Meet the new bosses, not the same as the old bosses
Call it the Larry Dierker Effect. The success of the Astros'
manager, who has led Houston to three division titles since
vaulting from the broadcast booth to the dugout before the 1997
season, has made it safe for talking heads to dream of trading in
their headsets for skippers' caps. Last week two more Fourth
Estaters made the jump when the Diamondbacks and the Blue Jays
tabbed their TV color men, Bob Brenly and Buck Martinez,
respectively. Can commissioner Vin Scully be far behind?
Actually, the hiring of broadcasters is part of a more
encouraging trend: the breakdown of the old-boy managerial
network. For the first time in recorded history Rene Lacheman and
Jim Lefebvre were not candidates for the openings. Of the six
skippers introduced last week, four--Brenly, Martinez, the
Pirates' Lloyd McClendon and the Dodgers' Jim Tracy--have no major
league managing experience. Of the other two, the Phillies' Larry
Bowa managed the Padres for a season and a half (career record:
81-127) but hasn't been in the hot seat since 1988, and the Reds'
Bob Boone, who guided the Royals to a 181-206 record from 1995 to
'97, was hired only after would-be rookies Willie Randolph and
Ron Oester rejected Cincinnati's skinflint offers.
Why have baseball's hidebound front offices become so daring?
Reason number one: As every want-ad reader knows, salary is
commensurate with experience. New guys work cheap. Brenly's
three-year, $2 million contract is the most lucrative of the new
lot. Compare that with the recent re-signings of the Giants'
Dusty Baker (two years, $5.3 million), the Mariners' Lou Piniella
(three years, $7 million) and the Mets' Bobby Valentine (three
years, $7.95 million). The veterans on the market--Jim Fregosi,
Davey Johnson, Buck Showalter--would have commanded similar
windfalls. It's no coincidence that four teams with new managers,
the Phillies, the Reds, the Blue Jays and the Pirates, ranked in
the bottom half of the 2000 payroll standings.
Brenly, McClendon and Tracy are in their 40s. Bowa, at 54, is the
oldest of the six. The hope is that younger skippers will mesh
with today's players. That means the managers will be expected to
be flexible and New Agey. At press conferences last week, the
word communicate was thrown around more than at a marriage
counseling session. "I've known Jim for eight years," said
Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone of Tracy. "He's a
communicator." Said Pittsburgh general manager Cam Bonifay, "We
felt the manager's primary function is to communicate and
motivate our players."
Such bonding will mean nothing unless the team wins. Over the
last six years 14 skippers started a season with no previous big
league experience; only seven are still with the same clubs. That
kind of stat can make a guy long for the security of the
broadcast booth. --Stephen Cannella
Five future managers
Despite getting canned by the Yankees last week, has excellent
rep as coach and minor league skipper.
Highly respected Dodgers hitting coach was finalist for Los
Cerebral catcher who is valued for handling of pitching staffs.
Most promising prospect among current players.
A's bench coach had .560 winning percentage as minor league
Turned down Reds job because of lowball contract offer. Also
courted by Blue Jays, Dodgers and Phillies.
SCUFFLING OVER STADIUMS
PHILLY TURF WAR
The happy sports news out of Philadelphia last week was the
city's announcement that it will finally replace Veterans
Stadium's infamous artificial turf with grass or one of the new
grasslike synthetic surfaces. Regularly named by NFL players as
the worst field in the league and bemoaned by Phillies past and
present as the cause of countless achy knees and backs, the Vet's
turf--rock-hard and laced with deep seams--has been blamed for
several notable injuries. The most freakish occurred in 1993,
when Bears receiver Wendell Davis ruptured the patellar tendons
in both his knees when he landed after leaping for a pass. He had
not been been touched.
New turf may finally bring an end to such miseries, but the Vet's
shortcomings go beyond the surface. On Oct. 27, Eagles running
back Duce Staley, on crutches because of a season-ending foot
injury, slipped on water from leaky pipes as he exited an
elevator. The mishap highlighted the decrepit condition of the
Vet, where a railing collapsed during the 1998 Army-Navy game,
sending 10 fans to the hospital, and where parts of the ceiling
in Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie's office fell onto his desk during
a meeting. Staley's lawyer and the players' union are both
considering lawsuits against the city, which owns and operates
the Vet. "Players are very concerned about the condition of that
stadium and field," says Doug Allen, assistant executive director
of the NFL Players Association. "It's an acute problem that needs
to be addressed."
The Eagles and the Phillies hope the Vet's woes will soon be
moot. In February 1999 the Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill
authorizing state funds for new stadiums for the two teams, but
so far neither club has been able to settle with the city on a
location. (Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, which received state money at
the same time, will debut venues for the Pirates and the Steelers
next year.) The Eagles have set a Nov. 30 deadline to pick a site
so they can start the 2003 season in a new home. Given how long
it took for the city to dump the Vet's despised turf, they
shouldn't hold their breath.
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: HUNTING
SPORT "A lot of skill is involved. It's as much of a sport as
basketball." --Bulls center Brad Miller
NOT A SPORT "It may be a sport for the hunter, but not for the
huntee." --Broncos guard Mark Schlereth
SPORT "It requires physical skill. You've got to aim and shoot.
And after the kill, you've got to get it to the truck."
--Seahawks defensive tackle Riddick Parker
NOT A SPORT "Do they have a hunting Olympics? Do they have a
hunting Finals? A six-game hunting series?" --Grizzlies forward
SPORT "Pinpoint shooting takes artistry. It's a big-game sport.
Hunters are athletes." --Lakers forward Robert Horry
NOT A SPORT "Hunting is for the birds. Uh, you know what I
mean." --Mavericks coach Don Nelson
SPORT "Are hunters athletes? No, but most great players haven't
been great athletes, they've been great thinkers: Bird, Magic. To
hunt, you have to be a great thinker. You have to think of where
the deer is. You have to think about when the wild boar will be
at the corn feeders. You have to know how to make duck calls, so
the ducks will fly over. You've got to be a thinker. The world's
great athletes have been great thinkers. I'm just a great
athlete." --Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal
Baltimore vs. D.C.
Forget Bush versus Gore (if you haven't already). The most
heated rivalry around the nation's capital is the one between
Baltimore and Washington sports fans. The two cities, separated
by a mere 40 miles, have never been the most sporting of
neighbors--Washington stole the Bullets from Baltimore in 1973,
and Orioles owner Peter Angelos staunchly opposes a big league
team for D.C.--but these days the jockeying among jockheads in
the two towns has grown into Athens vs. Sparta.
The latest hostilities involve the cities' NFL clubs. Over the
summer the Skins violated a gentleman's agreement not to
advertise in an NFL rival's market when they took out an ad in
The Baltimore Sun to lure folks to FedEx Field. The Ravens
responded with their own ads in The Washington Post. Each team
flouted another good neighbor policy by airing its preseason
games in the other's market. When Baltimore visited Washington on
Oct. 15, the Skins made three buses loaded with Ravens employees
pay for parking. Before the game, the P.A. announcer pumped up
the crowd by declaring, "Ravens fans suck!"
Ironically, the two cities have joined in an attempt to land the
2012 Summer Olympics. Under IOC rules, should they reach the
final stage of consideration only one city can have its name on
the official bid. Can anyone say Annapolis?
Locker rooms are sounding more and more like Wall Street
Even in these CNBC-fixated times, it's something of an eye-opener
to discover that financial lingo has started to replace military
metaphors in the cliche-ridden sports world. Consider these
--Suns guard Jason Kidd on his earlier playing days with the
Mavericks: "Dallas was like the stock market: up, down, and then
--Mets manager Bobby Valentine on Bubba Trammell, who hit a home
run in his first at bat with New York: "It's like getting in
early on an IPO--immediate returns."
--Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on the recently acquired Loy
Vaught: "He's like a stock that has all the right numbers, but
--Angels manager Mike Scioscia on catcher Bengie Molina: "Bengie
did a lot to complete his portfolio this year. We knew he could
hit and throw. He showed us he can handle a pitching staff every
--Among the assorted nicknames that Shaquille O'Neal gave
himself last year were the Big NASDAQ ("Because I keep going up
and up") and the Big IPO ("I'm just waiting to explode even
Not everyone is just parroting The Wall Street Journal. Some
sports figures actually seem to know what they're talking about.
After Mariners manager Lou Piniella made a surprise visit to base
runner Mike Cameron on the field during a playoff game, Piniella
was asked what he said to Cameron. Piniella shot back, "I told
him that the Nasdaq was down 113, and Cisco was a hell of a buy."
For those keeping score, the Nasdaq had indeed dropped 113 points
that day, and Cisco stock rose 2.31 points the next day.
Michael Jordan to the Max, by Al Gore's campaign staff. The Vice
President rented out the Nashville IMAX theater for about 150
staffers in hopes that the MJ film would inspire them in the
final days of the presidential race.
Aussie tennis great John Newcombe's link to a 1976 drunk driving
incident. After drinking with buddies at a bar in Kennebunkport,
Maine, Newcombe was being driven to a friend's parents' house
when police pulled over the the car in which he was riding. The
driver, George W. Bush, was arrested and convicted of driving
under the influence.
By a New Jersey Superior Court judge, criminal charges against
John Hogan and James Kenna, the two state troopers who shot and
wounded three aspiring pro basketball players during an April
1998 traffic stop, an incident that set off a national discussion
of racial profiling (SI, July 10, 2000). Federal authorities now
are investigating whether the troopers should be prosecuted for
violating the victims' civil rights.
To Wrigley Field, preliminary landmark status by the Commission
on Chicago Landmarks, meaning that any proposal to remodel
Wrigley must be approved by the commission. Tribune Company,
which owns Wrigley and the Cubs and has discussed expanding the
seating in the bleachers, opposed the designation.
A $24.5 million jury award to former Blues enforcer Tony Twist,
who had sued artist Todd McFarlane, claiming that the fictional
mob kingpin Antonio Twistelli in McFarlane's Spawn comic book
series sullied Twist's name.
Awards shows are the kudzu of Hollywood. Now the overgrowth has
spread to the sports world. If you're having trouble keeping
track of all the dinner-jacketed jocks--couldn't they put numbers
on those tuxes?--check out our guide to the festivities.
THE MLB PLAYERS CHOICE AWARDS Official description: "To recognize
the season's top performers, both on and off the field, as voted
upon by all major league players." In other words: Who needs
sportswriters? Most recent ceremony: Nov. 3 in Las Vegas. Host:
Actor Robert Wuhl (Arli$$). Celeb presence: Danny Glover, Rob
Reiner, Chuck D. Marquee award: Player of the Year (2000
recipient: Carlos Delgado; Man of the Year Eric Davis shown at
right). Trophy: An engraved crystal slab. Could be mistaken for:
THE VICTOR AWARDS Official description: "America's
longest-running nationally televised sports awards show,
benefitting the City of Hope National Medical Center." In other
words: We were here before the Espys! Pay attention! Most recent
ceremony: July 8 in Las Vegas. Host: None. Celeb presence: Vanna
White, Dyan Cannon, Carrot Top. Marquee award: Athlete of the
Year (2000 recipient: Shaquille O'Neal). Trophy: A statuette of
an athlete holding a laurel wreath. Could be mistaken for: Any
number of items on eBay.
THE LAUREUS SPORTS AWARDS Official description: "A worldwide
celebration for sporting excellence covering all sports
disciplines across all continents." In other words: We want to
give soccer players shiny prizes too. Most recent ceremony: May
26 in Monaco. Hosts: Jeff Bridges, Ashley Judd and Dylan
McDermott. Celeb presence: Sylvester Stallone, Goldie Hawn,
Nelson Mandela. Marquee award: World Sportsman and Sportswoman of
the Year (2000 recipients: Tiger Woods and Marion Jones). Trophy:
A statuette of an athlete with arms raised in victory. Could be
mistaken for: A TV antenna.
THE ESPYS Official description: "Created by ESPN and given for
Excellence in Sports Performance." In other words: You're
watching us anyway, you might as well watch this. Most recent
ceremony: Feb. 14 in Las Vegas. Host: Jimmy Smits. Celeb
presence: Cybill Shepherd, Joe Pesci, James Caan. Marquee award:
Male and Female Athletes of the Year (2000 recipients: Tiger
Woods and Mia Hamm). Trophy: An engraved crystal prism. Could be
mistaken for: Er, an engraved crystal prism.
THE WORLD SPORTS AWARDS Official description: "To celebrate and
honor outstanding athletes in all fields." In other words:
Originality is not our forte. Upcoming ceremony: Jan. 16, 2001 in
London. Host: Roger Moore. Celeb presence: Jean-Claude Van Damme,
Buzz Aldrin. Marquee award: At last year's inaugural ceremony,
Muhammad Ali was named Boxer of the Century. Trophy: A crystal
dove perched atop a crystal bush. Could be mistaken for: A
Christmas tree topper.
Good thing Don Rickles wasn't there. The Sports Boosters of
Maryland Headliners Banquet on Nov. 2 was supposed to be a
good-natured roast for former Orioles manager Earl Weaver. But
after Jim Palmer took the dais and teased his old skipper about
his height and hard-drinking ways, the guest of honor snapped.
Weaver stunned the crowd of 1,100, first by accusing Palmer of
faking injuries during his playing days and then by confronting
Palmer directly, screaming at him until Weaver was led away by
former Orioles first baseman Lee May....
Oscar De La Hoya (below) can't be happy about his latest fight.
On Oct. 24 the boxer turned singer filed a $500,000 suit against
his ex-girlfriend, actress Shanna Moakler, because Moakler, her
parents and a friend have refused to move out of De La Hoya's
six-bedroom Santa Monica, Calif., home. According to the suit,
after the breakup Moakler threw a Shanna's Freedom Party at the
house, fired the help and changed the locks to prevent De La
Hoya from returning. Moakler didn't return SI's calls....
Mike Reid, the former Bengals All-Pro tackle who turned his back
on football in the '70s for a career in country music, has
another hit, the Chicago musical The Ballad of Little Jo, for
which he wrote the score. Reid has also signed to write the
music for the upcoming Broadway show Shane, a job that Reid says
attracted the interest of Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and Mary
Chapin Carpenter. "I'm a middle-aged man with the dream of a
little kid--to have a show in New York," says Reid. "As an
athlete I had a lot of wonderful breaks, and I often wondered if
I hadn't used them up." ...
Credit it to typecasting. Fred Willard, who had a memorable turn
as a Joe Garagiola-esque dog show announcer in Best of Show, will
play another mouthy sportscaster: Howard Cosell. Willard has
joined the cast of ABC's When Billie Beat Bobby, about Billie
Jean King's 1973 victory over Bobby Riggs. The telepic, starring
Holly Hunter as King and Ron Silver as Riggs, began filming on
Amount the Clippers owe their former forward Rodney Rogers,
according to an arbitrator who ruled that the team exceeded its
authority when it fined him that amount after he reported
overweight to training camp in January 1999.
Price St. Martin's Press reportedly agreed to pay for the
publishing rights to former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight's
Tickets purchased for Sunday's Capitals-Lightning game in Tampa
and donated to juvenile cancer patients by fan Steve Yerrid, who
recently won a $200 million lawsuit against the tobacco industry.
Asking price in the Official NBA & WNBA Catalog for the court
that will be used for the 2001 NBA All-Star Game at Washington's
MCI Center, including delivery and installation.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Sergio Garcia withdrew from a pro-am event in Spain after his
playing partner, a 13 handicapper, threatened him with violence
because he felt Garcia had given him the wrong yardage on a hole.
Arena Football League's Iowa Barnstormers: "We own the rights
to Kurt Warner if he ever comes back to the AFL."