THE HIT KING COMPROMISE
Pete Rose Jr.'s Sept. 1 major league debut has, not
surprisingly, led us back to his father. Big Pete was cheered
wildly when he showed up to watch his son play third for the
Reds at Cincinnati's Cinergy Field that day, and he basked in
the adoration while yukking things up with team owner Marge
Schott. Afterward, Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden
acknowledged that he would consider Rose as a managerial
candidate were baseball's ban of Rose ever lifted. In recent
weeks Rose's lawyer, Gary Spicer, has met behind closed doors
with Robert DuPuy, a lawyer for acting commissioner Bud Selig.
But if Rose thinks he has a chance for reinstatement by
baseball, he's wrong. Partly out of respect for Bart
Giamatti--the commissioner who imposed the ban on Gamblin' Rose
in 1989--and partly because he feels sure that Rose bet on
baseball, Selig will not let Rose back in. No one on baseball's
executive council objects to Selig's stance.
Indeed, Rose should never be allowed to manage the Reds or any
other team. Evidence that he bet on baseball--and on the
Reds--while he was managing in Cincinnati is overwhelming;
there's little reason to believe the cocksure Rose, who still
gambles legally though he denies ever betting on baseball,
wouldn't wager on ball games this time around. Rose, however,
should be in the Hall of Fame, and his eligibility is
unfortunately dependent on his being reinstated.
In 1991 the Hall of Fame board of directors passed election
regulation 6e, which says, "Any person on Baseball's ineligible
list shall not be an eligible candidate." The committee claimed
the rule was not designed specifically for Rose. "I like the
rule," says Hall of Fame chairman Ed Stack. "We would need some
kind of appeal to consider amending it."
Here's that appeal. While no one should feel comfortable with
Rose managing or otherwise being directly involved in the game,
neither should anyone feel comfortable that Rose is not in the
Hall. Visitors to Cooperstown deserve to see him there. Rose
holds more than a dozen career records and, with his hell-bent,
love-of-the-game style, had a positive impact on fans and
players throughout his 24-year career. Rose's Hall plaque could
state that after his playing career he was banned from the game
on suspicion of gambling while he was a manager.
Selig also sits on the Hall of Fame board of directors, and by
helping to change the admission requirements while blocking
Rose's reinstatement, he could honor Giamatti's ban, protect
baseball from a known gambler and give Rose's playing career the
appreciation it deserves.
Although the NFL's ban on drafting college players before their
class graduates was lifted by commissioner Paul Tagliabue in
1990--with the result that a number of non-seniors now sign each
year--the league, in contrast to the NBA, the NHL and Major
League Baseball, has maintained a stance against athletic
cradle-robbing. "Our position," says NFL spokesman Greg Aiello,
"is that we prefer for players to stay in school, complete their
eligibility and get their degrees."
That's very noble, and it also makes a Sept. 5 NFL press release
headlined GOOD YOUNG QUARTERBACKS all the more jarring. It not
only lists the league's top-ranked quarterbacks who are under 30
but also raves about Washington State junior Ryan Leaf and
Kentucky sophomore Tim Couch--before going on to list five high
school seniors as top prospects.
HEAD TO HEAD
All-Star center Pat LaFontaine walked into Buffalo Sabres
president Larry Quinn's office on Sept. 5 with what he presumed
was good news: That week, after nine hours of examinations, two
prominent neurologists cleared LaFontaine to return to hockey.
LaFontaine, who suffered the fifth concussion of his 14-year NHL
career last Oct. 17 and played only seven games the rest of the
season, says that as he entered Quinn's office, "I expected an
enthusiasm equal to mine. I think the 25 other NHL teams, on
hearing that their captain had researched the matter, had been
seen by renowned neurologists and was now O.K., would have been
The response from Quinn and Sabres general manager Darcy Regier
has been more restrained. They organized a conference call for
early this week between the three doctors who last spring said
that LaFontaine was unfit to play and the pair who had given him
a green light. One of the latter doctors was James Kelly, whose
Colorado Guidelines for the classification and treatment of
concussions are used as standards throughout much of the sports
"Did Pat's doctors have all the information?" Regier asks. "We
want all the data on the table. This is a medical issue." Not
so, counters Don Meehan, LaFontaine's agent: "This is a money
Meehan asserts that Buffalo is worried about LaFontaine's
productivity and is looking for a way to get out from under his
salary. LaFontaine is guaranteed $4.8 million for each of the
next two seasons, 80% of which would be paid by an insurance
company if he were medically unfit. Anyone who would turn down
$9.6 million for not working should have his head examined
again, but the 32-year-old LaFontaine, one of hockey's smartest
players, is committed to making a comeback. If the doctors fail
to reach a consensus, LaFontaine is prepared to go to an
arbitrator in the hope that the Sabres would be compelled to
take him back. He could also request a trade. Regier hopes any
conflict can be resolved internally.
In either case the matter has become a big headache for Buffalo,
which didn't need another public-relations disaster just two
months after failing to re-sign popular coach Ted Nolan. The
cash-poor Sabres are unlikely to win financially--since two
doctors have given LaFontaine their blessing, it's doubtful
Buffalo can even make a compelling insurance claim--or on the
public relations front against the dogged LaFontaine, who has
been working out and skating on his own. The Sabres' best course
would be to graciously accept his perseverance, his 80 points
and his note from his doctors.
PAINT IT BLACK
On the opening Sunday of the NFL season, half the 14 games were
blacked out on TV in their home markets because the home teams
failed to sell out by the required 72 hours before kickoff.
After 21 straight games without a blackout, the Miami Dolphins
have had two already this year; on Sunday the San Diego Chargers
had their first since 1994. Last week the league sent out a
release noting that only four games last weekend were being
blacked out. One of them was at Minnesota, where the Vikings and
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers squared off in the only matchup of
The NFL has the most dedicated TV audience of any U.S. pro
league, but fans aren't packing stadiums to see the games.
"There are lots of reasons you can identify," says Denver
Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. "I think the least reasonable reason
is that the game is not as popular." Bowlen believes that
because the season started earlier than ever, on Aug. 31, fans
weren't ready for football, and that the turnout will pick up in
the weeks ahead. Others in the NFL say the high rate of
blackouts is merely coincidence, that some of the softer markets
just happened to be hosting games at the same time.
But it's also possible that rising ticket costs, a dearth of
must-see visiting teams--the result of parity--and rosters
constantly reshuffled by free agency have dampened fans'
loyalty. The NFL, which has a $1.1 billion-per-year TV contract
and will sign an even more lucrative deal next year when CBS
tries to regain telecasting rights, may also be slow in catering
to its stadium-going fans. "In many cities the clubs have to
market the product better," says Bob Leffler, a Baltimore sales
consultant who represents three NFL teams. "There's a slow
realization that the automatic sellout is not there just for an
Then there's NFL Sunday Ticket, which gives bars and home
subscribers a satellite feed of every game; the service now
reaches 400,000 homes. It's cheaper than season tickets and
guarantees access to every game (except those locally blacked
out). Says Tennessee Oilers general manager Floyd Reese, "If
you're an NFL fan and you can stay home with all the games in
front of you, that's got to be pretty tempting."
FEELING THE LOSS
The death generated a remarkable outpouring. One daily newspaper
ran 25 pages in memoriam. A radio news station discussed the
deceased all day. Tens of thousands of ordinary people paid
tribute with flowers. And Richie Ashburn was not even a princess.
What he was, simply, was a beloved Philadelphian. Sweet-natured
and humorous, Whitey, as he was known, spent 12 years of his
15-year Hall of Fame career as a Phillies outfielder. After
retiring in 1962 (he spent that season with the New York Mets),
he went on to broadcast, on television or radio, nearly every
game the Phillies played for the next 35 years. When he died on
Sept. 9 of a heart attack, he was 70 years old and, though
slowed by diabetes, still going strong. Only a few hours before
he had called a game. One among the more than 20,000 who visited
Ashburn as he lay in state at Philadelphia's Memorial Hall last
Friday placed a transistor radio among the bouquets.
The viewing of Ashburn's closed casket was to go from 11 a.m. to
7 p.m., but so long were the lines that it lasted until nearly
nine. Philadelphia mayor Edward Rendell was there, as were scads
of sports figures from all across the country. In the early
afternoon the entire Philadelphia Phillies roster arrived. The
players were all in uniform.
TEST OF PASSIONS
Given both nations' love for cricket and antipathy for each
other, matches between India and Pakistan are infamous for
inflaming passions. After the March 1996 World Cup in Bangalore,
Indians celebrated the home team's victory with firecrackers and
street dancing, while fans in Pakistan went on a rampage,
burning posters of their team and attacking the players' homes.
As a result, the two countries' next meeting, a series of five
matches that began last Saturday, was played 7,200 miles away at
the presumably calmer setting of the Toronto Cricket, Skating &
Curling Club. The intensity remained, nonetheless. "It is never
just a game," says Sanjay Kumar Singh, an avid India supporter.
"Something much stronger takes over. Sometimes you can't bear to
see it, but you can never tear yourself away."
Which is why millions of Indians and Pakistanis have been
riveted into the wee hours to the TV coverage from Toronto,
while in New York City, ardent expatriates have been paying
$29.95 to watch the action on pay-per-view. The first match drew
5,000 people, more than half of whom backed India, which won.
But after India prevailed again on Sunday, tempers flared on the
grounds. Pakistan cricketer Inzamam Ul-Haq was suspended for two
matches after scuffling with a heckler. That may set a dim
precedent for three one-day matches that are scheduled to start
on Sept. 29 in Pakistan, the first between the two teams there
since 1989. "It would be good to have better cricketing
relations," says Khurram Mehdi, an engineer from Islamabad,
Pakistan. "We share a common background. Politicians have
separated us, not sports people."
Hours after winning the U.S. Open that Martina Hingis won a
match for her Czech club team, TK Sezooz Prostejov.
Fine, in dollars, given by a Broncos kangaroo court to newly
unretired lineman Gary Zimmerman for, among other offenses,
attending a motorcycle rally while his teammates went through
Fine, in dollars, given by the NFL to Broncos tackle Michael
Dean Perry for a late hit on Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Los Angeles high schools with Indian team names now that the
school board has abolished such monikers.
Straight years that 6'3", 320-pound Cowboys lineman Nate Newton
has made Muscle and Fitness magazine's Worst Physiques in the
Percentage of scholarship players who must graduate in six years
for Florida football coach Steve Spurrier to get a $1,000 bonus,
per his new, six-year, $11.8 million contract.
Percentage who must graduate for Spurrier to get a $16,885 bonus.
They Also SERVE...
Last month, the Public Works Department of Richland County,
S.C., assigned Portland Trail Blazers forward JERMAINE O'NEAL to
100 hours of roadside trash collecting duty. With that he'll
fulfill a court's community service sentence he received for
cursing at sheriff's deputies in June. Athletes so often brush
with the law, it sometimes seems the phrase "hours of community
service" should be made an official statistic. But, O'Neal's
cleansing task aside, we wondered what "service" a community
might get from an atoning athlete? Here are some recent
MICHAEL CARBAJAL Former IBF and WBC junior flyweight boxing
champ THE CRIME: Recklessly shooting a gun outside a Phoenix
party in February 1995 THE TIME: 300 hours coaching in the
recreation program at the Fort McDowell Mohave-Apache Indian
Community and with Phoenix area antigang programs
TONYA HARDING 1994 U.S. figure skating champion THE CRIME:
Hindering prosecution in the Nancy Kerrigan assault case in
March 1994 THE TIME: 500 hours delivering dinners, washing pots
and mopping floors for a meals-on-wheels program in Portland
STEVE HOWE Former New York Yankees pitcher THE CRIME: Criminal
possession of a gun in November 1996 THE TIME: 150 hours of
youth counseling at the Presbyterian Church of Astoria in New
MARC NEWFIELD Milwaukee Brewers outfielder THE CRIME: Possession
of two ounces of marijuana last September in Dearborn, Mich.
THE TIME: Six hours shoveling snow in Detroit
Arizona Cardinals quarterback THE CRIME: Disorderly conduct and
assault during a melee at a Tempe nightclub on March 23 THE
TIME: 100 hours; currently coaching with Maricopa County Special
HE WAS A MANAGER
Burgess Meredith, who died last week at 88, may be best recalled
for playing the Penguin on TV's Batman, or for his exquisite
stage work. But to us, he'll always be Mickey, the
quintessential cornerman from the Rocky movies.
A sampling of Mickey's pugilistic perspicacity:
"Women weaken legs."
"You're gonna eat lightning and you're gonna crap thunder.
You're gonna become a very dangerous person."
"Snarl more! A good snarl can give you what the Bible calls a
"Knock his block off!"
To help launch a new line of watches, Tag Heuer got celebrated
photographer Herb Ritts to shoot 13 world-class athletes in the
nude for an exhibition that will travel to 40 cities.
Amy Van Dyken
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Sugar Ray Leonard, 41, and Roberto Duran, 46, are fielding
offers to fight for a fourth time.
his team to show against Alabama: "The kind of confidence that
the 82-year-old man had when he married a 25-year-old woman and
bought a five-bedroom house next to an elementary school."