The Boys of September
As the days dwindle down and rosters swell, fans can sneak a
peek at next season's phenoms--and applaud the guys who can't
believe they're in the Bigs
While Rotisserie geeks remain obsessed with their imaginary
employees and front-runners gloat beneath their Diamondbacks or
Yankees caps, real baseball fans--the ones who know that Aubrey
Huff's middle name is Lewis and that Herbert Perry grew up on a
dairy farm--love September for a reason all their own. To them,
nothing is more intriguing than this month's expansion of
rosters, when teams are allowed to add up to 15 players.
For many second-division clubs, a looooooong season suddenly
comes to life. Buried in the cellar, the Tigers called up 10
players this month. As guys named Infante (Omar) and German
(Franklyn) poured into his office, Detroit manager Luis Pujols
had one question: "Who are you?" In Tampa 22-year-old Dewon
Brazelton--the team's top mound prospect--made his first big league
start last Friday against Toronto. Even though he took the loss,
Devil Ray fans (all six of 'em) saw something they haven't seen
in years--a young, hard-throwing righthander in their uniform.
So many great stories start in September. Three seasons ago, with
his team 25 1/2 games out of first, Devil Rays general manager
Chuck LaMar called up a lefthanded pitcher named Jim Morris. At
first his promotion generated only local buzz. Then word spread
that Morris , a 35-year-old high school science teacher, hadn't
played professionally in 10 seasons. Three years later Morris's
trip to the majors became a Hollywood movie, The Rookie.
That's the beauty of all this. Whether a September call-up
becomes a baseball immortal (on Sept. 17, 1941, the Cardinals
promoted an unheralded kid named Stan Musial) or remains a
baseball nobody (convinced he was their third baseman of the
future, the Red Sox brought in Ted Cox for 13 games in 1977, then
traded him to Cleveland the following March), he's guaranteed to
have his day in the late-summer sun. "Now I can always say I
played in the majors," says White Sox rookie outfielder Joe
Borchard, who was promoted on Sept. 2 and, that same day, crushed
his first home run. "It's the highlight of my athletic career, no
It's everyone's highlight, that taste of glory. Thanks to a
September call-up with St. Louis in 1936, Hall of Fame manager
Walter Alston could relate to his Dodgers players as someone who
had performed in the Show. (Alston most likely forgot to mention
that, ahem, his one-game career featured an error, and a
strikeout in his only at bat.)
Players get into the history books this way. In 1998 the Reds,
buried in fourth place, ushered in Stephen Larkin, a .228-hitting
Double A outfielder. In Cincinnati's season-ending victory over
the Pirates, the infield was all brothers: Stephen Larkin at
first, Bret Boone at second, Barry Larkin at short and Aaron
Boone at third. Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk, thanks to a 1969
September call-up, eventually became one of 24 big leaguers to
play in four decades.
September call-ups sometimes make a major impact. On Sept. 1,
1980, the Phillies brought in righthanded starter Marty Bystrom,
who went 5-0 to help Philadelphia clinch a division title. That
follows in a Phillies tradition: On Sept. 23, 1908, Philadelphia
recalled a young lefty, Harry Coveleski, who had already been up
briefly twice before. In three straight starts Coveleski beat the
Giants, who wound up losing the pennant in a one-game playoff
against the Cubs. Although Coveleski went on to have three
straight 20-win seasons with the Tigers, from 1914 to 1916, a
nickname was born. Fifty-two years after his death Harry
Coveleski is still the Giant Killer. One month created a legend.
All the Wrong Moves?
Chris Webber may have talked his way into an indictment
When Chris Webber emerged from a federal courthouse in Detroit in
August 2000, he was smiling, satisfied that 45 minutes of
testimony before a grand jury investigating former Michigan
booster Ed Martin would end his involvement with the case. "I
knew I was not the one on the hot seat," Webber said at the time.
Two years later, though, Webber is definitely feeling the heat.
Last week the Justice Department indicted the 29-year-old Kings
star on charges of lying to that grand jury, about $280,000 in
cash and gifts he allegedly received from Martin, and conspiring
to obstruct justice. Each offense carries a maximum penalty of
five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The way Webber got himself into this trouble baffles many. (The
indictment, says Martin's lawyer, William Mitchell III, is "based
mostly on Chris Webber's stupidity.") Webber was not an initial
target in the probe, which centered on Martin's running an
illegal lottery at Michigan auto plants. Webber could have
avoided the controversy in the manner of Louis Bullock and Robert
Traylor, former Wolverines who testified before the grand jury
and got on with their careers. Specifically, Webber could have
taken the Fifth Amendment and rested comfortably knowing that he
was a peripheral figure in a case that has led to a plea bargain
for Martin, who will be sentenced on Oct. 8.
Instead, Webber was combative and not forthcoming to the grand
jury--and overly talkative with the press, saying that he got only
pocket change from Martin and that the government was using
"crazy numbers." Also, the fact that the Feds had a detailed case
against Martin that contradicted Webber angered prosecutors
enough to seek indictments. Says one of Webber's lawyers, L.
Fallasha Erwin, "We think it got personal."
Webber, who pleaded not guilty at his arraignment last week, has
vowed to keep fighting. "When is this going to end?" Michigan
athletic director Bill Martin asked last week. It's a good
question: The case is into its seventh year. But it may be Webber
himself who is keeping it going. --George Dohrmann
Years that William Schuster of Oshkosh, Wis., was on the
Packers' season-ticket waiting list before being allowed to buy
four seats this year.
Players used by the Padres this season, a big league record.
Paid by Shadai Stallion Station for Kentucky Derby and Preakness
winner War Emblem, who will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic on
Oct. 26 before retiring to stud in Japan.
Saves, and two wins, for the Pirates' Mike Williams, giving him
a hand in 67.7% of Pittsburgh's 65 wins, the third highest
alltime percentage behind those of Bryan Harvey (71.9% of
Florida's wins in 1993) and Ugueth Urbina (69.1 % of Montreal's
wins in 1999).
Per-game salary for a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. More than
1,000 women in 46 cities tried out for this year's 33-member
Time, in hours and minutes, that England's Brian Thompson needed
to sail his 110-foot catamaran, Maiden II, around Great Britain
and Ireland, breaking the record by more than 28 hours.
Straight division-winning teams that A's outfielder David
Justice, a former Brave, Indian and Yankee, will have played on
if Oakland wins the American League West.
CAMPBELL'S MAMA'S BOYS
A year after being smothered in soup, shaving cream and stage
love by an actress playing his mother in a commercial for
Campbell's Chunky Soup, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is back
in the "Mama's Boys" ad campaign, this time alongside his real
mother, Wilma McNabb. She's not the only football mama turned
thespian: The mothers of Jerome Bettis, Michael Strahan and Brian
Urlacher will make their debuts in this year's spots, which were
to begin airing this week. Why did ad agency Young & Rubicam
switch from actresses to real mothers six years into the
campaign? Initially the agency thought it needed pros for the
physical comedy, but with the slapstick scaled back this
year--Wilma and Donovan are seen bringing Chunky Soup to a
construction site--there was no reason not to keep it real.
The change is fine with Wilma, who went to last year's shoot in
Los Angeles and thought, "I could do that." On the set of this
year's commercial Donovan kept the mood light by referring to his
mother as "the rookie." As for her son's screen presence, Wilma
says it's mmm-mmm good: "He has kissable lips and a perfect set
Former NBA player Bison Dele hasn't been heard from in months
During his eight-year NBA career Bison Dele was one of the most
enigmatic figures in basketball. A talented 6'11" forward for
five teams, who struggled with clinical depression, he was also a
man of the world. He played the trumpet (his father, Gene, was a
founding member of the '50s singing group The Platters), flew his
own airplane and ran with the bulls in Pamplona. When the FBI
reported last week that Dele and two friends were feared lost in
the South Pacific, the news only deepened the mystery that
surrounded him. "He was definitely his own man," says Steve Kerr,
Dele's teammate with the 1997 world champion Bulls when Dele was
known as Brian Williams. "He was doing something he loved."
The 33-year-old Dele, who was planning to sail from Tahiti to
Honolulu, has been missing since July 8, along with his
girlfriend, Serena Karlan, 30, and Bertrand Saldo, 32, the
captain of Dele's 55-foot catamaran. Although friends and family
say Dele and Karlan checked in regularly before then, nobody
began to worry until last month. On Aug. 31 Dele's bank informed
his business manager, Kevin Porter, that a check for $152,000 had
been drawn on Dele's account to purchase gold coins from
Certified Mint, a Phoenix dealership. Knowing that his client had
not written a personal check in 10 years, Porter notified
authorities. On Sept. 5 Miles Dabord (a.k.a. Kevin Williams), 35,
who is Dele's brother and who had been with the missing shipmates
when they were in Tahiti, was taken in for questioning by Phoenix
police after they found Dele's passport, checkbook and two of his
credit cards in Dabord's possession. The police did not charge
Dabord at the time, though they have since issued an arrest
warrant for identity theft and forgery. On Sept. 6 Dabord flew to
Palo Alto, Calif., and hasn't been seen since. The FBI, which
issued an arrest warrant for Dabord last Friday, is searching for
him in Mexico and also has agents in Tahiti. Says Scott Ohlgren,
Karlan's stepfather, "I don't really hold a whole lot of hope
By the NFL, Colts quarterback Peyton Manning's request to wear
Johnny Unitas-style shoes for Sunday's game against the
Dolphins. Manning had wanted to wear black hightops as a tribute
to the deceased leader of the Baltimore Colts. The NFL decreed
that only players on the Baltimore Ravens could wear anything
Heat center Alonzo Mourning, 32, whose doctors told him not to
play the 2002-03 season because of his deteriorating kidney
condition. In October 2000 Mourning was found to have focal
segmental glomerulosclerosis, which affects the kidney's ability
to remove waste from blood. Last year, with the disease in
remission, he averaged 15.7 points in 75 games. There is no
timetable for his return.
Mike Vernon, 39, after 19 seasons as an NHL goalie. Vernon led
the Flames to the Stanley Cup in 1989 and, in '97, won the Conn
Smythe Trophy while leading Detroit to the Cup. He also played
for the Sharks and the Panthers, finishing with a 385-273-92
record and a 2.98 goals-against average.
--Gary Suter, 38, after 17 seasons as an NHL defenseman with three
teams. A strong skater with a hard shot, Suter made four All-Star
teams and was Vernon's Flames teammate in '89. He is perhaps most
famous for cross-checking Mighty Ducks star Paul Kariya in the
jaw in 1998, shelving Kariya for eight months with a concussion.
--Rams wideout Eric Crouch, 23, who 10 months ago won the
Heisman Trophy as a fleet-footed quarterback for the Nebraska
Cornhuskers. St. Louis selected Crouch in the third round of the
draft and signed him to a three-year, $1.3 million contract, but
after an injury-riddled preseason--which included a transition
to a new position--Crouch lost his passion for football and gave
back his $395,000 signing bonus. He is one of three Division I-A
players to throw for 4,000 yards (4,481) and run for 3,000
(3,434) in his career.
One hundred years ago this week, in the Sept. 16, 1902, Chicago
Tribune, the names TINKER-EVERS-CHANCE appeared together in box
score agate for the first time, the record of a routine 6-4-3
double play turned by the Cubs' Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and
Frank Chance against the Reds. Today no DP combo resonates as
powerfully. The three played together through 1912 and helped the
Cubs win four pennants and two World Series. Yet their legend
comes more from style than stats; in 1908, in fact, the Cubs
turned a team-record-low 76 DPs. The world might have forgotten
them if columnist, and Giants fan, Franklin P. Adams hadn't
written the poem he called Baseball's Sad Lexicon for the New
York World in 1910.
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs and fleeter than birds,
Tinker to Evers to Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double--
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
THE WEEK IN TELEVISION
SATURDAY 9/21 > ESPN 7:45 PM > Boston College at No. 1 Miami
Gerard Phelan was pulling down Doug Flutie's Hail Mary the first
and last time the Eagles won in Miami. There is some solace for
BC fans: The team's 18-7 loss to the Hurricanes last October was
undefeated Miami's toughest test in 2001.
SUNDAY 9/22 > ABC 1 PM > WGC American Express Championship, Final
Tiger Woods doesn't need the luck of the Irish at Mount Juliet in
Kilkenny. He has won five of 11 WGC events and is favored to win
his first tournament in Ireland.
SUNDAY 9/22 > NBC 1 PM > Solheim Cup, Day 3
The 12 top golfers from the Ladies European tour take on the 12
best U.S. women from the LPGA at Interlachen Country Club in
MONDAY 9/23 > ABC 9 PM > Rams at Buccaneers
The Greatest Show on Earth travels to Tampa to take on Coach
WEDNESDAY 9/25 > ESPN 1:30 PM > Diamondbacks at Cardinals
These teams might be seeing plenty of each other over the next
few weeks; they're on course to meet in the opening round of the
THURSDAY 9/26 > ESPN 7:30 PM > No. 5 Florida State at Louisville
For the six people not interested in the (possibly last ever)
season premiere of Friends this game is a matchup between two of
America's best quarterbacks--FSU sophomore Chris Rix and
Louisville senior Dave Ragone.
>> DON'T MISS
SATURDAY 9/21 > CBS 3:30 PM
No. 10 Florida at No. 4 Tennessee
How close is the SEC's top rivalry? The Gators and Vols have
split their last four meetings, with Florida outscoring
Tennessee 99-98. One piece of good news for Tennesseans: Steve
Spurrier, who was 8-4 against them, has gone north.
--Costas is a KO for HBO
--Fox gets a haircut
--Top o' the ratings
--Bob Costas isn't normally associated with boxing, but at the
Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas fight last Saturday night he
proved yet again that no broadcaster is better at anchoring a
live sporting event. In his first foray as the host of an HBO
pay-per-view boxing telecast, Costas was well-prepared on the
history of bad blood between the two Mexican-American fighters,
whom he had interviewed extensively. Costas peppered his prefight
conversation with fellow commentator Emanuel Steward with details
from those talks and excelled in his role as the show's traffic
--One of sports TV's most desirable free agents came off the
market last weekend when Fox Sports coaxed Jimmy Johnson to
return to its NFL pregame show for the rest of the 2002 season.
(Fox Sports chairman David Hill had spent months trying to
persuade the former coach to return to the studio as a full-timer
instead of as a guest.) The 59-year-old Johnson, an original
member of the Fox NFL Sunday cast in 1994, begins his assignment
next Sunday and will work through the 2002 NFC championship. What
makes Johnson so good on television, besides his perfectly
coiffed hair, is his sheer confidence in front of the camera. He
was the star of ESPN's draft coverage in April, blending humor
with strong opinions, and gave the Fox pregame show a jolt of
energy two weeks ago when he made a guest appearance on the set.
--Notre Dame's win over Michigan on Saturday produced a 5.5
overnight rating, the highest for a Notre Dame game on NBC since
the two teams met in September 1998. Last year the network
averaged a 2.4 rating for six Irish games. --R.D.
In 1981 baseball had only two divisions in each league, but
because of that season's eight-week midseason strike, four teams
in each league qualified for the playoffs. (Baseball split the
'81 season, and the division winners of each half met in
October.) Fourteen years later baseball moved permanently to
four playoff teams per league by realigning and establishing the
current wild-card format. Which one of these members of the 1981
world champion Dodgers did not play in the new system that began
a. Steve Howe c. Alejandro Pena
b. Mike Scioscia d. Fernando Valenzuela
The Winners' Group
The A's are the only current American League West team to have
won the World Series. Every other division boasts at least two
champions. Which division consists of teams who've all won at
least one World Series?
This Week's Matchup
Match the hitter with the single-season Division Series record
he holds or shares.
1. Juan Gonzalez a. Most RBIs
2. Ken Griffey Jr. b. Most runs
3. Edgar Martinez c. Most hits
4. John Valentin d. Top slugging average
Call to Order
Put these players in order of career games played in the Division Series.
a. Chipper Jones c. Tino Martinez
b. David Justice d. Omar Vizquel
PROBLEM SOLVED: b. Mike Scioscia. Howe (Yankees) and Pena
(Braves) pitched in the 1995 playoffs. Valenzuela pitched for the
Padres in '96.
THE WINNERS' GROUP: Every AL Central team has won--White Sox ('06,
'17), Indians ('20, '48), Tigers ('35, '45, '68, '84), Royals
('85) and Twins ('87, '91).
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP: 1. d; 2. b; 3. c; 4. a
CALL TO ORDER: Martinez (30 games; Yankees and Mariners),
Vizquel (26 games; Indians), Justice (25 games; Braves, Indians
and Yankees), Jones (23 games; Braves)
--ALL THE WRONG MOVES? page 24