Bud Selig drops the act(ing), but does baseball get a real
This is an article from the July 20, 1998 issue
With all the solemnity of a papal election, and with almost as
much smoke blowing, Bud Selig was installed as commissioner of
baseball last Thursday, much as one might install new kitchen
cabinetry or any other wooden furniture. For Selig, variously
known as Bud Light and Kenesaw Molehill Landis during his
2,130-day iron-man tenure as "acting commissioner," the honor
was hard-won: He was narrowly approved by a vote of his fellow
The selection process was painstaking. As described in the
press, "hundreds" of candidates for the commissioner's job were
identified by a national "search committee"--presumably the very
same search committee employed by O.J. Simpson to identify his
ex-wife's real killers--before the list was winnowed to one
name: Allan H. (Bud) Selig. Under Selig's leadership, baseball
has seen a renaissance these last six years. (The Milwaukee
Brewers won approval for a new state-subsidized stadium, the
Milwaukee Brewers bed-hopped into the more lucrative National
League, the 1994 World Series was canceled, etc.)
Selig, who owns the Brewers, will be no mere windup toy for his
29 colleagues. He has certainly put the fear of God into
Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, if we are to believe a new
book called The Commissioners. "Pohlad, an octogenarian, look[s]
after Selig in a fatherly way," writes Jerome Holtzman.
"Dissatisfied with Selig's wardrobe, Pohlad [sends] him suits,
sport coats, shirts and neckties."
Perhaps because other owners dress him, Selig has been the
target of conflict-of-interest allegations. As he steps down as
president of the Brewers, cynics may rest assured that Selig
will wield little influence over his likely successor, with whom
he has little in common. Wendy Selig-Prieb is a woman, for one
thing, and she's young enough to be Selig's daughter. (In fact,
she is his daughter.)
"I have no zero interest in the job," Selig said of the
commissionership in 1992, a sentiment he repeated often in the
years that followed. For finally answering his call to duty (one
he'd left on call-waiting for six years), Selig will get a $3
million salary and an apartment in New York City. More
important, he gets to shed that awkward front half of the title
acting commissioner, a term that was inappropriate. Acting
commissioner describes a man who is merely playing a role,
reading someone else's lines with the practiced earnestness of a
Peter Arnett. But Selig is no bobble-headed baseball doll,
nodding whenever the owners tap him on his cap. Rather, he
provides--in the words of Chicago White Sox owner Jerry
Now, about that necktie....
Golf's New Star
PAK TO THE FUTURE
Haven't we seen this before? In May, 20-year-old golfer Se Ri
Pak of South Korea wins her first major, the McDonald's LPGA
Championship. Two weeks ago the rookie pro goes out and wins
another, the U.S. Women's Open, in Kohler, Wis., prevailing in a
20-hole playoff. Then she hops a private jet to Toledo to play
in last week's Jamie Farr Kroger Classic and wins by, oh, nine
shots. Nike, or somebody, needs to sign this woman up, get her
to look into a camera and say the sweetest words in golf: "I am
This week Pak plays at the JAL Big Apple Classic in New
Rochelle, N.Y., and golf's grandest cheeses--from Nike,
Callaway, Titleist--will be on hand, trying to play catch-up
with the phenom. Samsung, ahead of the curve, signed a 10-year
deal with Pak when she turned pro, but that won't deter the
suitors. The question is how Pak will handle it all. Golf has
become such a business, it's hard for players not to become
engulfed. Ask Woods. But Pakmania is rooted in something good.
With all due respect to Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, Pak's
emergence is the most spectacular thing to happen in women's
golf since Nancy Lopez teed off on the LPGA tour 20 years ago.
Whether Pak will win over galleries, as Woods does and Lopez
continues to do, it's way too early to say. So far she's mostly
a blank slate. Her page in the 1998 LPGA player guide is mostly
blank, too, but she's quickly staking out space in next year's
edition: youngest U.S. Women's Open champ, first rookie to win
two majors since Juli Inkster in 1984, first player to shoot 61
in a LPGA event (she did so in last week's second round), lowest
72-hole score in the history of the LPGA (her 261 at the Jamie
Her game, like her fame, is a work in progress. She's not that
good yet, Pak says. She has been playing for just six years, and
her feel for finesse shots is not yet honed. Give her a few
weeks. Pak lives in Orlando, but in the Open playoff there was
clear evidence that she's not hanging by the pool. On the 18th,
Pak had to play a shot with her feet in a pond. She removed her
shoes and then her socks. Her legs were so bronzed and her feet
so white, you could conclude only one thing: This woman is on
the practice tee all day, getting better, getting good. The day
may be coming when Tiger Woods will look into a camera and say,
"I am Se Ri Pak."
WAS HIS PLAY CRIMINAL?
If the Philadelphia Flyers are looking for young players to
carry on the Broad Street Bullies tradition, they've found their
man in 19-year-old winger Jesse Boulerice. The Flyers'
fifth-round pick in the 1996 draft has racked up 529 penalty
minutes in three seasons of junior play, including 170 for the
Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth (Mich.) Whalers last season.
But after being hit with a felony assault charge by Wayne
County, Mich., prosecutors last Thursday, he might be spending
more time in the witness box than the penalty box in the near
The charge stems from a first-period incident during Game 4 of
the Guelph Storm's sweep of the Whalers in the OHL semifinals in
April. Boulerice, playing with a cast on his broken left hand,
was checked into the boards by Storm forward Andrew Long. After a
shoving match, Long skated off to rejoin the play; Boulerice
caught up and, with a baseball-style swing of his stick, clubbed
Long across the bridge of the nose.
Long, 19, a '96 pick of the Florida Panthers, was knocked
unconscious and went into convulsions on the ice. He suffered a
broken nose and cheekbone, a 20-stitch gash and a blood spot on
his brain; he has fully recovered. Boulerice was ejected from
the game and given a one-year suspension from the OHL. He was
also banned from playing in the American Hockey League--where he
was likely to begin the 1998-99 season with the Flyers'
affiliate--until Nov. 15.
Boulerice apologized to Long in a phone call the day after the
incident, but Wayne County prosecutors, after viewing a videotape
of the attack and conducting a monthlong investigation, decided
that wasn't enough. If convicted, Boulerice, who was to be
arraigned on Tuesday, could face 10 years in prison. Making the
charge stick won't be easy though. Several NHL and professional
junior players have faced criminal charges for on-ice violence,
but it's believed that only one--Minnesota North Stars forward
Dino Ciccarelli in 1988--has gone to jail. He served one day.
"Jesse feels terrible, but this is a hockey incident and not a
criminal incident," says Boulerice's lawyer, Jim Howarth. "It's a
tall order to prove any intent to harm in a hockey game." Andrew
Long's injuries may be proof enough, however, and the Flyers, who
as of Monday had made no statement on Boulerice's status, might
want to reconsider any grand plans they had for their latest
Baseball in Flight
VIZQUEL'S FIRST-CLASS ACT
Flying to the All-Star Game in Denver from Kansas City, Mo.,
Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel, snug in first class,
glanced back into coach. There he noticed Rachel Dando, 15,
struggling to get settled in her seat while wearing a large
brace on her knee. Rachel, who plays on a Denver girls' softball
team, had hurt the knee in a Kansas City tournament and was
headed home with her teammates. Vizquel--in a move that coming
from a pro athlete was only slightly less astounding than, say,
jumping out of the plane and flying on to Denver by flapping his
arms--walked back and invited Rachel to swap seats. Rachel,
initially reluctant, gave in to her teammates' urgings and
hobbled up front, leaving Vizquel in coach.
"I've been on the disabled list twice with torn ligaments, so I
felt sorry for her," Vizquel said later, explaining the upgrade.
"I never told her who I was."
Agents on the Outs?
HEY, ATHLETES SAVE A BUNDLE
As a lawyer for the Washington Redskins and general counsel for
the Baltimore Orioles in the 1980s and early '90s, Lon Babby
couldn't understand why athletes willingly gave up fixed
percentages of their paychecks to agents when a lawyer, billing
at an hourly rate, could negotiate their contracts for a
fraction of the cost. Now Babby, a lawyer for the Washington
firm Williams and Connolly, is himself offering athletes
Babby's first client, Grant Hill, signed an eight-year, $45
million contract with the Detroit Pistons in 1994. An agent
charging the customary 4% commission would have taken $1.8
million. Babby, charging Hill at the firm's standard hourly
rate, billed him less than $100,000. Last year Hill signed a
deal with Fila for $80 million, from which an agent would have
extracted at least 10%, or $8 million. Babby's fee? Roughly
$150,000. Says Babby, whose clients include Tim Duncan of the
San Antonio Spurs and Nikki McCray of the WNBA's Washington
Mystics, "To justify making $8 million from that deal, I'd have
to work on it every day for the rest of my life."
While Babby is leading the revolution, other lawyers are also
embracing the billable-hours strategy. Jeff Brown, of D'Ancona
and Pflaum in Chicago, invoices lightweight boxer Angel Manfredy
$165 per hour for his work. Brown estimates that the $10,000 he
charged Manfredy for negotiating the fighter's contract for a
recent title bout against Arturo Gatti was 30% of what a manager
would have taken. Moreover, a lawyer with a full-service firm
can provide a client with one-stop shopping for matters
regarding taxes, real estate transactions and family law.
Predictably, traditional agents depict the billable-hours
strategy as flawed. They claim that lawyers paid by the hour
have little incentive to wangle the best deal for an athlete.
Nonsense, counters Brown. "Any lawyer has a fiduciary duty to
the client and is going to negotiate just as vigorously whether
he's billing by the hour or as a percentage," he says. "I think
you're seeing that this idea has clearly struck a nerve among
BATTLES OF A BULL RUN
Last Saturday near Mesquite, Nev., some 600 hardy (foolhardy?)
souls paid $50 apiece and turned out in 100[degree] heat for the
inaugural Running of the Bulls America. Modeled after the
400-year-old sangria-soaked gorefest in Pamplona, Spain, in
which more than a dozen people have died this century, the U.S.
event was conceived as a way to bring attention to a 14-year-old
gambling city 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Initial attention came from animal-rights groups. X-Files star
Gillian Anderson wrote in protest, asking, "Why would Mesquite
want to emulate a blood sport that most of the world has
condemned?" The truth, it seems, is out there--as, by the way,
were most of the run's participants. "I'm freshly single, and I
figured I better do this before I get married again," said Scott
Ellis, 25, a Los Angeles real estate broker. "A wife wouldn't
let you do this."
When the gate was finally lifted in Mesquite, setting the bulls
free to thunder down a quarter-mile route lined with safety
barricades to an enticing meal of hay ... nothing happened. The
runners sprinted toward the first turn; the bulls stayed put.
Ranch hands finally got the longhorns going, but even then they
virtually ignored their two-legged targets.
All except one. Justin Cord Hayes, a 28-year-old editorial
assistant for a Las Vegas newspaper, lingered when the gate went
up, waiting for the bulls. His Hemingwayesque bravado earned
Hayes a scratch on his back, scrapes on his elbows and knees and
a sore rump. But it was Hayes's ego that suffered the most: He
was caught by the last bull.
"I didn't want to start running right away 'cause I didn't want
to look like a dork," said Hayes. "And I ended up looking like a
--That boxing be spared any more egregious mismatches like the
U.S. vs. Don King.
--That even though the World Cup is over, U.S. sportscasters
continue to throw in an occasional "nil" when reading the scores.
--That if Cuban-importing baseball agent Joe Cubas, who says he
intends to buy the Marlins, does so, he resists the urge to
build a waterfront stadium with a dock for makeshift rafts.
Points by which the U.S. boys' basketball team, made up of high
schoolers, beat South Africa at the World Youth Games in Moscow,
Points by which the U.S. girls' team beat France (126-29) at the
Pounds lifted in four hours--including barbells, spectators, a
refrigerator and the front ends of two cars--by Colts strength
coach Tom Zupancic in a charity demonstration.
Price, in dollars, of a two-inch square of turf from the field in
the Stade de France, which was to be cut up on the day after the
World Cup final.
Squares of turf the field will yield for sale.
Amount, in dollars, won by captain Eddie Walker and his crew for
catching the two biggest fish in the 1998 Boca Grande (Fla.)
High school football players in the U.S. who died from on-field
injuries in 1997, according to a University of North Carolina
study, the most fatalities in any high school sport.
SHOULD KARL (MAULER) MALONE STAY OUT OF THE RING?
By taking part in this grotesque American Kabuki, Malone has
undercut his no-frills, athletes-are-role-models rep. Sure he's
a wrestling fan, but that doesn't mean it wasn't nauseating to
see John Stockton's buddy teamed up with a guy named Diamond
Dallas Page. Malone has only himself to blame next season if a
fan looks at the court and sees a little less Mailman and a
little more Mauler. --Jack McCallum
Whoa, Mailman! is a line from Malone's Rogaine ad, but I say,
Giddyup, Karl! His passion for the "sport" is genuine. If it
leads to some bare-chested silliness, so what? At least he's
doing it for love, not out of a desperate need for money or the
spotlight. Malone's basketball legacy is secure. Let him have
some fun. Besides, he lost to Rodzilla and Hulk. He's got to get
At week's end Rickey Henderson of the A's and Eric Young of the
Dodgers were the top base stealers in their respective leagues.
But not all thefts are created equal. Those that lead to runs
and/or those committed in the late innings of a tight game are
the ones that mean something. The rest are just stat-padding.
Here's a rundown of the bases bagged through Sunday by the
league leaders. It appears that the 39-year-old Henderson had
the 31-year-old Young beat in quality as well as quantity.
37 Total Steals 33
20 Poststeal Runs 16
16 Innings 1-3 20
11 Innings 4-6 8
10 Innings 7+ 5
5 Blowouts* 2
7 Nail-biters[**] 2
*When leading or trailing by at least four runs
[**] After sixth inning, when leading or trailing by two or
SOURCE: ELIAS SPORTS BUREAU
The Columbus Crew of MLS last week unveiled plans for the first
stadium in the U.S. to be built solely for professional soccer
(above). In this era of multipurpose buildings--each equipped
with a retractable this or an adjustable that--accommodating
everything from football to baseball to monster-truck rallies,
it's refreshing to see soccer stake out some turf. Then again,
what took so long? Here are some sports-specific facility firsts.
Crew stadium, Columbus, Ohio, to open next spring
BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS
It will have seating close to the action (24 feet from the
sideline at midfield) for 22,500 and concession stands that offer
clear views of the field
Union Grounds, Brooklyn, 1862
[BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS]
First enclosed diamond had special benches for ladies and
section for gamblers, but with fences 500 feet from plate,
surely no out-of-the-park homers
Harvard Stadium, Boston, 1903
[BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS]
Originally seating 23,000, it was the largest reinforced steel
structure in the world at the time
Victoria Arena, Victoria, B.C., 1912
[BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS]
Intimate facility (capacity 3,500) hosted the first indoor
hockey game played on man-made ice, three days before a crowd of
10,000 saw the second one, in Vancouver
Carson City, Nev., open-air arena, 1897
[BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS]
Wooden structure was built to hold 25,000 for Bob
Fitzsimmons-James Corbett world heavyweight bout; it was
dismantled soon after the fight
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Faced with sagging tennis-ball sales, Penn Racquet Sports is
stamping balls with the Purina logo, upping their price (from
about 80 cents a ball to about $2.50) and marketing them as
"natural felt fetch toys" for dogs.
appearance before the U.S. Senate in support of a constitutional
amendment to ban flag burning why that act of protest is not
protected by the First Amendment: "Freedom of speech is when you