St. Louis Blues
Forty years ago the NBA's best player faced obstacles unknown to
There are those whose role it is to remind us that history
didn't begin with yesterday's games and that the latest
incarnation of something isn't perforce the best. I mention this
in light of recent proclamations, including my own, that Michael
Jordan is the best basketball player in the history of this or
any other galaxy. I still believe in Jordan's preeminence but
feel obligated to include a historical asterisk offered by
Jeremiah Tax, a former writer for and editor of SI who was
covering NBA championship games before Jordan was born.
"I'm not suggesting that Bill Russell was a better player than
Michael Jordan," Tax said last week. "But if Jordan had to go
through what Russell went through, I wonder how much harder it
would've been for Jordan to achieve what he has achieved."
An episode during the 1958 Finals makes Tax's point. Russell,
then in his second season with the Boston Celtics, had severely
sprained his right ankle during a Game 3 loss in St. Louis that
had put the Celtics down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series against
the St. Louis Hawks. Those were the days before sophisticated
rehabilitation techniques that put a player back on his feet
quickly. Boston coach Red Auerbach didn't even take Russell back
to St. Louis for Game 6, but the night before the game, as
Auerbach, Tax, Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn sat conversing in a
hotel lobby, Russell limped through the revolving door and
headed for the reception desk. He hadn't arrived aboard a
chartered plane, as one of today's players might; he had flown
commercial out of Boston, which in those days meant making two
connections to get to St. Louis.
"What are you doing here?" Auerbach asked him.
"I didn't come to watch," answered Russell.
Russell was hungry, so the five men walked to a cafeteria. They
lined up at the counter and discussed the chances of tying the
series. (The Hawks would win Game 6 to interrupt what would've
been a string of 10 straight Celtics titles.) Soon it became
clear that the counterman was ignoring them. "I don't think
they're going to serve me," said Russell.
"That's right," said the man. "We don't serve colored here."
The group walked out. Auerbach remembered a hamburger joint
around the corner. They sat down on stools at the counter. A
waitress said to them coldly, "We don't serve colored here."
The fivesome returned to the hotel and headed for their rooms.
As the world celebrates Jordan, Tax can close his eyes and see
Russell, a proud man who was the Jordan of his time, hobbling on
a swollen ankle toward the elevator, angry and ravenous, the
night before a championship game. --J.M.
A Fan's (Legal) Notes
The irresponsibility documented in last month's report on
athletes who have fathered children out of wedlock (Paternity
Ward, May 4) is not restricted to the athletic world. Consider
Joel Fryer, a Georgia superior court judge who should be wearing
an Atlanta Braves jersey instead of a jurist's robe.
We heard about Fryer from Jacquelyn Barnett, who says she
conceived her seven-month-old daughter, Madison, with Braves
outfielder Andruw Jones. (A DNA test placed the likelihood of
Jones's being the father at 99.97%, but Jones has still not
acknowledged fatherhood.) Though Barnett and Madison live in an
Atlanta suburb, Jones has, by Barnett's account, never seen his
daughter outside a courtroom. Barnett claims she recently sent
Jones pictures of the child in hopes of fostering a
father-daughter relationship. "I called to see if he had gotten
them, and he went off on me," says Barnett. "He said, 'I don't
want you calling. I don't care about Madison.'" Neither Jones
nor his lawyers would comment to SI.
A Cal grad who intends to pursue a master's degree in
psychology, Barnett sought $4,449 a month in child support,
roughly the amount that's commonly awarded when the father's
salary is in the area of the $411,000 Jones earned last year.
Had she known that Fryer was an avid Braves fan, Barnett might
have accepted Jones's settlement offer of $2,500 per month.
In his opening argument Barnett's attorney, Christopher Bracken,
was explaining Jones's status as an up-and-coming player for
Atlanta when Fryer cut him short. "He's magnificent," gushed the
judge. Over the next few minutes, Fryer interjected the
following comments. "I watch him every day.... He's going to
play much better this year because he has to.... He's got the
full responsibility of a lot of ground out there."
Shortly thereafter, Jones's attorney, Pamela Tremayne, argued
that Jones's financial obligations should be diminished because
Jones and Barnett never formally dated. "Where did they have
sex," the judge asked, "in the back seat of a car?"
Despite the fact that Jones inexplicably failed to submit a
required list of his own expenses, Fryer (who declined SI's
interview request) awarded the startlingly low sum of $1,500 in
monthly support. (That was a temporary order contingent upon
Jones's taking another blood test.) More stunning was the
soliloquy that accompanied his decision. "We've got a
23-year-old mother [Barnett is 24] here who's got a wonderful
education [and] who wants to stay home until her infant becomes
18 years of age [though Barnett had testified that she intended
to go to work as soon as she felt Madison was old enough to
enter day care], so long as that fat cow continues to pay,"
Fryer pontificated. "Well, I don't have great sympathy for
that.... I'm going to make her starve to death if that is what
she plans on doing." --Lester Munson
The English Beat
The word is 100 years old and hails from the Southwark section
of London, which was home in 1898 to a hoodlum named Patrick
Hooligan. Like other eponymous pioneers in England--Thomas
Crapper, for instance, or the Earl of Sandwich--Hooligan is now
immortal; his name has been invoked daily during the World Cup
in France, where English hooligans have been a distasteful,
disruptive, dispiriting presence at an otherwise pleasant
picnic. They're a crap sandwich, you might say, in the sack
lunch of soccer.
Hooliganism is often called "the English disease," a phrase
that's unfair if only because it doesn't give tooth decay its
due. The phenomenon is unmistakably Anglo, even as English fans
point fingers--more often than not middle ones--elsewhere.
Sometimes they are correct to do so. Last Saturday a German
hooligan took an iron bar to the head of a French policeman,
leaving the gendarme in a coma. But blame-shifting is a
longstanding tradition among English hooligans. The very epithet
that describes these louts is an Irish, not English, surname.
After English fans rioted in Marseilles on the opening weekend
of the World Cup, apologists blamed overly aggressive police,
overly rabid fans of Tunisia (England's first opponent), even
schedulers who slated England to play on a Monday, which gave
its fans a full weekend to load up on lager.
Whoever was responsible, it could have been worse. The most
serious injury inflicted in Marseilles was a knife wound, and to
an English supporter, no less. So as we wrap up a century of
hooliganism, let's have a verse of Happy Birthday--and follow it
up with these lines from the dour English band the Smiths, who
Don't blame this sweet and
Because he'll never never do it
No of course he won't
At least not until the next time.
The Red and the Black
Despite a rich baseball legacy among blacks and despite a large
current crop of African-American stars, black fans remain
underrepresented at major league ballparks, even in cities with
large minority populations. In St. Louis, 47% of the city's
residents are black, but last season blacks made up just 3.5% of
the fans at Cardinals games. Says St. Louis's vice president of
corporate sales, Dan Farrell, "We definitely underperform in
that segment of the population."
Over the last six years the Cards have tried various
minority-targeted campaigns, but most were single-game
promotions. Late last fall St. Louis decided to adopt what
Farrell calls "a more grass-roots approach." Fuse, a black-owned
ad agency based in St. Louis, landed the contract for a $100,000
campaign--one unique in the game, according to Major League
Baseball--and set out to create billboards, posters, bus signs
and radio spots aimed at African-American residents of St. Louis
and East St. Louis, Ill. "When a black-owned agency is hired to
do a minority campaign," says Fuse partner Cliff Franklin,
"everyone expects it to be a soul campaign, something with a
loud rap background. We said, No music. Just the crack of the
bat. A black guy who loves baseball loves it the same way a
white guy loves it."
The Fuse ads feature stark, faintly retro portraits of St.
Louis's black stars, with copy--written with input from the
players--that compares the demands of baseball to, as Franklin
puts it, "the struggle it takes to make it as a black person in
this country." A poster of outfielder Brian Jordan, for example,
consists of a close-up shot of Jordan and the words, "God gave
me the ability. My parents gave me the opportunity. Everything
else I earned."
While the Cardinals say it's too early to determine whether the
campaign is pulling more African-Americans into Busch Stadium,
the ads have sparked largely positive commentary in St. Louis's
black press and on minority radio talk shows. In an era when the
game is fighting to hold on to its fan base, getting more folks
of any color talking baseball certainly can't hurt. The Cards
have no illusions; they know that Mark McGwire's quest for 62
(or is it 72?) home runs will bring more fans into the park than
all the ad campaigns in the world. They just hope for--and, like
all of baseball, need--a few more black faces watching when
McGwire circles the bases.
Baseball and the Bible, II
Indians Take The Collar
Last week we told you of the Cleveland Indians' all-gospel team
of Matt Luke, Mark Whiten and John Smiley. Luke was subsequently
released, but the next day the Tribe ordained a new member,
pitcher Eddie Priest, who came over in a trade with the
Down, Set, Hut, Icing!
On Long Island it's beginning to look a lot like football, and
not just because the New York Jets are preparing to open
training camp there next month. At the direction of new chief
executive David Seldin, (the former president of the NFL
Jacksonville Jaguars) the Island's NHL franchise, the New York
Islanders, has restructured its front office and coaching staffs
to resemble an NFL operation. According to one Islanders
staffer, "Seldin thinks the NFL is in the 21st century in terms
of running teams, while the NHL is in the 16th."
The setup, under which New York coach and general manager Mike
Milbury won't be involved in negotiating contracts, is unusual.
Unprecedented, however, is Milbury's intention to hire as many
as seven full-time coaches (the norm is four). Among them would
be two top associates--Ted Nolan, the NHL's coach of the year
while with the Buffalo Sabres in 1996-97, has already been
approached--and, below them, two assistant coaches, who will
serve as offensive and defensive coordinators to shuffle
personnel during games. There might also be three other
specialists who will focus on goaltending, penalty-killing and
Milbury will emphasize classroom work and hopes the commitment
to specialists by the front office will inspire a corresponding
commitment from the players. Having many coaches, he believes,
will allow young players to receive individual attention.
Milbury says he got some helpful advice from the Jaguars' Tom
Coughlin and the Jets' Bill Parcells, "but it's not like we're
going to start using a football instead of a puck." On the other
hand, he admits, thinking back on his team's abysmal 30-41-11
record this past season, "sometimes I wish I could punt."
Recent mountainside feat of Ruth Mahre looms every bit as large
as anything her twin brothers, 1984 slalom gold medalist Phil
and silver medalist Steve, ever accomplished on skis. On June
11, in only her third week as a mountain guide, Ruth, 25, was
taking (while descending the mountain a guide stays in the back)
a party of four down Disappointment Cleaver of Washington's
Mount Rainier when an avalanche started above her. The group
slid down the slope until Ruth's section of the line caught on a
jutting rock. Her position and body weight supported two members
of her party who were dangling off the same rock; the other two,
though still in danger, were not entirely supported by Mahre.
One slip and the entire group would tumble down the mountain.
Her legs and chest pressed hard against the rock, Mahre told the
others, "I don't care how uncomfortable you are, we're not
moving until we're secured onto a different rope."
Rescuers arrived minutes after the accident, but it was more
than two hours before the group could be moved to safety. By
that time one of the climbers, Patrick Nestler, had died of
hypothermia. While the other three surviving members were
helicoptered to safety, Mahre, her body covered with bruises,
declined medical attention and helped climbers from another
group reach the mountain's lower camp.
Five days later Mahre returned to work, guiding another five-day
climbing seminar. The following day, the Mahres' 70-year-old
father, David, climbed Mount St. Helen's. To hear her brothers
tell it, Ruth's heroism barely qualified as the adventurous
family's most noteworthy achievement of the week. "It was no big
deal," says Phil. "Just another day in the life."
--That Mark McGwire fans digging pregame pyrotechnics hold the
boos when the Big Card doesn't go yard.
--That Brent Musburger, who said, "USA all the way, baby," as he
predicted a U.S. win over Iran, be sent home with the fallen
--That when a golf announcer says, "Don't count this guy out,"
he be required to say, "He's toast," when that golfer fades.
Value, in dollars, paid at a Washington, D.C., auction for a
mint-condition Andy Pafko Topps card from 1952.
Value, in dollars, paid for a '33 Babe Ruth card, the
Times that the St. Louis Cardinals' Mark McGwire has been named
National League Player of the Month.
Months that McGwire has played in the National League.
Credit hours, equivalent to a full academic year's course load,
that vagabond basketball forward Lamar Odom says he's going to
take at Rhode Island this summer to be eligible for the Rams'
Profit, in dollars, made by Governor George W. Bush on a 1989
investment of $606,302 for a share of the Texas Rangers, who
were sold on June 16 for $250 million.
Four-game sweeps in the NHL finals since 1981.
Four-game sweeps in the NBA Finals and the World Series,
combined, since 1981.
Commissioner Selig--Is He the Right Choice?
Baseball owners indicated last week that Bud Selig is ready to
accept their long-standing request that he take the job full
time. You were expecting Judge Landis? No independent thinker
would take this declawed position. On the other hand, Selig has
created unity among owners, and he has a passion for the game.
Once he puts his share of the Brewers in trust and gets a decent
haircut, he'll be all set. --Tom Verducci
Let's see, the two major moments during Selig's 6 1/2-year
tenure as "acting" commissioner were an eight-month strike and
owner Wayne Huizenga's fire-sale dispersal of talent after his
Florida Marlins won the '97 World Series. Those are two of the
darkest moments in the history of the game. Now Selig is going
to be the commissioner full time? Elmer Fudd would have been a
better choice. --Leigh Montville
The folks at Wimbledon--sorry, The Championships--bill their
tournament as the crown jewel of the Grand Slams. But though
Centre Court still leads the way in luring royals, old Wimby
hasn't exactly attracted the strawberries and cream of the men's
tour in recent years. Each Slam usually reserves 104 of its 128
spots for the world's highest-ranked players; compare the number
of no-shows from the top 104 at Wimbledon in recent years with
those giving passing shots to the other three Slams.
YEAR AUSTRALIAN OPEN FRENCH OPEN WIMBLEDON U.S. OPEN
1998 3 1 5 ??
1997 3 3 13 2
1996 6 0 11 0
1995 24 0 17 7
1994 24 0 10 4
1993 15 1 13 11
1992 20 1 12 12
It looks as if labor problems will keep NBA stars from
representing the U.S. at the world championships in Athens next
month. Here's a team of eligible players (including Elton Brand,
right) that would acquit itself proudly.
Name and Team Skinny
David Rivers, G Best guard in the world not playing in
Teamsystem (Italy) NBA
Delaney Rudd, G At 36, still reliable backup
Villeurbanne (France) backcourtman
Jimmy King, G Former Fab Fiver would play hungry
Quad City Thunder (CBA)
Gerald Madkins, G NBA's Mr. 10-Day Contract adapts well
Rockford Lightning (CBA) to new situations
Earl Boykins, G 5'5" firefly could reprise role Muggsy
Eastern Michigan Bogues played at 1986 worlds
Dominique Wilkins, F Won't be afraid to pull trigger at
Teamsystem (Italy) crunch time
Elton Brand, F 19-year-old might be overwhelmed
Duke at first, but he's a future star
Joe Arlauckas, F Bang-the-boards, won't-back-down
Real Madrid (Spain) muscleman perfect frontcourt complement
Wally Szczerbiak, F Can hit trey, and name looks
Miami of Ohio properly international
Wendell Alexis, F-C Most consistent expatriate big man
Victor Alexander, C Happier in Europe than he was at
Aek (Greece) Golden State; wouldn't you be?
Kevin Rankin, C 6'11" Northwestern nobody has blossomed
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Bob Hill, who has coached the Knicks, the Pacers and the Spurs,
has hired a public relations agency to promote his bid for
another NBA job.
Summer vacation should be relaxing, but who wants to spend a day
at the beach just tossing Frisbees and watching sand castles
implode at high tide? These sites will help you get your feet
wet in some more scintillating seaside activities. Remember to
leave a shady spot on the blanket for your laptop.
Cruise around the American Sailing Association's site to find
the nearest ASA-sanctioned school, where you can get certified
to sail at any level, from basic keelboat to advanced coastal
This windsurfing cyberforum has lessons for beginners and
technical tips for more experienced surfers, as well as
equipment reviews, weather reports and listings of the smoothest
seas around the country.
Forget the plastic bucket-and-shovel set: Sand Castle Central
(above) features the latest in high-tech beach art, including
construction lessons, a photo gallery and listings of
Hang at Surfline before waxing up, and check weather and surf
conditions around the world.
web.dreams sites we'd like to see
Have a few Buds and join the chat room devoted to dissin' the
soon-to-be baseball commish.
Real-time mapping of most recent hooligan activity at World Cup.
sexiest players at the World Cup: "She thinks that now, and she
has only seen me fully dressed."