As it faces a racketeering suit, baseball should be afraid, very
Last week 14 former minority owners of the Expos filed
racketeering charges against baseball commissioner Bud Selig and
former Expos majority owner Jeffrey Loria. In the suit the
plaintiffs contend that Selig, Loria and other baseball
executives conspired to dilute their ownership and to drive down
the value of the Expos as part of a plan to relocate or
eliminate the franchise.
Major League Baseball is unimpressed. "The former limited
partners of the Montreal Expos...have decided to engage in a
public relations campaign and file a frivolous lawsuit," said
baseball's chief operating officer, Robert DuPuy. Loria calls
the suit "frivolous and completely without merit."
The idea of Selig as a racketeer may sound far-fetched, but SI
investigative reporter Lester Munson says there are four reasons
why the commissioner must take the case very seriously.
1. The plaintiffs are huge engines of Canadian commerce with
unlimited funds. In most civil cases involving a league, the
league has the advantage in a courthouse war of attrition. The
league can outspend and exhaust its attacker. Here, the
plaintiffs would win any such war. They include the Bronfman
family (which owned Seagram's and founded the Expos), a huge
investment bank, one of Canada's largest communications
companies, the Fairmont hotel chain, a labor-based investment
fund with 530,000 shareholders, Canada's leading grocery chain
and a Canadian publishing giant.
2. The attorneys representing the Canadian moguls, Jim Quinn and
Jeff Kessler, are among the most impressive anywhere. In the
early 1990s Quinn and Kessler handled free-agency cases for the
NFL Players Association and defeated the NFL, an extremely
formidable organization with brilliant representation. Working
for the NBA players' union, also in the early '90s, Quinn and
Kessler caught NBA owners cheating on revenue sharing and
extracted a giant settlement for the players. Now these pros will
go up against Major League Baseball, an enterprise that has had
trouble finding adequate representation and that has a history of
embarrassing legal mistakes.
3. Paul Beeston, baseball's chief operating officer from 1997 to
2002, could be a critical player. When the Canadian moguls were
trying unsuccessfully to sell their interests in the Expos to
Loria in an effort to get something out of their investment,
Beeston, the plaintiffs say, reassured them that MLB officials
would protect them. Instead, MLB reduced those owners from 76% to
6% ownership and tried to kill the team in Montreal. Beeston was
Toronto's president before his MLB gig and had strong allegiances
to the Canadians, and the suit states that "Beeston may have been
misled by Selig." Will Beeston's testimony help the Canadians?
It's unlikely that these lawyers would cite him in the suit if
they didn't believe he would support them as a witness.
4. In the course of the pretrial skirmishing we may get our best
look ever at the true state of baseball's finances. In the NFL
cases Quinn and Kessler made sure that detailed financial
records of each team were made public. They'll attempt the same
thing as they prepare for this trial. If they're successful,
baseball's image and its future bargaining position with the
players could be permanently damaged.
Cuba finally lets a superstar leave home, but with strings
Omar Linares--who as recently as a few years ago was regarded by
many scouts as the world's greatest third baseman--is finally
getting to show his skills outside his native Cuba. Linares, 34,
had for years resisted huge financial offers to defect and play
in the U.S. major leagues. Now, at a point where he's probably
just beyond his prime, he's one of five players that Fidel
Castro's communist government has permitted to go to the Japanese
leagues. For at least the remainder of this season, he'll play
for the Chunichi Dragons.
Linares has more than 400 home runs and more than 2,000 hits
during a 17-year career in Cuba's 16-team National Series league.
His legend began when he started playing on the national team at
age 17 and earned the nickname el Nino Prodigio de Vueltabajo
("the Prodigious Boy from Vueltabajo"). In 1985 the Blue Jays
were so impressed that they offered him a unique contract: He
would play only home games and so avoid traveling to the United
States. By all indications a true believer in Cuba's communist
system, Linares turned Toronto down, and because federal law
forbids Cuban nationals from playing in the U.S., his brushes
with American baseball have been limited. He played in the 1996
Olympics, in Atlanta, where he hit three home runs in Cuba's gold
medal win over Japan, and in an exhibition game in Baltimore
against the Orioles in '99. "I would rather play for 11 million
people than $11 million," he once said. "[To defect] would be an
act of treason. It will never happen."
Linares's trip to Japan is a particular snub to the U.S. and its
promises of riches. He will earn just $4,000 a month playing for
Chunichi--an undisclosed portion of which he will have to give to
the Cuban government. "If he is making $4,000 a month, that means
he will get $200 and Fidel Castro will get $3,800," Marlins
closer Vladimir Nunez, who defected from Cuba in 1995, told The
Miami Herald. "When you [are] making $7 a month playing baseball
in Cuba, even $200 is a lot of money. But if he had come here, he
would be making millions." --Mark Beech
Pitcher Jeff Weaver's July 7 debut for the Yankees (lower left)
was shocking not because he went seven innings for the win but
because he brought unruly collar-length locks to a team for
which Yankee Clipper has an alternative meaning. Would there be
a confrontation between the hirsute hurler and the owner whose
hair code is, Keep it short, neat and off your face? "Mr.
Steinbrenner didn't make any comments--maybe he was giving me a
day of leeway," says Weaver, who was acquired from the Tigers 36
hours before the game. The next day Weaver, who also sported a
goatee in Detroit, went for a makeover (lower right). "You see
Jason Giambi come over and cut his hair and clean up his face,"
said Weaver. "I figured I didn't have more pull than he did."
Giambi, of course, has undergone a radical transformation since
his shaggy days in Oakland (top left), and lately he's flaunted
his squeaky-clean image in a deodorant commercial (upper right).
"The joke is that the first thing they hand you when you become
a Yankee is a razor," says reliever Steve Karsay, who signed
with the Yanks last winter, "but it's not like that." Oh no?
Karsay had a messy 'do when he met Steinbrenner last spring. "He
suggested I get a haircut," says Karsay. "So I did."
$25 million Estimated amount of the four-year sponsorship deal
between the U.S. Postal Service and its cycling team, featuring
$0.03 Amount of this month's price hike on first-class stamps,
raising the cost for postage to $0.37.
20 Minutes the expansion Houston Texans needed to sell out their
Sept. 8 home opener against the Cowboys.
300 Perfect bowling score in a Fort Pierce, Fla., league match
for Ted Byram, who is 82 years old and had suffered a stroke two
$300,000 Price paid, by Oregon boosters, for the new
53-by-172-foot billboard featuring Ducks wideout and Heisman
Trophy candidate Keenan Howry that will loom above New York
City's Times Square until October.
$15,500 According to a recent investigation, amount paid by
Canadian taxpayers to rent a suite at the Hotel Monaco during
the Salt Lake Olympics for Paul DeVillers, Canada's Amateur
$9,500 Federal funding for the Canadian Snowboard Federation in
A Widow's Pique
Is there a conspiracy to hide the details of a race driver's
Dale Earnhardt wasn't the only auto racing driver killed last
year, just the most famous. Three months after Earnhardt's
February crash at Daytona, Mike Gagliardo, 46, a food-company
executive from Chicago and a part-time driver on the Trans-Am
Series circuit, died at Mosport International Raceway near
Toronto. But while Earnhardt's death prompted investigations that
have led to safer cars, Gagliardo's accident has cast a shadow
over his sport. His widow alleges that the Sports Car Club of
America (SCCA), which oversees the Trans-Am Series, has conspired
with the car owner to hide the fact that Gagliardo's Corvette was
not up to safety standards.
Meg Gagliardo, 42, says that shortly after the race the car was
turned over to Lou Gigliotti of Dallas, the man from whom her
husband had leased it, so that Gigliotti could cut it into small
pieces and stymie an investigation. Two weeks after the wreck she
got a court order compelling Gigliotti to reveal where the pieces
were, then had her own experts put them back together. Her
investigation, she claims, shows that the steel tubing in the
side panels of Mike's car was too thin.
The SCCA and Gigliotti maintain the problem was not the car but
the crash: Gagliardo was T-boned by a car traveling more than 100
mph. "A Sherman tank would have saved Gagliardo, and nothing
less," says Michael Kestenberg, an SCCA lawyer. Gigliotti says he
had the car cut apart to salvage customized pieces.
At Meg's insistence the Ontario coroner will investigate in
September. The SCCA says Meg has dragged out the case to obtain
free discovery for a multi-million-dollar lawsuit. Meg says she
doesn't know if she'll sue. "I'm angry," she says. "I have
waited a year and two months for them to come clean on their
own." --Mark Beech
WHY YOU SHOULD QUIT BEING STUBBORN AND LEARN HER NAME She's the
Secretariat of mule racing, or would be if she were a boy. The
10-year-old chestnut mollie dominates mule racing in Northern
California, the only area in the U.S. where you can bet on the
muscular, infertile animals. Counting a win on Sunday, Black
Ruby has won 22 of her last 23 starts and 57 of 72 overall,
earning some $175,000, the most ever for an animal with long,
funny ears who kicks up at everything she hears.
BACK STORY Her mother was half quarterhorse, half thoroughbred;
father was a jackass. At age three she fell out of a moving
trailer and was dragged many feet, severely injuring her hind
legs. Now, in mid-career, she has a male stalker named Taz,
who's finished second to Black Ruby 11 times in the last two
years, often by less than a head. "She ignores Taz," says Ruby's
owner Mary McPherson. "She knows she's the queen bee."
TRIBUTE "If you didn't see the ears," says McPherson, "you'd
swear it was a horse standing there."
DIED Of a heart attack, Saudi Arabian prince Ahmed bin Salman,
43, the owner of 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War
Emblem. A thoroughbred owner since 1981, the prince raced
successfully in Europe in the '90s, then turned to American
racing and spent millions at yearling and 2-year-old sales. Along
with his favorite trainer, Bob Baffert, he dominated the Triple
Crown in the last two years, winning four of six races with War
Emblem and last year's Horse of the Year, Point Given. Since '94
his horses have won more than $30 million in purses in the U.S.
--Of a heart attack, Jack Olsen, 77, true-crime author and former
SI senior editor. The author of the magazine's five-part series
The Black Athlete, in 1968, Olsen left SI in '71 and went on to
write more than 30 crime books. He was married for 38 years to
the former Sue Peterson, the cover model for SI's 1965 swimsuit
DISCOVERED A four-foot-long alligator in the backyard pool of pro
wrestler "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan in Titusville, Fla. Duggan and his
family believed a raccoon was scaring their cats until he saw the
gator at the bottom of the pool. "He handled it well," said Jeff
Luce of Florida's Fish and Wildlife Commission. "He just sat on a
lounge chair and watched as we took it away."
SCHEDULED To play in his old stadium in Cincinnati, hit king Pete
Rose. Several Reds greats, including Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe
Morgan, will play in a Sept. 23 softball game against old-timers
like Mike Schmidt and Ozzie Smith. The event, Farewell to
Riverfront/Cinergy Field, celebrates the 32-year-old stadium,
which will come down after the season; the game is not affiliated
with Major League Baseball, which has banned Rose for life for
SWALLOWED (Almost), a bee, by German tennis player Jens
Knippschild while playing Spain's Felix Mantilla at the Mercedes
Cup in Stuttgart. The match was halted as the bee was removed
from Knippschild's mouth; Mantilla won 6-3, 6-1.
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
JULY 26--AUG. 2
SATURDAY 7/27--FOX 4 PM--DODGERS AT GIANTS
Put aside those ugly thoughts of Bud Selig, work stoppage and
steroid-snacking sluggers and watch these old rivals meet in a
series with serious pennant implications; the clubs are battling
for playoff position in the National League West.
SUNDAY 7/28--TNT 12:30 PM--PENNSYLVANIA 500
Sadly, the Poconos' Mount Airy Resort, with its heart-shaped tubs
and mirrored ceilings, has shut down; points leader Sterling
Marlin and the rest of the NASCAR entourage must find somewhere
else to stay for this tilt at Pocono Raceway.
SUNDAY 7/28--ABC 1:30 PM--MASTERCARD SENIOR BRITISH OPEN
No Grand Slam at stake, but the over-50 set battles at Northern
Ireland's Royal County Down. Watch Tom Watson, who won five
British Opens on the younger circuit.
SUNDAY 7/28--ESPN2 8 PM--GREAT OUTDOOR GAMES
Men's log rolling, in which opponents try to spin each other off
a sopping spiral of sap, highlights the event. Defending champ
J.R. Salzman hails from the log-rolling capital of Hayward, Wis.,
TUESDAY 7/30--HBO 10 PM--A CITY ON FIRE: THE STORY OF THE '68
The documentary chronicles the championship season of the Tigers
and 31-game-winner Denny McLain against the backdrop of some of
the bitterest race riots ever.
MONDAY 7/29--ABC 8 PM
Battle at Bighorn
Real golf? No. Still, this made-for-TV better-ball duel pitting
Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus against Sergio Garcia and Lee
Trevino gets the full Monday Night treatment: Al Michaels will
host, and Melissa Stark will patrol the fairways.
--ABC Shines in Rain
The bad weather during the British Open's third round may have
humbled the golfers (page 40), but ABC's coverage excelled on
several fronts. A chart showed how drastically the temperature
and the wind speed, and with it the scoring, had changed over a
three-hour period. Peter Alliss's dry British wit was the perfect
tonic for this day, whether he was referring to the scores of
Duffy Waldorf's first five holes (5-5-5-4-7) as "like the dialing
code for Tierra del Fuego" or delivering a deadpan ode to "this
lovely day in Scotland overlooking the Firth of Forth." One
lasting memory will be a shot of Japan's Shigeki Maruyama hiding
from the wind by crouching behind a barrier near the 8th tee,
blowing pitifully on his hands and looking like a stray cat
caught in the rain.
Larry Merchant is often ponderous as he searches for profundity
in the sordid sweet science of boxing, but he was sharp during
last Saturday's HBO coverage of the Vernon Forrest-Shane Mosley
fight (page 52). When Forrest tried to open his postfight
interview with an Oscar-worthy thank-you list, Merchant gruffly
cut him off. "Let's talk about the fight," Merchant snapped. "The
people don't care who put clothes on your back."
ESPN's suspension of radio and TV host Tony Kornheiser smacks of
soreheadedness. Kornheiser's grumbling during commercial breaks
about the network's decision to fire two producers on his radio
show was aired over the Internet. ESPN then benched Kornheiser
for a week from the radio show and from Pardon the Interruption,
the hot TV program he cohosts with Michael Wilbon. The rub is
that Kornheiser's shtick has long included barbs at his employer;
the network is taking offense at the crotchety style it has
promoted. --Pete McEntegart
AROUND THE WORLD The NFL preseason kicks off on Aug. 3 when the
Redskins and the 49ers play in Osaka, Japan, in the American Bowl
series. Since its inception in 1986, the series has taken the NFL
to Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and Mexico. Which is the only
team to win American Bowl games on three continents?
a. Bears b. Dolphins
c. Eagles d. Packers
KICKOFF CLASSIC The granddaddy of NFL preseason games is the Pro
Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. This year's Aug. 5
matchup pits the Giants against the expansion Houston Texans. In
the Hall of Fame Game's 40-year history all but one NFL team has
appeared in the exhibition. A two-part question: Which franchise
has never been part of the Hall of Fame Game festivities, and
which has participated the most?
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP Match the NFL team with its training-camp
1. Chiefs a. Wisconsin-River Falls
2. Falcons b. Furman University
3. Panthers c. St. Vincent College
4. Steelers d. Wofford College
CALL TO ORDER Put these teams in order of most undefeated
AROUND THE WORLD: b. The Dolphins have won American Bowl games in
Europe (London '88 and Berlin '92), Asia (Tokyo '91) and North
America (Mexico City '97).
KICKOFF CLASSIC: The Ravens have yet to play in the Hall of Fame
Game. The Browns have made a record five appearances.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. a; 2. b; 3. d; 4. c
Call to Order: Vikings (six times: '64, '65, '73, '92, '98 and
'01); Cowboys (three times: '66, '71, '85); Broncos (twice: '82,
'00); Raiders (none)
...BLACK RUBY? PAGE 22