TIME TO HAMM IT UP
We'll soon see if soccer's Mia Hamm can measure up to Mia mania
At Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where the buildings are
named for the company's top endorsers, an athlete could get an
incurable edifice complex. There's the Nolan Ryan Building, the
John McEnroe Building and, of course, the Michael Jordan
Building. Next month a new home for the company's R&D department
will open, and it will be larger than all the rest. It will be
named for soccer player Mia Hamm.
Hamm bigger than Jordan? Many nine-year-old girls--including the
legions who wear HAMM jerseys and her trademark scowl--would
have agreed with that ranking long before Hamm, 27, broke the
international career scoring record last Saturday with her 108th
goal in a win over Brazil. Hamm's image could get a further
boost when she uses her blinding speed and competitive ferocity
to lead the U.S. into the 1999 Women's World Cup next month.
Male sports fans might roll their eyes at Nike chief Phil
Knight's statement that Hamm's transcendence is rivaled only by
that of Jordan and Tiger Woods, but there's no doubt that she's a
Madison Avenue dynamo. According to a 1998 Sports Business Daily
survey, Hamm is America's most marketable female athlete. You'd
have to be on the dark side of the moon to miss those TV spots in
which Mia challenges fellow North Carolina alum Michael to a game
of Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.
May 30, 1999
But can she?
To earn Jordanesque stature, an athlete must make her mark at
the right time on the highest stage of her sport, and by that
measure Hamm has been quite ordinary--a distaff Roger Clemens.
In the tournaments that have counted most (World Cup 1991, World
Cup '95 and the '96 Olympics) she has been the Americans'
fourth-best goal scorer each time.
Here's her chance: It's quite possible that the U.S. will play
for the World Cup title on July 10 in front of 92,000 Stars and
Stripes-waving fans in a sold-out Rose Bowl, plus a worldwide TV
audience. What if Hamm were to match the two-goal show of
France's Zinedine Zidane in last year's men's final? Why, the
folks at Nike might have to go to work on a bigger building.
Somebody might even name a sandwich after her. --Grant Wahl
CLANKS SO MUCH
The playoffs have been thrilling, hard-fought and often as ugly
as one of Shaq's out-of-whaq free throws. The low point came in
Game 1 of the Portland-Utah series, when the Trail Blazers
scored an NBA postseason record-low five points in a quarter en
route to a 93-83 loss to the Jazz. But the playoffs have only
lowlighted a problem that began a decade ago--the leaguewide
trend toward lower scoring, lousier shooting and generally
That's why the NBA has quietly convened an eight-member
committee to propose rules changes. "You're going to see a
different game next year," Suns president Jerry Colangelo, a
member of the committee, told The Arizona Republic. The panel
will consider such new wrinkles as widening the lane to give
players more room to move near the basket, legalizing zone
defenses to encourage passing and perimeter shooting, and adding
several seconds to the shot clock to give teams more time to run
plays. The league will do almost anything to enliven what fans
and even players have been calling ugly games.
"A lot of our rules are bad, but that's going to be addressed,"
says 76ers coach Larry Brown. "I like wider lanes. I like a
30-second clock--or they could wait and start the clock after
you cross half-court. I would allow any defense, but I'd move
the three-point line closer to the basket. If a team is going to
play a zone, let it pay the penalty."
Blazers assistant Bill Musselman is another coach who thinks
it's time for a change. "NBA offenses are too stereotyped," says
Musselman. "There are no surprises. All the Rockets do is have
Barkley or Olajuwon post up on the left side of the floor and
wait for the double team. In one game they had 67 possessions,
and 53 of them went right in to Barkley or Olajuwon. Utah has
been running the same offense for 10 years."
In each of those years NBA scoring declined. This season Allen
Iverson's 26.8 average was the lowest for a league leader since
Paul Arizin's 25.6 in 1956-57, and Iverson's 41.2% shooting was
the worst for a scoring champ since George Mikan's 40.7% in
1949-50. "They can change the rules all they want," says Steve
Smith, who led the Hawks with an 18.7 average while shooting
only 40.2%, "but many guys in this league just can't shoot. It's
Andro and the Law
White House drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey thinks Mark McGwire's
muscle builder might soon be contrabandro. "How can andro be
banned by so many sports but tolerated by baseball?" says
McCaffrey, citing a recent 500% jump in the use of
androstenedione by teenagers. "The concern is that five or 10
years from now we'll see that it has a harmful impact on
McCaffrey is alarmed by studies showing that some products sold
as andro in the U.S. are spiked with high levels of
testosterone. Two weeks ago he asked the Drug Enforcement
Administration to investigate. The agency will test whether
andro fits the definition of a controlled substance under the
Anabolic Steroids Control Act. If it does--a result that
wouldn't surprise McCaffrey--the supplement would immediately
become illegal without a prescription. "We want to have an
answer before the first game of the World Series," says the czar.
One of college baseball's wildest rides rolled to a happy ending
last week. Four years ago, after Hunter Bledsoe hit .267 as a
freshman third baseman at Duke, his coach called him the
seventh-best infielder on a Blue Devils team that had gone 4-20
in the ACC. Bledsoe transferred to Walters State Community
College near his hometown of Kingsport, Tenn., and hit .410 in
1996, but that wasn't enough to attract a Division I scholarship
offer. He settled for a partial ride at Vanderbilt.
Despite separating his shoulder before the '97 season, Bledsoe
hit .389 that year and led the Commodores to a 31-24 record. But
on the eve of the season's final series came word that Bledsoe
hadn't earned enough junior college credits. He was declared
academically ineligible--a shock to the former high school
valedictorian who had an economics-engineering science double
major and the best grades on the Vanderbilt team. The Commodores
forfeited all 30 victories in which he had played, leaving them
with a record of 1-54, and Bledsoe had to sit out the '98 season.
This year, as Vanderbilt's cleanup hitter, Bledsoe ranked second
in the nation with a .459 average and was SEC player of the
year. As a fifth-year senior he's exempt from next month's
amateur draft; after weighing offers from four other teams he
signed with the Dodgers and will report to one of their Class A
clubs this week. "I look back on my college career as a
blessing, not a curse," he says. "When you've seen what I've
seen, you don't worry about an 0 for 4." --Tim Crothers
A NIGHT IN THE CLOUDS
On May 6, Babu Chhiri Sherpa boldly bivouacked where no man had
bivouacked before. He fought driving snow and 55-mph winds to
summit Mount Everest for the eighth time--two short of the
record--and spent the night on the 29,028-foot peak without
oxygen equipment. No one else had endured more than a few hours
at the summit, but the 5'6", 150-pound Sherpa cheerily melted
snow for drinking water on a gas stove and made prank calls on
his walkie-talkie during his 21 hours there. "I called down to
base camps on the north side of Everest," says Babu Chhiri, who
had to remain awake to be sure he stayed alive. "I woke the
climbers up, and when I said, 'I'm Babu Chhiri Sherpa, and I've
made my camp on Everest's summit,' they freaked."
Oxygen depletion at such heights can kill. Everest has claimed
more than 150 lives, but Sherpas--a Nepalese ethnic group of
about 25,000, many of whom work as climbing guides--perform
better than lowlanders in thin air. "It's tough up there without
oxygen," says alpinist Ed Viesturs, who has reached Everest's
summit five times, twice without supplemental oxygen. "Not many
people have the physiology to do it, or the desire. As for
staying up there all night, I would never have thought of it."
Tina and Thomas Sjogren, two Swedish climbers who were part of
Babu Chhiri's expedition, made frequent phone calls to him from
their camp at 26,000 feet to make sure his oxygen-depleted brain
wasn't getting dangerously merry. As news of his feat spread up
and down the mountain, other calls began pouring in. "Tina and I
got worried," says Thomas. "He was doing interviews from up
there. We told him to put away the radio and concentrate on
The New Fenway
A PERDITION LIKE NO OTHER
Keep the Angst Alive: That should be the slogan of Boston's new
$545 million, 44,130-seat Fenway Park. By re-creating the
37-foot-tall Green Monster in leftfield, the architects from HOK
Sport have ensured that tears will remain on the menu when the
new park opens in 2003.
Most of the Red Sox' travails in their 87-year history at Fenway
can be laid on the warning track at the foot of the wall. Boston
general managers have made a tradition of putting together
slow-moving, power-laden teams in an attempt to take advantage
of the fact that the Green Monster is only 310 feet from home
plate. Managers have had their teams play station-to-station
baseball while waiting for somebody to hit one over the wall.
Pitchers, especially lefthanders, have shuddered at the nearness
of the Monster. Hitters have swung out of their shoes, trying to
take a 310-foot shortcut to immortality. Whatever their virtues
at home, these tactics have backfired on the road, where the
symmetrical parks the Bostonians encountered have long been a
mystery to them. No wonder the Sox haven't won a World Series
Father at Fenway in 2003 (drinking an overpriced beer): "You
can't believe how many times that wall in the old ballpark broke
Son (eating an overpriced hot dog, waving an overpriced pennant):
"Just like the wall here breaks my heart. Right, Dad?"
Father (slipping his bank card into his seat-mounted ATM one more
time): "You betcha."
Cheers to the new Fenway. Tradition must be maintained. At any
price. --Leigh Montville
The only woman on the National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock
Motorcycle circuit is a 5'1" 105-pounder who quit a nursing job
to be a drag racer. Angelle Seeling rides a 1,500-cc, 300-hp
Suzuki that goes from zero to 60 in one second, tops out at 188
mph and outweighs her by 400 pounds. Yet the 28-year-old New
Orleans native is No. 1 in her sport.
She entered her first race when she was six. "Then my mom put me
in a beauty pageant when I was 12," says Seeling, "but I didn't
want to wear a gown." In 1990 she bought a street bike to race
and turned pro in '96. "The men said some nasty things, like
'Strap on your balls and race like a man' or 'Go back to the
kitchen.'" She won the guys over by serving them heaping
helpings of exhaust.
After finishing second last season, Seeling leads this year's
rankings. She still occasionally makes like Florence
Nightingale. Before a race in Englishtown, N.J., last weekend
she spotted a boy who had a bloody nose. "I brought him to the
pits, got some ice and fixed him up," she says. Then it was back
to the track, where she showed the men no mercy.
Baseball Treasure Trove
HALPER'S HAUL OF FAME
Yankees limited partner Barry Halper has a nearly unlimited
supply of baseball artifacts--a cache he spent 50 years
assembling (SI, May 22, 1995). Now Halper's collection is being
divvied up and auctioned off.
Last November the baseball commissioner's office paid a reported
$7.5 million for about a fifth of Halper's stash of 100,000
items and donated those pieces to the Hall of Fame. Included
were Shoeless Joe Jackson's Black Betsy bat, George Brett's
infamous can of pine tar, Babe Ruth's 500th-home-run ball, the
contract finalizing Ruth's 1920 sale by the Boston Red Sox to
the Yankees and uniforms formerly belonging to, among others, Ty
Cobb, Satchel Paige and Cy Young. About 80,000 other keepsakes
from Halper's collection will be auctioned by Sotheby's in New
York in September. Among the treasures up for grabs: the first
catcher's mask (worn by James Tyng of Harvard in the 1870s); two
tickets from the first modern World Series, in 1903; the $52,000
contract Babe Ruth signed with the Yanks in '23 ("Ruth always
dreamed of making a grand a week," says Halper); Lou Gehrig's
'27 uniform; Joe DiMaggio's first pro jersey (San Francisco
Seals, '33) and '51 World Series ring; Mickey Mantle's Triple
Crown trophy from '56; and a store of Cobbabilia that ranges
from the Georgia Peach's dentures to the shotgun his mother used
to shoot his father.
The 59-year-old Halper decided to unload everything after
suffering a stroke two years ago. "I started worrying about
estate taxes and what would happen to all this if I died," he
says. His wife, Sharon, and three kids have no interest in
keeping his collection. "So I decided to disperse it while I was
still alive. The collecting world has been foaming at the mouth
to get a crack at this stuff. Let the best collector win."
--That U.S. broom makers acknowledge their debt to the Hawks,
Lakers and 76ers.
--That Pedro Martinez wins 30 and beans none.
--That if the Cubs and Red Sox meet in the World Series, Susan
Lucci throws out the first ball.
--That the IOC stops adding new sports before it's minting
medals for pinochle.
Circulation of The Ant Man Report, a stock-market tip sheet
published by Chris Antley, Charismatic's jockey.
Years Devil Rays pitcher Alan Newman spent in the minors before
his big league debut.
Pitches Newman made before he was called for a balk.
Wins by Iowa sprinter (and Falcons kick returner) Tim Dwight at
the Big Ten track finals--the 100 meters plus the 4x100 and
Team ERA through Sunday of the Mariners, who have a shot at the
alltime worst 6.71 of the 1930 Phillies.
Picks the Hawks have in the first round of the NBA draft--their
own plus the Blazers', Kings' and Pistons' choices.
Shoe size of the Pacers' chronically sore-footed center Rik
Aluminum bats that Rawlings recalled because their barrels might
shear off during play.
Percent of male motorcyclists who are moved by poetry, according
to a survey that found only 23% of nonbiker men so sensitive.
The Daily Grind
Kids all over are slipping on Soaps, sneakers that can double
as skates thanks to hard plastic plates in the soles that make
it possible to slide--or grind, in in-line talk--on all manner
of edges. At $70 to $110 a pair, Soaps are sliding off shelves
so fast that Artemis Innovations, the Torrance, Calif., start-up
company that makes them, expects to double its 1998 sales of $7
million this year.
Each Soaps box carries the warning "Grinding is dangerous. There
is no way to grind without running the risk of serious bodily
harm, including head injury, spinal injury or death." The shoes
haven't caused much mayhem so far, but that hasn't kept
authority figures from getting into a lather over them. "A kid
in Florida wore them to school," says Soaps inventor Chris
Morris, "and when they took him to the principal's office he
started sliding on the edges of the principal's desk. We're
thinking of putting him on posters with the slogan, 'Please
grind only where appropriate.'"
When Yankees outfielder Darryl Strawberry was busted in Tampa on
April 14 for allegedly possessing cocaine and soliciting
prostitution, assistant state's attorney Robin Fuson figured the
case was his. But Fuson was disqualified by an encounter he had
with Strawberry almost 20 years ago. In an instructional league
game in 1981, Fuson was an Indians farmhand and Strawberry was a
Mets bonus baby. Fuson recalls that he fanned Strawberry the
first three times he faced him, but in their final confrontation
he fired a pitch that hit Strawberry in the head. "The ball
rolled back to me," Fuson says, "so I threw it to first." The
umpire, thinking the ball had hit the bat, called Strawberry
out. Maybe Strawberry, who was scheduled to be arraigned on
Wednesday, should appeal those four at bats. "It was alleged
that I threw an illegal pitch," says Fuson, who had a no-hitter
for Waterloo of the Midwest League in 1978 but never reached the
majors. "Alleged--but never proven."
Float Like a Butterfly Sting Like a Ph.D.
At Columbia's commencement ceremonies last Wednesday linguist
Noam Chomsky argued that "athletes aren't really heroes. One
just happens to play better than the others." On the dais was
Muhammad Ali, who picked up an honorary doctor of laws degree.
There's little benefit attached to such degrees, but recipients
get to call themselves Doctor even if they can't dunk. Here are
three other sports personalities who got honorary Ph.D.'s this
spring, adding their names to an honor roll that includes Dr.
Howe (Gordie, University of Regina, '97) and Dr. King (Don, Shaw
Don Shula Billie Jean King Pat Croce
Former Dolphins Tennis Hall of Famer 76ers owner
School Florida Atlantic Penn West Chester
Previous B.A. in philosophy Three Years at Banned from a West
Academic from John Carroll Cal State-L.A. Chester dorm for
Credentials fighting as a
Graduation "Don Shula is "An athlete and role "In this home of
Day Tribute the embodiment model...you played the cheese
of winning" Bobby Riggs and won" steak, you're
our hot dog"
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Golfer Jesper Parnevik and his wife, Mia, named their newborn
daughter Pebble Peach.
Once the Super Bowl of motor sports, the Indy 500 now competes
for fans' attention with three other races on Memorial Day
weekend: NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600, CART's Motorola 300 and Formula
One's Spanish Grand Prix. To keep track of the multiple victors
and their spoils, check out these sites.
See live video stream of practice runs on the race's official
site, which relays E-mail queries to drivers at press
conferences. You can also study driver records and statistics for
every race in Indy history.
Trace each racer's progress on a color-coded graph as he jostles
for position. If a car drops off the graph, you'll learn
instantly whether it's because of a scheduled pit stop or a
Watch teams working on their vehicles in the days before the race
through the site's Garage Cam, which snaps images every 30
seconds. The site's in-car audio feature lets you eavesdrop on 10
drivers and their crew chiefs during the race.
Keep up with news and qualifying results for the Gran Premio de
Espana on this colorful Formula One site, which has an excellent
sites we'd like to see
Up-to-the-minute reports on the pursuit of Phil Jackson by
desperate NBA franchises.
Chat room for Salt Lake City Olympic fans concerned about alcohol
restrictions in Mormon country.
They Said It
Coach of England's soccer team, on his job description: "It's
my job not to get beheaded."