ON THE OUTS
From left to right, a reconsideration of baseball's killing
This is an article from the Aug. 24, 1998 issue
You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, it's
true. But you can't catch any flies at all with Todd Hundley.
When will baseball managers realize this? Hundley is a catcher
whom the New York Mets have exiled to leftfield, where even
routine pop flies have tormented him like Wiffle balls in a
windstorm. Which isn't Hundley's fault. You don't hire a plumber
to fix your sink and then ask him to fix you dinner. Except in
baseball, where any player at any position save pitcher is
presumed to be able to play some outfield on the side. No other
spot in sports is such a dumping ground for the dispossessed
(see Hundley, displaced by Mike Piazza) or the defensively
deficient offensive threat (see Bobby Bonilla of the Los Angeles
Dodgers, who looks less comfortable donning a glove than anyone
Why is this? Who made outfield the athletic equivalent of
Chopsticks, something any nincompoop can play? The Dallas
Cowboys don't periodically move Nate Newton to wideout, but
baseball is filled with fish out of water, especially this
summer, when Shawon Dunston of the San Francisco Giants and
Willie Greene of the Baltimore Orioles and John Wehner of the
Florida Marlins are all playing outfield in the manner of men
ducking baseball-sized hail.
The worst kid on any Little League team is planted in
rightfield, though that has been the realm of such canonized,
cannon-armed major leaguers as Roberto Clemente. To be relegated
to leftfield in the bigs is even worse. The implication is that
you're out of the loop, you're out to lunch, you're..."out in
leftfield." That epithet more properly applies to managers, who
evidently haven't noticed that playing the outfield is a
difficult task. A primer: Ken Griffey Jr.'s mind-blowing catch
against the Detroit Tigers this month? Good. Jose Canseco's
having a ball bounce off his noggin and over the fence for a
home run in '93? Not good. Any questions, Skip?
Of course, Griffey doesn't count because center has always been
respectable, the glamour position of Willie, Mickey & the Duke.
The position's ethos was summed up in another tired anthem,
Centerfield, by John Fogerty, who sang, "Look at me/I could
be/Centerfield." You won't hear a leftfielder saying, "Look at
me." Did lumbering Greg Luzinski--who played leftfield for the
Philadelphia Phillies with his back to home plate so as to get a
jump on the ball--really need to call more attention to himself?
All we are saying is, outfielder is a noble calling.
Rightfielders deserve respect, not derisive chants of "DAR-ryl."
Leftfielders just need a little love. And, yes, I did play
rightfield in Little League. Want to make something of it?
WOODS LINE IN THE WOODS
Two years ago the common belief was that you could put a pair of
coveralls and a straw hat on Tiger Woods and sell a million
pitchforks. Nike's signing of Woods to a reported $40 million,
five-year endorsement deal, an investment it intended to recoup
with the release of the Woods shoe and apparel line, seemed
another stroke of first-strike marketing acumen. As for the
heady price tags on the Woods line--retailers are charging as
much as $225 for the shoes and $75 for the shirts--Nike had two
words: Michael Jordan.
Early returns, however, suggest that Nike made a vast
miscalculation. "None of it is selling very well," says Mike
Jaffey, manager of a Nevada Bob's Discount Golf Shop in Las
Vegas. Jerry Offerdahl, who owns four Nevada Bob's in Oregon,
described sales of the Woods shoe more bluntly to the Newhouse
News Service: "It just plain flat was a total disaster. We're
already closing them out."
Nike will not release sales figures. A spokesman suggested that
while off-course sales have been disappointing, the Woods items
are doing better in pro shops. That doesn't appear to be the
case. Several pro shops with a high-end clientele--Pine Valley in
New Jersey and Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y., to name two--don't
even carry the Woods line. At one that does, the golf shop at
Pumpkin Ridge-Ghost Creek, which is only 12 miles from Nike's
Beaverton, Ore., headquarters, the merchandise isn't selling.
"Young kids like it," says Matt Brown, who works in the golf
shop, "but young kids don't have the money to buy it."
That comment speaks to what seems to be the main problem with
the line: It appeals to the consumer who can't afford it. There
are other reasons why Nike may have shanked its assessment of
Woods's marketing lure. Though golfers are by nature buying
fools, they don't necessarily let marquee endorsers dictate
their purchases. The signature clubs of Arnold Palmer and Jack
Nicklaus, for example, have never been big sellers.
Golfers, many of them saddle-shoe-wearing conservatives, may
have been turned off by the radical bowling-shoe design of the
Woods spikes, the "too fashion-forward" look of the shirts, as
one pro shop retailer put it, and the in-your-face nature of his
ad campaign. "Nike tries to use the different-is-cool theme that
works well in sports," says Bill Grigsby, vice president in
charge of apparel and merchandising for Edwin Watts Golf Shops.
"But in golf that formula doesn't work."
Woods's less-than-dominant performance over the past year may
have dimmed his star, too. That's not fair--he's still arguably
the best player in the world--but it's reality. Jordan, it
seems, wins a championship or an MVP award every time he picks
up a ball; Woods's only major was the 1997 Masters. Americans
are notoriously impatient with their icons, particularly if they
think they're getting ripped off by them.
The Tyson Files
DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED
The tumult surrounding Mike Tyson's application to regain his
boxing license is a tempest in a teapot--or, considering that
this is boxing, a tempest in an entirely different kind of pot.
Sure, Tyson bit a chunk or two out of Evander Holyfield's ears
in June '97, an egregious transgression of the Queensberry
Rules, but the Nevada boxing commission's revocation of Tyson's
license and its $3 million fine was a substantial hit, even for
a guy with Tyson's cash flow. Now, after more than a year in
limbo, Tyson wants to go back to work (as Jay Leno put it, "A
guy's gotta eat"), and does anyone seriously believe that the
sweet science needs further protection from this ruffian?
Boxing is a sport, after all, that embraced Sonny Liston and put
welterweight champ Fritzie Zivic--who, during his career in the
1930s and '40s, was known to nibble on opponents like ears of
corn--in the Hall of Fame, along with Liston. Andrew Golota has
twice been disqualified for low blows and once bit an opponent
himself, and he's still a heavyweight contender. To argue that
Tyson is too unstable to be a professional boxer would be an act
of monumental hypocrisy.
The hubbub surrounding Tyson's 11th-hour withdrawal of his
application for reinstatement in New Jersey last week was also
overblown. Tyson's advisers correctly read the environment and
realized that he should have made his plea in Nevada, which is
what he's now going to do. "I think we would have gotten the
license in New Jersey," says Tyson's chief adviser, Shelly
Finkel, "but we wanted to do it without bad feelings."
The Nevada commission has scheduled a Sept. 9 hearing on Tyson's
application, at which an immediate vote will be taken. Finkel,
who reports that Tyson has been training and is "about 10 pounds
from fighting weight," says that, if Tyson is granted his
license then, he'll fight before the end of the year. "It won't
be against Holyfield," says Finkel, "but he won't take on a
The real question, though, is why we care so much about a
32-year-old undersized heavyweight who hasn't won a fight in two
years or beaten anybody of note since the Bush Administration.
True, there are few if any compelling alternatives out there,
and Tyson's return bout--even if it is against a Peter
McNeeley--will do big pay-per-view numbers. Finkel said last
week, explaining the media focus on Tyson's licensing soap
opera, that there's "an aura about Mike Tyson." The sad truth
is, that's all there is.
RAIDERS' PREVENT OFFENSIVE
In a football first, radio station KTCT-AM in Oakland has struck
a deal to make LifeStyles condoms "the official condom of
Oakland Raiders broadcasts." During games, the station runs
spots that include the message "LifeStyles: because life is a
contact sport." The Raiders, who aren't involved in the deal,
have declined to comment, but LifeStyles marketing director
Carol Carrozza told the San Francisco Examiner, "There are no
more loyal fans than Raider fans," and said LifeStyles hoped to
share in that loyalty "by supporting two things men in our
target audience enjoy--sex and football."
Wait till the folks down the coast at USC get wind of this.
CRIME RATE--UP AND DOWN
A yo-yo craze has swept Singapore in the past year, spurred in
part by the live and televised performances of U.S. expert Hans
Van Dan Elzen (who is to the yo-yo what Yo Yo Ma is to the
cello). The recent Asian economic slump, however, has hit
Singapore hard and left the yo-yo, which sells for about seven
dollars in Singapore, out of the financial reach of many kids.
As a result, yo-yo thefts have soared, accounting for nearly
half the juvenile shoplifting cases in Singapore during May, a
17% increase over April. Still, as grim as the state of the
economy and the yo-yo look, there's always hope. After all,
these things have a way of bouncing back.
Ned Gillette (1945-1998)
A RESTLESS AND BOYISH SPIRIT
Adventurer Edward Gillette, 53, known as Ned, was shot and
killed by robbers recently while camping in Pakistan. LIFE
assistant managing editor Robert Sullivan, who was Gillette's
friend and chronicler for a decade, offers this remembrance:
I first met Ned and his adventuring wife, Susie Patterson--who
was also shot by the robbers but survived--just before they were
married eight years ago. We were riding on the Marrakech
Express; it was taking us to Marrakech, in Morocco, where they
planned to organize a camel trek across the Sahara. That never
came off, but the camel-riding practice came in handy in 1993
when they humped the 6,000-mile Silk Road from China to the
Mediterranean. Ned was always somewhere, doing something.
"My dad had me on skis when I was three," Ned told me. "I wasn't
great, but I loved being out in the air." After attending
Dartmouth and making the 1968 Olympic team in cross-country
skiing, he had what he called a "brief fling with being a
serious person." His stay at business school lasted a day. Over
the years he reached the summit of Everest, skied the Mountains
of the Moon on the Uganda-Zaire border, made the first Telemark
descent of the 22,834-foot Aconcagua in Argentina and
ski-traversed the Karakoram Range in the Himalayas. He and Galen
Rowell were the first climbers to make a one-day ascent of
McKinley. With three friends, he rowed a 28-foot aluminum boat
across Drake Passage, through some of the worst sea-level
weather in the world, landing on Nelson Island off the Antarctic
Peninsula. Seven-hundred-twenty miles and 13 hellish days after
embarking, Ned stepped onto the ice and broke into a grin.
Ned usually wore that grin, though the things he did were
ferociously difficult. He remained boyish in the way that a boy
is more wide-eyed and hopeful than a man, always focusing on
what was ahead, not what he had just accomplished. That's what
Susie, a 1976 U.S. Olympian in the downhill, learned when she
married him. "I did have an idea of what I was getting into,"
she told me as the train bumped through Morocco. "I did not know
some of it would be quite so extreme." For their honeymoon, they
ski-trekked in Tibet.
The campground where Ned was killed is in the shadows of the
great mountains where he and Susie once had an adventure to
cherish. "Suddenly one day," Ned said, "we found ourselves in
this high, beautiful valley. We camped there, skiing and
climbing and exploring. That valley--where no one's ever been,
perhaps, was Heaven." We choose to remember Ned way up there.
From the Press Box
PROTECT THE SCORERS
Fox baseball announcer Joe Buck still has a way to go to match
his father, Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck, in the
tell-it-like-it-is department, but he's getting there. Take his
reaction to Yankee Stadium official scorer Red Foley's decision
to give New York Yankees slugger Tino Martinez a base hit on a
muffed grounder by Texas Rangers second baseman Luis Alicea in
the first inning of last Saturday's game.
After correctly pointing out that Alicea had tripped over his
own two feet while drifting to his right to field a routine
grounder, Buck opined that too many official scorers today were
reluctant to issue errors because they were "intimidated" by
players, especially those on the home team. "A lot of times the
official scorer will be a hometown scorer and will give a base
hit when an error should be scored," Buck said. (Martinez, it
should be noted, did not try to influence Foley.) As Buck
continued his lecture, Fox's TV cameras showed Foley, a former
New York Daily News sports writer, watching the broadcast in the
press box, scowling.
Buck could not be more correct. Baseball's scorers have
contributed to more grade inflation in recent years than Ivy
League professors. With stats-minded players routinely
protesting calls--Rangers slugger Juan Gonzalez stood at second
base glaring up at the scorer during a game earlier this
season--who can blame them?
Baseball must give its scorers the protection they need to do
their job. Don't allow players to phone them from the dugout
during games or harangue them on the field during batting
practice. And be glad there are announcers like Buck, who care
enough about the game to point out the errors of its ways.
--That Jeff Gordon, who won his fourth straight NASCAR race on
Sunday, lose his corporate finish and put some genuine emotion
into his stilted postrace routine.
--That NFL teams alter their ticket plans so that loyal fans
aren't forced to pony up for those execrable preseason games.
--That if Vijay Singh wins another major, the folks in Fiji will
be able to watch it on TV.
Difference, in dollars, between the maximum ($47.74 million) and
the minimum ($14.5 million) Peyton Manning can make in the next
six years, based on performance goals in his Colts contract,
according to Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal.
Age, in years, of Ben Levinson, a Los Angeles shot-putter and the
oldest competitor in the Nike World Masters Games.
Estimated value, in dollars, of counterfeit team merchandise
seized since 1993 by law enforcement agencies working with the
Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos.
Hole on which Yankees great Yogi Berra, whose jersey with that
digit has been retired, scored an ace during his eponymous
Approximate hours after Anna Kournikova fired her IMG agent that
Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov, who has been linked romantically
to the tennis star, dismissed his IMG agent.
NFL players in 1988 who weighed at least 300 pounds.
NFL players in '97 who weighed at least 300.
SHOULD NOTRE DAME JOIN THE BIG TEN?
It might be hard to believe, but Notre Dame has sports other
than football. A shift to the Big Ten, now under consideration,
would save millions in travel costs for the school's nonrevenue
sports. Sure, the Irish would have to share some of their
football loot, but the Big Ten's multiple bowl affiliations
would help ensure Notre Dame a postseason berth. --Marty Burns
The league turned down the Irish five times between 1897 and
'26. That forced Notre Dame to rely on itself and become a
national institution. Now the Irish sell out stadiums in
California and play hoops in the Big East. Why give up national
stature for the thrill of finishing first--or third or fifth--in
a regional conference? --Ivan Maisel
Though they have the American League East title all but wrapped
up, the New York Yankees have a more historic test facing them:
displacing the 1906 Chicago Cubs (.763) as baseball's most
successful team of the 20th century. But there's one other hoary
ghost the Bronx Bombers have in their sights--the 1902
Pittsburgh Pirates, the only team to finish with a larger edge
in winning percentage over the league's next best team than the
'98 Bronx Bombers held as of Monday over the second-best team in
the American League. Here's how New York stacks up against
history's most dominant teams:
Year Runaway Winner Distant Second Difference
1902 Pirates . 741 (103-36) Dodgers .543 (75-63) .198
1998 Yankees .750 (90-30) Red Sox .587 (71-50) .163
1906 Cubs .763 (116-36) Giants .632 (96-56) .131
1936 Yankees .667 (102-51) Tigers .539 (83-71) .128
1927 Yankees .714 (110-44) A's .591 (91-63) .123
1929 A's .693 (104-46) Yankees .571 (88-66) .122
YEAH, THAT'S THE TICKET!
In explaining why he hiked the price of the best box seats for
the 1998 World Series from $75 to $150, baseball commissioner
Bud Selig said that Series tickets have been undervalued for
years. We can't say whether this year's Fall Classic will still
be a bargain, but we doubt it will match these
WHAT YOU SAW
Eternal Red Sox horror show: Mookie Wilson's grounder rolling
between Bill Buckner's legs, and Mets winning in seven
WHAT YOU PAID $40 ($59.08 in '98 dollars)
[WHAT YOU SAW]
Boston's Carlton Fisk (above) waving like a mad semaphorist to
keep his Game 6 homer fair but Big Red Machine prevailing in
[WHAT YOU PAID] $15 ($44.46)
[WHAT YOU SAW]
Tigers fans pelting Cardinals star Ducky Medwick with garbage as
Medwick's Gashouse Gang breezes to 11-0 Game 7 rout
[WHAT YOU PAID] $5.50 ($66.35)
[WHAT YOU SAW]
Baffling--and unsuccessful--Game 7 attempt by Babe Ruth to steal
second with Bob Meusel at plate and Lou Gehrig on deck in ninth
help Cards upset Bronx Bombers
[WHAT YOU PAID] $5.50 ($50.88)
[WHAT YOU SAW]
Beginning of cottage industry in books and movies as White Sox
turn black in gambling-tainted loss to Reds
[WHAT YOU PAID] $2.20 ($19.79)
[WHAT YOU SAW]
Connie Mack's A's overcoming Cubs' Columbia-Colby college combo
of second baseman Eddie Collins and pitcher Jack Coombs in five
[WHAT YOU PAID] $2 ($34.52)
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Fox Sports Midwest has hired as its St. Louis Blues on-air
analyst Bruce Affleck, who's the Blues' director of ticket sales.
Texas A&M football coach, on losing prize recruit Chip Ambres to
a $1.5 million Florida Marlins contract: "I have a lot of rules
and no money. Baseball has a lot of money and no rules."
hits for his 62nd dinger. But it takes an aficionado to collect,
say, Wrigley Field ivy. For seekers of the less obvious, we
suggest the following.
You could buy a chunk of turf from Lambeau Field, but perhaps
you've got designs on something more aesthetically pleasing.
Ballpark Classics offers original blueprints, sketches and
construction photos (such as one of the Polo Grounds, above)
from the archives of the engineering company that did the
Everyone has noshed from a cereal box with a sports star on it,
but it takes a flake to turn those recyclable cardboard
containers into a collecting hobby. This site has a swap list
and, for those cereal chatterers, a link to an on-line
Can't go another day without getting your hands on Mike Piazza's
pants? This site, which specializes in game-worn apparel, is for
you. It also offers items such as a Bill Bradley New York Knicks
warmup jacket and a Jim McMahon Chicago Bears jersey. Odor
included, free of charge.
sites we'd like to see
Chat room for members of swimmer Gary Hall's fan club.
Stat source for fans of golden-age signal-callers Steve DeBerg
and Warren Moon.