For the Record

Nov. 06, 2006
Nov. 06, 2006

Table of Contents
Nov. 6, 2006

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For the Record

By Roger Federer (above), the Swiss Indoors in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland, his fourth straight title and 11th of the year. The world's No. 1 player defeated Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets on Sunday for his first win at the Indoors, which he worked as a ball boy as a kid. He hasn't lost a match since being upset by Andy Murray in August and is the first player in the Open era to win at least 10 titles in three straight years. "It is indeed magnificent," he said. "Different countries, different titles, they all have a different meaning. Winning Basel, my home tournament, it's one of those moments I'll never forget."

This is an article from the Nov. 6, 2006 issue Original Layout

Against the Rams on Sunday, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman—even though he reportedly tested positive for the steroid nandrolone. The 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, who had three sacks against St. Louis, faces a four-game suspension but is free to practice and play while he appeals the failed test. (The appeal will be heard on Nov. 7.) Merriman's lawyer, David Cornwell, said last week that a tainted dietary supplement triggered the failed test: "He did not go into the back alley somewhere and put a needle in his butt."

By Cowboys receivers coach Todd Haley, McDonald's, after Haley's wife, Christine, allegedly found a dead rat in a salad she bought at a franchise in Southlake, Texas. The suit states that Christine was eating with the family's au pair when they discovered the rodent, "whiskers, feet, open-mouth and all." Both women say they became sick. According to the suit, which seeks at least $1.7 million in damages, "The tremendous horror translates into continuing gastric distress."

To Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo for uttering a racial slur during a game, Magic season-ticket holder Hooman Hamzehloui. During a game in Orlando last Thursday, Hamzehloui called Mutombo a "monkey." Mutombo had to be restrained by teammates from going into the stands. In a letter to Mutombo, Hamzehloui, a real estate agent, apologized, saying he didn't realize the word was a racial insult. He also pledged $5,000 to a charity of Mutombo's choice and vowed not to attend another Magic game until Mutombo told him it was O.K. Mutombo said he has forgiven Hamzehloui, but on Monday the league banned him from all NBA games this season.

By Twins lefthander Francisco Liriano (above), his rehabilitation from the elbow injury that ended his season. Liriano, 23, was 12--3 with a 2.16 ERA as a rookie this year, but a strained ligament in his pitching arm put him on the disabled list for five weeks in midsummer and then forced him to stop pitching three weeks before Minnesota faced Oakland in the AL Division Series. He hoped the injury could be treated with rest and exercise, but he has made little progress. If he goes under the knife, Liriano could miss next season.

By the Knicks, forward Jalen Rose. The team reached an agreement to buy out the last year of his contract, which was worth $16.9 million. Rose, a 12-year vet who averaged 12.7 points per game for New York last year, started four preseason games but took only two shots.

By the United States, an invitation to play in the Copa America soccer tournament next summer in Venezuela. The Copa America determines the champion of South America, but it isn't unusual for teams from North America to be invited to the field, which is likely to include heavyweights Argentina and Brazil. The last time the U.S. played in the Copa was in 1995, when it finished fourth. "The tournament offers the dual advantage of quality opponents and a challenging environment that will provide long-term benefits for our team," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said.

By Jack Nicklaus at halftime of Ohio State's win over Minnesota last Saturday, the i in the Buckeye band's Script Ohio routine. Nicklaus (left), who grew up in suburban Columbus and played for the Ohio State golf team from 1959 to '61, is the fifth non--band member to perform the honor, which has been a school tradition since 1935. (Others included Bob Hope and Woody Hayes. A sousaphone player is usually the dotter.) Nicklaus wore a black baseball cap with a red O logo, an homage to the one worn by his friend Hayes, the late Buckeyes coach. "I had to have my Woody hat," he said. "I was a big fan of Woody's. I was here when Woody dotted the i."

The PGA Tour's Chrysler Championship, by two juvenile burglary suspects who led police on a chase through the course. The youths, suspects in the robbery of a house near the Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla., tried to blend in with the gallery during the second round of the Chrysler last Friday morning. When they were discovered without tournament badges, they ran from police into the woods, and at one point the chase interrupted the round of Brian Gay as he prepared to tee off on the 3rd hole. "The cops were racing up in a cart, running through the bushes and holding their gun," said Gay, who was leading the tournament at the time but finished tied for ninth. "We had to get out of the way." Only one of the suspects was caught.

Go Figure

2 NFL teams that have started consecutive seasons 7--0: the 1929, '30 and '31 Packers, and the 2005 and '06 Colts.

26--18 The Dolphins' record since 2002, the year running back Ricky Williams joined the team, when he has been in the lineup.

7--20 The Dolphins' record since '02 when Williams hasn't been with the team; he played this season in the CFL while serving a yearlong suspension from the NFL.

8 Starters on the Navy defense that 6'4", 233-pound Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn outweighed when the teams met last Saturday; Quinn, who was taller than every Navy defensive player, led the Irish to a 38--14 win.


TREVOR BERBICK was an accomplished fighter—he had a record of 50-11-1 and won the WBC heavyweight title in 1986—but he's best known as the degree of separation between two boxing immortals. Berbick, who was the victim of an apparent homicide in Jamaica last Saturday, was one of two men to fight both Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. (Larry Holmes is the other.) In '81, Berbick won a decision over Ali in what turned out to be the Greatest's final bout. Five years later Berbick was flattened by a 20-year-old Tyson, losing his belt in his first defense.

In the 1990s, Berbick was convicted of sexual assault, grand theft and burglary and served 15 months in jail. Details of his life outside the ring were always foggy, and the same is true of his death. (Berbick's birth date is a mystery; he once said, "I'm a spirit. I have no age." He's believed to have been 52 when he died.) His body, which had chop wounds on the back of the head, was found near his family home in a Kingston suburb. Jamaican police arrested a neighbor who, they said, may have had a land dispute with Berbick. Said C. Lloyd Allen, a former president of the Jamaica Boxing Board and a friend of Berbick's, "Once [Trevor] lost to Tyson, he just went down a slippery slope."

Sure Thing of the Week

THE YEAR'S biggest horse racing story has had little to do with actual horse racing: Handicappers and nonrailbirds alike have been transfixed by Barbaro's recovery from the gruesome leg injury he suffered at the Preakness. (After surgery to repair a shattered leg and an ensuing case of laminitis, the Kentucky Derby winner is recovering nicely at a hospital in Pennsylvania.) Meanwhile, the horse whose Preakness victory was overshadowed by Barbaro (above) is on one of the most impressive runs the sport has seen. Bernardini (left) has won his three starts since the Preakness handily, and he'll enter Saturday's 1-mile Breeders' Cup Classic as the heavy favorite. His toughest opponent will be Lava Man, but that California colt will probably fade in the long Churchill Downs stretch. Bernardini should clinch Horse of the Year honors and, finally, a share of the spotlight that has shone on Barbaro.

JOE NIEKRO 1944--2006

TO MANY the enduring image of Joe Niekro is the 42-year-old's getting busted with an emery board in his back pocket during a 1987 game. Niekro, who died last Friday of a brain aneurysm at age 61, swore that he was using the file for his nails and not to scuff the ball. There was reason to believe him: He'd already tried cheating, and it hadn't panned out. In '72 Niekro was a slider pitcher struggling to keep his job with the Tigers—never mind moving out of the shadow of his older brother, Phil. Detroit manager Billy Martin, tired of losing to spitballer Gaylord Perry, tried to get Niekro to master the spitter. Niekro couldn't, and he was waived twice in the next three years.

The supremely laid-back Niekro ("It takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes," a Houston exec once said) was claimed by the Astros in 1975. He ultimately perfected the knuckleball, the pitch his father, a coal miner, taught him and Phil in their backyard in Lansing, Ohio. From '77 through '84 Niekro averaged 16 wins per year. In '87 he and Phil broke the record for career wins by brothers, surpassing the mark of 529 set by Perry and his brother Jim.

Niekro retired in 1988, though he never ventured far from the game: His son Lance, 27, is a first baseman with the Giants. "He took great delight in Lance's baseball success," said Astros president Tal Smith. "I think he was a good mentor to Lance because things didn't come easily to Joe."