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For the Record

Nov. 08, 2004
Nov. 08, 2004

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Nov. 8, 2004

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For the Record

Died of complications from diabetes at age 80, former Indians second baseman and Mexican national hero Bobby Avila, one of the first prominent Latin players in the major leagues and the first to win a batting title. Avila broke in with Cleveland in 1949 and spent all but one of his 11 big league seasons there, playing in three All-Star Games. In '54, when the Indians won a then AL-record 111 games and went to the World Series, he led the American League with a .341 average and finished third in the MVP balloting despite playing most of the year with a broken thumb. During that season Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean predicted Avila would be the next player to bat .400. "If I ever did hit .400," Avila remarked, "they would make me president of Mexico."

This is an article from the Nov. 8, 2004 issue Original Layout

Avila did have a second career in politics, getting elected to the Mexican national legislature in 1970 and serving as mayor of his hometown of Veracruz from '76 until '79. As a kid Avila dreamed of becoming a soccer player--he was playing in a local professional league by the time he was 14--or a bullfighter. But in 1940, at age 16, he signed with Puebla of the Mexican League, and seven years later he signed with the Indians for a $17,500 bonus, no small sum at the time. Avila quickly became known as a dangerous hitter (he had a career average of .281) and a hard-nosed base runner. Indians manager Al Lopez once said Avila had "a fine swing, a sharp eye ... and a world of confidence in himself." He was also a trailblazing force as baseball slowly came to accept diversity in the decades after World War II. "The greatest pride of my life," Avila said in 1951, "is to be a Mexican."

Ruled incompetent to stand trial in the death of former teammate Patrick Dennehy, ex-Baylor basketball player Carlton Dotson. Last week a district judge in Texas ordered that Dotson, 22, who is charged with killing Dennehy, be sent to the North Texas State Hospital for 120 days, after which his competence will be reevaluated. (A court-appointed psychiatrist found that Dotson appeared to be experiencing hallucinations.) Dennehy's remains were found on July 26, 2003, shortly after Dotson called police from a phone in his home state of Maryland and told them he was hearing voices and needed help.

Arrested on misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and resisting a public officer, NASCAR driver Jimmy Spencer, whose feisty nature endeared him to fans and earned him the nickname Mr. Excitement. Hours after finding out that his friend Rick Hendrick, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, had lost his son Ricky in a plane crash, Spencer allegedly interfered with officers who were serving a warrant on his 18year-old son, who was accused of pouring paint on two cars. Three days later, on Oct. 27, Morgan McClure Motorsports fired Spencer, which could signal the end of his Nextel Cup career. Spencer hasn't won a race since 1994, and his best finish this season is 22nd.

Revealed by Chamique Holdsclaw, that depression was the reason for her midseason departure from the Washington Mystics. The WNBA's second-leading scorer in 2003, who left the team in July, last week revealed in an interview with The Washington Post that she had been suffering from depression for a year. "[People] just don't realize how it can take over your mind," said Holdsclaw (above), 27, who grew so alienated from her friends and family after leaving the team that she changed her cellphone number to avoid them. She recently returned to her hometown of New York City, where she continues to see a psychiatrist, and she plans to play overseas to gauge her desire to continue to play professionally.

Dismissed by a federal judge, a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed against North Carolina women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance by one of his former players. In 1998 Melissa Jennings, a reserve goalkeeper for the Tar Heels, and Debbie Keller Hill, the national player of the year in 1996, filed suit alleging that Dorrance harassed them by, among other things, asking questions about their sexual activity. Hill settled last March, when she received a $70,000 payment from the school and Dorrance agreed to write a letter of apology and attend an annual sensitivity training course. A jury was to hear Jennings's case this week, but on Oct. 27, in Greensboro, N.C., Judge N. Carlton Tilley Jr. ruled that Dorrance's behavior, "While inappropriate ... was not severe, pervasive and objectively offensive." Dorrance, who has won 18 national titles at UNC since 1981 and again has the nation's top-ranked team (1601) this season, said, "I apologized before for making some inappropriate comments, but none of them reached the levels that were claimed in this case."

Reduced by Alameda County prosecutors, the charge faced by Rangers reliever Frank Francisco for throwing a chair into the stands during a game against the A's on Sept. 13, breaking a woman's nose. Francisco, who was being heckled by fans, will face a misdemeanor assault charge rather than a felony. "He has no record. He threw a plastic chair. It's not a gun. It's not a knife," said Alameda County senior deputy district attorney Norbert Chu. Francisco, who pleaded not guilty, faces a maximum of one year in county jail and three years probation.

Resigned after nine seasons as Astros general manager, Gerry Hunsicker. During his tenure Houston, relying largely on homegrown talent, won four division titles, and this year the Astros won their first postseason series. "I will look with pride at what we have accomplished," said Hunsicker, who was said to be a candidate for the Mets G.M. vacancy last winter. He will be replaced by Tim Purpura, the team's director of player development, but will remain a consultant.

Accused of passing counterfeit in-house currency to dancers at a strip club, Lydell Ross, Ohio State's leading rusher. Hours after running 10 times for no yards in a 33--7 loss to Iowa on Oct. 16, the senior allegedly passed five fake $10 "Platinum Bills" at the Pure Platinum club in Columbus. He was suspended for Ohio State's Oct. 23 game against Indiana by Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, who last week made public the reason for the suspension (use of counterfeit scrip, not being at the club). Tressel said Ross would remain on the sidelines until the police finished investigating the matter, and Ross didn't play last Saturday against Penn State. (Ross claims he was given the bills but hasn't said by whom.) "People make mistakes," said Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith. "I'm not going to hold it against him because of one mistake that he possibly made."

B/W PHOTONATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY, COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.(AVILA)B/W PHOTOAP (AVILA SLIDING)COLOR PHOTOCHRIS BERNACCHI/SPORTPICS (ROSS)COLOR PHOTOVICTOR BALDIZON/WNBAE/GETTY IMAGES (HOLDSCLAW)