It will take a vantage point more distant than the U.S. Davis
Cup team's 4-1 victory over Australia last weekend in
Washington, D.C., to gauge the talent of surprise U.S. Open
winner Patrick Rafter. Is he going to stay near the summit of
the tennis world or is he just a genial bloke whose excellent
adventure ended 12 days after he celebrated his first Grand Slam
As tennis players go, Rafter, whose Open performance vaulted him
from No. 14 to No. 3 in the world rankings, is a rib-tickling
rarity--a swashbuckling personality with movie-star looks who
plays a nearly extinct serve-and-volley game. During his Open
run, there were scads of stories about Rafter's improved play in
1997, the pinup calendar he posed for back in Australia and his
fondness for frat-boy antics and partying. (Rafter says that one
of the highlights of his post-Open victory bash was "the cake
fight.") But the suggestion that Rafter, on the basis of one
fortnight's play, was close to bumping off Pete Sampras for the
No. 1 spot was a notion that Sampras and No. 2-ranked Michael
Chang, his singles opponents in last week's tie, regarded with
knowing smiles from the moment they arrived in D.C.
Sampras is still the best player of all time, his recent
fourth-round flameout at Flushing Meadow notwithstanding. And
Chang had proven he's the most hard-minded competitor on tour
long before Rafter upset him in the Open semifinals. So it was
no surprise, really, that when Chang needed something extra to
close out his 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Rafter last Friday, he
produced back-to-back aces--somehow summoning enough power from
his 5'8" frame to scorch one past Rafter at 126 mph. On Sunday,
Sampras was even more merciless during his four-set win. Later,
Rafter talked about the experience with slack-jawed wonder.
As talented as Rafter is, he is also a neophyte who was so
excited about his Open victory that he forgot to pick up his
$650,000 winner's check before he left the grounds. ("What do we
do?" his brother and business manager, Steve, anxiously asked a
U.S. tennis official the next day. "We'll wire it," the official
soothingly replied.) "All week long I've been trying to get back
that feeling I had for those two weeks at the Open," Rafter
confessed in a quiet moment last Saturday. "But sometimes I look
back on it and I still think, Was that really me?"
Lost amid the high-profile pursuit of Roger Maris's home run
record by the St. Louis Cardinals' Mark McGwire (page 40) is the
milestone--one more rare than a .400 batting average--reached by
another slugger this season. With 401 total bases through
Sunday, Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker has become just
the 22nd player to surpass the 400 mark and the first National
Leaguer to do so since the Milwaukee Braves' Hank Aaron, in
1959. (The last American Leaguer to accomplish the feat was Jim
Rice of the Boston Red Sox, in '78.) With 17 total bases in his
final six games, Walker would tie Joe DiMaggio for 10th on the
alltime list. Of course, Babe Ruth's record of 457, set in 1921,
remains totally out of sight.
THE CHAMP RETURNS
Muhammad Ali, who hasn't lived in Louisville since 1962, has
long had an uneasy relationship with his hometown over issues of
race and his opposition to the Vietnam War. Last week the
Louisville Lip, now 55 and ravaged by Parkinson's syndrome, made
a rare visit there to lend his presence to the inaugural Ali
Cup. The week-long international amateur boxing tournament,
which drew competitors from 21 countries, came to a rousing
climax last Saturday at Freedom Hall, when celebrities such as
Natalie Cole, James Earl Jones and Evander Holyfield paid
tribute to Ali before a cheering throng of 11,000, an indication
that the champ and the city may at last be coming to terms.
Ali spent much of the week signing autographs, posing for
pictures and, with the help of his wife, Lonnie, going on-line
to answer questions posed to him on the Louisville
Courier-Journal Web site. Responding to news reports that some
3,000 of his personal artifacts--from fight trunks to a Golden
Gloves trophy to one of his letters to the local draft
board--will be auctioned by Christie's in Los Angeles on Oct. 19
without his approval, Ali said, "Somebody stole my stuff. Over
the years people around me took things. I want all my stuff."
Some of the items came from the home of Ali's father, Cassius
Clay Sr., who died in 1990, and were sold to a collector by
Rahaman Ali, Muhammad's younger brother. When asked about the
items, Rahaman told The Courier-Journal, "I will gladly tell you
what you want, but you have to give me some money. If you can't,
the hell with it."
A few prominent Louisville residents are planning to attend the
auction and buy as many of the items as possible, hoping to
bring them back to Louisville for a proposed Ali museum. The Ali
Cup, too, appears set to return next year, and the Greatest has
told friends that he intends to sell his estate in Michigan and,
at long last, move back to Louisville. If Saturday's reception
is any indication, he will be welcomed.
In turning down an offer to succeed Bill Frieder as the Arizona
State basketball coach last week, Utah's Rick Majerus said,
"Athletics are an endeavor in which coaches ask players for a
commitment. I, in turn, have to reciprocate." Majerus's loyalty,
however, was to his sweat suits as well as to his Utes. After a
180-55 record in eight seasons at Utah, Majerus is the primary
college basketball icon for Reebok, which pays him between
$500,00 and $700,000 a year. Nike has a deal pending to outfit
Sun Devil teams but, with North Carolina's Dean Smith, Duke's
Mike Krzyzewski and Arizona's Lute Olson already in its coaching
stable, did not match Reebok's payout. Last season Frieder
received $125,000 from Nike.
Though Majerus is said to have relished the prospect of coaching
at Arizona State, athletic director Kevin White told The Arizona
Republic, "There were some real dramatic complications that
emerged with his current shoe company and us becoming a Nike
company." (The implications of White's calling his school a
company are another matter.) Those complications shouldn't arise
with Frieder's interim successor, Sun Devils assistant Don
Newman, who, as coach at Sacramento State from 1992 to '97, had
a record of 20-114.
WE THOUGHT IT WAS BASEBALL
Summer is over, the days are growing shorter, and baseball is
heading into the final week of the season. As any fan knows, now
is the time for players to step up, to bear down, to take their
play to another level (while continuing to do what got them
there) and, of course, to focus. It's a time, in short, for
heroics. As Ted Williams once said, "Baseball gives every
American boy a chance to excel.... This is the nature of man and
the name of the game."
Well, Teddy Ballgame--for whom game, after all, is part of the
name--ought to know. Yet, as a read through the sports pages
shows, when it comes to the nominal essence of the national
pastime, the pros aren't exactly in agreement, even with
"The name of the game is offense."--Los Angeles Dodgers manager
"The name of the game is defense."--Boston Red Sox manager Jimy
"Pitching's the name of the game."--Russell.
"The name of the game is pitching and defense."--Jimy Williams.
"The name of the game is runs."--Anaheim Angels designated
hitter Ricky Henderson.
"The name of the game is breaking up rhythm."--Red Sox first
baseman Mo Vaughn.
"Starting pitching is the name of the game." --Atlanta Braves
third baseman Chipper Jones.
"The name of the game [is the] bullpen."--San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker.
"The name of the game is consistency."--Seattle Mariners reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.
"The name of the game is you're a Yankee."--New York Yankees
pitching coordinator Billy Connors.
Middle-distance runner Mary Slaney, banned from competition in
May after a urine sample she provided at the 1996 U.S. Olympic
Trials revealed a suspiciously high ratio of testosterone to
epitestosterone, last week moved a step closer to having her
name cleared. A three-member panel convened by USA Track & Field
(USATF) to investigate the Slaney case issued a one-sentence
statement exonerating Slaney. As of Monday, Ann Breen-Greco, the
panel's chairwoman, had not yet explained that decision, but it
seems that the case against Slaney has been unraveling for some
time. Says Slaney's attorney, Duke law professor Doriane
Lambelet Coleman, "[USATF officials] acknowledged in June that
they no longer thought she'd taken testosterone."
Still, the case against Slaney raises questions about
testosterone testing for women. Of all performance-enhancing
substances, naturally occurring ones like testosterone are the
trickiest to evaluate because, unlike anabolic steroids, they
are naturally present in the body. To test for abuse, scientists
check the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, another
naturally occurring substance. The International Amateur
Athletics Federation (IAAF), track and field's world governing
body, has set a 6-to-1 t/e ratio as the threshold for suspicion.
A source familiar with Slaney's case told SI that her ratio was
10 to 1. But a number of factors can skew the ratio by causing a
woman's epitestosterone level to change. In addition to Slaney's
age (37 when she gave the sample), she was reportedly
menstruating and taking birth-control pills--all of which might
have raised her t/e ratio. In short, Slaney was cleared because
USATF could not prove that her elevated ratio was the result of
The next hurdle for Slaney is to persuade the IAAF's doping
commission, which meets next month, of her innocence. She's also
making a broader case to the U.S. Olympic Committee against the
use of the t/e ratio in determining whether athletes have used
testosterone. She's not the only one with doubts about the
validity of that measurement. A source within USATF says that
officials in that body have begun to question it as well.
One wonders whether Slaney's USATF exoneration marks the
beginning of the end for testosterone testing and, more
cynically, whether it gives women a green light to use the
substance. Lambelet Coleman, herself a national-class half-miler
in the 1980s, insists that testing is still viable. "We have no
problem with the 6-to-1 ratio as the basis for suspicion," she
says. "But [before determining guilt] you've got to do a
thorough investigation, which didn't happen."
In 1990 Jose Lopez, a retired plumber from Geelong, Australia,
was suffering from lung disease and needed a transplant to
survive. At the time, lung transplants were most safely done in
tandem with the heart, and Lopez received those organs from a
young car-accident victim. His own healthy heart, in turn, went
to Keith Webb, a farmer from the Tasmanian town of Bothwell, who
had coronary disease.
On Oct. 5 Lopez, 53, and Webb, 54, will stand together at the
starting line of the 5,000-meter walk at the World Transplant
Games in Sydney, in which 1,200 participants from 51 countries
will take part. Neither man is expected to win a medal, but if
the two do wind up neck and neck near the end of the walk, don't
expect Webb to bear down. "Without Lopez's heart," he says, "I
wouldn't be alive."
Highest uniform number allowed on the Ottawa Senators under a
directive from G.M. Pierre Gauthier, who considers big numbers
Pro boxing record of Dominick Cirillo, 67, the self-described
retired construction worker from New York City who law
enforcement officials say is the new head of the Genovese crime
Cost, in dollars, to build a stadium for the Cincinnati Bengals,
according to the project's proponents, who in 1996 sold voters
on a tax increase.
Latest estimate, in dollars, of the cost of the stadium,
according to Hamilton County.
Years between the last time a freshman started at quarterback
for Yale and last Saturday, when Mike McClellan took the Elis'
Combined weight, in pounds, of Baltimore Ravens offensive
linemen Ben Cavil (310) and Wally Williams, who are nicknamed
Honey Buns and Tastykakes, respectively, after their favorite
The new TV season is here. Shows trying to land one of the
celebs below for a cameo might consider these athletic backups.
Yankees righty Hideki Irabu in relief of Jonathan Winters?
Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek coming in for k.d. lang?
Pistons pivot Brian Williams subbing for Sinbad?
Soccer star Mia Hamm passing as Sandra Bullock?
NASCAR driver Kyle Petty doing a turn as Yanni?
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
In December, Crown Publishers will release Knee High & Livin'
Large: The World According to Me, the "tell-all" book by Orlando
Magic star Anfernee Hardaway's alter-ego puppet, Li'l Penny.
his benching Cal Ripken Jr.: "He's no different from anyone
else, except that he's doing something no one else has ever done
or ever will do."