphatic
statement about the value of pitching: They signed 31-year-old
righthander Greg Maddux (right) to a five-year contract worth
$57.5 million, making him the first pitcher since Roger Clemens
in 1991 to be the highest-paid player in baseball.
Maddux deserves the honor. His sustained brilliance is more
remarkable than that of Barry Bonds or Albert Belle, Nos. 2 and
3 on the pay chart. So dominant has Maddux been since the
beginning of '92 (through Sunday he was 105-43) that when his
agent, Scott Boras, told Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz
that Maddux should be the highest-paid player, the only
comparable athletes Boras came up with were outside baseball:
Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Schuerholz agreed without
Thanks largely to its pitching, Atlanta is the only team since
the New York Yankees of 1960 to '64 to play in four out of five
World Series. In the past year the Braves have locked up their
top starters--Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Denny
Neagle--through at least 2000 at an average annual cost of $33.6
million. Owners reluctant to sign pitchers to big deals for fear
they're more easily injured take note: Atlanta's Big Four have
made 1,099 starts while spending a total of 15 days on the
August 17, 1997
By comparison, the Chicago Cubs in June gave outfielder Sammy
Sosa what was then baseball's third-richest contract--$42.5
million over four years--even though he has never led his league
in any offensive category and has made more DL's (three) than
All-Star teams (one). And what of Sosa's Cubs? After allowing
Maddux to leave as a free agent in 1992, they are on the way to
their 17th losing season in the 22 played since the start of
HE AIN'T HEAVY...
WBC light heavyweight champion Roy Jones, having knocked out
Montell Griffin at 2:31 of the first round last Thursday, says
he wants to play with the big boys. "Evander [Holyfield, the WBA
heavyweight champ] is kind of big," said Jones after beating
Griffin, "but I'll fight anybody." Easy, Roy. Despite the
examples of Holyfield (who began his pro career at 177 1/2
pounds) and IBF heavyweight champ Michael Moorer, who once held
the WBO light heavyweight belt, boxing history is littered with
the prostrate forms of accomplished light heavyweights who tried
to get heavy. Here are some memorable failures--and one success:
--Philadelphia Jack O'Brien (light heavyweight champ 1905-12).
The flamboyant O'Brien was slick enough to survive two
20-rounders with heavyweight Tommy Burns, who never weighed more
than 184 himself. In a 1909 bout in his hometown, O'Brien faced
205-pound Jack Johnson and, on the whole, after a six-round
beating, would rather have been anywhere but in Philadelphia.
--Georges Carpentier (1920-22). In 1921 the dashing Carpentier,
a French war hero known as the Orchid Man, challenged supposed
draft dodger Jack Dempsey in boxing's first million-dollar gate;
Carpentier wilted in four.
--Tommy Loughran (1927-29). In 1934 the 184-pound Loughran lost
a close 15-rounder to 270-pound Primo Carnera. Asked if he was
hurt in the fight, Loughran said, "Only when he stomped on my
foot with those size-15 gunboats."
--Billy Conn (1939-40). After outboxing Joe Louis for the first
12 rounds of their 1941 bout, the cocky Conn told his corner he
was "gonna knock the bum out." Louis flattened him in the 13th.
"What's the sense of being Irish if you can't be dumb?" Conn
said of his reckless strategy.
--Archie Moore (1952-62). The Ol' Mongoose, who didn't win the
light heavyweight title until he was 39, had Rocky Marciano on
the deck in their 1955 bout, but the Rock rose and rolled over
Moore in nine. Moore lost to Floyd Patterson the next year and
to soon-to-be-champ Cassius Clay in '62.
--Michael Spinks (1983-85). Spinks, the brother of former
heavyweight champ Leon, broke the jinx when he outpointed Larry
Holmes in 15 rounds in 1985. He beat Holmes again and KO'd Gerry
Cooney before succumbing to Mike Tyson in 91 seconds in '88.
WHAT DAMAGE DONE?
Last Friday a bomb rocked Stockholm's 85-year-old Olympic
Stadium, blowing out its electrical system and spraying glass,
roof tiles and debris from the press section. The explosion was
the eighth assault on a sports facility in Stockholm since May
(Scorecard, July 21), and it came less than a month before the
IOC will choose the host of the 2004 Summer Games from among
Stockholm and four other cities. Several IOC members were
visiting the city at the time of the blast (which injured no
one) and a headline in Aftonbladet the next day proclaimed END
OF THE OLYMPIC DREAM. "After last night's bomb," one story said,
"we don't have a chance."
Police have refused to confirm that the incidents are linked or
that they are the work of an anti-Olympic group. But the
nation's public television station reported that "the police are
convinced that the attack is directed against Sweden's Olympic
bid," and on Monday a group calling itself We Who Built Sweden
took credit for the destruction, threatening further action
unless Stockholm withdrew its bid. The latest target was a
crowning symbol of the Games, the world's oldest Olympic stadium
still in regular use. In the Stockholm stadium in 1912, King
Gustav V placed a gold medal around the neck of a 24-year-old
U.S. decathlete and announced, "Sir, you are the greatest
athlete in the world." To which Jim Thorpe responded, "Thanks,
Stockholm is thought to be trailing Rome and Athens in the race
to claim the Games. (The other bidders are Cape Town and Buenos
Aires.) But it is possible that the latest attack will actually
work in Stockholm's favor, given the IOC's hard-line stance
against terrorism. "We are not put off by that sort of
behavior," says IOC executive board member Kevan Gosper of
Australia. "On the contrary, I think it strengthens our resolve
not to let it affect the result."
THE UMPIRES' STATE
Angry that Baltimore Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar was
suspended for only five games after spitting in the face of John
Hirschbeck last Sept. 27, major league umpires vowed this spring
to be less tolerant of on-field disrespect. In the preseason,
players and managers were ejected for the slightest
transgression. Since then the Alomar fallout has been less
conspicuous. There has not been a significant increase in
ejections, partly because players have chosen to be less
"When they said they would have no tolerance, I took them at
their word," says Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros.
American League umpire Rocky Roe believes players have been less
antagonistic because the spitting incident created empathy for
the umps. "A lot of players found it a despicable act," says
Roe. "As a by-product, we have a little more respect. I haven't
seen arguments become as violent as in the past."
That's not to say there's a love-in happening, particularly not
between managers and umps. Last week umpire Ed Montague, whose
crew has ejected the Atlanta Braves' Bobby Cox three times this
year, said of the manager's notorious kvetching: "I'm tired of
Cox's [stuff]. He's not a fair guy [and] I'm not going to take
it." Meanwhile, one National League manager, unhappy over a call
that went against him, showed that some hostility will always
exist. "If you're a ballplayer and you're fat, you get
released," he said. "If you're an umpire, you get tenure."
Though he had refrained from placing a wager--something about a
vow of poverty--Monsignor Andrew Cusack had a lot riding on last
Saturday's Hambletonian at Meadowlands Racetrack in East
Rutherford, N.J.: $25,000. "I must confess I don't know much
about harness racing," said Cusack, director of the National
Institute for Clergy Formation at Seton Hall in South Orange,
N.J., "but I know what happens if Mal wins."
By Mal, Cusack meant both Malvern Burroughs, 56, and Burroughs's
3-year-old colt, Malabar Man. Burroughs, who donates the 5%
driver's share of his winnings to Cusack's institute, entered
the Hambletonian having won 19 of 21 races when in the sulky
behind Malabar Man, whom he also owns.
Burroughs's success story is, in Cusack's words, "nothing short
of miraculous." He was raised in Rutherford, just a few minutes
from the site of the racetrack. When Burroughs was 12, his
father died in an auto accident, and four years later he quit
high school to work on the docks in Jersey City. "Cold as hell,"
says Burroughs of his longshoreman days, "but thank God I had
someone looking out for me." That someone was the Reverend
Joseph Bagley, who served as a surrogate dad after the death of
Burroughs's father. "He filled my dad's shoes and helped me to
believe that I could do anything," says Burroughs.
At 22, Burroughs invested $8,000 in a red dump truck and
launched a business. A few months later he bought another truck.
Then another. Before he turned 30, his company had won the
contracts to build the Route 80 approach to the George
Washington Bridge and to help excavate the site for the World
Trade Center. In 1975 Burroughs bid for--and received--the
contract to build the surface of what would be the Meadowlands
Cusack met Burroughs six years ago, by which time Burroughs was
a millionaire and had been racing as a hobby for more than a
decade. Burroughs decided to honor Bagley, who died in 1986, by
donating his winnings as a driver to Cusack's cause. Before
Saturday his munificence had totaled more than $75,000.
In the homestretch on Saturday, Malabar Man broke free on the
inside and won the mile race in 1:55 to claim the $500,000
winner's share. Burroughs thrust up his arms and looked to the
heavens as a giddy Cusack shouted for joy. Then, checking his
watch, the clergyman bid adieu. "I have to leave," he said, "to
say 5:30 Mass down the Shore."
TAKING A SLICE OUT OF CRIME
After shanking a drive into the ficus trees on the par-5 7th
hole at Miami Shores Country Club recently, a startled golfer
received what seemed to be divine guidance as he searched for
his shot. "Hey," said a voice from among the leaves above, "your
ball is over here." While the golfer appreciated the help, the
police helicopter circling overhead made him a bit apprehensive.
He and his playing partners mentioned the voice to club
officials, who in turn called in the cops.
The spotter turned out to be Denis Jesper, 20, who was being
pursued by police in connection with the beating and robbery of
a woman at a nearby bank earlier that day. The police found him
in the tree and charged him with strong-arm robbery and
resisting arrest. He will be arraigned on Aug. 25. Thus, thanks
to the golfer's tip, Jesper may face up to a 15-year
sentence--and, thanks to Jesper's tip, the golfer was rescued
from a one-stroke penalty.
Times in three seasons that the Cincinnati Reds have sent
outfielder-infielder Eric Owens to the team's Triple A club in
Minutes needed for Andre Agassi to lose in the first round of
the ATP Championships, the seventh time in his last eight
tournaments that he has failed to win a match.
Dollars for which the legs of Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio
have been insured by Bologna club president Giuseppe Gazzoni
Pairs of bogus Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers seized from stores
and warehouses in Germany by Converse, Inc., and law enforcement
35 and 50
Percentages of his salary and bonuses, respectively, over the
next seven years that Seahawks running back Lamar Smith will pay
former teammate Mike Frier to settle a lawsuit stemming from a
car wreck in which Smith was driving and Frier was partly
Percentage decrease of teenagers in the U.S.--from 2.8% in 1995
to 1.9% in '96--who use smokeless tobacco.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The Harriet Carter mail-order catalog is offering a $17.95
Toilet Golf set, which includes a strip of artificial turf, a
plastic putter and two plastic balls so "you can now sink
putts...while you're taking care of other business."
THEY SAID IT
Denver Broncos quarterback, on the repeated diagramming in
Denver newspapers of his ruptured biceps tendon: "I just hope I
never get kicked in the groin."