A NEW HURDLE FOR MOSES
After dwelling for several years in undeserved obscurity, Edwin Moses has recently become a full-fledged athletic hero. Unbeaten in the 400-meter hurdles for more than seven years, Moses has also gained stature from his public stands against shamateurism and drug use in track and field, as well as from the grace and dignity with which he has comported himself. But last week Moses, SI's 1984 Sportsman of the Year, faced an unexpected hurdle: a misdemeanor charge by the Los Angeles city attorney of soliciting an act of prostitution from an undercover policewoman.
The incident that got Moses in trouble occurred at 3:15 a.m. on Jan. 13 at Genesee Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, a Hollywood intersection frequented by prostitutes. Moses was arrested as part of a vice detail's sweep of the area after he allegedly propositioned an undercover policewoman who was wearing a microphone that allowed their conversation to be monitored by other officers in a nearby squad car. Police said they subsequently found a film cannister in Moses's 1985 Mercedes containing "less than one-half ounce" of marijuana. A spokesman for the city attorney said that because the quantity was small, Moses would not be charged with possession of marijuana, also a misdemeanor.
At a press conference two days after his arrest, Moses issued a brief statement declaring his innocence. After stating that he was "truly mortified" by his arrest, Moses said, "You can be sure I will fight these charges of any misconduct, and I know that I have done nothing wrong." One of Moses's lawyers, Edward Medvene, said that Moses would plead not guilty at an arraignment this week. Earlier Gordon Baskin, Moses's agent, gave what he said was his client's version of the incident. Moses had had "a painful argument" with his wife, Myrella, a few days earlier and had spent the afternoon of Jan. 12 attending a meeting in L.A. of the U.S. Olympic Committee's Athletes Advisory Council, of which he is a member. Later he'd gone to a restaurant and a discotheque with other council members. At about midnight he went alone to a second discotheque and then, Baskin said, drove to an all-night bookstore. As he pulled his car, whose license plates read OLYMPYN, up to a stop sign at Genesee and Sunset, a woman waved at him. Then the woman approached, and this exchange occurred:
Woman: What are you looking for?
Moses: I just want to have a good time.
Woman: Do you have any money?
Moses: I have $100.
Woman: Meet me around the corner.
Moses drove off and was arrested a block and a half away by two officers from a squad car and a motorcycle policeman. According to Baskin, Moses had merely been bantering with the woman, didn't intend to have sex with her, didn't turn the corner as she suggested and, in fact, was traveling in a different direction when he was stopped. Baskin said that Moses never uses marijuana and speculated that the cannister found in the car had been left there either by friends or parking attendants who'd been in the auto in the immediate past. Baskin insisted that Moses had been guilty only of "poor judgment" in exchanging suggestive sallies with the woman.
The assertions that the woman waved and that she raised the subject of money could presage a claim by Moses that he was the victim of police entrapment. However, L.A. police commander William Booth said that the policewoman had "absolutely not" initiated the contact between herself and Moses. Booth also said that police have "a verbatim transcript" of their conversation.
Even if Moses is exonerated of the charge, his heretofore shining image has been undeniably sullied. Dismissal of the charge against him or his acquittal wouldn't receive the headlines that his arrest did. Moreover, he'll apparently have no opportunity to clear his name about the marijuana found in his car. All of which is unfortunate—and not just for Moses. There are too few genuine sports heroes around these days, one problem being that athletes tend to be seen by the public in absolute terms, either as heroes or bums. If nothing else, Moses's arrest reminds us that most of them actually are somewhere in between. On the basis of what is known about his case so far, Moses still appears to be closer to the former than the latter.
Franco Harris, 34, beat Jim Brown, 48, by seven yards Friday night in a 40-yard dash on a TV show called I Challenge You!, a trashsport offshoot of Brown's well-publicized put-downs of Harris's NFL rushing accomplishments. The competition in Atlantic City, which proved only that some people will do anything for money, was neatly summed up, even before it took place, by another former NFL star, Lynn Swann, who said, "Only one thing could be more ridiculous than this event—us sitting at home watching it." The way we learned of Swann's remark speaks volumes about this classy production. The quote was the subject of a press release sent out by I Challenge You!'s eager p.r. firm, which didn't seem to care what you said about the show as long as you said something.
A DIFFERENCE OF 0.31646%
"Let not poor Nellie starve," said a dying King Charles II of England, expressing fears that Nell Gwyn, one of the amorous monarch's favorites, would be left out in the cold after his demise.
Now the city of Chicago is crying, "Don't leave poor Nellie out." This reference is to Nelson Fox, second baseman of Chicago's Go-Go White Sox from 1950 to 1963. Many fans feel that Fox, who died of cancer in 1975 at the age of 47, belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame, but in the annual voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, he has never made it. To be elected, a player has to be named on 75% of the ballots. If he isn't chosen by this process within 15 years of becoming eligible, he's shunted to the old-timers' committee, which appraises older, often forgotten players. The old-timers' list is a long one, and election by that route can take many years.
This year's voting was Fox's last chance with the writers, but when the ballots were counted only Lou Brock and Hoyt Wilhelm had the necessary 75%. Fox, in third place, missed again. But he did so by the narrowest of margins, and Chicago won't accept such a whisker-thin rebuff. Jerome Holtzman, a veteran baseball writer from the Windy City, pointed out that Fox's 295 votes were 74.68354% of the 395 cast, and he argued that it's baseball custom to round off percentages. When Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title in 1968 his average was actually .3005565, but in the record book it's .301. Carl Furillo had a lifetime average of .299 because his totals (1,910 hits in 6,378 at bats) worked out to .2994669. Trivia nuts have long known that if during his 15-year career Furillo had had just one more hit, one measly little hit, his final average would have been .2996237, and in the record book he'd be a .300 hitter.
Do the same with the Hall of Fame balloting, said Holtzman, and Fox's 74.68453% becomes 75%. And Nellie's in. No, said the Hall of Fame, it has to be a pure 75%. Where does it say "pure"? demanded indignant Foxites, including the Chicago Tribune, which ran an editorial headed DO RIGHT BY NELLIE. Finally, Ed Stack, president of the Hall of Fame, said the Hall of Fame board would consider at its annual meeting next week whether a difference of less than a third of a point—0.31646%, to be exact—should keep Fox out of Cooperstown.
TRANS AMS AND OTHER TRANSACTIONS
Here are some of the things that happened at last week's NCAA convention in Nashville:
•While Nashville's own Vanderbilt University was reeling from a steroid scandal (SI, Jan. 21), member institutions voted to defer action on uniform drug testing for athletes at national championships and bowl games. Delegates voiced legitimate concerns about players' rights and less persuasive ones about the cost of testing. The money argument was raised even as the dollars continued to flow in college sports for other purposes; for example, Illinois has unveiled plans for a $25 million facelift of the school's athletic facilities. The cost of spot-testing for drugs at NCAA championships and bowl games: $80 to $120 per athlete.
•The big football schools, many of which have made noises about splitting from the NCAA, were appeased—maybe—by the convention's giving them a bigger say in their own affairs. Representatives of smaller institutions expressed fears that the bigger schools would now "go hog-wild" by permitting even bigger coaching staffs and even more scholarships. But the football powers were, for now, magnanimous. As if to say thanks for the long-sought increase in autonomy, Division I schools voted their overwhelming approval of the NCAA's financing of a new Division III women's lacrosse championship, a gesture that earned applause from other schools.
•Delegates voted to prohibit giving free tickets to athletes, who frequently have sold such tickets at exorbitant prices to boosters. "I was told that some of the Trans Ams passing me on the highway were paid for by complimentary tickets," said NCAA executive director Walter Byers. While thus eliminating a major source of under-the-table payments to athletes, member institutions rejected proposals for increases in legitimate financial aid, a matter that may be considered next June by a convention of the NCAA Presidents' Commission called to deal with finances, rules enforcement and other issues relating to college sports.
NEITHER SNOW, NOR RAIN, NOR BODY CHECKS...
The wire-service story was accurate as far as it went. Postmaster Robert Walsh of Farmingdale, N.Y. was hoping to prevent a recurrence of the rash of injuries his mail carriers suffered last winter as a result of slips on icy pavement. The solution, Walsh decided, was to consult hockey players. "Those guys know how to fall," he told himself. Walsh got in touch with New York Islander right wing Bob Nystrom, who agreed to speak to 100 postal workers about how to negotiate those icy patches. Nystrom's advice to his audience was to expect the worst, stay loose, lean forward and wear rubber-soled shoes, elbow pads and protective headgear.
Protective headgear? The wire-service story didn't say that Nystrom, a 13-year NHL veteran, is one of the few players in the league who don't wear helmets. It also neglected to mention that he has missed 40 of the Islanders' 45 games this season because of injuries suffered on the ice.
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
Nystrom's fallback position to letter carriers: Do as I say.
THEY SAID IT
•Norm Pollom, Buffalo Bill director of scouting, on modern-day placekicking: "An NFL game today is like a golf tournament in which you play your way up to the green and find a guy from Brazil standing there to do the putting for you."
•Dave McDonald, winner of the Charlotte (N.C.) Marathon, after being told that because of a wrong turn, he and other front-runners may have covered 300 yards less than the full distance: "I certainly feel like I ran far enough."