TWO FOR HISTORY
Are the Devil Rays the worst team ever?
Worst ever isn't a tag to be applied lightly. As Bill Cosby's
Leonard Part 6 (worst movie ever) shows, that dishonorific must
be purchased with irredeemable badness, a quality that transcends
mere ineptitude. Do the Devil Rays meet the standard?
At 42-77 through Monday, Tampa Bay was on pace for a 56-105
record. That wouldn't be the worst ever; given the Tigers' 53-109
mark in 1996, the Devil Rays wouldn't even be losingest team of
the last six seasons. But that Detroit team at least had the
promise of a new park to cheer it through its dark hours. The '62
expansion Mets (40-120), the models of modern baseball
woefulness, were 9 1/2 games out after their first nine games.
Still, they were lovable losers, with colorful characters like
manager Casey Stengel and future beer pitchman Marv Throneberry.
Even the Expos of recent vintage have served a noble purpose:
developing players for other teams.
August 19, 2001
Tampa Bay's futility, in contrast, seems complete. Management
has been clumsy, as when it committed $113.5 million to the
aging quartet of Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, Fred McGriff
and Greg Vaughn. The Devil Rays play in a rotten park in an
indifferent market. Fan friendly? Last year they tried to charge
admission to a high school marching band that had been invited
to play the national anthem.
For abject hopelessness Tampa Bay's closest match may be the 1899
Cleveland Spiders. While amassing a 20-134 record, the Spiders
stopped playing home games because no one came, and their leader
in wins was Jim Hughey (4-30). After replacement skipper Joe
Quinn guided Cleveland to a 12-104 record down the stretch, his
next managing gig was at a St. Louis funeral parlor. The Spiders'
fate? They were disbanded after the season. Let that be a
warning, Devil Rays. --Daniel G. Habib
Are the Mariners the best team ever?
We like to believe we do everything better than our forebears. In
certain cases it's hard to argue the contrary, as any PlayStation
owner who remembers Pong can tell you. But the proclivity for
proclaiming all things of our era to be the best ever can get out
of hand, as it did in 1998 when the Yankees won an American
League-record 114 games and were hailed in some quarters as the
greatest team in history--a claim any number of clubs, from the
'27 Yanks to the Big Red Machine of the '70s, might dispute.
Through Monday the 2001 Mariners were on pace to surpass those
'98 Bombers by three wins. Would this make them the new greatest
Winning 117 would surely be historic, but four teams since 1900
(the 1902 Pirates, the '06 Cubs, the '09 Pirates and the '54
Indians) have had better winning percentages than Seattle's .720,
and a fifth, those '27 Yankees, played .714 ball. As for
Seattle's roster, never mind what those overespressoed ballot
stuffers tell you--the Mariners aren't a team of All-Stars. They
have the best player in the American League at exactly one
position: rightfield, where Ichiro roams. Seattle may not even
have the best starting staff in their division: Man for man, the
A's rotation is better. The 1927 Yanks, by contrast, had six
future Hall of Famers, and the '06 Cubs had a staff ERA of 1.75,
not to mention their keystone combo, Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance,
who were immortalized in verse.
Give the Mariners their due. They are a very good team having a
superb season, albeit in a league with some very bad teams. But
the best ever? Not a chance. Something tells me 95 years from
now there won't be a poem immortalizing
Guillen-to-Boone-to-Olerud--and not only because nothing rhymes
with Olerud. --Mark Bechtel
LOU BOUDREAU, 1917-2001
HE WAS HIS OWN BOSS
The idea seems preposterous now--a 24-year-old shortstop
sweet-talking an owner into handing him the manager's job--but it
wasn't always so. In November 1941, before the biggest concern of
a player with 2 1/2 years of major league experience was whether
he was eligible for arbitration as a "super two," Lou Boudreau
convinced Cleveland owner Alva Bradley that he was ready to
become the youngest manager in baseball history. No mere stopgap,
Boudreau, the Hall of Famer who died last Friday at age 84,
managed and played short for the Indians for nine more years and,
in 1948, led them to the World Series title, their last to date.
Apart from his age, Boudreau was hardly out of the ordinary.
Player-managers were common in the first half of the century. In
1935, for instance, nine major league managers were players, and
in the '42 season, Boudreau, Joe Cronin, Mel Ott and Luke Sewell
were working both jobs. Since '62, though, just four players have
also skippered their clubs, the last being the Reds' Pete Rose
from '84 to '86.
"Everything about the game then was more conducive to
player-managers," says Mariners skipper Lou Piniella. "There were
no pregame meetings with trainers and doctors. There wasn't as
much travel. There was little media attention. Today a large part
of a manager's day is consumed by dealing with the media. That
alone negates having the time to do both jobs. And these days no
one needs the supplemental money to get by." (In 1942 Boudreau
got $5,000 for playing and $20,000 for managing.)
Playing while managing had other advantages. When Boudreau the
manager made a call, he knew he had Boudreau the player to cover
his back. After the Indians finished the 1948 regular season tied
with the Red Sox, Boudreau chose rookie Gene Bearden over Bob
Feller and Bob Lemon to start the one-game playoff at Fenway.
Bearden beat Boston 8-3; it helped that Boudreau went 4 for 4
with two homers.
Cleveland went on to defeat the Braves in six games, making
Boudreau the only man to manage a World Series winner in the same
year he was named MVP. Safe to say, that's a feat that won't be
repeated anytime soon. --M.B.
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: STREET LUGE
SPORT "You're racing other people, and it takes a lot of body
control. You could compare it to in-line skating." --Chris
Witty, Olympic speed skater
NOT A SPORT "It's only a sport at the X-Games." --Mark Grimmette,
SPORT "It takes courage, strategy and skill, and you can get hurt
doing it. It's not just playing around. To me, a nonsport is
something like curling. What's that about?" --Jeff Conine,
Orioles first baseman
NOT A SPORT "It seems more like a hobby." --Brant Moles, extreme
NOT A SPORT "Getting on top of a hill and just holding on is not
a sport. It may require some skill and cause some fatigue, but so
does sitting at a computer." --Gregg Zaun, Royals catcher
SPORT "It takes guts and ability. That's the definition of a
sport." --Todd Hays, U.S. champion bobsled driver
NOT A SPORT "You've got to be borderline psychotic to do it, but
that doesn't make it a sport." --Eric Davis, Broncos cornerback
SPORT "If golf is a sport, then I guess street luge is." --Steve
Hoffman, Cowboys kickers coach
NOT A SPORT "That's suicide, isn't it?" --Aubrey Huff, Devil Rays
How to Smoke Your Tires
After his win at Watkins Glen on Sunday, Jeff Gordon burned
rubber in textbook fashion, a vast improvement on what he called
a "pretty sad" attempt to do so at the Brickyard 400. In his
defense, the burnouts and infield doughnuts that Kevin Harvick
(below) and others have made popular are rarely rehearsed. "It's
kind of like a teenager practicing kissing in the mirror," says
Winston Cup driver Buckshot Jones. "Even if you did it, you
wouldn't tell anybody." Here are a few tips on how to start
1. Put the car in gear and, with your foot on the brake, rev the
motor. "Run the engine to as many rpm as you can without
grenading it," says driver Jeremy Mayfield.
2. Pop the clutch. This gets the rear wheels spinning, which
provides the smoke. Timing is of the essence. Says Mayfield,
"Start too late, and your engine blows. Start too soon, and the
tires catch and you're dodging the wall."
3. Keep moving. "If you stay in place," says Jones, "the smoke
will come into the car and make you sick." To keep moving, let
the car roll a bit before popping the clutch and work the brake.
But don't move too much or the tires will stop smoking.
4. Watch the gauges. "Get those rpm too high, and there's going
to be trouble," says Mayfield. "It's pretty tough to explain to
your engine builder why you blew his motor while celebrating. And
it's pretty embarrassing to have your crew push the car to
Word for Word
Who needs the Gold Club when you have the visitors' locker room
at the Vet? Last week two former Eagles cheerleaders filed suit
against 23 NFL teams, accusing players of spying on the dancers.
Here are key passages from that suit. The NFL declined to
Since at least as far back as the mid-1980s...players and other
employees of visiting football teams opposing the Philadelphia
Eagles at Veterans Stadium have engaged in a practice of peeping
into the locker room utilized by the Eagles' cheerleaders,
including plaintiffs, for dressing into their uniforms prior to
the games, and then showering and dressing into street clothes
after the games.
The visiting players and other persons obtained such visual
access through holes in the walls, cracks between doors and the
walls, and a window that has been painted but from time to time
had parts that were transparent, or were rendered transparent by
the players or employees of defendants.
It was common knowledge among virtually the entire National
Football League--while at the same time a carefully guarded secret
to be known only to the players and other team employees--that
these conditions existed. Accordingly, it was a routine practice
[for] visiting players and team employees to peep into the
cheerleaders' room while visiting for a game. These players
viewed the Eagles' cheerleaders, including each of the
plaintiffs, in various stages of undress, including in complete
nudity when showering, preparing for showering, or returning from
This ability to peer into the cheerleaders' locker room, and to
view them in these states of undress, was considered one of the
special "perks" of being a visiting team of the Eagles.
--Kobe Bryant's plan to purchase a $13.5 million estate in
Orange County, Calif., that includes a 10-bedroom house and a
private lake with a replica pirate ship. A spokeswoman for
Bryant's agency, SFX, said the estate wouldn't offer enough
--The Arkansas Razorbacks, after new outfitter Nike delivered
football jerseys that were maroon rather than the Hogs'
traditional cardinal red. Nike said it would have new shirts in
the correct color ready for the Razorbacks' Aug. 30 opener.
--German citizenship, to Mavericks center Shawn Bradley. He
qualifies for dual citizenship, having been born in Germany. If
his rehab from knee surgery is complete, Bradley is expected to
join Dallas teammate Dirk Nowitzki on the German national team
at the European championships, which begin on Aug. 31. "One of
my goals as a kid was to play in the Olympics," says Bradley. "I
doubt if I'll get invited for the next Dream Team, so I'm going
to option 1A."
--Burbank, Calif., high schooler Emil Lazarian, by Joe Montana.
The former 49ers great is seeking $5 million in damages from
Lazarian, who was selling adult material on the website
joemontanafanclub.com. Lazarian, an immigrant from Armenia, said
he had never heard of Montana. The site has been taken down.
--The 17-year-old indoor National Professional Soccer League.
NPSL CEO Steve Ryan said in he'll revive indoor soccer in the
fall as a single-entity structure along the lines of MLS and call
it the Major Indoor Soccer League, the name of a league that
operated from '78 to '92.
With the notable exception of Kingpin, bowling hasn't been
associated with great art. Now, though, the bowling ball is
finally enjoying its turn as an objet d'art thanks to Todd
Ramquist and Kiaralinda, two Florida artists, and their newly
published book, On the Ball: Over 80 Artists Put a New Spin on
the Classic Bowling Ball. Over the course of five years, the duo
solicited bowling-ball-based works from artists around the world.
Here's a sampling from the collection.
Untitled, by Johnny Meah
Meah's art often depicts the world of circus sideshows--he himself
has performed as a sword-swallower and fire-eater--hence this take
on the circus fat lady.
And on the 7th Day, by Chris Hubbard
One of Hubbard's Heaven and Hell works, which also includes
Heaven and Hell Car, a 1990 Honda Civic decorated with images of
angels and demons.
Birdhouse, by Holly Apperson
Birdhouses are big with Apperson, who has made a habit of making
personalized ones as gifts for her friends.
Flash, by Emily Hughes
A self-portrait that's also a statement on the travails of
aging--specifically, says Hughes, of entering her red-faced years.
Untitled, by Judd
Juddletts is the name the artist has given to the small ceramic
figures that often appear in his works, including those crawling
over this ball.
Super Bowl Sundae, by Bob Apperson
Inspiration struck after the pun-happy artist watched an NFL
playoff game and heard an announcer talking about the upcoming
title match. Says Apperson, "I had my play on words, and I went
For two people who just spent a lot of effort denying rumors
they'd gotten secretly married, Anna Kournikova and Sergei
Fedorov (below) were a conspicuous couple last week. On Aug. 8
they dropped in at the South Beach restaurant B.E.D., where they
kissed for the cameras and showed off his-and-hers rings. Later
Kournikova consulted with Mama Love, the eatery's resident
psychic healer and oracle. "I told her, 'I don't know what you
do, but if you are aspiring to be a singer or actress, you are
going to be a star,'" says Love. "She's going to be big, just
maybe not in tennis." Mama also made a prediction: Anna will get
pregnant. Andre and Steffi's kid may have some competition
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. The Pro Football
Hall of Fame wanted a big-name performer to do the national
anthem at last week's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. Enter
Macy Gray, the Grammy-winning R&B singer who grew up in Canton.
As a kid Gray had even briefly worked at the Hall as a tour
guide. It all seemed storybook--until Gray pulled a Roseanne and
stumbled through The Star-Spangled Banner, at one point singing,
"Oh say can you see, by the twilight's last gleaming," before
being drowned out by boos and a low-flying formation of jets. "I
blanked," said Gray. "I've never stood in the middle of a
football field with 25,000 people watching, with planes flying
over me." Afterward, she apologized, saying, "I have total
respect for that song."...
With all those brightly colored cars, NASCAR has always been a
bit cartoonish, which is why it's only fitting that starting in
September, NASCAR.com will begin showing The Kellys, an animated
weekly series about a family of racers and their lives on the
stock car circuit. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is looking into
producing Race Jam, a NASCAR-themed sequel to 1996's Space Jam.
Jeff Gordon as Bugs Bunny's straight man? Hey, if MJ can do it....
Players in major league baseball history to have smacked a grand
slam and hit into a triple play in the same game, after Boston's
Scott Hatteberg did so on Aug. 6.
Jersey number to which Phillies righty Turk Wendell switched,
from 99, after he yielded two game-ending homers in his first
week with Philly.
Discount on a beer and a brat at Tropicana Field for night games
when Devil Rays lefthander Nick Bierbrodt is pitching.
Combined slugging percentage of pitchers Mike Hampton of the
Rockies (2 for 3, one home run) and Livan Hernandez of the
Giants (4 for 4, one homer) against the Cubs at Wrigley Field
Pages in this year's Texas football media guide, 304 more than
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Top 10 heavyweight boxer Lance Whitaker has asked that he
henceforth be referred to simply as Goofi.
"Today a manager's day is consumed by dealing with the media."
They Said It
NBC announcer, describing the network's 2002 Olympic broadcasting
strategy at a presentation for its Salt Lake City affiliate: "We
want to show that Utah is more than Karl Malone, beautiful
mountains and some guy with five wives and 26 kids."