LOVE THOSE EXPOS
Three cheers for the rouge, blanc et bleu--North America's team
This is an article from the April 19, 1999 issue
Pull for the Yankees? Cheer the Braves? That's like rooting for
Microsoft. Americans are supposed to love underdogs, so why not
choose the most flea-bitten franchise of all? This year's Expos
aren't your ordinary crappy ball club. They're a terrific crappy
After a heady 48 hours atop the National League East last week,
Montreal lost three of four to the Mets to fall to 3-4. Still,
there's no shame in losing to a club whose catcher, Mike Piazza,
makes more than your starting lineup. Montreal's $17.6 million
payroll, lowest in the majors, is $49 million short of the Mets'
and $71 million behind the Yankees'. Montreal's 25-man roster
makes $4 million less than the Orioles' outfield. The Expos are
poster boys for small-marketosis, a degenerative illness that
has left them unable to hold on to Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker,
John Wetteland and scads of others. Even exchange rates work
against Montreal, since the Expos' revenue is in Canadian money,
but they must pay players in pricier U.S. dollars.
Tight money keeps general manager Jim Beattie and manager Felipe
Alou scrambling. Still they have cobbled together a young team
that has more elan than most big-market clubs. These guys
(pronounced GEEZE) are good, and they're even experienced--at
least compared with last year's 65-97 Expos, who opened the
season with an average big league service time of 2.14 days.
Start with the speed, upper-deck power and howitzer arm of
23-year-old cleanup frappeur Vladimir Guerrero. He might be the
league's best young player, but the news isn't all Vlad. Kid
closer Ugueth Urtain Urbina, a.k.a. Oogy, has a 100-mph rapide
and a U-turn glissante. The Expos also have a sweet-swinging
Rookie of the Year candidate in Michael Barrett. Then there's
the man in the dugout. Alou, 63, spent 18 years climbing the
managerial ladder whose top rung he now occupies. He's 538-500
in seven years with the penny-pinching Expos, and while his
rivals for the title of Best Big League Brain jump to World
Series contenders, Alou sticks with the club that made him the
game's first Dominican manager. You want loyalty? He married a
Montreal woman and raised two trilingual kids. Last winter, when
the Dodgers wanted him for megabucks, Alou said no, no, non. He
chose the 'Spos.
Everyone who has ever griped about big-money sports and
million-dollar prima donnas should do the same. So get with the
programme, baseball fans. Expos yourself. --K.C.
SERBIA'S BLOODY BOSS
American sports has its shady characters, but they're not
charged with war crimes. You can't say the same for Serbia's
Zeljko Raznjatovic, a.k.a. Arkan, who continues to run Obilic,
Yugoslavia's latest soccer powerhouse, while ducking an
international war crimes tribunal.
Arkan, a boyhood fan of the famed Red Star Belgrade team,
recruited many of Red Star's rowdiest rooters while assembling
the dreaded Tigers, a paramilitary group that's said to have
committed atrocities during the Bosnian war of 1992 to '95.
After buying Belgrade-based Obilic, Arkan persuaded his Tigers
to become fans of that team. Arkan's thugs reportedly stood in
the stands waving pistols at opposing players and chanting,
"Score a goal and you die." Last year Obilic went 27-1-5 and won
Yugoslavian soccer's First Division.
Amid rumors that the Tigers have renewed their ethnic cleansing
exploits in Kosovo, their boss sits out the latest hostilities
in a marble mansion in Belgrade with his wife, Serbian pop music
queen Svetlana Velickovic, and waits for soccer season to
resume. Obilic was in second place when play was suspended due
to NATO air strikes. The team from Pristina, the now destroyed
capital of Kosovo, was tied for last.
No Sale in D.C.
ADVENTURE IN THE SKINS TRADE
On April 7 real estate mogul Howard Milstein withdrew his $800
million offer to buy the Redskins, ending a three-month saga that
tainted everyone involved. Milstein's bid, the highest ever for
an American sports franchise, could have boosted the value of
every club in the league, but the NFL balked because owners
questioned his group's financing, which included a $125 million
loan from his family and only $50 million in cash. Some owners
were also uneasy about what they saw as part-owner Milstein's
mishandling of the NHL's New York Islanders.
The NFL and Milstein traded p.r. fumbles during the approval
process. In January, a week after Redskins trustees accepted
Milstein's bid, NFL vice president Joe Browne seemed to throw the
league's support to John Kent Cooke (son of the Redskins' late
owner Jack Kent Cooke) by telling The Washington Post that
"continuity of this ownership would be a plus for the league."
Then the NFL hired private investigator Terry Lenzner's firm--the
outfit President Clinton's lawyers used to look into the money
behind Paula Jones's lawsuit--to check up on Milstein. That made
it look as if the league were hounding its most ardent suitor.
Nonsense, one NFL owner told SI on Monday. "Milstein's bid was
terribly, terribly leveraged. It wasn't really his own money,"
the owner said, "and we weren't thrilled with the Islanders
situation. He had a bad relationship with the local government,
which isn't a good thing in our league."
After taking his $800 million off the table last week, Milstein
and his partners issued a statement that read, "The record will
show that we conducted ourselves in an honest, forthright,
responsive and courteous manner--in short, as gentlemen." Was he
responding to insider talk that his personality had proved as
off-putting to pro football's Brahmins as his financing?
Milstein had come on strong by using political friends including
Bob Dole to drum up support. His prospective ownership group was
said to have complained about Redskins general manager Charlie
Casserly's personnel moves, and Milstein had hired former 49ers
director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato to help him prepare
for the '99 draft while Casserly was still on the job. At one
predraft workout both Casserly and Cerrato turned up to scout
talent for Washington. (SI's attempts to reach Milstein were
The NFL's duel with Milstein didn't surprise Lions owner Bill
Ford. "Whether it's the Thanksgiving Day game [the league has
considered taking it away from Detroit and Dallas] or the
Redskins sale," Ford said last month, "everybody has their own
agenda. Nothing's ever aboveboard. Everybody's whispering in the
corner, and it's not the way you do business.... The CIA has
nothing on this place."
ALOHA MEANS GOODBYE
Ever since Kansas State, with its dance card full of pushovers,
missed out on a $12.5 million Bowl Championship Series payday
last year, athletic directors have been wary of scheduling weak
nonconference foes. They know the BCS ranking formula penalizes
teams that fatten up on patsies. As a result Hawaii's Rainbow
Warriors, whose 18 straight losses are the most in Division I,
look worse to potential rivals than a day-old pu-pu platter.
Last fall Virginia backed out of an agreement to play in
Honolulu next season. Notre Dame, which narrowly beat Hawaii in
1991 and '97, is considering bailing out of an Aloha Stadium
contest set for Nov. 24, 2001. Unless the Rainbow Warriors
improve, BCS-conscious schools will keep resisting the islands'
allure. "What can you say?" asks Hawaii A.D. Hugh Yoshida.
"Twelve and a half million, that's a lot of bucks."
WNBA Labor Talks
The WNBA and its players' union were close to a labor agreement
as SI went to press. Deal or no deal, however, one group of
players--the majority of former American Basketball
Leaguers--will be locked out. The union wanted to allow only two
players from the now defunct ABL to join each WNBA team. While
WNBA president Valerie Ackerman said she opposed any maximum,
her league was ready to accept a limit of four to six former
ABLers per team as part of a labor deal.
WNBA players were right to demand better pay--last season's
minimum of $15,000 forced many to play overseas or find
part-time jobs in the off-season--but the union and the league
were wrong to give ABL refugees the quota treatment. Fans of the
fledgling WNBA deserve to see all of the game's best players,
athletes who get paid a fair wage for jobs they win on merit.
WAIT TILL NEXT MILLENNIUM
Do the Red Sox, who were tied for first place on Tuesday, know
they're not for real? Tickets for their Sept. 27 regular-season
home finale read FINAL GAME OF THE CENTURY, which can only mean
there'll be no postseason play at Fenway and--for the 81st
straight year--no World Series title in the Hub.
Horsing Around in Asia
POLO'S NEW POSSE
Legend says that Genghis Khan's horsemen played polo in the 13th
century using their enemies' heads as balls. But over the years
the game vanished from Mongolia's windswept steppes. Then, last
July, Jim Edwards of London's Ham Polo Club and Cristoph Giercke,
a cashmere trader from Germany, organized a game in the old
The players' gear included polo balls flown in from Harrod's and
six leather saddles--a vast improvement over the wooden saddles
Mongolian herdsmen use. Vermonter Aimee Junker, who trains ponies
and elephants in Nepal, came to Karakorum, 200 miles southwest of
Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar, to help out. "I really didn't do
anything," Junker says. "The local riders could ride standing up
and lean down from their mounts to pick things off the ground at
a near gallop." She was also amazed by Mongolian horses' knack
for avoiding collisions by swerving at the last instant. "I'd say
they can perform these maneuvers thanks to centuries of running
in huge herds. They learn quickly, too. Sometimes my horse would
spot the ball and turn by itself."
After a week of practice the visitors and locals split into
teams of five players, and the game was on. It wasn't proper
polo--not with passing horsemen riding onto the pitch to
watch--but when the action stopped after three raucous games,
polo veteran Nikhilendra Singh of India said, "That was a
blinder of a chukker!"
That exhibition got the ball rolling. This year herdsmen around
Karakorum have been seen carving polo sticks from willow
branches. Giercke plans to arrange polo lessons for young
riders, and there'll be another East-West chukker challenge in
July. "Mongolians are the creators of polo, and they are
warriors," says Giercke. "In time they could be the best players
in the world."
McCartney Cycling Team
During the doping scandal that plagued last summer's Tour de
France, it seemed no one in cycling was clean. Now comes the
Linda McCartney Pro Cycling Team, which bills itself as "the
world's first all-vegetarian professional squad."
The Linda McCartneys, as the team is known in cycling circles,
is a 14-man outfit committed to qualifying for the Tour de
France within three years while--like Sir Paul--sticking to a
strict vegetarian diet. "If any of the riders is caught eating
meat, he's off the team," says team p.r. man John Deering.
Julian Clark, a former motocross driver from Britain who had
taken up cycling, hatched the idea for the team while strolling
through a supermarket in 1997. "I saw some Linda McCartney
vegetarian frozen dinners, and it just seemed right," he says.
"The McCartneys are an eco-friendly family, and cycling is an
Since Linda's death in April 1998, only a month after she
launched the team, her riders have been supported by the company
she founded with Paul. Linda McCartney Foods will spend $3.2
million over four years on the cyclists. Paris fashion designer
Stella McCartney, Paul and Linda's daughter, created the
uniforms. The team's bikes--at Paul's request--are emblazoned
CLEAN MACHINE, a reference to the fire engine in the Beatles
song Penny Lane. "This 'clean machine' proves that vegetarians
aren't all carrot-munching weedy freaks and keeps alive the
memory of our beloved Linda," said Paul in January.
The Lindas will invade the U.S. in June for three stops on the
Saturn USPRO Cycling Tour. British fans were overjoyed when the
team finished third in its debut race, the Tour of Langkawi, in
Malaysia in February. In a congratulatory fax to the team, Paul
said, "Linda would be over the moon."
--That the Bulls would sign a former star who could help them
this year--like Artis Gilmore.
--That Mark Wohlers gets a new sense of direction in the minors.
--That Sunday at Augusta wasn't the Shark's last gasp.
Consecutive batters struck out by Greenhill, Texas, high schooler
Tony Adler in a six-inning victory over Episcopal School of
Layers of masking tape Michael Jordan uses to build up the grips
of his golf clubs.
Amount the Rockies were fined for fouling the South Platte River
with peanut shells and other trash hosed down from the stands at
Mariners leftfielders since Opening Day 1989.
Average home attendance of the National Lacrosse League's
Philadelphia Wings this season.
Average home attendance of the Philadelphia 76ers this season.
Amount the NBA fined the Raptors for playing the sound of a
crying baby when former Raptor Marcus Camby was introduced and
flashing CHOKE! on the message board when Latrell Sprewell shot
Weeks that Australian rules football star Peter Everitt suspended
himself for taunting an Aboriginal opponent with racial slurs.
do it yourself
In 1990 former assistant Bronx D.A. Tony Abbatine launched
Frozen Ropes, a chain of baseball training centers in Chester
and White Plains, N.Y., Franklin, Mass., and Guelph, Ont., where
customers study what Abbatine calls holistic hitting. "If you
know how the body works, you can generate arm speed and bat
speed," says Abbatine, who lectures students on centrifugal
stability while they take BP on a balance beam and has them wear
strobe glasses to hone something called saccadic eye movement.
Though his methods are unorthodox, pros including '98 A.L.
batting champ Bernie Williams work out at Frozen Ropes. As
Abbatine says, "It's what you learn after you think you know it
all that counts."
When jockey Julie Krone hangs up her tack later this spring, the
curtain will fall on one of horse racing's most spectacular
careers. A 4'10 1/2" daredevil, Krone--the top female rider of
all time--is a fierce competitor who has won 3,542 races and
more than $80 million in purses in her 18 years as a jockey. She
was the third-leading rider in the U.S. in 1989 with 368 wins.
Four years later she guided Colonial Affair to victory in the
Belmont, becoming the only woman to win a Triple Crown race.
Last Thursday, Krone announced that she'll race for the last
time on April 18 at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas,
unless she gets a ride in next month's Kentucky Derby. "It's not
worth the physical torture anymore," says Krone, 35, who took a
frightful spill at Saratoga in '93 and was shelved for nine
months with a fractured right ankle that required two steel
plates and 14 screws to rebuild. She has also broken her back,
right kneecap and both hands. "I don't need to get carried out
on a stretcher," says the queen of the sport of kings. "I'm
leaving with a smile on my face."
Who's Got Next?
Shaq couldn't haq it, Grant Hill's too bland, and Allen Iverson
has the crossover dribble but not the appeal. It's time to look
to other sports for the next Michael Jordan. Here are seven
St. Louis Cardinals
Why Only star to transcend his sport since MJ
Why Not Andro issue makes cheering him an asterisky business
Product Tie-in Big Red chewable hormones for kids
Ad line Got bulk?
Bottom Line Too lumbering
[Why] Jordanesque fist-pump, great hang time on drives
[Why Not] Future: forcing smile while shaking David Duval's hand
[Product Tie-in] Selling Nike naming rights to himself
[Ad line] Be like Nike
[Bottom Line] Had his chance, bogeyed it
[Why] Best midair moves since MJ
[Why Not] Surly tendencies, police record
[Product Tie-in] Probation officer action figure
[Ad line] Be like Vike
[Bottom Line] Bad-guy rep grounds his hopes
[Why] More star power than tennis's top 10 men
[Why Not] That's a backhanded compliment
[Product Tie-in] Venus & Serena bead set and hair extensions
[Ad line] We got nets!
[Bottom Line] Tennis boom fizzled out 20 years ago
[Why] Most dominant post-Jordan sports guy
[Why Not] Charisma of a lug nut
[Product Tie-in] Flameproof designer apparel
[Ad line] Not everyone hates me
[Bottom Line] Even NASCAR fans boo him
[Why] Worshiped by 99% of girls under 15
[Why Not] Unknown to 90% of population
[Product Tie-in] Hamm--the Fragrance
[Ad line] Soc it to me
[Bottom Line] C'mon--it's soccer
[Why] Knows what it takes
[Why Not] Much worse at golf than Fred Funk
[Product Tie-in] Air Mulligan hip waders
[Ad line] Be like my former self
[Bottom Line] The only man who could make celeb golf a major sport
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
After Everton fans taunted him about his alleged drug use,
Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler celebrated a Premier League goal
by pretending to snort the goal line.
Baseball fans will be shelling peanuts and spilling beer in a
new ballpark by season's end, with four more to come next year.
Keep track of the new fields and old ones alike on these sites,
which match up the corporate names with their cities and give a
rundown of the perks at each park.
This cyberguide to parks past, present and future--run by fans
Paul Munsey and Cory Suppes--features striking photos and
histories of all current arenas and links to their sites, plus
nostalgic glimpses at meccas like Ebbets, Comiskey and Crosley.
HOK Sport, the architectural firm responsible for Jacobs, Camden
and Coors (above), is at work on new pads for the Astros, Giants
and Tigers. Check out plans for HOK's new sites in the on-line
Before biting into that ballpark dog, consult Johns Hopkins
Health Information for a culinary scouting report. There's a
lineup of the healthiest food options around the majors--try the
three-bean salad in Anaheim--plus a nutritional breakdown of the
most popular snacks at each park.
sites we'd like to see
Chat room where WNBA players can practice fiery speeches for
looming labor strife.
Up-to-the-minute listing of teenagers who have declared
themselves NBA draft-ready.
'fading breed.' I am not dying."