This is an article from the June 15, 1998 issue
A recent rash of baseball fights turns out not to have been a
rash at all but a healthy glow, a pink flush returned to the
cheeks of a long-cadaverous game. Have you noticed? Baseball
fights are full of virtues that are too often missing from
baseball itself. Take team unity. You can scarcely find two
members of any club willing to unite as whist partners. But
throw a fastball near the noggin of one utility infielder, and
24 of his mates will be all over you like a discount poncho.
"Taking care of business," as Anaheim Angels pitcher Chuck
Finley said of his team's recent Wagnerian, 12-ejection
free-for-all with the Kansas City Royals, "brings the guys
Those who say fights give the game a black eye haven't seen the
fights, which couldn't give Peter McNeeley a black eye. Baseball
fights are only slightly more dangerous than fights between
hockey goalies, who resemble bar patrons in inflatable sumo
suits wrestling over free tequila shooters. Nobody gets hurt,
and that's by design. "There's a certain etiquette within the
brawl," says Royals manager Tony Muser, who demoted shortstop
Felix Martinez to Omaha for violating that code by sucker
punching the Angels' Frank Bolick. "If you're going to hit
somebody, you would hope that person's eyes are on you."
In what other context does a ballplayer concern himself with
etiquette of any kind? Only in fighting would a Wally Post make
like Emily Post, and that's reason enough to praise the
bare-knuckle baseball bout. That point of view has long been
embraced by hockey. "We're going to have to do something about
all this violence," Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe once
said, "or people are going to keep buying tickets."
That quote is included in World's Greatest Sports Brawls, which
sounds like (and perhaps will one day become) a Fox television
special but is, in fact, a newly published book whose existence
speaks to the public appetite for fights. The cover of this
roundhouse roundup features a photo of 46-year-old Nolan Ryan
headlocking and haymakering 26-year-old Robin Ventura in their
famous 1993 throwdown. The picture of Ryan literally striking a
blow for golden-agers still sends a frisson of satisfaction up
the lumbar-braced spines of a great many AARP members.
But it was another May-September slugfest that elevated the
sports brawl to performance art. When New York Knicks coach Jeff
Van Gundy served as a living ankle bracelet to Miami Heat center
Alonzo Mourning this spring, the resulting tableau was a
grotesquerie, to be sure. But were you able to look away?
Indeed, the Knicks and the Heat annually reinvent the concept of
the bench-clearing basketball fight, a practice condemned by the
NBA but one that actually speaks to the best nature of man.
What's wrong with loyalty, with coming to the aid of a
comrade-in-arms? Chivalry isn't dead--it's living in the NBA
rule book, under an assumed name: Leaving the Bench During a
Fight. --Steve Rushin
WINGS WILL BEAT ON CAPS
The detroit Red Wings, the NHL's most talented team, entered the
Stanley Cup finals looking as invincible as a band of alchemists
in possession of the magic stone. The Wings had transmuted their
primary weakness--goalie Chris Osgood's penchant for yielding
easy goals--into philosophical gain. After Osgood blew Game 5 of
the Western Conference finals by letting in a shot from center
ice by the Dallas Stars' Jamie Langenbrunner in overtime, he and
his teammates vowed they would thrive off that miscue. Then they
turned in their strongest performance of the playoffs in a 2-0
win in Game 6 that sent them to the finals, which were to begin
on Tuesday, against the Washington Capitals.
The determination to exonerate Osgood--and Osgood's
resilience--are reasons Detroit should ice Washington. Here are
--The finals stir sleeping lions. The Red Wings beat the Stars
with scant help from their top offensive weapons, centers Steve
Yzerman (four points) and Sergei Fedorov (two) and wing Brendan
Shanahan (none). Those stars won't lie dormant forever--Fedorov
and Yzerman combined for 31 points in Detroit's first two
playoff series, and, with the Cup at stake, expect the gutty
Shanahan to work through his nagging back injury.
--The Wings get up, and nothing gets them down. With its
left-wing-lock defensive system, Detroit is hell to come back
on. It's 9-1 this postseason in games in which it scored first.
No team plays as confidently with a lead.
--These guys are fast. From Fedorov to left wing Slava Kozlov to
center Kris Draper, Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman sends out
speed on every shift. That's going to be rough on Washington
because so many of its key forwards are slow, particularly the
rough-and-tumble line of Dale Hunter, Craig Berube and Chris
--These guys are strong. Behind Detroit's snazzy playmaking lurks
an intimidating physical presence--even when Bowman doesn't
choose to dress preeminent pugilist Joey Kocur. Shanahan, who
crashes around at 6'3" and 220 pounds; right wing Martin
Lapointe, a motorized medicine ball at 5'11", 215; and right
wing Darren McCarty, sinewy and seemingly ignorant of pain at
6'1", 215, all get lots of ice time. Not even the Capitals'
sizable defense can handle such a relentless threat.
--The rest of the glittering, red-and-white package. The Wings
possess the league's top defensive pairing (Nicklas Lidstrom and
Larry Murphy), the best coach in NHL history (Bowman) and a fine
blend of youth and experience (12 players are 27 and under, and
13 are over). It all adds up to the Wings winning the Cup in
five games. --Kostya Kennedy
CLOSE TO HOME
Last June 13, my then 11-year-old nephew, Colin Burns, was at a
birthday party at his friend's house on the southwest side of
Chicago. They were also cheering the second straight NBA
championship won that day by their beloved Bulls. Colin and a
couple of his buddies ventured outside, where an adult was
setting off fireworks celebrating the title. Colin's life has
not been the same since.
Mindless revelry has become a postchampionship sports ritual,
the ugly counterpart to cutting down the nets or going to Disney
World. Fans pour into the streets to whoop it up by shooting
guns, lighting fireworks and, in some cases, overturning cars
and looting stores. The list of cities scarred by out-of-control
celebrations over the years is long: Detroit in 1984 and '90;
Chicago in '92 and '93; Montreal in '86 and '93; Dallas in '93.
Although cities in recent years have celebrated far less
destructively (Toronto in '93, New York in '96 and Chicago in
'96 all were relatively peaceful), the effort to limit the
damage is always a qualified success. As sure as Jordan has
game, championship wins mean innocent people get hurt or killed.
Colin was one of them. The mortar-type firework set off by the
neighbor exploded on the ground, injuring Colin and three
friends, as well as the neighbor. Everyone but Colin suffered
burns and recovered quickly. Colin lost his left eye and has
undergone several operations to repair his eye socket and
At least he's alive. After the Bulls won in '93, two Chicagoans
were killed by stray gunfire: a 12-year-old boy who was sitting
in front of his house and a 26-year-old mother of two who was
also in front of her building. In the Detroit riots of '90,
which followed the Pistons' second title, eight people died,
three of them children.
Most pro athletes feel little loyalty to the city for which they
play, so why are so many fans willing to cross the line into
dangerous behavior while honoring their team? Probably because
this nonsensical outpouring of emotion has little to do with
true fandom. Sociologists offer a wide range of reasons, from
economic frustrations to the breakup of the nuclear family. Or
maybe it's just about alcohol, pent-up aggression and a general
disrespect for others. Whatever the origin of this behavior,
it's costing cities millions of dollars and leaving a trail of
For this year's Finals, the NBA is financing public service
announcements featuring Bulls and Jazz stars urging fans to
celebrate with restraint. If sports-crazed fanatics need more
incentive to stash their guns and fireworks, I offer the example
of one young man whose vision no longer permits him a clear view
of his favorite team. --Marty Burns
THE BITCH IS BACK
Wilma, an Irish greyhound, finished last in a race at a track in
Poole, England, on June 2. Clearly she had been saving herself.
As the other dogs trotted to a stop, Wilma kept running, out of
the park and onto a highway, still clad in her orange racing
vest with the number 5 on it. For three days she remained at
large, sighted here and there, including once by a motorist who
called police to report that he had been overtaken by a speeding
greyhound on a road five miles from the Poole track.
Last Friday evening the canine marathoner's long run came to a
happy, if panting, end. She was spotted in an industrial park
three miles from the track and returned to her trainer, Jo
Burridge, who reported that despite her odyssey, Wilma didn't
"seem to have lost any weight."
Shirley Povich (1905-1998)
On the day before the final day of his life, Shirley Povich, 92,
filed his column to The Washington Post, something he first did
in 1926, the year before Babe Ruth hit 60. He told sports editor
George Solomon it was his "comeback column" because he hadn't
been feeling well and hadn't written in a couple of weeks. In
his careful prose Povich juxtaposed three contemporary
subjects--Mark McGwire, David Wells and Buck Showalter--against
their historical counterparts, Ruth, Don Larsen and Paul
Richards. The column didn't sound like a curmudgeon complaining
about today and glorifying the past. It sounded like Shirley
Povich, a courtly gentleman to the end. "If anybody were to
reawaken the fans to the glory of baseball by pitching the
perfect game," wrote Povich in that final column, "the scene
could have no more appropriate protagonist than David Wells,
Povich died last Thursday of a heart attack, leaving sports
writing with one less giant. A lot of journalists loved Gary
Cooper in Pride of the Yankees, but how many were in Yankee
Stadium on July 4, 1939, when the Iron Horse proclaimed himself
the luckiest man on the face of the earth? Povich was. A lot of
journalists still working could tell you about covering the '72
Olympics in Munich. But when Povich sprinted past policemen to
secure a rooftop vantage point, he was 67 years old.
Povich possessed neither the crystalline style of his close
friend Red Smith nor the acid wit of Jim Murray. He gained his
reputation as Washington's finest (Richard Nixon said that
Povich's column was the only thing he read in the Post) by being
fair-minded and having a vision that extended beyond the
quotidian fate of the home team. He was one of the first writers
for whom a loss by the home team did not inspire
apoplexy--"Maybe because I covered a loser [the Senators] for so
many years, it was easier for me to become detached," he
said--and he used the power of his bully pulpit to badger
baseball to accept blacks years before Jackie Robinson broke the
His proudest moments came in his candid treatment of George
Preston Marshall, who owned the Redskins from 1932 to '69.
Povich needled Marshall for his penny-pinching and his egotism
and skewered him for his racism. (No blacks played for
Washington until '62.) Wrote Povich in one memorable line:
"Jimmy Brown, born ineligible for the Skins, played an excellent
game yesterday." For three quarters of a century, Povich, too,
played an excellent game.
PUNISHMENT BY PRESS RELEASE
After 66 days of poring over written statements, the NCAA has
spoken. What was the "sentence" it handed down to Makhtar
Ndiaye, the North Carolina center who falsely accused Utah
freshman forward Britton Johnsen of using racial slurs during
their Final Four game, a charge that Ndiaye later recanted? The
NCAA called it a "public reprimand."
This action means next to nothing. There's no penalty attached.
It might have carried some weight had it been either timely or
truly public. Instead, it was dispensed in a letter to the
university and a statement released two weeks after Ndiaye--who
received no public punishment from his team or school--had
High School Baseball
As baseball coach at Amphitheater High in Tucson, Danny Hernandez
each year welcomed one or two Mexican players who hoped to learn
English and attract the attention of major league scouts. Using
these players was allowed as long as they lived with a parent or
guardian in the school district. But when their count on the
roster swelled to nine this year, someone tipped off the school
district that all might not be aboveboard.
An investigation by the district found that several players were
living in an apartment without guardians and that others were
living with guardians outside the district. That led to the nine
players' being kicked off the team. Also, Hernandez had let his
teaching certificate lapse, a violation that forced the school
to forfeit 21 games, turning a 20-7 season into a 4-23 debacle.
Hernandez, who resigned recently and could not be reached for
comment, has denied that he recruited the boys, which would have
been a violation of state rules. But he was clearly facilitating
the players' stays in Tucson, as several of them lived with
members of his family during the school year.
Some Amphitheater parents wondered why Hernandez gave Mexican
kids an opportunity to play at the expense of American kids,
particularly since his teams were good but not dominant. "As an
American, I was uncomfortable with the situation," says Ron
Dominguez, a volunteer assistant for the Panthers this year,
"and I can certainly understand parents' having problems with it."
The Arizona Interscholastic Association has placed Amphitheater
on probation for one year. Meanwhile, Phil Evans, a parent of an
Amphi player, shook his head at the mess. "[District rival]
Canyon del Oro won the state championship the right way," says
Evans. "Why couldn't we?"
Edgar Degas, who once professed to be "totally ignorant of the
mechanism that regulates a horse's movements," nevertheless
captured the grace, the speed, the light and the color of racing
as no other artist has. "Degas at the Races," an exhibition at
the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (through July
12), brings together for the first time 120 of the Impressionist
master's equestrian works--paintings, prints, sketches and
sculptures--including The Parade (Racehorses Before the Stands),
1866-1872 (left). To view the show is to step back a century to
an afternoon's outing at Longchamp, near Paris, or to one of the
steeplechase tracks in Degas's beloved Normandy. For racing fans
looking to fall in love with their sport again, this one's a
That we could be a fly on the wall when Mike Ditka, who has
pledged to "shove it down their throats" and "rule with an iron
fist" to better '97's 6-10 record, starts lighting into his
That lank-tressed ESPN hockey host Barry Melrose springs for a
shampoo and cut before the Stanley Cup finals.
That the World Cup's starting during the MLS season doesn't just
give Americans two chances to ignore soccer.
Stitches received by Red Wings enforcer Darren McCarty during the
Western Conference finals against Dallas.
Stitches received by McCarty after being hit in the forehead by
a plastic puck shot by a five-year-old neighbor in McCarty's
basement between Games 4 and 5.
Former Browns remaining on the Ravens' 45-man roster just two
years after the team moved from Cleveland.
Cyclists, out of 95, in the British PruTour who got lost in the
middle of a small town between Manchester and Blackpool because
of misleading signage.
Positions (catcher) that Reds utilityman Lenny Harris hasn't
played in the majors, after he pitched one inning in relief last
Senior PGA Tour statistical categories, out of 11, in which Hale
Irwin is ranked among the top 10.
Percentage of Brazilian soccer fans who described themselves in
a poll as "terrified" about their team's World Cup prospects
after it played to a 1-1 tie with a Spanish club.
POUND FOR POUND, WHO'S BOXING'S BEST?
ROY JONES JR.
He's the most complete fighter of this era, gifted with speed,
power and charisma. He has dominated three divisions and
generally toyed with the competition. If he feels somebody
deserves a whipping (Montell Griffin), he delivers one, but if
he feels somebody deserves mercy (Vinny Pazienza), he delivers
that. Even Jones's second sport, hoops, is a more manly one than
De La Hoya's, golf. --Richard Hoffer
OSCAR DE LA HOYA
At 5'11" and a frighteningly strong 147 pounds, he's built like
the original pound-for-pound king, Ray Robinson. On the attack,
especially with his withering left hook, De La Hoya looks pretty
Sugary too. Forget the teen-idol image; the Golden Boy is a
stone killer in the ring. His sheer firepower, superb
conditioning and his passion for the game--something Jones
lacks--should make for a perennial Oscar winner. --R.O.
With a major league-leading 134 strikeouts and a stingy 2.76 ERA
through Sunday, the Phillies' Curt Schilling should have had a
better record than 5-7. A lack of runs by Philly has hurt him,
but a more important factor may be that he has so often drawn an
ace--the other team's. Compare the combined record of
Schilling's mound opponents with similar numbers for baseball's
Pitcher Record Opposing Starters' Record
Tom Glavine 8-2 53-34, .609
SCHILLING 5-7 52-38, .578
Ken Hill 8-4 57-48, .538
Kevin Millwood 8-2 44-43, .506
David Wells 8-1 46-45, .505
Jason Schmidt 8-2 40-45, .471
Kevin Tapani 8-3 36-41, .468
Rolando Arrojo 8-3 42-50, .457
Greg Maddux 9-2 47-60, .439
One of the most familiar names in last week's major league draft
was that of Sean Burroughs, a 17-year-old third baseman for
Wilson High in Long Beach, Calif. He's known not only for being
the son of former American League MVP Jeff but also for his
heroics in the Little League World Series. Here's the skinny on
Burroughs (right, in 1993) and four other Little League stars
from those rare U.S. teams that have won the Series in this era
of foreign domination.
World Series Heroics
Pitched two no-hitters in 1993 to get Long Beach to championship
game, which it won 6-0 over Panama for its second straight title
Since Then He....
Hit .507 at Wilson High; chosen ninth by Padres in this year's
[World Series Heroics]
Pitched five-hitter and had two RBIs for Trumbull, Conn., in 5-2
defeat of Chinese Taipei in 1989 final
[Since Then He....]
Gave up baseball for hockey at Boston University; selected in
third round of 1994 NHL draft; '98 college player of the year;
negotiating contract with Avalanche
[World Series Heroics]
Fanned five and gave up no walks in Marietta, Ga.'s 3-1 win over
Dominican Republic in 1983 final
[Since Then He....]
Pitched three years at Georgia Tech; became first player from
any LL World Series champ to make it to the bigs, where he's a
reliever for Cubs, with a 4.20 ERA through Sunday
[World Series Heroics]
Struck out 12 and homered in Kirkland, Wash.'s 6-0 victory in
1982 that ended Taiwan's five-year title streak
[Since Then He....]
Shoulder injuries cut short career at Eastern Washington; now
works in lumber industry and coaches American Legion in Kirkland
[World Series Heroics]
Pitched a seven-inning shutout to get Lakewood, N.J., to 1975
final, in which it beat Tampa 4-3
[Since Then He....]
Played Class A ball in Phillies organization until '87; now
scouts part time for Reds, in Atlanta
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
The Sharper Image catalog advertises a $40 TV remote control
shaped to look like a golf green and on which certain keys make
the thwack of a powerful drive or the plonk of a ball falling
into the cup.
If a few hours in front of the tube listening to touchy-feely
Dick Enberg leaves your brain in a bunker, there's another way
to stay on top of the U.S. Open: up-to-the-minute reports from
the USGA (at www.usopen.com). You can also tee up this foursome
of personal pages.
Ask last year's Open champion (above) about his workout plan,
his favorite courses and his recent engagement to longtime
girlfriend Liezl Wehmeyer. You can also select a fantasy
foursome with the South African star as your team captain.
Sure, this site has stats and a Q-and-A section, but, best of
all, the football-mad lefty golfer periodically posts his sports
picks. (He was dead-on with Denver in the Super Bowl and
Kentucky in the NCAAs.)
John Daly checks in with a daily Daly diary from each of golf's
majors. There is also an audio section in which he speaks about
everything from tension on the PGA Tour to his battle with the
bottle. Coming soon: swing tips from Long John.
Cyberspace becomes memory lane at the Golden Bear's site, where
you can visit a photo library, organized by decade, and survey
his career milestones, including four Open titles.
sites we'd like to see
Tennis fans' chat room about Monica Seles's exclamatory
Cyber bulletin board dedicated to the many Los Angeles Dodgers
on arguing with ump Jerry Layne over a called third strike : "I
was trying my darndest to get a cuss word out, but I couldn't."