Golf's next superstar has Tiger Woods's power and Zorro's
Talk about your sports futures. Spain's Sergio Garcia is Tiger
long, Duval intense, DiCaprio dashing and 19 years old. Can you
say zillion pesos? Garcia, the phenom whom golf fanaticos back
home call El Nino--the Kid--made his American pro debut last
week at the Byron Nelson Classic. Early leader Tiger Woods shot
an opening 61, the best score in his 224 rounds as a pro, to
leave the kid in his dust. By one shot.
Pressure? Garcia laughs at the idea. Last year he was asked to
play a practice round with '96 British Open champion Tom Lehman,
England's amateur hero Justin Rose and U.S. Amateur champ Matt
Kuchar. The kid climbed onto the 1st tee and asked what the bet
Garcia hails from Castellon de la Plana on Spain's Mediterranean
coast, where his father was a club pro and his mother ran the
pro shop. Sergio took up the game at age three and as an
eight-year-old was whaling away with full-sized clubs. At 15 he
became the youngest winner of the European Amateur. His idol
Seve Ballesteros called him "Spain's player of the 21st
century," but Garcia couldn't wait that long. With 300-yard
power and a burglar's touch around the greens, he won the '97
Spanish Amateur by 10 shots. At another big amateur event that
year, the runner-up was one under par and Garcia was 20 under. A
win at last year's British Amateur got him into the '99 Masters,
where he finished as low am, 15 strokes behind winner Jose Maria
Olazabal, another Spanish swashbuckler. Now Garcia is a pro with
a chance to join Woods and David Duval as one of the
thrill-a-minute golfers of the turn of the century.
May 23, 1999
Garcia tied for third last week to earn $144,000. He finished
with a flourish--a birdie that had the crowd jumping and shouting
his name even as eventual winner Loren Roberts played the 18th
hole. Now El Nino will return to Europe, where he plans to hone
his game for two or three years before storming the U.S. Tour. At
19 he looks 16, carries a yo-yo in his luggage and has a boy's
enthusiasms. Last Saturday morning he skipped ESPN highlights of
himself to watch Road Runner and Spider-Man cartoons.
"Believe me, he's going to be successful," says old man Woods,
23. The two practiced together last week and waved to each other
during the tournament. They share a zest for the game that you
can feel from 500 yards away.
"I do what I love," says Garcia. "I play golf, and if I play
well, I can make a living. I don't have to be stuck in an office
all day, sitting down, so I think I'm a fortunate kid." --K.C.
ALL HAIL THE KINGS
Can't we keep the Kings in the playoffs? Granted, Sacramento was
eliminated on Sunday in Game 5 of its first-round series against
the Jazz, but this time let's make an exception: Let the loser
keep playing. Perhaps the Kings could replace the Knicks, who
might prefer to continue their blood feud with Pat Riley's Heat
rather than face the benign Hawks. Or maybe Sacramento could
take Atlanta's berth, since hardly anyone seemed to care about
the Hawks' little-noticed first-round win over the Pistons.
Do whatever it takes, just don't send the Kings home. The
postseason needs the gallant play of center Vlade Divac--the
best player on either team in the Utah series, despite his
constant worries about family members in war-torn Yugoslavia
(page 114). It needs freewheeling fast breaks led by point guard
Jason Williams and alley-oops to forward Chris Webber. It needs
the no-conscience, crunch-time jump shooting of unlikely heroes
Jon Barry and Vernon Maxwell. Sacramento brought flair to the
ultraserious world of the playoffs. "That was one of the best
series I've ever played in," Karl Malone said after Game 5. "It
was fun, and I'd say that even if we had lost."
Here's a playoff prediction: You won't see a more entertaining,
fearless performance the rest of the way than the Kings produced
against Utah. They missed a chance to close out the Jazz in Game
4--a 90-89 loss at home--and then recovered to scare the
daylights out of Utah on the road in Game 5. "Most of these guys
are too young to feel pressure or to let a loss get them down,"
said Maxwell after Sunday's overtime thriller. "We play every
game like it's the playground, shirts against skins."
The Kings aren't perfect. Williams should treat late-game
possessions more cautiously, and Webber has yet to become the
big-game player Sacramento needs. "They've got some things to
learn," Malone says, "but I'll tell you one thing. I won't miss
playing against those guys." The rest of us will miss watching
them, though. --Phil Taylor
Selling the Caps and Indians
GETTIN' WHILE THE GETTIN'S GOOD
Two events in two leagues last week cast a spotlight on the gap
between sports' rich and poor. First, Abe Pollin got $200
million from Internet baron Ted Leonsis for the NHL's Washington
Capitals plus minority interests in the NBA's Wizards and MCI
Center. Pollin says the Caps lost nearly $20 million this
season. About half the NHL's teams claim to be losing
multimillions, and while players' salaries have jumped from an
average of $733,000 in 1995 to $1.3 million, each club gets only
$2 million from the league's TV contract. That's one reason
Mighty Ducks general manager Pierre Gauthier calls NHL ownership
"a suicidal business." It's no wonder Pollin, who had owned the
Caps since the club was founded 25 years ago, wanted out.
On the same day Pollin sold the Caps, Dick Jacobs announced that
he plans to sell his Cleveland Indians, a profitable team that
has sold out 308 consecutive games and is off to the best start
in its 99-year history (page 48). Jacobs, 73, has squeezed
nearly every drop of revenue out of the Indians, including $60
million from a public stock offering last year, an unprecedented
move for a baseball club. He watched as other baseball and
football teams went for sky-high prices in the past 18
months--$350 million for the Dodgers, $530 million for the
Browns and a proposed $800 million for the Redskins. In such a
market, said Jacobs, he was "forced to sell."
Forced? No, he's just cashing in, and why not? Jacobs, a
commercial real estate magnate, bought the Indians in 1986 for
$35 million and can count on getting about $350 million for
them. With Jacobs Field already sold out every game, it's
doubtful the club will be worth much more than that anytime
soon. Jacobs has always viewed the Indians as a bottom-line
business and not as a hobby, and the sale will be purely a
business move. "I believe in the profit-to-the-nth-degree
theory," he said of his decision.
His good timing might mean still more profit. Indians stock rose
75% in the two trading days after his announcement, a jump that
might add millions to the club's sale price. Unlike Washington's
Pollin and his NHL brethren, Jacobs is getting out while the
getting is great. As a farewell, the old Indians chief will
probably leave his successor one important source of
revenue--the naming rights to Jacobs Field.
Schilling's War Games
WORLD WAR II ACE
The Phillies' Curt Schilling relaxes by going to war. A longtime
student of military history, the two-time National League
strikeout king moonlights as both president and researcher for
Multi-Man Publishing, which recently signed with the toymaker
Hasbro to develop battle re-creations for a World War II board
game, Advanced Squad Leader (ASL).
For his work on ASL, Schilling studies obscure battles in the
1,000-volume military library at his house in Kennett Square,
Pa., and scours war records in the Library of Congress. He tests
new battle plans for months before publishing them in ASL
Journal, a twice-yearly magazine for which he serves as research
editor. One of his scenarios replays a firefight between
elements of the U.S. 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment and
Germany's 12th Panzer Division in the woods near Bizory,
Belgium, on Jan. 3, 1945. Schilling's work is accurate down to
such minute details as equipment (the Germans used captured
American half-tracks), uniforms (both sides wore winter
camouflage) and weather (wet, with no wind in the morning).
Inspired by his military library, the pitcher has also assembled
a collection of more than 400 videotapes that show him working
against every major league hitter he has faced. "Playing ASL
helps me approach batters more strategically," he says. For
Schilling, the thin red line that really counts is still a
THE CATCHER'S FATHER SHOT HIM
Kentucky catcher John Wilson sat in a Baton Rouge hotel room
last Saturday, writing his dad a letter about the Wildcats'
weekend series against LSU. The letter will arrive this week at
San Luis Obispo (Calif.) Men's Colony, a maximum security
prison, for delivery to the cell of Jack Wilson, who nearly
killed John two years ago with two blasts from a shotgun.
On a September morning in 1996 in Reseda, Calif., John woke to
the sound of a gunshot. Then a freshman infielder at Cal State
Northridge, he was living with his mother, Cindy, who was
estranged from John's dad. John hurried to the front door and
called out to his father. That's when Jack pumped two blasts
through the door. One hit John's right arm; the other tore into
his chest, filling his lungs with pellets. "There was blood
everywhere in that house," reported one of the first detectives
on the scene.
John said he believed his dad was trying to blow the locks off
the door. Still, Jack was convicted of attempted murder and
sentenced to 10 years in prison. "Seeing where the second shot
hit the door," says Los Angeles County deputy district attorney
Stanley Williams, "it was apparent the father knew John was
After John recovered from his wounds, Northridge announced it
was dropping baseball. He transferred to Kentucky, where the
sophomore finance major was batting .370 and leading the SEC
with 23 homers through Sunday. Big league scouts are interested
in him, but he's determined to finish his last five semesters
and become the first person in his family with a college degree.
When he's not slapping line drives or hitting the books, he
writes to Jack. "I have forgiven my father," says John. "He's
still my dad, and that's never going to change."
Gene Sarazen, 1902-1999
SO LONG, SQUIRE
He won the 1922 U.S. Open at age 20, beat Walter Hagen in an
epic 38-hole playoff at the '23 PGA and in '35 hit golf's most
famous shot, a 235-yard four-wood over a pond at Augusta's par-5
15th hole that rolled into the cup for a double-eagle 2. The
natty gent called the Squire won seven major titles before
retiring from tournament golf in '73. His wife of 62 years, Mary
Catherine, died in '86, but the Squire soldiered on, joining
Byron Nelson and Sam Snead to plink a ceremonial first ball off
Augusta's 1st tee every April. When he died of pneumonia last
Thursday at 97, golf historians noted his status as one of only
four players to win all four majors, and Mark O'Meara called him
"class personified." But for millions of weekend golfers,
Sarazen's greatness boiled down to five words: He invented the
sand wedge. Without him, we might never reach the 19th hole.
NFL Hair Craze
LOCK STOCK HAS 'EM OVER A BARREL
Since the Saints sold the swamp to draft Heisman Trophy winner
Ricky Williams, Louisiana merchants have been besieged by fans
searching for the wigs often called Da Dreads. "When they drafted
Ricky, my phone starting ringing like crazy," says Pam Randazza,
owner of Black & Gold Sports Shop in Metairie. "Just yesterday
Olivia Manning [Archie's wife, Peyton's mom] called asking for
four dreadlock wigs."
Randazza rush-ordered 300 of the wigs, which sell for $19.95 to
$40, and has already sold most of them. Another merchandiser,
Sports World of the South, ordered 5,000 wigs for its Superdome
Sports World owner Ray Guy (no relation to the former NFL punter
deluxe) is one of several dreadpushers who'll spend the next few
months praying that nothing dreadful happens to Williams during
training camp. "Everyone who sells Saints stuff is on pins and
needles because some teams make rookies shave their heads," he
says. "If Ricky ends up with a Mohawk, we're all in big trouble."
--That everyone fighting to keep a job had the last-minute luck
of Jeff Van Gundy.
--That Ricky Williams's pay-for-play contract becomes a
model for future sports deals.
--That the Penguins don't become extinct.
Major league games played in the 1990s by Rafael Palmeiro
Major league games played in the 1990s by Cal Ripken Jr. through
Percent of Division I coaches' salaries that go to coaches of
women's teams, according to a survey by The Chronicle of Higher
Consecutive two-year contracts Gene Sarazen signed with
Wilson--the longest-running endorsement deal in sports history.
Price for three 1999 season tickets to Permian High football
games (total face value $75) in a classified ad in the Odessa
Attendance at Game 5 of the Pistons-Hawks playoff series in
Expected attendance at this week's Webster County (W.Va.)
Woodchopping Festival and turkey-calling contest.
Diamondbacks who sport goatees, thanks to manager Buck
Showalter's newly relaxed facial-hair policy.
TALE OF WHOA
Almost as memorable as Charismatic's victory in the Preakness
(page 70) was a scene that unfolded earlier last Saturday
afternoon at Pimlico. As more than 100,000 shocked spectators
looked on, Lee Chang Ferrell, 22, of Bel Air, Md., walked onto
the track and tried to take on a nine-horse field charging for
the wire in the Maryland Breeders' Cup. Ferrell, who police say
was drunk, scaled a seven-foot-high chain-link fence around the
infield--unnoticed by the track's 1,000-person security
force--then strolled across Pimlico's turf course and crawled
under the rail to the main track. He strode toward the horses as
they raced through the top of the stretch, then stood with his
hands on his hips. Finally he took a boxer's stance, sidestepped
leader Yes It's True and stood directly in the path of Artax, a
1,000-pound colt. "I thought he was going to walk across the
track," jockey Jorge Chavez said. "Then he turned and looked
right at me. He was waiting for me." Ferrell took a wild
overhand swing at Artax but hit Chavez in the back. After the
horses thundered by, security guards shoved Ferrell to the
ground. Police took him to Sinai Hospital for psychiatric
evaluation, then charged him with first- and second-degree
assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, trespassing
and resisting arrest. The cops say Ferrell offered them a simple
motive: "I was trying to kill myself."
A Star Warrior Is Born
Tatooine's Anakin Skywalker made one of the most eagerly awaited
debuts in sports history last week. The nine-year-old slave boy
drove his twin-engine pod racer more than 500 mph over a desert
course to win the famed Boonta Classic. The victory brought
kudos from Jabba the Hutt and freedom for Anakin, who dodged
potshots fired by those pod-racing hooligans the Tusken Raiders
to edge race favorite Sebulba down the stretch. "The way I feel
now makes it worth it," said the winner. Yet behind his
movie-star smile, some say, lurks a mystery. Only time will tell
if he can harness the force within him, but we're sure to hear
more from young Skywalker.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The NFL is auctioning off the telephones it used on draft day.
They Said It
Marlins manager, on the demise of the 1997 World Series champs:
"We're going down in history, and nobody is going with us."