This year's Cooperstown candidates are a mixed bag
In the new movie State and Main, a character is told that an
excuse she's fallen for is absurd. "So is our electoral
process," she says, "but we still vote." The same might be said
for baseball's Hall of Fame balloting, the results of which will
be announced on Jan. 16. Find the logic, for instance, in
Carlton Fisk's getting the requisite 75% of the votes for
induction last year while fellow catcher Gary Carter--who had
the same number of All-Star selections (11), more Gold Gloves
(three to one) and more 100-RBI years (four to two)--was named
on fewer than half the ballots.
This year voters had only one slam-dunk decision: Dave Winfield,
a 12-time All-Star who in his 22 seasons had 3,110 hits, 465
home runs and 1,833 RBIs and won seven Gold Gloves, is a lock in
his first year as a candidate. Things get dicier after that.
Twins outfielder Kirby Puckett deserves to get in, and probably
will. He hit .318, won six Gold Gloves and averaged 192 hits
over 12 seasons. Puckett was forced into retirement at age 34 by
glaucoma, but his postseason heroics, his sunny personality and
the fact that his skills showed little sign of erosion--he
finished with 10 straight All-Star appearances and was on the
fast track to 3,000 hits--more than make up for a lack of
With no other surefire inductees on the ballot (sorry, Don
Mattingly, Jack Morris and Jim Rice), this year's vote could
serve as a referendum on relievers. Just two closers, Rollie
Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm, are in Cooperstown, and trailblazers
Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage failed to garner even 40% of the
vote last year. A six-time All-Star, Sutter won a National
League Cy Young Award, led the league in saves five times and
popularized the revolutionary split-fingered fastball. Like
Puckett, however, his career was short--only 12 seasons,
including two subpar, injury-plagued years at the end. Though
superb, Sutter was more shooting star than enduring light.
Gossage gets penalized for hanging on too long--he pitched for 22
seasons but saved only 32 games over his final seven. That
denouement shouldn't obscure the long period in which the Goose
was the game's most intimidating stopper. He finished among the
top five in saves eight times and made nine All-Star teams. From
1977 to '86 he averaged 24.8 saves and had a 2.27 ERA. Compare
those with Fingers's numbers, which in his best 10-season stretch
were 25.0 saves and a 2.71 ERA.
The save is often a hollow stat, but there's no denying that
dominant closers have changed the game. Dennis Eckersley is a
lock for the Hall when he's eligible in 2004. There should be
room for Gossage, one of his forebears, right now. --Stephen
Five recipients of just one Hall of Fame vote
Ted Breitenstein, 1937 Lost 20 games for four straight years and
30 in 1895; only one pitcher has had more losses in a season
Hugh (Losing Pitcher) Mulcahy, 1948 Two-time 20-game loser was
45-89 with 4.49 ERA in nine seasons in the '30s and '40s.
Jewel Ens, 1950 Hit .290 in only 67 games over four years with
Pirates; in two full seasons as Bucs' skipper, led them to
fifth-place finishes in 1930 and '31.
Roy Smalley, 1964 Career .227 hitter never cracked .250 in 11
seasons; in only double-digit home run year (21 in 1950), led
National League with 114 strikeouts.
Mike Jorgensen, 1991 Lugged .243 average through 17 seasons (1968
to '85); multiply best year (.261, 18 homers, 67 RBIs) by 20 and
he's still not Hall material.
NARROWING THE FISH NET
At last, the city that brought us Heat and Vice may once again
be able to claim the Marlins as its own. Renaming South
Florida's big league baseball team the Miami Marlins may seem an
insignificant footnote to the deal announced last month (and
awaiting approval of local government officials) to build a $385
million retractable-roof baseball stadium in downtown Miami, but
it was much more. Said Miami-Dade County mayor Alex Penelas, who
negotiated the agreement, "No name change, no deal."
These days new or relocating franchises--the Arizona
Diamondbacks, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Tennessee
Titans--often link their names to as broad a region as possible.
The Marlins, however, are following the lead of baseball's
Angels, who in 1996 dumped California from their name and
adopted that of their host city, Anaheim. That move, too, was
linked to a stadium deal. City officials, seeking greater name
recognition for their municipality and a closer link to incoming
team owner Disney, asked for the switch as a condition for
ponying up $30 million toward renovating Anaheim Stadium.
Miami's officials hope the Marlins' name change will rekindle the
city's baseball flame (Miami Marlins was the name of a Triple A
team in the 1950s for which Satchel Paige suited up) and ease the
way for final approval of the deal. "To us it's an issue of
pride, identity with the team and the team clearly being linked
to the community," Penelas told SI. "That's important in getting
Fan sentiment, though, has been mixed. A Boca Raton resident told
The Miami Herald, "Once you say, 'Miami,' the people of Palm
Beach and Broward [counties] may say, 'Who cares?'" But a Davie
fan countered, "I'm all for it. They should have been called that
in the first place." The tenor of the few Marlins diehards may
have been best expressed by this note on the team's official
Internet message board: "Just don't call them late for the first
pitch on Opening Day!"
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: CHEERLEADING
SPORT "For today's cheerleaders, it's much more of a sport. They
do a lot of gymnastics and flexibility stuff that there's no way
I could do. At the same time, I'd much rather be playing."
--Duke guard Georgia Schweitzer
NOT A SPORT "They sweat, but plumbers sweat too. That doesn't
mean it's a sport. They also get injured a lot, so either it's
really dangerous, or they're not very good athletes."
--Portland Fire forward Vanessa Nygaard
SPORT "You've got to have athletic ability to be a flipper and a
jumper and a tosser-upside-downer."
--Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa
SPORT "If you compare it to some of the Olympic sports, like
shooting and table tennis, you can't say it isn't a sport."
--Former UCLA basketball star Ann Meyers Drysdale
NOT A SPORT "They don't keep score, so it's not a sport."
--Pacers guard Jalen Rose
SPORT "They're pushing girls up with their hands on their booty.
Yeah, that's a sport. When I'm through with the NBA, I'm thinking
about going into that sport."
--Celtics forward Eric Williams
TV's Super Sunday Showdown
On Jan. 28, CBS will land the heftiest one-two punch in Roman
numeral history when it pairs the hoopla of Super Bowl XXXV with
the premiere episode of Survivor: The Australian Outback.
While ABC, NBC and Fox raise a white flag--serving up their
basic Sunday night fare--cable nets will fight back. TNT hopes
that guys in a martial mood will turn to its Civil War marathon
of Andersonville, Gettysburg and Gone with the Wind. Other
channels are cultivating the distaff demographic. "We've created
a loyal group of female viewers who look at us as a weekend
sanctuary," says Lifetime exec Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff. Her net
will air "movies women love while the men they love watch the
Super Bowl." Lifetime's nod to the gridiron will be For My
Daughter's Honor, about a 14-year-old girl's affair with a high
school football coach.
The USA Network will yield the screen to hard-hitters Anne Heche
in Six Days, Seven Nights and Peta Wilson in La Femme Nikita,
while TBS eschews Steel Curtains for Steel Magnolias, part of its
estrogen-heavy Hand Over the Remote Sunday that includes The
Prince of Tides and Up Close and Personal. TBS may even see a
ratings spike at 8 p.m. EST, when it airs Selena. After all, if
anyone can pull men out of a Super stupor, it's Jennifer Lopez.
Patent Leather Passion
While Nike is busy pushing its new Shox, one of the company's
less-hyped shoes has been hogging the footlights. The rerelease
in November of the Air Jordan Retro XI, a patent-leather model
that MJ first laced up in 1995, has set the foot world on its
head. Explains Ernest Kim, 26, a Web designer who runs
Kicksology.net, a shrine to sneaker fetishism: "The XI captures
the essence of Michael. It has a formal, classy sensibility and
a certain flamboyance. And performancewise, it's a great shoe."
NBA players who have donned the shoe include Ray Allen, Ron
Harper and Reggie Miller. Derek Jeter wore XI cleats in the
World Series, and Deion Sanders and Randy Moss had Nike football
shoes tweaked to look like the XIs. Public demand has also been
high. When stores in a San Leandro, Calif., mall announced last
month that they had the coveted $125 shoes, buyers began lining
up outside at 4 a.m. Security guards tried to control the crowd
at one store, whereupon customers broke through the security
gate and stormed in. Police had to be called to clear out the
crowd. All this for patent leather? "When these shoes first came
out, I thought they were a little too flashy with the patent
leather," says Allen. "But now I think that's what I like about
them." --Will Lee
A Kenyan man who broke into the cockpit of a British Airways 747
bound for Nairobi in an apparent attempt to crash the plane, by
crew members and passengers, including 6'7" Clarke Bynum, a
former McDonald's All-America who played forward for Clemson from
1980 to '84. "I could hear the pilot screaming," says Bynum, 39,
who was en route to Uganda on a church mission. "I just grabbed
[the attacker's] neck, shoulder, whatever I could get a hold of,
and joined in the fight."
Great Britain's five-time Olympic rowing champion, Steven
Redgrave, by Queen Elizabeth II. Redgrave's rowing partner,
three-time gold medalist Matthew Pinsent, was named a Commander
of the Order of the British Empire.
Ohio State junior center LeCharles Bentley, by Buckeyes tackle
Tyson Walter, a senior. Walter is seeking more than $50,000 in
damages from his teammate, who he claims punched him after a
practice last February, breaking Walter's nose, cheekbone and
several teeth. Bentley could not be reached for comment.
Las Vegas's minor league baseball team. The Dodgers' Triple A
affiliate, formerly the Stars, will now be the 51s. The name
refers to Area 51, the top-secret military test site near Vegas
where, some believe, the U.S. government stores crashed UFOs and
the bodies of space aliens.
The gender barrier in darts, by Canada's Gayl King, who became
the first woman to compete in the Skol World Darts Championship.
She fell 3 sets to 1 to Britain's Graeme Stoddart in a
The Great Western Forum, former home of the Lakers and the Kings,
by the Faithful Central Bible Church of Inglewood, Calif., for
$22.5 million. The church will use the 17,500-seat arena for
When the Women's Professional Football League made its debut in
the fall of 1999, organizers billed it as A League of Their Own
II. After 16 months, however, the WPFL seems a subject more fit
for horror director Wes Craven.
Players on the WPFL's 11 teams endured a 2000 season of
disorganized or canceled road trips, unpaid bills and equipment
shortages. They never got the $100 a game they anticipated, and
last month league organizers, citing a lack of funds, cut short
the planned 10-game regular season and hurriedly arranged a
title game for Jan. 20 in Daytona Beach. "It started out roses,"
says Melanie DePamphilis, who played fullback for the New York
Sharks. "But then we began hearing stories, and after a while we
were wondering if there were even going to be games. No one was
looking out for the players."
One club found itself locked out of its practice facility when
the rent went unpaid. At a December game the Minnesota Vixens
hired a security guard to keep concession receipts out of the
hands of Terry Sullivan, a Vixens owner and league investor.
Sullivan, who was in debt from previous fringe sports enterprises
when he cofounded the WPFL, "isn't a bad person, but his judgment
with money is questionable," says Jodi Armstrong, a Vixens
fullback who also worked in the league office in Minneapolis. In
late November, Larry Perry, who operated the Colorado franchise,
agreed to purchase a majority share of the wobbly WPFL from
Sullivan and his partners and infuse it with $1 million in
capital. While that has some players talking about a brighter
2001, few are snapping their chin straps. "Who knows what the
WPFL, if it is around, will look like next season?" Armstrong
Then there's Catherine Masters, a Nashville marketing consultant
who this spring plans to unveil an eight- to 12-team National
Women's Football League, to which some WPFL players, including
DePamphilis, have already jumped. "The WPFL has pretty much
self-destructed," says Masters. She says the NWFL has a book in
the works (title: Just Give Us the Damn Ball). "We're talking to
some people about a movie, too." --George Dohrmann
If you thought there was no sports angle to the biggest news
story of the season--Madonna's wedding--well, how wrong you'd
be. In fact, a famous British footballer's absence from the
nuptials reportedly has created a rift between Madonna
and...John Travolta? Seems the groom, British filmmaker Guy
Ritchie, wanted celebrated soccer tough guy Vinnie Jones, who
stars in Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and his
upcoming Snatch, as his best man. But Travolta, who's currently
directing Jones in Swordfish, wouldn't allow him to make the
trip from Los Angeles to Scotland for the ceremony. "John
Travolta ruined my wedding, and I'll never forgive him!" Madonna
reportedly told a friend. Jones settled for sending a video in
which he toasted the newlyweds....
Controversy in the voting for the Netherlands' Sportswoman of
the Year? Say it ain't so! The victory by cyclist Leontien
Zijlaard-van Moorsel, who won three golds and a silver in
Sydney, didn't go over well with swimmer Inge de Bruijn, who
produced the same medal count. "The people who voted didn't
realize I also broke 11 world records," said de Bruijn (above),
whose disappointment was even greater than when she lost out to
Zijlaard-van Moorsel for the same award last year.
Paradoxically, de Bruijn was named European Sportswoman of the
The Super Bowl music playbill keeps growing. Joining a lineup
that already includes Aerosmith, the Backstreet Boys, Ray
Charles and 'N Sync are Sting and, emerging from supergroup
Former NFL sack leader Mark Gastineau, released into a
Christian-oriented drug rehab center in West Babylon, N.Y.,
after serving three months of an 18-month jail sentence for
domestic violence, says he has turned his life around. "When I
was sacking the quarterback, I was serving myself," he told the
New York Post. "Now I'm serving God, and I'm sacking Satan."
Previous NFL playoff games played by the 12 starting quarterbacks
of this year's playoff teams.
Three-game bowling score for Robby Portalatin of Jackson, Mich.,
the fourth official 900 series in history; all have come since
Record and ERA this season of Fernando Valenzuela, 40, with
Hermosillo of the Mexican League.
Position of the U.S. in FIFA's year-end rankings of national
soccer teams, one place ahead of England.
Tournament of Roses brochures with a misprinted phone number
that directed callers not to information on a golf tournament
but to an adult-oriented service offering "nasty talk with
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
At least 35 fans at a Timberwolves game used counterfeit
promotional coupons to obtain Wally Szczerbiak bobble-head dolls.
Pistons guard, after making 6 of 22 shots on the eve of his
wedding: "Could you tell the bachelor party was last night?"