A FINE KETTLE OF FISH
This is an article from the Nov. 10, 1997 issue
The Nov. 18 baseball expansion draft is a no-win proposition for
general managers of the 28 existing clubs. They're guaranteed to
lose two or three players, and they run the risk of years of
embarrassment if they leave the wrong ones exposed. Do you
think, for instance, the Atlanta Braves wish they'd kept third
baseman Vinny Castilla (80 home runs, 126 RBIs the last two
years), who was picked by the Colorado Rockies in the 1992
expansion draft, rather than first baseman Brian Hunter (seven
homers, 28 RBIs), whom they chose to protect? Likewise, the
Cincinnati Reds lost current San Diego Padres closer Trevor
Hoffman to the Florida Marlins in '92 while keeping mediocre
pitcher Tim Pugh.
Teams, who will name their protected 15 by Nov. 11, will be
allowed to protect three more players after losing one, and
another three after losing a second. Half the clubs will also
lose a third player to one of the expansion teams, the Arizona
Diamondbacks or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The newly crowned
World Series champion Marlins are especially vulnerable. General
manager Dave Dombrowski has already released veteran hitters
Jeff Conine and Darren Daulton. For the draft, Dombrowski has
only 12 open slots on the Marlins' 15-man list: Moises Alou,
Alex Fernandez and Gary Sheffield all have no-trade clauses and
must be protected.
Because players who have recently signed as amateurs and are not
on a club's 40-man roster cannot be drafted, most teams kept
their top young prospects in the minors all year. But Florida
brought up stud outfielder Mark Kotsay, a 1996 draft pick, when
centerfielder Devon White was hurt in midseason. Too good to
leave exposed, Kotsay will take up another slot.
Dombrowski figures to protect four young middle infielders:
Edgar Renteria, Craig Counsell, Alex Gonzalez and Luis Castillo.
Catcher Charles Johnson, outfielder Todd Dunwoody and pitchers
Kevin Brown and Livan Hernandez are no-brainers. Felix Heredia,
a 21-year-old southpaw with a strong arm, should be included, too.
That would leave Dombrowski with two spots. Hard-throwing
reliever Jay Powell and lefthander Tony Saunders, who started
the fourth game of the Series, are the logical choices. But that
would mean risking prospects John Roskos, 23, a catcher who hit
.308 in Double A; Kevin Millar, 26, a Double A first baseman who
was the organization's minor league player of the year; and
former first-round pick, infielder Josh Booty, 22. Then there's
Antonio Alfonseca, who threw 61/3 shutout innings in the World
Series, and power-hitting first baseman-outfielder Cliff Floyd,
24, who last summer drew considerable trade interest.
All of which means Florida almost surely will leave hitters
Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich and White, as well as pitchers
Dennis Cook and Al Leiter, there for the taking.
Asked recently by a Spanish reporter if he had any thoughts on
the international soccer icon Ronaldo, Michael Jordan replied,
"Sorry, I don't know [who he is]." Well, here's a brief
introduction: Ronaldo, 21, is the best soccer player in the
world and a prodigious scorer. He has a clean-shaven pate and a
multimillion-dollar contract with Nike. He recently became the
world's highest-paid soccer player when he signed a nine-year,
$82 million deal with the Italian club Inter Milan, and his
number-10 jersey has sparked huge merchandise sales in Italy.
Michael, think you guys would have anything to chat about?
AN OFFICIAL AND THE GENTLEMEN
The NBA chose to make history as inconspicuously as possible
last Friday night: at a game in British Columbia between two
likely cellar dwellers. Before the tipoff between the Dallas
Mavericks and the Vancouver Grizzlies at GM Place, Violet Palmer
nervously chomped her gum and fidgeted with her barrette and
fought the temptation to sway to the music of the Halloween
pregame show. In the crowd a 12-year-old girl wore a referee's
costume, whistle included. Palmer's appearance on court in
similar garb was no masquerade. Despite the strong objections of
a handful of NBA players, she was about to become the first
female in league history to officiate a regular-season game.
Palmer, 33, stared blankly while shaking hands with the teams'
captains before the tipoff. "Her eyes were as big as saucers,"
said Mavericks swingman Michael Finley after the game. "I know
she was as nervous as any of us players." After two minutes of
play Finley was glaring at Palmer when she made an out-of-bounds
call that he disagreed with. A fan within earshot bellowed at
her, "You're brutal! Brutal!" But working with veterans Bill
Oakes and Mark Wunderlich, Palmer maintained her composure and
reffed the sort of low-impact game favored by third officials.
She made her first foul call nearly nine minutes into the first
period and then blew her whistle 18 more times. Once, on an
out-of-bounds call against the Grizzlies' George Lynch, she was
overruled by Oakes.
The players made some adjustments. Bumping into Palmer in the
fourth quarter, Grizzlies swingman Blue Edwards instantly jumped
back and raised his hands. "I realized it was a lady, man!"
Edwards explained. Dallas forward Dennis Scott, who had bemoaned
the inclusion of a woman in a "man's game," drew a call for
hand-checking from Palmer. He walked to the scorer's table and
rolled his eyes. "Damn these new...," Scott said, smiling, "...
In the locker rooms after the Mavericks' 90-88 win, Palmer
received praise for the firmness of her decisions and almost
universal acceptance. NBA vice president Rod Thorn, who
orchestrated Palmer's relatively obscure debut, will find a spot
this week for the league's other female zebra, Dee Kantner, to
begin her career. Says Thorn of Palmer, "She did her job, like
the other two officials on the court. The better she performs,
the more anonymous she'll become."
BEAT THE PRESS
When Jim Kelly retired last January after 11 seasons as the
Buffalo Bills' quarterback, he left the bruising arena of the
NFL for what he thought would be the cushy aerie of an NBC
broadcasting gig. But on Oct. 25 the now helmetless Kelly
reportedly took a head shot from Indianapolis Colts quarterback
Jim Harbaugh, whom Kelly had called a "baby" on the air.
Harbaugh wound up with a broken hand, proving once again that
for those who comment on today's thin-skinned athletes, a hard
noggin is a plus. A few other recent skirmishes from the
journalistic front lines.
--Mike Webster vs. Aaron Sanderford. In a column in the Oct. 27
issue of the Kentucky Kernel, the school paper, Sanderford
laments that some fans consider the Wildcats a "laughingstock."
Offensive lineman Webster, thinking Sanderford had dubbed the
team a laughingstock, spits in his face.
--Dominik Hasek vs. Jim Kelley. Kelley writes in an April 22
column in The Buffalo News that the erratic behavior of the
Sabres' goaltender during the playoffs was the result of "the
pressure of having to be unbeatable." Outside the Sabres' locker
room, Hasek has to be restrained after grabbing Kelley's shirt
and ripping his collar.
--Manny Dies vs. Todd Stewart. In the Jan. 27 edition of
K-State's Collegian, columnist Stewart labels Dies, a Wildcats
junior forward, "the worst player in the history of college
basketball." Dies and a teammate allegedly bash in Stewart's
door and threaten him. They plead not guilty to assault,
criminal damage to property and criminal trespass charges. A
trial is set for Nov. 12-13.
As a young man in Brazil, Edgard Barreto was a fine soccer
player for a prestigious club team in Sao Paulo. In 1983, at age
44, having long since moved to the U.S., he went on a 1,400-mile
Gump run from Naples, Fla., to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. In '93 he
got into the Guinness Book of Records by running 101 marathons
in 12 months. Now a 60-year-old graduate student in sports
science, Barreto is thankful for the no-cut policy on the
Division II football squad at Ashland (Ohio) University. "I'm
probably the worst guy on the team," he says brightly.
Forty years after he played defensive back at Ashland, the
5'10", 160-pound Barreto, a retired high school science teacher,
is back playing safety at his old school. "When I found out he
was coming out for the team, I was apprehensive," says coach
Gary Keller. "But he's sincere, and having him out there working
hard is a benefit for the whole team."
For the first two months of the season, Barreto suited up for
games but never played. Last Saturday, however, with Ashland
leading St. Francis College of Joliet, Ill., 28-0, he took the
field at Community Stadium for one play in the final minute.
Though he didn't make a tackle or break up a pass, it was the
thrill of his athletic career. His teammates let him ring the
traditional victory bell on campus. "For an old man, it was a
dream come true," he says. "Three weeks before the season I was
in the retired life, drinking coffee in Spain. Saturday I was
out there with the boys ringing that bell."
It may take a string of garlic cloves or a wooden stake to quell
the bloodlust of Ruwiyati, a mononymic distance runner from
Indonesia. "As soon as I reach the finish line, I suck my
coach's blood from his finger," she says. "I feel refreshed."
Ruwiyati won the marathon at last month's Southeast Asian Games
in 2:46:20 and then refreshed herself at the hand of her coach,
Alwi Mugiyanto. Ruwiyati, 20, began blood sucking in 1991, and
in '93 she chomped down on Mugiyanto's neck before races at
Indonesia's national games. Ruwiyati won the 10K and the
marathon that year.
Given the mind-numbing incidence of athlete misbehavior
chronicled daily on the sports pages, the term sports ethics
might seem an oxymoron. But for Russell Gough, a philosophy
professor at Pepperdine, sports and ethics are not only
compatible, they're inseparable. Gough, in fact, wrote the book
on the subject, Character Is Everything: Promoting Ethical
Excellence in Sports, which was published last winter by
Harcourt Brace. For eight years he has taught a course in sports
ethics to first-year varsity athletes.
The class discusses topics ranging from cheating to the emphasis
placed on winning to the appropriateness of sports figures as
role models. Readings include Gough's book, as well as sports
biographies and academic works on ethics and philosophy. During
the second half of the semester, students break into groups to
research and prepare papers on specific issues.
"The class taught me that developing good character is like
learning to bunt; you've got to practice," says Dave Sugden, a
senior catcher on the Waves' baseball team. Gough, who has
adapted his teachings for a general audience in a new book,
Character Is Destiny, says the most fulfilling part of his
teaching is "seeing students start thinking about the issues of
character and ethics in areas beyond the playing field."
Sugden is a case in point. "Next year I'll be going to law
school," he says. "Then my ethics will really be tested."
Pounds of snow manufactured in Miami and shipped, as a
promotional gimmick, to the British Virgin Islands so U.S.
snowboarders could practice there for the Winter Olympics.
Hours of practice the boarders had before the snow melted.
Big East players who have earned Offensive Player of the Week
honors for their performances against Rutgers (0-6 in the
Little League teams founded in Barranquilla, Colombia, since the
start of the major league playoffs as a result of the popularity
of native son Edgar Renteria, the Florida Marlins shortstop.
Uniform number of Renteria--and of all Little League players in
Value, in dollars, of the stock received by Denver Broncos
quarterback John Elway for his six car dealerships from Republic
Industries, which is owned by Miami Dolphins boss Wayne Huizenga.
Days after skipping a motorcycle safety class that Mike Tyson
wrecked one of his cycles, suffering a broken rib and a
FROM A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
Eleven years ago the United States Football League, the
high-rolling springtime challenge to the established pro
football order, folded after only its third season. Today 11 of
the 159 USFL players who went on to the NFL remain active, and
through last weekend nearly all were strong, even vital,
contributors to their teams. The group includes Herschel Walker
(left), who was the league's first bonus baby when he signed for
$1.5 million a year with the New Jersey Generals in 1983. Here's
a look at the full cast.
William Fuller, defensive end, San Diego Chargers (NFL)
Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars (USFL): First-team All-USFL
selection in 1985, when he had 8 1/2 sacks and helped Stars win
title; four-time NFL All-Pro had 15 sacks in '91; has 16
tackles, two sacks this year.
Mel Gray, kick returner, Tennessee Oilers
Los Angeles Express: In 1984 scored winning TD (and broke arm)
in longest pro game ever, L.A.'s 27-21 triple-overtime win over
Michigan Panthers; averaging 9.1 yards on punt returns this year.
George Jamison, linebacker, Detroit Lions
Stars: Emerged from Stars' developmental squad to help win two
championships; Detroit's 1991 defensive MVP; has 27 tackles this
Sean Landeta, punter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Stars: In 1984 set USFL record with a 52.3-yard single-game
average; two-time All-Pro as a New York Giant; recently signed
with Bucs, has averaged 42.9 yards on 20 punts.
Sam Mills, linebacker, Carolina Panthers
Stars: Undersized (5'9") and unrecognized out of Montclair
(N.J.) State, became USFL poster boy with two all-league
selections and two titles; an NFL All-Pro five times, including
last year at 38; ranks fourth on Panthers with 60 tackles.
Nate Newton, guard, Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Bandits: The fat, mediocre USFL lineman became a phat,
superstar Cowboy, making five Pro Bowls in the last five
seasons; still one of Aikman's main men.
Gary Plummer, linebacker, San Francisco 49ers
Oakland Invaders: Oakland's career tackle leader, including 162
in 1983; after pacing Chargers in tackles three times as one of
NFL's top run stoppers, joined 49ers in '95; has 60 tackles in
Herschel Walker, running back, Cowboys
Generals: USFL's alltime leading rusher, with 5,562 yards; has
17,493 total yards in NFL (second-highest total ever); his
64-yard TD catch on Oct. 19 beat Jacksonville Jaguars.
Reggie White, defensive end, Green Bay Packers
Memphis Showboats: Led Showboats with 11 sacks in 1984; NFL's
alltime sack leader (172) after 12-plus years with Philadelphia
Eagles and Pack; has 6 1/2 sacks in '97.
Steve Young, quarterback, 49ers
Express: Was the USFL wacky? Young signed lifetime $40 million
contract to quarterback the Express and then played a game at
running back; NFL MVP in '92 and '94; has thrown for 1,633 yards
and 13 TDs this season.
Gary Zimmerman, tackle, Denver Broncos
Express: The best lineman in the USFL; seven-time All-Pro with
Minnesota Vikings and Broncos is likely Hall of Famer; has
emerged from retirement to start again.
THE LONG RUN
To reach the start of Sunday's New York Marathon, Luis Jorge
Obando Ramirez ran 5,000 miles from his home in Bogota. "Many
times I wondered if I would make it," he says. "I often was
unsure how much farther I had to go." Obando did make it, donned
bib 132 and finished the race in 3:15:53.
STARTED BOGOTA June 5 With $800 and a few necessities in his
backpack, Obando headed north.
PANAMA forbade him to run through a national forest, so he took
a plane to the canal, which he crossed by boat.
Insects rendered him sleepless in Costa Rica.
Rain in CENTRAL AMERICA fell so hard he sometimes "could not
see between drops."
Upon reaching MEXICO in July, received a 30-day visa; often ran
75 miles a day to traverse the country in time.
Spent four early September days resting in HOUSTON with sore
In a few U.S. TOWNS, voluntarily spent nights in jail because no
other beds were available.
On Oct. 24, reached NEW YORK CITY--on a bus, because it's
illegal to run through the Lincoln Tunnel.
Obando wore out five pairs of running shoes given to him by
well-wishers along the way.
Are these weathered leather gloves waiting to be stowed for the
winter? No, they're hard clay facsimiles carved by California
sculptor Richard Newman, whose handiwork can be caught in
galleries across the country. Newman's mitts haul in quite a
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The New York Rangers' Wayne Gretzky was issued, and wore for an
entire game, a uniform on which his name was misspelled.
friend. I was born to disco dance. If I don't go out, I don't
score the next day."