Baseball caught a break when the umpires gave themselves the
The image that will endure is that of the stout Richie
Phillips--the umpires' union boss, who had just marched his
charges off a cliff--clutching a cookie. A perfect prop. Nero
grabbed his fiddle, Captain Queeg rolled steel balls in his
hand, and Phillips reached for the Chips Ahoy. Got milk of
Between bites, Phillips swore he would "fight to the death" to
restore the jobs of 22 umpires whose resignations were accepted
last week by Major League Baseball. This vow, of course, came
from the same guy who had advised the umps to tender their
resignations as part of a negotiating tactic that backfired.
Unless he can somehow find a way to reverse the worst screwup in
recent labor history, possibly through a lawsuit, the name
Richie Phillips will be synonymous with blunder.
"It'll go down as one of the worst moves in the history of
negotiations," says American League umpire Dave (Happily No
Relation) Phillips, who rescinded his resignation and kept his
job. "He put us in harm's way. He put guys on the street."
August 8, 1999
Richie Phillips's miscalculation wiped out the jobs of a third
of his union's members. Since taking office in 1978 Phillips had
made the union a success, but then he gambled that the game
couldn't go on without the likes of Eric Gregg, whose strike
zone was the embarrassment of the 1997 National League
Championship Series, and Joe West, who once body-slammed a
pitcher. To the surprise of no one but Phillips, baseball gladly
let those two and 20 others go.
Commissioner Bud Selig and his staff handled Phillips's gaffe
superbly, giving the umpires a week to come to their senses and
ask for their jobs back. Some, like Rich Garcia (unemployed as
of Sept. 2), chose instead to blast umps who'd abandoned
Phillips's plan instead of "sticking together."
"Right," says Dave Phillips. "Those people in Jonestown who
drank the Kool-Aid, they stuck together. They're all dead."
The ousted umps are still playing follow-the-leader, but
Phillips should take his own advice and quit. Selig, meanwhile,
is on a roll. Retiring Jackie Robinson's number 42 for all clubs
in '97 was brilliant. Making Roger Maris's family part of the
'98 home run race was touching, and last month's All-Star Game
tribute to Ted Williams and the best living players was stirring
in its sincerity. Now this: an honest-to-goodness labor victory
for the owners' side. Charlie Brown's a winner at last, but he
couldn't have done it without Richie Phillips. --Tom Verducci
Locker Room Voyeurs
SEX SPIES AND VIDEOTAPE
Late last month lawyers representing more than 200 young
athletes filed a lawsuit in Cook County, Ill. The suit
identifies the plaintiffs only as "John Does and unknown
Illinois State University football players" because it involves
a sensational scenario: videomakers secretly filming naked male
athletes who use locker rooms, showers and urinals at colleges
all over the U.S.
"This involves schools from the Ivy League to the West Coast,"
says Louis Goldstein, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "I have
eight tapes that show over a thousand athletes from football,
basketball, wrestling, tennis, swimming and squash teams." He
says men disguised as trainers or referees slip into locker
rooms with cameras hidden in gym bags. "They place the bag on
the floor, a stool or on top of the lockers. If it's time for a
close-up, they move it closer."
Tapes such as After the Game and Shower Time are advertised on
so-called adult entertainment Web sites for $35 to $49 and
distributed by mail. "The government's got to do something."
says Goldstein, whose lawsuit targets the tapes' producers and
distributors, Internet servers hosting their Web sites, and
three former Illinois State administrators including David
Strand, the university's president from 1995 to '99. In '96, the
lawyer says, school officials were given a tape showing several
Illinois State athletes nude but did nothing about it.
An Illinois State spokesman admits university police had the
tape in '96 but says administrators weren't aware of it until
the Chicago Tribune revealed its existence. The video producers
weren't reachable last week, but one exploited former athlete
agreed to speak anonymously to SI. "A friend told me I was on
the Internet, naked," he says. "At first I thought it was a
joke, so I went to the site, and there I was, coming out of the
shower in the locker room. I was shocked--really angry that
someone could just come in and tape us like that, throw it right
up there on the Net and then use that to sell videos." --Luis
JOE MONTANA, DALLAS COWBOY
While Troy Aikman and his posse were reporting to camp in
Wichita Falls, Texas, last week, Joe Montana slipped into the
Dallas area almost unnoticed. Sporting spurs and a cowboy hat
instead of cleats and a helmet, Montana rode quarter horses at
the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Derby in Fort Worth.
Cutting is a fast-growing sport born of a tactic every cowboy
needs to master. A contestant must separate a single calf from a
herd, guide it to the center of the arena and then, from a
snout-to-snout start, execute quick feints and turns to keep the
calf from darting past the rider to the herd--all without using
the reins. Montana was introduced to cutting in 1996 by former
world champ Kobie Wood and was immediately hooked. "I would love
to compete at the highest level," says Montana, who hopes his
new passion will help fill a void in his life. "I miss
competing. It's hard to quit cold turkey when competition is all
you've known since you were eight years old."
"The first time I saw him ride, I was stunned by his athletic
ability," says NCHA executive director Henry Conley. Still,
Montana has earned just $382 in prize money this year, barely
enough to keep his horses in hay for a week. But bear in mind
that the guy was a third-round draft pick who wound up winning
four Super Bowl rings before retiring to a 600-acre ranch in
northern California's wine country. He and his equally
equine-minded wife, Jennifer, keep some 30 horses there, plus 50
head of practice cattle and a barn filled with saddles for the
whole family. Jennifer and their daughters Alexandra, 13, and
Elizabeth, 12, prefer jumping events, but Joe and nine-year-old
Nathaniel ride cutters, and Nicholas, 7, is champing at the bit
to join them. Both boys accompanied Dad to Fort Worth, where he
rode two mounts but failed to make the finals.
"I've got a lot to learn, but I'm an eager student," says
Montana, who reckons he'd rather face cattle than stare down
defensive linemen. "Cattle are half as mean, and they smell
twice as nice." --Scott Gummer
Baseball in Italy
BACK TO THE CRACK OF THE BAT
Purists keep calling for a return to wooden bats in college
baseball, but judging by Italy's esperienza, such a move might
splinter NCAA offenses. This season, after the International
Baseball Association announced that wooden bats must be used in
international play--including the Olympics--the top Italian
baseball league went to wood for the first time. Result: The
ping went out of the game. In the three weeks before the switch
the league's nine teams combined for 66 home runs. In the first
three weeks of the Wooden Age that figure dropped to two.
"Players panicked," says outfielder Ruggiero Bagialemani, his
country's career hits leader.
The new rule left team officials with wooden expressions. "The
spectacle is lost," says Auriga Caserta's general manager,
Domenico Rotilli, who worries about the cost of broken bats and
the difficulty of selling tickets to low-scoring games. "If you
take away the hits, you take away everything." But second
baseman Marco Romanzetti disagrees with his boss about cracked
bats and pitchers' duels. "The game's more real now, closer to
the American game," Romanzetti says. "For the casual spectator
it's a bit more boring, but for those who truly appreciate
baseball, I think wood is better."
WAKE TAKES ANOTHER LEAK
Recruiting experts were taken aback when C.J. Leak, a 6'4",
225-pound blue-chip quarterback from Charlotte's Independence
High, signed with Wake Forest in February. Leak had supposedly
winnowed his college choices to Notre Dame and Penn State, and
nobody knew Wake Forest was on his list. Leak chose the Demon
Deacons, he said, because he liked coach Jim Caldwell and
thought he could start for Wake Forest as a freshman.
Cynics suspected there was something going on, but even they
were surprised last week when C.J.'s father, Curtis, and
Independence High coach Rusty Jester told the Charlotte Observer
that the Deacons had promised a full scholarship to C.J.'s
5'11", 190-pound kid brother Chris. "It's an awful good
opportunity for a 14-year-old to have his education taken care
of," Jester says of the ride supposedly offered to Chris.
Was Wake Forest's alleged offer to Chris (which would be legal
under NCAA rules if he called Caldwell first) part of an effort
to land his older brother? School officials can't comment on
players who have yet to sign letters of intent, but the boys'
dad says Chris will sign with Wake in 2003 only if Caldwell is
still there. Curtis Leak says South Carolina also offered Chris
a scholarship, an assertion Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz denies.
Chris attended several college summer camps last year with C.J.,
who thinks his brother is the real deal. "He's heavier and more
disciplined than I was at the same age," said C.J. "I think
[Wake] just sees him developing and getting better four years
down the road."
Will there be a flood of little Leaks in NCAA football? At least
one coach is intrigued by the idea. "If the older kid is good
enough, it would be worth it to take a younger brother who might
be marginal--or not even marginal," says North Texas coach
Darrell Dickey. "People have to be innovative to get the best
players, especially people like us in the scratch-and-claw
group." But with 85 scholarships per team and only 25 per year
to give out, coaches at the nation's football factories wouldn't
dare risk one on a 14-year-old. "It's too early," says Florida
State's Bobby Bowden. "You're taking a big chance, because a lot
can happen in four years."
Or in 18 years. "I've got 'em beat--I'm offering a scholarship
to Herschel Walker's child, and he's not even born yet," says
SMU coach Mike Cavan. "Herschel and his wife, Cindy, are
expecting a baby, and I told them I've got dibs."
--That Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. stay healthy
and make it a three-way Y3K.
--That Don King and Juan Antonio Samaranch would make like
Barry Sanders and Dominik Hasek.
--That the rest of the U.S. Postal Service moved like the USPS
Tour de France team.
--That Harry had been around for last weekend's wild Cubs-Mets
series at Wrigley.
Tickets sold at $6 each for the Packers' Aug. 7 intrasquad
scrimmage at Lambeau Field.
Fine assessed to nine current and former UCLA football players
who pleaded no contest to illegal possession of handicapped
Games each parking-pass-pilfering current Bruin will be
suspended this season.
Official cap designs the two-year-old Diamondbacks have worn.
U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association events to be televised this
year on the Nashville Network.
Alltime record Pac-Man score, by Fort Lauderdale's Billy
Mitchell, 33, in a game that lasted six hours.
Record of U.S. basketball teams in international play when Team
USA features NBA players.
Price of a bottle of Greg Norman Estates 1998 Chardonnay.
Michael Jordan's waist and inseam measurements, according to
Sonic Fast Break
Sure it's a reach for a sports magazine, but we couldn't resist
showing you a supersonic highlight from the mid-Pacific
Division. Civilians seldom see a plane at the moment it breaks
the sound barrier, but Ensign John Gay spotted an F/A-18 Hornet
at just the right instant and snapped this photo on July 7.
Moving at about 750 mph, the low-flying fighter created a small
vapor cloud as it broke the barrier off the coast of Hawaii.
Demetrius DuBose had a quick smile and a bright future, but
while filling out a questionnaire for the 1990 Notre Dame media
guide he gave a chilling response. Asked to finish the phrase,
"When I'm 35, I want to be...," the sophomore linebacker wrote
simply, "alive." DuBose became a Fighting Irish co-captain and
went on to play four seasons with the Buccaneers, but he didn't
get his wish. On July 24 he was killed during a fight with two
San Diego policemen.
The cops say they tried to detain DuBose, 28, as a suspect in a
burglary. Though cooperative at first, he resisted when the
officers tried to handcuff him. The 217-pound DuBose tossed one
officer into a planter and took both cops' martial arts batons,
called nunchucks. Wielding the weapons, DuBose approached the
officers. When he ignored their warnings to stop, they shot him
three to five times in the chest.
DuBose had a temper--after being asked to leave a nightclub last
year, he pulled a pipe from the ceiling and flooded the
room--but friends and teammates remember him as a hard worker
who earned a degree in government from Notre Dame in 3 1/2
years. While Chargers kicker John Carney, another Notre Dame
alum, calls DuBose's death a tragic end, San Diego city
councilman George Stevens thinks there may be more to the story.
Stevens has launched an investigation of the shooting. The
officers who shot DuBose reported that he appeared to be drunk
or on drugs, but Stevens and others aren't fully convinced by
the police report. Toxicology results won't be known until next
week, and the police and DuBose's family will conduct separate
Playing with Matches
Tiger Woods's Showdown at Sherwood with David Duval on Monday
continued a tradition of dubious duels from Aaron Burr vs.
Alexander Hamilton in 1804 to Muhammad Ali's 1976 draw with
Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki (above). Here are four other
trash-sport classics, plus two more matches that might strike
JESSE OWENS VS. JULIO MCCAW
Christmas Dash, Havana, 1936
The world's fastest man edged a racehorse with a human-sounding
name in a 100-yard dash. Owens's unofficial time of 9.9 seconds
surpassed his world record by .03. Asked why he'd race a horse
for $2,000, the Olympic hero would say, "I had four gold medals,
but you can't eat four gold medals."
JIM BROWN VS. FRANCO HARRIS
I Challenge You!, Atlantic City, 1985
In a nationally televised four-event tussle at the Tropicana,
the 48-year-old Brown beat Harris, 34, at hoops and racquetball,
but Franco prevailed in a pass-catching contest quarterbacked by
Phil Simms, then outran Brown in a 40-yard dash. The two split
prizes worth $100,000.
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR VS. JULIUS ERVING
Clash of the Legends, Atlantic City, 1992
Abdul-Jabbar, 44, routed the 42-year-old Erving 41-23 in a
pay-per-view spectacle that drew 4,200 fans to the Trump Taj
Mahal. While Kareem went 16 for 31 from the field, the Doctor
shot a sickly 9 for 44 and jammed just once. "There will be no
rematch," said Erving.
GARRY KASPAROV VS. DEEP BLUE
Man vs. Machine, New York City, 1997
The win by IBM's chess-playing computer, which Kasparov had
beaten in '96, left the world champ in a blue mood. "My opponent
was psychologically stable, undisturbed and unconcerned about
anything going on around it," said the humbled human. "IBM owes
me, and all mankind, a rematch."
TIM DUNCAN VS. KEVIN GARNETT
Alamo Slam-O, San Antonio
Who'll rule the 21st century NBA? Duncan could try to dunk on
the T-Wolves' alpha male in a $21 million game of 21 refereed
by governors George W. Bush and Jesse Ventura. Suggested rule:
Slams count three points, but elbows to the refs count four.
BRANDI CHASTAIN VS. BRIANA SCURRY
Shootout at the O.K. Corral, Tombstone, Ariz.
The heroines of the Women's World Cup could square off for big
bucks and a chance to unveil still more designer underwear.
Chastain has to gun 6 of 6 penalty shots past Scurry to collect
$10 million from Nike, Maidenform, Hanes, Jockey and Fruit of
the Loom. Bra-va-va-voom!
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Two Jets fans known as Horse and Fireman Eddie have signed a
licensing agreement with NFL Properties.
As Ballplayers step up to the plate for the final third of the
season, all eyes are on Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs as they pursue
membership in the 3,000 hit club. Swing by these sites to track
them and all of your favorite players as the playoff races heat
E-mail questions to Gwynn at the Padres' official site, which
has photos, stats and a log of every one of Gwynn's hits,
starting with his first--a double off Phillies lefty Sid Monge
on July 19, 1982.
Fire away at the Boggs trivia challenge on the St. Petersburg
Times' site. The Wade Watch page also features an archive of the
newspaper's stories about Boggs and a photo gallery, including
the famous shot of him in pinstripes celebrating the Yankees'
World Series victory in 1996 astride a police horse.
There's a Web page for every player on this site set up by the
Major League Baseball Players Association. Fans can E-mail
players and, in come cases, chat with them. Some laptop-toting
big leaguers update their sites frequently during road trips.
Read journal entries from Chuck Knoblauch and Al Leiter, or lock
in on Rickey Henderson's tips on stealing bases.
sites we'd like to see
On-line auction house for baseball's "Turn Ahead the Clock
Cyber updates on sixtysomething college football coaches Lou
Holtz, John Robinson and Howard Schnellenberger.
They Said It
Dolphins wideouts coach, on the coming season: "If we keep our
receivers healthy and out of jail, we should be O.K."