AN ANGRY FAN'S NOTES
What the Diamondbacks really appreciate, it seems, is higher
Alan Gordon, a 37-year-old Phoenix ophthalmologist, is an
Arizona Diamondbacks loyalist. He waited eagerly for managing
general partner Jerry Colangelo to complete the deal-making that
eventually brought the Diamondbacks to town and says, had it
gone to a ballot, he would have voted for an increased sales tax
to build Bank One Ballpark. He shares two season tickets in the
club section, which, at $50 apiece, means it cost him $1,600 to
go to 16 games with a friend or family member.
But after learning on Sept. 26 (during Fan Appreciation Weekend,
which closed Arizona's inaugural season) that the Diamondbacks
had decided to raise prices in 1999. Gordon blew a fuse. He's a
silent majority fan, the kind not often heard from, but now he's
talking, and we think he deserves to be heard.
"My $50 seats are going to $55," says Gordon. "The $25.50 seats
are going to $35. I'm lucky. I have some disposable income. But
the everyday fan has been priced out of baseball, yet the
Diamondbacks keep pushing.
"It started with the stadium tax. I think fans would've voted
for it, but, no, they ram it down our throats without a vote.
[Maricopa County citizens were assessed $238 million in taxes to
build the BOB.] The ballpark is wall-to-wall ads. We call it
'Bank One Billboard.' That's all revenue [reportedly $150
million per year] for the team. Not a minute goes by during a
game when there's not some announcement about a promotion
sponsored by some company. Someday we'll hear, 'Tonight's
seventh inning stretch is brought to you by....'
"Then there are the prices in the ballpark. After a public
outcry, the Diamondbacks finally allowed fans to bring in a small
cooler, but it's only for plastic water bottles. So you pay for
the $4.25 hot dogs, the $6 beers. That's after you pay 10 bucks
to park your car.
"And you're watching a loser. [Arizona's 65-97 record was the
third-worst this season.] I understand that winning teams don't
happen overnight, but how can you raise prices when there's no
expectation you'll be putting a winner on the field next year?
The Diamondbacks say they did it because they need to spend to
stay competitive. Are we stupid? The increase is to make more
"Then they have the audacity to ask for half of the 1999
season-ticket money by Oct. 30. So they can use that money to
make even more money. Pure greed. I know most season-ticket
holders will return, or the Diamondbacks will get some new ones.
But if it means anything, they've lost me." --J.M.
Dan Quisenberry (1953-1998)
AN INQUIZITIVE SPIRIT
Cancer has been too much in the baseball news of late. Last
Saturday Darryl Strawberry of the New York Yankees underwent
surgery to remove a malignant, walnut-sized tumor from his
colon. Joel Stephens, a 22-year-old outfielder in the Baltimore
Orioles organization, died of colon cancer on Sept. 30. On the
same day former Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Dan
Quisenberry lost a nine-month battle with brain cancer at age 45.
Several factors--early detection; his age, 36; his excellent
physical condition--make it quite possible that Strawberry will
return to baseball, just as his childhood friend Eric Davis did,
three months after the removal of a malignant colon tumor.
Strawberry can draw inspiration from the brave battle fought by
Quisenberry, who, though weakened, stood in Kauffman Stadium on
May 30 and heard waves of applause as he was inducted into the
Royals Hall of Fame.
Quiz is remembered for his quirky, submarine delivery and for his
clutch pitching that helped the Royals win two pennants and the
1985 World Series. But mostly he is remembered as a man of words,
a man with a lightning-quick mind whose thrust and parry with
reporters marked his 12-year career. That's how we remember him
On his Royals contract: "It has guarantees until the year 2020,
or until the last Rocky movie is made."
On his cordial treatment of the press: "I think Christ would do
it that way. Or Steve Garvey."
On his refusal to use the phrase "God's will": "God is concerned
with hungry people and justice, not my saves."
On his not wanting to be famous. "I want to be the same guy I was
when I came to the big leagues. German Barranca."
On his hobbies: "Tinfoil chewing."
On his favorite thing about baseball: "No homework."
On ballplayers' salaries: "No man is worth more than another, and
none is worth more than $12.95."
On his plans after baseball: "I have seen the future, and it's
much like the present, only longer."
On the Metrodome in Minneapolis: "I don't think there are any
good uses for nuclear weapons, but this might be one."
On natural grass: "It's a wonderful thing for little bugs and
On his goal for spring training: "I'll be waiting to find out if
Steve Balboni really has to shave his back."
On being a major leaguer: "I'm here! It's Merry Christmas! There
are toys in my locker. Gloves and bats and balls."
On his disease: "I've had so many good things happen to me. So
why not me?"
Sports and Money
Martina Hingis has exulted in the fact that she turned 18 on
Sept. 30 and can finally drive in her home country of
Switzerland. If she looks around her on the list of leading
money winners in individual sports, she'll find plenty of
potential driving instructors to help her parallel park the
Porsche she won at a tournament in 1996. As of Monday Hingis was
third among individual-sport athletes with $2.39 million, behind
Jeff Gordon ($5.6 million) and Mark Martin ($3.0 million) and in
front of Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte (both $2.38 million).
Maybe the Swiss Miss should trade in that Porsche for a
souped-up Monte Carlo.
MOROCCAN BOUND FOR GLORY
For those bemoaning the sorry state of U.S. distance running, the
future is starting to look a little brighter. Believe it or not,
an American may well go to the line as one of the favorites in
the men's marathon at the 2000 Olympics. Of course, he's not
actually an American yet.
Khalid Khannouchi, an ebullient 26-year-old Moroccan immigrant,
burst onto the scene in 1997 with a string of road race
victories capped by a win in the Chicago Marathon in his first
try at the distance. His time of 2:07:10--a debut record and, at
that time, the fourth-fastest ever run--stamped Khannouchi as
marathoning's newest star. This year the 5'5", 120-pound
Khannouchi has trounced the Kenyans in shorter road races while
preparing for his second marathon, this Sunday in Chicago.
At the same time, in another grueling race, he has been working
with lawyers, athletic officials and members of Congress in
hopes of accelerating the process of becoming a U.S. citizen in
time for the Sydney Games. "America has given me so much," says
Khannouchi. "I want to help take it to the top."
The image of Khannouchi in a USA uniform in Sydney would seem the
only fitting climax to this aerobic Horatio Alger tale. Born into
a family of eight children in Meknes, a city of 450,000 in
central Morocco, he was a promising junior distance runner when
he came to Buffalo to participate in the 1993 World University
Games. He won the 5,000 meters and, though he returned to Morocco
after the race, gained a glimpse of his future.
"I told my family I loved the States, that it was a great place
to fulfill your dreams," says Khannouchi, who three months later
dropped out of school and moved to Brooklyn to do just that. For
two years Khannouchi struggled to support himself, washing
dishes and stuffing envelopes, while training in the streets of
New York City. He won some local races but was hardly on the
fast track to Olympic glory. That all changed when he met Sandra
Inoa in August 1995.
A Dominican-born marathoner and runner's agent, Inoa, then 33,
shared a ride back to New York City with Khannouchi after a 5K
race in Hartford. Soon she was helping him plan races and shape
his training. A year later they were married. With his race
winnings and the earnings from a five-year contract with New
Balance reportedly worth $250,000, the Khannouchis bought a
house in Ossining, N.Y., where Khalid trains while Sandra acts
as coach, masseuse, cook and business manager.
While he admits he's nervous as this year's Chicago Marathon
approaches, Khannouchi says he's certain he's on the right road.
The American flag hanging over the door of his new house makes
his goal clear. "Thanks, God," he says. "I feel like I'm home."
JUST DON'T OVERDO IT
For much of the past decade the sports landscape has been
wall-to-wall swooshes. It seemed that Nike's greatest triumph,
beyond locking up Michael Jordan when he was just beginning his
tongue-wagging high-wire act, was plastering its logo
everywhere--on the shirts and shoes of many of the world's most
prominent athletes, on the walls of stadiums and skyscrapers,
and seemingly on every piece of clothing worn by kids in the
U.S. and numerous other countries.
Well, the sports world is about to get a little de-swooshed. Not
only has the company announced that it plans to cut endorsement
spending on pro athletes by about $100 million per year, but it
is also said to be planning to curtail the use of the swoosh on
many of its retail products. Instead of being displayed
prominently on nearly all items, the swoosh would appear in
smaller sizes (retailers have started to refer to a "baby
swoosh") in lighter shades, in less prominent locations--or not
at all. Nike's soon-to-be-released Alpha line of shoes and
clothing, for example, will feature a five-dot, ellipsislike
By plastering its logo on everything from Pete Sampras's
wristbands to Penn State's pristine football jerseys, Nike
diluted its trademark and, in the process, caused many sports
fans to become resentful of its pervasive presence. "For a long
time the swoosh was cool," says Jennifer Black, a footwear and
apparel industry analyst for Black & Co., an investment firm in
Portland, "but consumers seem to like logos for only a certain
period of time. And when they begin to see one everywhere, they
get sick of it."
MCGWIRE'S SEOUL BROTHER
In the Korean Baseball Organization this summer, there occurred
an infinitely more placid parallel to the Great Home Run Chase
and Historic-Ball Scrambles of 1998. First baseman Tyrone Woods
of the OB Bears, a 1988 draft choice of the Montreal Expos who
spent 10 years in the minors, broke South Korea's single-season
dinger record with 42, one more than the old standard. The magic
42nd came on Sept. 30, during a victory over the Hyundai Unicorns
at Chamsil Stadium in Seoul.
The record ball was snagged by Lee Sung Won, a 24-year-old
university student. In a ceremony after the game, Lee gave the
ball to Woods and, in return, got a red Hyundai from the
Unicorns. The fan who caught number 41? He turned it over
immediately and received a refrigerator. And did Lee have to
fight off hordes of souvenir-hungry fans to claim his prize?
"That would never happen in Korea," he told The Washington Post.
"Everybody just congratulated me."
A WISH LIST
--That fans of the Cubs and the Red Sox don't take their teams'
playoff losses too hard...oh, never mind.
--That someone write a different final scene for Lafayette's
football team, which has lost three straight games on
last-second field goals.
--That downhiller Alberto Tomba's brief retirement statement
isn't the last we hear from one of sports' most colorful
Asking price (which intentionally includes his old number, 32),
in dollars, for Magic Johnson's nine-bedroom, 14,000 square-foot
Beverly Hills home.
Extra beer vendors at Milwaukee County Stadium for the Brewers'
September series against the Cardinals.
Dimensions, in feet, of a Larry Bird mural at the Wheeler Boys
and Girls Club in Indianapolis by a local artist named Michael
Combined age of George Foreman, who will be 50, and Larry Holmes
for their Jan. 23 bout, surpassing pugil-geriatric record set by
Bonecrusher Smith, 45, and Joe Bugner, 48, in July.
Sets of identical twins on Davidson's athletic teams.
Home runs, on average, hit in 1998 major league games, up only
1.4% from '97 and below record 2.19 set in '96.
U.S. patent issued to a Toledo inventor of a portable sand trap
Cost, in dollars, of a room at the Executive Plaza in Chicago
that will be given free to visiting fans whose team loses to the
Which NFC East Doormat Will Win the 0-fer Bowl?
Washington has been gaining yards and putting points on the
board right away, but all that has done is make the other guys
mad. The Eagles, by contrast, lie down early and then try to
rally, as they did when they fell behind the Broncos 28-0 on
Sunday before finally losing 41-16. So why do I like Washington?
I don't. But I've got to pick somebody, so I'll go with a
formula I just made up--always pick a loser when it's on the
road against another loser. --Paul Zimmerman
Whether or not he beats the Skins' Norv Turner in the
first-coach-to-get-fired sweepstakes, Ray Rhodes will get
something out of Philadelphia sometime. This should be the week.
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie is nuts if he believes--as he says he
does--that the Birds have the talent to finish 8-8. But they do
have a quarterback, Bobby Hoying, who's bound to have a good
game sometime, and enough toughness to beat the Skins, whose
tackling suggests a team schooled on two-hand touch. --J.M.
Whichever team struts away with the W in that Eagles-Redskins
tilt better get some celebrating in--there might not be much
more for the winners to party about in the near future. Since
1970, 54 teams have, like Philadelphia and Washington, begun a
season 0-5. Two (the '81 Redskins and the '84 Bengals) recovered
and finished at .500, but in most cases the pitiful performance
carried over into the next year--or beyond. Here's how long it
took the slow starters to get back to a winning record.
Next Winning Number
Record of Teams
Following season 12*
In two years 14
In three years 7
In four or more years 21
*Seven made playoffs, one ('82 Redskins) won Super Bowl
He's a Damn Natural
The sudden emergence of Shane Spencer (page 42) has been the
stuff of baseball fantasy. Here's how the Yankees' real deal
stacks up against two other out-of-nowhere phenoms.
Joe Hardy Roy Hobbs Shane Spencer
In the Number 2, Number 9, Number 47,
program Washington Senators, New York Knights, New York
Damn Yankees The Natural Yankees
Position Centerfield but Rightfield but has Leftfield and
has skills to play skills to pitch might have
shortstop skills to DH
Background Mystery man from Mystery man from Mystery man
Hannibal, Mo. Hebron Oilers from El Cajon,
Appearance Young farmboy Old farmboy Old farmhand
Big booster Mister Applegate Chief scout Columbus
got him tryout Scotty Carson sent manager
him to Knights Stump Merrill
stood by him
Is he in Tells crusty skipper Tells crusty Crusty skipper
bigs to he won't accept skipper he waited says, "It's
stay? going down too long to going to be
blow a chance tough to get
Shane out of
Contract Lifetime with small One year at One year at
escape clause $500 $170,000 per
Brush Robs Mickey Strikes out the Says he was
with Yankee Mantle in deep Whammer, who "in awe" when
immortal center of final was loosely based introduced to
game on Babe Ruth Mantle in 1992
Is he Frugs drunkenly Slow-dances Girlfriend Heidi
footloose? with seductress gracefully Spencer says she
Lola in bar with seductress was attracted
Memo Paris in bar by his dancing
ability in bar
Instant Hits half dozen or Hits half dozen or Hits 10 homers
power so dingers in first so dingers in first in first 67
surge practice at bats practice at bats big league
Influence Sad-sack Senators Sad-sack Knights Talented
on team start winning when start winning when Yankees helped,
he plays he plays says manager
Joe Torre, by
his "having fun"
Uncorks wild ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley, but his New York
City steak house gets a rave review in The New York Times. Stay
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Two Hightstown (N.J.) High cheerleaders were kicked off the
squad and suspended from school for five days for giving
laxative-laced cupcakes to their Hamilton High counterparts
during a football game.
quarterback Nick Kreinbrink in the Wildcats' 13-10 loss to
Illinois: "He called a couple of plays we don't have."