The Originals They were the athletes who brough something unique to their sports, be it of substance or style. They were memorable then; they're unforgettable still

July 30, 2000

Bill Lee
These days he's down on the farm, but the Spaceman is still out
there

Even at 53 Bill Lee believes he can strike out Mark McGwire.
"I'd run him nothing but fastballs up and in," Lee says. "Then a
straight change away, and Good night, Irene." Of course, Lee
also believes the CIA keeps a dossier on him; that right-wing
fundamentalists should be "roadkill," that the Bible is fiction
and that the royal Stuart family of Scotland is directly
descended from Jesus Christ. "I've been called a
pinko-commie-fag, but I'm a conservative," Lee says. "I'm a
Rastafarian-Buddhist-communist-Roman Catholic. I'm a baseball
player and a subsistence farmer. I don't believe in making a
profit, and the only law I believe in is the law of gravity."

Such proclamations were what earned the erudite, lefthanded
junkballer the sobriquet Spaceman during his days with the
Boston Red Sox, with whom he enjoyed his greatest success,
winning 51 games from 1973 to '75. They also infuriated the
baseball establishment. "If the truth hurts, so be it," Lee
says. "They always doubted my sincerity and my intellect, but
I've forgotten more about baseball than they'll ever know."

Since the Montreal Expos released him in 1982, Lee has remained a
popular figure because of both his flaky reputation and his
monkish devotion to the game. In '88 he ran for president as the
candidate of the Rhinoceros Party. He has pitched and played in
senior leagues from Winter Haven, Fla., to Moncton, Nova Scotia,
and every year he takes an amateur team to play in Cuba, bringing
along a generous supply of equipment to donate to the locals.
When he's not preaching baseball or bolshevism, Lee tends to his
14-acre farm in Craftsbury, Vt. He and his second wife, Pam,
separated in June and have a six-year-old daughter, Anna. Aside
from the $68 a week he makes doing TV work for the Expos, Lee
claims that his only income is from his major league pension.
"Money's like manure," he says. "It's no good unless you spread
it around. I'm just the world's guest. It gives me sustenance in
return for my knowledge." --Mark Beech

Dick Fosbury
By popularizing the flop, he changed the high jump for all who
came after

Thirty-two years after his soaring, eponymous flop turned high
jumping upside down (and backward), at the Mexico City Olympics,
Dick Fosbury makes his living on terra firma, overseeing
construction projects as the president of his civil engineering
firm in Ketchum, Idaho. That might be regarded as a mundane
undertaking for a free spirit once known as the Wizard of Foz,
but the 53-year-old Fosbury has a different take. "I've never
tried to be a nonconformist," he says. "I just find different
solutions. I'm a problem solver. That's what engineers do."

In the high jump Fosbury's problem was with the straddle method,
the dominant style of his day, in which the jumper threw one leg
into the air and passed facedown over the bar. In 1963, as a
sophomore at Medford (Ore.) High, he experimented with a
variation on the outdated and upright scissors method. "With the
scissors, you usually knocked the bar off with your butt," he
says. "So I tried to lift my hips a little." Soon he was going
over the bar faceup and had raised his personal best by six
inches, to 5'10". The next year he turned his back to the bar and
kept his legs together as he jumped. As a senior he began arching
his spine as he went over. By the time he arrived at Oregon State
in 1965, the Fosbury Flop had fully evolved.

In curling like a comma over the bar at 7'4 1/4" to set an Olympic
and U.S. record at the Estadio Olimpico three years later,
Fosbury became one of the truly revolutionary figures of the
radical '60s. Four years later, in Munich, 28 of the 40
competitors in the men's high jump were copying Fosbury, and of
the 36 medalists in subsequent Olympics, 34 have been Floppers.
"I had no inkling I would revolutionize the event," says Fosbury,
who retired in 1973 after failing to qualify for the '72 Games.
"It was all intuition."

The twice-divorced Fosbury, who has one son, Erich, 17, is still
a slender 6'4" and spends a week each summer teaching his
technique at a track camp for high schoolers in Lewiston, Maine.
He enjoys sharing his skills with a new generation of jumpers.
"All sorts of mysteries seem beyond us," Fosbury says. "I feel
obligated to help people understand they don't have to be stuck."
--M.B.

Anne White
With an unintentional fashion statement, she left her mark on
tennis

She was cold, for god's sake. It was that simple. She wasn't
trying to flout convention or good taste, or make some vague
political statement. Anne White was merely trying to stay warm at
Wimbledon in 1985. "I'm 5'11", and I had trouble keeping my leg
muscles loose," she recalls. "So I wore the suit. I honestly
didn't think it was that big a deal."

Of course, in a pre-Flo-Jo, pre-Venus world, and in the
oh-so-proper confines of Wimbledon, her underestimation was
positively Custer-like. The moment that White, then 23, stepped
out of her warm-ups clad in an all-white Lycra unitard for her
first-round match against Pam Shriver, it was, in fact, a titanic
deal. Titters from the Court 2 audience brought curious fans
pouring into the stands, while a shocked umpire--and a frosty
Shriver--looked on. "By the end of the first game I realized what
a stir it had caused," says White, who was actually wearing two
suits because the material was so sheer. "Afterward [she lost in
three sets], I was told not to wear the suit again. I was scared
they would tell me to never come back."

White's lone regret is that the moment obscures a career of which
she's very proud. An All-America at Southern Cal before turning
pro, she climbed to No. 19 in the WTA singles rankings, winning
the Virginia Slims in Phoenix in 1987 and eight doubles titles
along the way, climbing as high as No. 9 in the rankings. After
leaving competitive tennis in 1990, she dabbled in broadcasting
and acting before moving to her present career, as an account
executive with Cartier, based in Los Angeles. She sates her
tennis jones at the venerable Los Angeles Tennis Club--"one of the
prettiest places to play I've ever seen," says White--where she is
an honorary member.

"I realize now that I was ahead of my time," she says with a
shrug. "But I was just doing something I believed in: staying
warm." --Josh Elliott

Eddie (The Eagle) Edwards
The unlikely star of the Calgary Olympics is still flying in his
own strange way

From his rooftop perch atop an office building near London,
Eddie (the Eagle) Edwards peers straight down to the ground, 200
feet away, where a crowd of maybe 100 gawks at the onetime
Olympic ski jumper. Abetted by ropes and a harness, Edwards
hoists himself into position, perpendicular to the ground.
Dumbly, differently, dangerously, he then rappels down the side
of the building, bumping and thumping all the way. The Eagle has
successfully landed yet another promotional stunt.

The Eagle's legend continues to soar across the British Isles--or
at least glide haphazardly, not unlike he did competing in
Calgary in '88. Of the 58 skiers in the 70-meter jump, he just
missed being 59th. Short on talent but long on chutzpah, he won
the enmity of his fellow skiers but the hearts of viewers
worldwide. After Calgary, Edwards didn't do badly. There was an
appearance on The Tonight Show, a huge nonvictory parade in his
hometown of Cheltenham, sponsorship deals with Disney and Eagle
Airlines, a hit pop single in Finland. Then came the groupies and
the tabloid headlines ("Eddie and Me Did It 16 Times a Night"),
while the money--more than $1 million--came and went.

The Eagle is 36 now, but still hasn't left the nest--he shares a
modest, debris-filled duplex in Cheltenham, England, with his
mum, dad and granny. He now wears studious specs, and his great
slope of a chin has been bobbed by a plastic surgeon. (London's
Daily Mail wrote that Edwards "has had more plastic surgery than
a Nazi war criminal.") Edwards makes about 300 appearances a
year, the majority only for carfare. He muses about competing at
the 2002 Games but isn't sure he can get sponsorship to pay for
his training. Besides, there are all those office buildings to
ski down and all those shopping centers to open. "It's sad to
think that in five years I'll still be talking about what
happened in Calgary almost 20 years ago," he says. "I don't want
to live in the past. On the other hand, I can't say no to
offers, not when I'm getting paid to be Eddie the Eagle." --Franz
Lidz

Al Hrabosky
Now a TV color man, the Mad Hungarian was once the game's most
colorful man

By Jamal Greene

The Mad Hungarian doesn't mind if you just call him Al. That's
what Alan Thomas Hrabosky goes by on the air these days in St.
Louis, where he has lived for the better part of 30 years. "I'm
recognized by fans, but it's like I'm just one of them," says
Hrabosky, 51, a Cardinals TV color man since 1985. Broadcasters,
he notes, don't need maniacal routines to get psyched up.

But certain relief pitchers do, and Hrabosky was the original
artiste. For the better part of a decade the hirsute lefthander
would enter games at Busch Stadium to Liszt's circusy Hungarian
Rhapsody No. 2 and promptly put on the greatest show in
baseball. Before each pitch he'd retreat to the back of the
mound, turn his back to the batter, mutter beneath his Fu Manchu
about his own worthiness, then pound the ball into his mitt
before storming back onto the hill. The psychological value of a
little personal time occurred to him while he was trying to
deflect the pain of a dental visit midway through the '74
season. His pre-pitch ritual developed soon thereafter. "It
wasn't an act; it was a last-ditch effort to stay in the
majors," says Hrabosky, who overcame inconsistency to become the
game's top stopper in 1975. "But it proved that the game was
starved for color. People didn't want robots out there."

While the Mad Hungarian was thriving, however, Al was suffering
through an unhappy marriage. His fastball gradually lost its
spice, and he retired in 1982, at 33, with 97 saves. "I was
fighting myself so much that I couldn't throw a baseball without
gripping it too tight," he says.

He soon met his current wife, June. Married for seven years,
they share a house in Frontenac, Mo., with June's two children,
whom Al has adopted. "The Mad Hungarian is always going to be a
part of me, but now I don't need him," Hrabosky says. "He was my
best friend for all those years, and now my wife is. He'll just
have to wait for an Old-Timers' Game." --Jamal Greene

Renee Richards
Her sex change in 1975 was not intended to impact tennis--but it
did

A lefty with a penetrating serve, Richard Raskind captained the
Yale tennis team in 1954 and had sporadic success as an amateur
player. Yet even as he became a prominent Manhattan
ophthalmologist, he was never comfortable in his own skin. In
1975, at age 41, Raskind underwent sexual reassignment and
emerged as Dr. Renee Richards.

She was content to start a new life in anonymity in Southern
California but became a cause celebre the following year when a
journalist recognized her playing in the women's division of a
local tournament. "Richards is still physically a man, and that
gives her a tremendous and unfair advantage," Rosie Casals, a
prominent pro player, said at the time. "[She] has to be
stopped." Richards had had no intention of playing on the
women's professional circuit but was energized by warnings that
she not try. "I don't like being excluded," Richards told Tennis
magazine last year. "So then I got into fighting legal battles
to be allowed to play." In 1977 she won a New York State Supreme
Court ruling permitting her to compete as a woman, and though
she was in her mid-40s, Richards played for five years and won
one singles title. Fans and colleagues never wholly adjusted to
her gender-bending, but Richards helped to usher in the power
game and the unapologetic musculature prevalent in women's
tennis today. Later, as a coach, she played a major role in
transforming an insecure Martina Navratilova into a champion.

One of the country's foremost pediatric ophthalmologists,
Richards has a thriving Park Avenue practice and in her free
time usually shuns tennis for nine holes at the course near her
Putnam County, N.Y., home. Now 65, she made a rare public
appearance last month when she delivered an eloquent speech at
Navratilova's induction into the International Tennis Hall of
Fame. "You are a true pioneer," she told Navratilova. Richards
could just as easily have been describing herself. --L. Jon
Wertheim

Pete Gogolak
His off-center approach to kicking revolutionized football

From his office in Manhattan to his home among the tree-lined
streets of Darien, Conn., there's nothing about Peter (as he
prefers to be known) Gogolak's life these days that could be
described as revolutionary. That wasn't always so. As the first
soccer-style kicker in pro football, as well as the first
established player to jump from the AFL to the NFL, he is one of
the most influential players of the last 50 years. Gogolak was
14 when his family emigrated to America in 1957 from its native
Hungary; he went out for football as a junior at Ogdensburg
(N.Y.) Free Academy and was a sidewinder from the start. "My
first year, I couldn't get the ball in the air," he says. "But I
thought it was something I could do." In 1964, after playing at
Cornell, he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the 12th round.
The next season, he kicked 28 field goals to set an AFL record.
In 1966, Gogolak became a pioneer of another sort, jumping to
the NFL's New York Giants and starting a free-agent war that led
to the merger of the rival leagues in 1970. Today, Gogolak, 58,
is the vice president of sales at R.R. Donnelley Financial, a
printing business. His success in football (he's still the
Giants' alltime scoring leader) blazed a trail for undersized
men with tiny pads and names like Yepremian and Nittmo--there
hasn't been a straight-ahead kicker in the NFL since Mark
Moseley retired in 1986. Still, Gogolak isn't sentimental about
his place in history. "I don't look at soccer-style kicking as
something I created," he says. "Frankly, I'm amazed nobody else
saw the potential." --M.B.

Otis Sistrunk
Schooled at the University of Mars, he personified the way-out
Raiders

Looking through a thicket of pines, Otis Sistrunk stares
admiringly at Mount Rainier, stark and massive on a pristine
afternoon. The former All-Pro Oakland Raiders defensive lineman,
rather stark and massive himself, doffs his baseball cap, rubs
his famously bald cranium and takes a deep, contented breath. "I
have a great life here," he says, standing on the football field
at Fort Lewis, an Army base just south of Tacoma, Wash., where he
has been a facilities manager for the last eight years.

Sistrunk's calm is a far cry from his often ragged emotional
state during his playing days, when his reckless rushing style
and freakish appearance embodied the motley, swashbuckling
Raiders teams of the 1970s. He achieved instant fame in 1974 when
Alex Karras joked on Monday Night Football that Sistrunk, who
never played college football, had attended "the University of
Mars." But when his career ended, in 1978, Sistrunk returned to
his parents' home in Columbus, Ga., where he remained,
hermitlike, for two years. A phone call from former teammate Art
Shell in September 1980 "saved me," Sistrunk says. "He invited me
to a charity function in Tahoe, told me all the guys would be
there. I started crying. I didn't know anybody loved me."

Sistrunk soon reentered the spotlight, starring in a series of
Miller Lite commercials that played off his "Martian" reputation.
He also took a facilities-management job at Fort Benning, in
Georgia, before transferring to Fort Lewis. When not coordinating
Special Olympics events or intramural sports, he is a personal
trainer for dozens of young soldiers, many of whom know of his
playing days. "I love it, man," he says of his new life. "How
could I not?" --J.E.

Bo Belinsky
A player in every sense of the word, he's finally stopped
swinging

Bo Belinsky should not be smiling, really. His bladder cancer is
back for the third time, he suffers from clinical depression,
diabetes and an ulcerated stomach, and he needs hip replacement
surgery, which makes each step painful because, as a recovering
drug and alcohol addict, he tries to avoid painkillers. Once a
serial squirer of starlets, he is now a thrice-divorced father
of 25-year-old twin girls (by second wife Jane Weyerhaeuser) he
has not spoken to in 15 years. To call his last three years a
living hell, as he does, is to traffic in understatement. "I was
walking around like a zombie, and I wanted out," says the former
major league pitcher who made headlines of all kinds during the
1960s. "I was smiling on the outside, but dying on the inside."

He found salvation in the unlikeliest place: Las Vegas.
Belinsky, 63, once the proto-playboy athlete, is a born-again
Christian and a used-car salesman who lives only a few blocks
from the Vegas Strip. "When I was drinking and using, it was
total insanity," he says of his life in the 1960s and early
'70s, spent largely in Southern California and Honolulu. "Now,
my life is peaceful."

It's also much slower. He is a field director of six car
dealerships, and his week usually includes a visit to a golf
course--and his Pentecostal church. He may have renounced the
wild lifestyle he led as a pitcher from 1962 to '70 with five
teams, but he still enjoys the stories from that era. Today he
tells the one about waking up the morning before he pitched his
1962 no-hitter for the Angels with a woman he'd met on Sunset
Strip the night before ("She had to kick me out"), then follows
with a story about a day at the races in '63 at Del Mar, sharing
a luxury box with J. Edgar Hoover and Walter Winchell. ("With
those two on your side, you could do about anything--which I
did".)

When asked about regrets, Belinsky closes his eyes for a long
while before answering: "We spend the first 50 years of our life
satisfying our ego, and the rest trying to clean our slate. I
just want to tell my daughters that I love them and"--because
they are, after all, their father's daughters--"to always have a
good time." --J.E.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY NICK CARDILLICCHIO Having landed in Vermont, Lee relishes his subsistence living, and when it comes to delivering his opinion, he can still throw you a curve. B/W PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY RICH FRISHMAN Now a civil engineer in Idaho, Fosbury says he created his radical jumping technique not to be a nonconformist but to solve a problem. B/W PHOTO: TONY DUFFY/ALLSPORT COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JULIE DENNIS BROTHERS/SABA B/W PHOTO: TREVOR JONES/ALLSPORT She meant no offense ("I honestly didn't think it was that big a deal"), but when she unveiled her unitard at Wimbledon, two Whites made a wrong. B/W PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN Edwards is still in demand for stunts like "skiing" down the side of a building or donning a chicken outfit to promote a tourist center. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR. Still in St. Louis, Hrabosky has mothballed his over-the-top mound act, but there was a time when it gave him a career-saving alter ego. B/W PHOTO: ART SHAY COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR. Dr. Richards (formerly Dr. Raskind) opened eyes--if not minds--when she competed at the U.S. Open in 1977.
B/W PHOTO: CO RENTMEESTER [See caption above] B/W PHOTO: AP COLOR PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY MATT MAHURIN The first time Gogolak, who hailed from Hungary, kicked a football soccer-style, his high school teammates laughed at him. B/W PHOTO: TONY TOMSIC/NFL PHOTOS COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY RICH FRISHMAN Sistrunk, who now works on an Army base, embodied the mean brand of defense played by the bad-boy Oakland teams of the '70s. B/W PHOTO: CARL IWASAKI COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY CHIP SIMONS Belinsky, now a born-again car salesman, had a good fastball but was more famous for his fast lifestyle and his endless parade of women, such as Mamie Van Doren (far left). B/W PHOTO: AP [See caption above]
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)