Aug. 16, 1999
Aug. 16, 1999

Table of Contents
Aug. 16, 1999

Pro Football
College Football Preview 1999


It's time for baseball to rethink its decadelong ban on Pete Rose

This is an article from the Aug. 16, 1999 issue Original Layout

Ten years ago this month Pete Rose signed his own death warrant.
His pact with commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Rose from
playing or managing again. Rose admitted he had gambled with
bookies (though not on baseball) and hung out with
cocaine-dealing lowlifes, and nine people had told investigators
that Rose, then the Reds' manager, had bet on baseball. The deal
didn't charge Rose with that last offense, however, and stated,
"Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed either an admission
or a denial by Peter Edward Rose of the allegation that he bet
on any major league baseball game." But then Giamatti told
reporters he'd concluded Rose had bet on baseball.

In 1991, the year before Rose would be eligible for the Hall of
Fame, the Hall's board of directors passed a new rule: Suspended
players were no longer eligible. Board member Fay Vincent,
Giamatti's successor, made the ludicrous claim that the rule
wasn't aimed at Rose. "I'll kiss your ass if that's true," Rose
tells SI.

On Hall of Fame weekend Rose, 58, sat at a long card table in
Cooperstown, signing autographs that included the number
4,256--his career hits, nearly half again as many as Wade Boggs
or Tony Gwynn has. The Hit King grinned and joked and signed
nonstop but left town before the induction ceremonies. ("It's
their day, not mine.") He also said he's royally pissed at how
the game keeps spitting in his eye. "Bart Giamatti told me to
reconfigure my life," he said, "and I have. I don't gamble
illegally. I'm real careful who I associate with." He said he
has formally applied for reinstatement but gets no reply. "They
don't answer me." That's a betrayal if you believe, as he does,
that the sentence Giamatti handed down wasn't meant to be
eternal. "During our negotiations they said it'd be 22 years
till I could apply for reinstatement. We got it down to 11, then
to one year, and that's when I signed," he said. But Giamatti
died nine days later, and Selig, a man Rose has never met,
honors Giamatti's memory by keeping the status quo. "I knew Bart
Giamatti. He was a fair man," Rose said. "He would have given me
a second chance."

Ten years is a long time. Even Charles Manson gets parole
hearings, and Hall of Famers, as Rose points out, "aren't all
altar guys." Finally, 4,256 is so many knocks that without Rose
the Hall of Fame ought to have a big asterisk on its front door.

Rose left Cooperstown with a word of advice for Boggs and Gwynn.
"The first 3,000 hits is easy," he said. "It's the next thousand
that's tough." --K.C.

Underwood Goes AWOL

At dusk on Sunday, outside the Little Mt. Sinai Pentecostal
Church in North Philadelphia, the Reverend Eileen Underwood
clutched the number 66 Vikings jersey of her 22-year-old son,
Dimitrius. "Lord, we pray that he's safe," she said, her head
bowed, her hands trembling. Maybe it was the holy water Eileen
sprinkled on his jersey, maybe it was just luck, but within
hours Dimitrius, a first-round pick in April's draft, turned up
after a six-day disappearance that was among the more bizarre
episodes in NFL history.

The 6'6", 272-pound defensive end from Michigan State had
reported to the Vikings' training camp in Mankato, Minn., on
Aug. 1 decked out in Army fatigues, saying he was ready to "go
to war." A day later he went AWOL, leaving behind all his
clothes and a Bible. After a Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter
tracked him down on Sunday night, Underwood, who was down to his
last $8, said he had been struggling over whether to play
football or become a full-time minister. "Not being a part of
the Minnesota Vikings goes against me, but doing the will of God
also pulls me," he said. "I wish I was man enough to confront
Coach [Dennis] Green and look him in the eyes and tell him what
I've been going through."

"From our conversations, he felt that he had been called into
the ministry," says the Reverend Moses Townsend, Underwood's
childhood pastor in Fayetteville, N.C., whom Underwood called as
often as twice a week during the past two months. "He was
excited about what the Lord was saying to him, and he wasn't as
excited about football as he used to be. I told him football
would enhance his ministry--if he was a football player he would
get on The 700 Club."

But if Underwood wanted to discuss reconciling religion and
sport, why didn't he speak with new teammates Randall Cunningham
and Cris Carter, both well-known evangelists? Why bolt from camp
a day after signing a five-year, $5.3 million contract?

Craig Domann, Underwood's third agent so far this year,
confirmed to the Star Tribune that Minnesota doesn't want his
client back. But if Underwood decides he wants to play football,
some team in the all-forgiving NFL will certainly give him a
shot. "It'll have to be a team with a lot of guts, because this
guy's resume is so bad," says a prominent general manager,
referring to Underwood's relatively meager football credentials
as well as his recent odd behavior. The Cowboys, the Raiders and
the 49ers might take such a chance. So might Carolina under
former Niners coach George Seifert, or Jacksonville, one of the
few teams beside the Vikings to show interest in Underwood
before the draft.

By Monday afternoon Eileen still hadn't been reunited with
Dimitrius, who had yet to reveal his next step. Reflecting on
the ordeal, Townsend recalled a recent discussion he had with
Dimitrius: "He talked about how Samson, whose eyes had been
gouged out, relied on a small boy to take him to the pillars.
The lesson was that you could have all the strength in the world
and still not have the sight to lead you to the right place."
--Grant Wahl

Harnisch's Heartache

Five days after he started the Mets' 1997 opener, Pete Harnisch
told manager Bobby Valentine that he couldn't go back out there.
Harnisch was anxious and unable to sleep, effects he thought
were caused by ending a 13-year chewing tobacco habit. Later,
though, Harnisch learned he was suffering from depression. The
1991 National League All-Star went on the disabled list for four
months while undergoing treatment.

According to Harnisch, Valentine had accused him of being
"afraid to pitch," a cruel charge in light of more recent
events. In fact Harnisch showed immense courage in fighting a
disease that now threatens to tear his family apart.

Harnisch got his career back on track last year, going 14-7 for
the Reds. He also became a spokesman for the company that makes
Paxil, an antidepressant he took for six months, and told The
New York Times that his ordeal proved that "you can get through
this thing, you can get your life and your personality back."
Pete's older brother Paul, however, might never get his life back.

Paul Harnisch, 39, was an assistant district attorney for Orange
County, N.Y. In 1990 doctors told him he had bipolar disorder,
or manic depression--such disorders tend to run in families. The
Harnisch family was rocked on June 26 of this year when Paul,
wearing only a pair of panty hose, drove his car down a bicycle
trail on which newlyweds Ed and Tammie Quirk were rollerblading.
Harnisch's car missed Tammie but struck Ed with such force that
his head and torso crashed through the windshield and into the
passenger seat. Paul drove on for about 500 yards with Quirk's
body beside him, then pulled over. He told bystanders he needed
help, walked into town, stole a car and drove around Chester,
N.Y., until police stopped him. Paul told them he was on a top
secret mission. Last month he was charged with grand larceny and
second-degree murder.

At a July 15 hearing attended by Pete, Judge Joseph West released
Paul on $125,000 bail with the stipulation that he be held in a
mental ward with an electronic monitor on his ankle. William
Tendy, Paul's lawyer, plans a defense based on his client's
psychiatric problems. The court may well consider Paul's case in
light of his family history, including Pete's depression.

Pete doesn't want to add to his family's sorrow by talking about
his brother. Instead, as he struggles to deal with Paul's
troubles, he takes the ball every fifth day, goes out and does
his job. Through Sunday he was 11-6 with a 3.52 ERA, 12th-best
in the league, for a Reds club that is one of the year's
surprise teams.

Ventura Returns

Bumper stickers in Minnesota boast OUR GOVERNOR CAN BEAT UP YOUR
GOVERNOR. Yet Gov. Jesse (the Body) Ventura's decision to appear
in the WWF's Aug. 22 SummerSlam in Minneapolis has Ventura
taking a beating from political foes. "It shows he's not
interested in being governor," Minnesota Republican chairman Ron
Eibensteiner says of the Reform Party's Ventura. "He's concerned
about leveraging his position to make money."

If the Slam follows wrestling form, Ventura will surely be drawn
into the ring to leverage some guys' heads. After signing up for
the gig he deflected criticism by pledging his $100,000 up-front
fee to charity, but critics pointed out that he may earn $1
million or more from video sales and promotional fees. "That
$100,000 is a smoke screen," says Eibensteiner.

The WWF could use a p.r. boost after wrestler Owen Hart's
accidental death in a fall from arena rafters in May and a
breach of contract suit filed by wrestler Rena Mero (a.k.a.
Sable) that was recently settled. Another factor is last week's
announcement that the WWF is going public with an IPO. "Getting
a sitting governor to participate endorses pro wrestling as
acceptable to the mainstream," says Wade Keller, editor of the
weekly Pro Wrestling Torch.

There'll be no ringing endorsement from Eibensteiner, who
hammers the guv for posturing publicly while allegedly
neglecting education, job creation, the environment,
agricultural problems and the state's finances. Ventura, he
says, "was a virtual bystander during our last legislative

Asked about his impolitic return to the ring, the Body shrugged.
"I'm not going to stop having fun," said Ventura. "My critics
didn't vote for me anyway." --John Rosengren

Braves-Phillies Brawl

Phillies pitcher Paul Byrd is a devout Christian who happens to
lead the National League with 13 hit batsmen. Former Brave Byrd
is close pals with Atlanta catcher Eddie Perez, who has been
repeatedly plunked, nicked and banged up since taking over for
the injured Javy Lopez this summer. So Perez was already in a
foul mood when Byrd hit him with a fastball in the third inning
of a July 30 game at Turner Field. He barked at Byrd, and both
benches emptied, though nobody threw any punches.

In the fourth, Atlanta's John Smoltz retaliated by plunking Alex
Arias. Umpire Jerry Meals ejected Smoltz, which further annoyed
Perez. Reliever Russ Springer replaced Smoltz, Byrd stepped to
the plate, and that's when all heck broke loose. The
mild-mannered 185-pound Byrd told Perez he hadn't meant to hit
him the inning before. But the burly catcher wasn't buying it.
He shoved Byrd and smacked him on the head with his catcher's
mitt. The two fought as Meals stepped aside, the benches cleared
again and what one witness calls "a huge angry pig-pile" formed
on the ground around home plate.

Byrd and Perez were face-to-face at the bottom of the pile. "The
Lord Jesus is my daddy," Byrd yelled, "and He takes care of His
children! He knows I wasn't trying to hit you. He's going to
take care of me, so you better be careful with me."

The surprised Perez felt his anger melt away. "I said, 'Stay with
me, Byrdie. I'll help you,'" he says.

"Eddie couldn't get off me fast enough," says Byrd. "It was like
I was on fire."

Meals tossed Perez after the fight. Byrd stayed in the game and
won it to run his record to 12-6, then insisted he is no
headhunter. "It's not my intention to hit people," he said, "but
the Lord blessed me with a short right arm and an 85
mile-an-hour fastball. I have to throw inside."

Perez laughed when he heard that. "Yeah," he said, "but not at
my elbow."


Wish List

--That Dimitrius Underwood realizes a football fortune could
fill a lot of collection plates.

--That the A's, Jays and Red Sox keep their wild race going
through September.

--That movie stars take up bowling, lacrosse and quoits and give
those sports a boost, too.

Go Figure

Hours that famed Cubs fan Ronnie "Woo Woo" Wickers shouted his
trademark "Sosa woo! Grace woo! " from a Schaumburg, Ill., condo
balcony before police arrested him.

Winning bid at a charity auction in Las Vegas for a round of
golf with Tiger Woods.

Innings that the Giants' Chris Brock pitched after tearing his
left ACL in a game against the Reds.

Air conditioners the Reds' Barry Larkin gave to needy families
during a heat wave in Cincinnati.

Minutes in outer space that Swedish soccer star Stefan Schwarz
had planned to log on a commercial rocket before he agreed to a
no-space-travel clause in his contract.

Price of a bottle of Brickyard 400 wine from Thoroughbred
Vintners of Laconia, Ind.

Rank of Michael Jordan in a Chicago Sun-Times poll naming the
greatest Chicagoans of the 20th century--ahead of five mayors,
three governors, a U.S. Supreme Court justice and five Nobel
Prize winners.

do it yourself
Get Chummy With Sharks

If the fright flick Deep Blue Sea has you itchy for a
jaw-dropping outing, call San Diego Shark Diving Expeditions.
For $260 a day owner Paul Anes ferries scuba-certified divers 10
to 20 miles off the coast for cage dives into deep-sea waters
with sharks that reach eight feet long. From the safety of an
eight-foot-high aluminum cage, deepwater tourists shoot pictures
while guides working outside the cage in steel-mesh suits tempt
the mako and blue sharks with whole mackerel. Beware: The
interaction of saltwater and aluminum creates an electrical
field that stimulates the sharks to snap at the cage's bars. One
customer had several fingers nipped when he held the bars rather
than the handles inside. Guides have it tougher. "The tips of
the sharks' teeth can get through our suits," Anes says, "so we
get some nicks and cuts."

Brady's Other Bunch

Say this for Brady Anderson: He's got admirers. Anderson's speed
and power appeal to baseball purists, and his looks have helped
make the Orioles' outfielder an idol to teen girls and something
of an icon in the gay community. Out magazine reports that
Anderson, 35, "has amassed an almost eerily loyal following"
among gay men in Internet chat rooms. Their ardor may have been
kindled by a poster of him that's available on his official Web
site, Anderson's bachelorhood, long
sideburns, chiseled physique and beefcake pose in that poster
shot (right) have inspired fans who might have ogled singer/
underwear model Marky Mark a few years back.

Not that there's anything wrong with that--except in the
occasionally Cro-Magnon world of men's pro sports. The only
openly gay player in big league history, Glenn Burke, believed
his four-year career ended prematurely in 1979 because of
baseball's homophobia, so it would be understandable for a
ballplayer to want to distance himself from gay culture. Asked
about his gay fans last week, Anderson--who has been
romantically linked to actress Ashley Judd and tennis pro Amanda
Coetzer--wouldn't comment.

Bank-Robbing Goalie
Whiskey A Go-Go

Hungary's most-wanted hockey star escaped from a Budapest prison
last month. Attila Ambrus, one of the best goalies in his
country's top pro league, had been jailed last January after he
was unmasked as the notorious Whiskey Bandit, who had pulled off
27 bank robberies since 1996 and made off with $560,000. The
Bandit was wildly popular, a folk hero who would stop by a pub
for a shot of whiskey before each heist--"to collect my
strength," he said in an interview after his arrest. Ambrus was
sent to a maximum security prison to await trial, and his
popularity grew when he escaped on July 10 by breaking into a
prison office, pulling telephone and electric cables from a wall
and using them to swing from a window to the street. In the
manhunt that followed, police searched cars on Budapest's main
streets, security was redoubled at border crossings, and
Interpol issued an arrest warrant, but to his fans' delight
Ambrus stayed a step ahead of the law.

Ambrus's lawyer, Gyorgy Magyar, likes his client's chances.
Calling Ambrus "a lone wolf" and "a very adept vagabond," Magyar
says he doubts many Hungarians would dream of informing on their
Butch Cassidy, who's admired for his sentimental side as well as
his derring-do. He sent roses to female bank tellers after
robberies, and was caught because he went home to find his dog,
Don, who had run loose following his master's last bank job.
"They aren't going to catch him," says a Bandit fan in Budapest.
"He is outsmarting the police and making them look ridiculous."

While his client lies low, Magyar is overseeing the sale of
Whiskey Bandit T-shirts and screen savers as well as a Web site,, complete with a link to the Jim Beam
homepage. Magyar is also working on an official Whiskey Bandit
energy drink and, yes, a movie.

This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us

A memorabilia dealer is selling so-called DiMaggio deathbed
balls, priced between $1,200 and $1,500, that the Yankee Clipper
signed shortly before he died.

They Said It
Expos manager, on Youppi, the mascot the team's ads call the
biggest Expo: "If he was the best, we would have traded him by