One of our most popular weekly features is CATCHING UP WITH...,
in which we check up on past SI cover subjects, but cover boys
and cover girls aren't the only sports figures who intrigue us
years later. So does the athlete, coach or fan who emerged from
the shadows of obscurity for one brief moment and did something
unforgettable. Or the oddball character who hung around the
periphery of the sports world, like the guy in the rainbow wig
with the JOHN 3:16 sign. In this week's issue, we've expanded on
our CATCHING UP WITH... premise and sought out a number of these
memorable subjects. (In fact, we have expanded on it so much
that this is a double issue; subscribers will not be getting a
copy of SI next week.)
We began by coming up with a list of sports figures who had once
been compelling but had vanished from the spotlight. We then set
about finding them, a task that was made more difficult in
several instances by the fact that we didn't know their names.
Says reporter Pete McEntegart, "In some cases, the only thing
the editors told me was something like 'find those guys who ran
around the bases with Henry Aaron' or 'track down the kid in the
Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial.'"
As we began locating the story subjects, we discovered that not
all of them were eager to be caught up with. Jeffrey Maier, the
then 12-year-old New York Yankees fan who turned Derek Jeter's
deep fly ball in the 1996 American League Championship Series
into a home run by snatching it from Baltimore Orioles
rightfielder Tony Tarasco, told us he didn't want to be
remembered as "the kid who caught the ball." He's trying to make
a name for himself as a baseball player at Northern Valley
Regional High in Old Tappan, N.J.
Ultimately, however, we tracked down so many fascinating
characters that it became impossible, even in a double issue, to
include them all. Among those who didn't quite survive the final
cut were Bobby Bonner, the Orioles' shortstop of the future
before Cal Ripken and for the last 11 years a missionary in
Africa; former Atlanta Braves backup catcher Francisco Cabrera,
the unlikely hero of the 1992 National League Championship
Series, who manages the St. Louis Cardinals' Dominican League
team in Santo Domingo; NHL tough guy Basil McRae, who, oddly
enough, sells disability insurance to hockey players; former
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe, the NFL's 1980 MVP, who
is an architect; Bob Nystrom, an executive with one of the
nation's largest property and casualty insurance firms, who is
often introduced to clients as "the man who won the Islanders'
first Stanley Cup"; and myriad CEOs, including Dave Bing, Oscar
Robertson, Gale Sayers and Roger Staubach.
More information on some of these and other not-so-lost souls
can be found on the Internet at our Web site, cnnsi.com. You can
listen to what the sports figures have to say about themselves
and surf your way through a gallery of then-and-now portraits,
which are complemented by articles from the archives of
SI--including George Plimpton's April 1, 1985, introduction of
Sidd Finch. There will also be on-line chats with baseball
favorites Oscar Gamble and Bill (Spaceman) Lee.
For us, tracking down the people behind so many memorable sports
moments has been an intriguing endeavor. We hope that you'll
find our efforts as entertaining as we did.
Bill Colson, Managing Editor