FROM BIG MAC TO SIMAC
Cedric Henderson's tumultuous fling with college basketball (SCORECARD, Feb. 25) came to an end last week when the 6'9" University of Georgia sophomore signed a one-year contract with Simac of the Italian league for an estimated $125,000. The 19-year-old forward will reportedly get the use of a car and an apartment. "The system just drove him out of here," says his attorney, Edward Tolley. "He's been on an unbelievable rollercoaster ride."
The thrills began in 1980, when as an eighth-grader in Lithia Springs, Ga. Henderson was wooed by a Tennessee high school coach who became his foster father. But Henderson had eligibility problems and returned home. As a junior at Marietta High, he took the team to a state championship and became the pawn in a recruiting war. He committed to Louisville but then switched to Georgia. Frustrated, he withdrew from Marietta in his senior year, signed with Carson-Newman College in Tennessee and graduated from an alternative high school in Atlanta. In December he finally went to Georgia.
With Henderson averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds a game, the Bulldogs finished second in the Southeastern Conference. But in May the NCAA put the school on one year's probation for nine recruiting violations and declared Henderson ineligible for having accepted a ride from Bulldog coach Hugh Durham.
Georgia appealed, and on Aug. 6 Henderson's eligilibity was restored. That same day he learned he would be academically ineligible for basketball during the fall semester. Tolley feared that Henderson would be ineligible for the winter term, too. "Cedric could not maintain the discipline to go to class," says Tolley. "All he really wanted to do was play basketball." So Henderson struck the deal to play in Italy.
On the way to the airport last Thursday, Henderson had one final request: He wanted to stop for a Big Mac. "This could be my last McDonald's for a long time," he explained.
The official version of events was that New England Patriots wide receiver Derwin Williams sat out last season after suffering a concussion in the final exhibition game against Kansas City. But now Williams has told The Boston Globe that he never suffered a concussion. He says that he faked one on instructions from Ron Meyer, the head coach at the time.
According to Williams, he had just caught a pass and was standing on the sideline when Meyer grabbed him by the arm. "His eyes were bugging out of his head," Williams says. "He kept saying, 'You're going in on the kickoff. I want you to hit somebody, then fall down. You're going to get a concussion. We'll send the doctors in to get you."
At first Williams figured Meyer wanted him to fake an injury in order to stop the clock. But, Williams contends, it turned out that Meyer wanted to stash him on injured reserve rather than cut him and lose him to another club, a once common practice in the NFL. Players call it "going on scholarship."
"I started onto the field with the kicking team, but Ron grabbed me again," says Williams. "He said, 'You go in when we get the ball back. On the second play, go down and wait for the doctors.' "
When the Chiefs turned the ball over, Williams went in. On the first play, he ran a little hitch pattern for a 10-yard gain. "Then I fell down and about three guys piled on me," he says. "I figured this might be a good time to get a concussion, but I knew it was supposed to happen on the second play."
Williams claims he saw Meyer signal him to stay down. So he grabbed his helmet. "About three doctors came out," he recalls. "One was pulling my leg and another was pulling my arm. I kept whispering, 'It's supposed to be my head.' " Williams was out for all 16 regular-season games.
Meyer denies any chicanery. The Patriots, who fired Meyer last October, say that Williams did have a concussion and that league physicians confirmed the condition. The NFL, which could levy a fine if it's found that New England violated anti-stashing rules, says it's looking into the matter. And Williams is back on the playing field. As of last week, he hadn't suffered a relapse.
BUDDY, CAN YOU SPARE A JOKE?
Fresh from his "Feud of the Century" with porky Atlanta Braves reliever Terry Forster (SCORECARD, Aug. 12), David Letterman is now taking on Buddy Biancalana, a banjo-hitting shortstop for the Kansas City Royals. Last week the late-night talk-show host began a Buddy Biancalana Countdown to Ty Cobb's career hit record. He announced that Biancalana's last hit left him just 4,179 shy of Cobb's 4,191. Actually Biancalana needed only 4,145 at the time, but you get the point. For his part, Biancalana sounded ready to square off. "I can use the publicity," he said. "But I think Letterman must be running out of material."
WHAT'S MY LINE SCORE?
In a pairing that recalled the resolution of the 18th-century territorial dispute between Pennsylvania and Maryland, Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Mason faced Ken Dixon of the Baltimore Orioles last week. Mason needed relief, but Dixon went all the way in a 9-2 O's win. For history buffs, here's the latest Mason-Dixon line:
Mason L, 5-12
Dixon W, 6-3
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING TYRONE
When Texas Tech's freshman receiver and kick returner, Tyrone Thurman, signed a letter of intent last spring, he was listed in recruiting material as 5'5". Last week he was measured and came to only 5'2¾". "That's called paddin' your lineup," quips Tech defensive coach Spike Dykes, who coached him in high school. Red Raiders coach Jerry Moore thinks he got less of Thurman than he bargained for. "Somehow," he says, "in the last six months we lost some of him."
Is Pat Rooney running down or being run down? The patron saint of U.S. Open ball boys and girls (SI, Nov. 5, '84) has been unceremoniously dumped by the USTA. After 30 years of mostly voluntary service at Forest Hills and Flushing Meadow, the 80-year-old Rooney was told he would be replaced by an "in-house person."
"It's sad that a man who's done so much for tennis got such a raw deal," says veteran Open-watcher Dick Savitt, who was the Wimbledon champion in 1951. "The ball boys and ball girls Mr. Rooney has trained have been absolutely fabulous." Indeed, by all accounts Rooney's crack cadre of ball kids is the best-armed and most efficient in the world.
"He's a wonderful man, and his work was excellent," says J. Randolph Gregson, president of the USTA. "But we felt he was running down. It was time for a younger man to get involved."
"Gregson can't find one flaw in my work," counters Rooney, whose responsibilities are now in fact being handled by two younger men. "As for physical or mental acuity, I still do 10,000 other things in my life." Besides overseeing ball chasers at the Virginia Slims Championship, Rooney coaches the women's college and boys' prep teams at Fordham.
Gregson says he won't reinstate Rooney. "I suppose we've handled this all very badly," he concedes. "We've wound up with egg on our face."
TALKIN' TRASH IN BEANTOWN
Everybody complains about the trash-sports that increasingly litter the landscape, but few would object to last week's National Grime Fighter Games in Boston. More than 200 teenagers with summer conservation and cleanup jobs around the country swept into the city to get down and dirty in such events as the 100-meter push-broom relay, the 50-meter shovel carry and the four-way bag-fill. It was the world's biggest pickup game.
"Boston's cool, and it sure is clean," marveled 18-year-old David Casey of New York City's South Bronx. "But it was too quiet at the hotel—no radios, no street noises. Almost couldn't get to sleep."
The host state champs, Massachusetts Department of Public Works, copped the coveted Golden Broom Award for the second straight year. Afterward, all the contestants cleaned up City Hall Plaza, site of the competition. "What a waste!" muttered one civil servant. "Too bad these kids can't go and clean up what's inside City Hall."
HERE'S A REAL BLAST FROM THE PAST
In his day, Early Wynn was so cantankerous that he once said he would knock his mother on her behind if she crowded the plate. He swore he wouldn't quit baseball until he won his 300th game, which he did in 1963 in his 23rd season. He was 43. But Wynn says his latter-day counterparts are meaner than he ever was.
The Hall of Famer was so disgusted with baseball's pension plan that he boycotted this year's induction ceremonies at Cooperstown. And he resents that in the recent collective bargaining agreement with the owners, the active players didn't cut oldtimers a better deal.
Under the new contract, the owners will provide the players $32.7 million in annual pension contributions. Exactly how the money is to be distributed has not been worked out, but it's expected that 10-year veterans who retired in 1975 or later will collect either $68,212 or $90,000 a year—the last sum is the maximum pension benefit allowable under federal law—starting at age 62. "Modern players carried the latest gains back to 1975 and didn't have to," says Eugene Orza, a Major League Players' Association attorney. "If you retired that year, you'll get as much as Mike Schmidt will when he quits."
But what about players who retired before 1975? Older veterans stand to get a considerably smaller slice of the pension pie. For example, Wynn, who helped start the retirement fund in 1947, went into the plan at age 52 and has been receiving about $11,000 a year in benefits. The Players Association figures that oldtimers like Wynn will now get a 40% to 50% increase.
"Modern ballplayers tell us, 'Too bad, you should have invested better,' " fumes Wynn. "But on salaries of 10 thousand to 15 thousand dollars a year, how many investments could you make?" Under the new labor contract, Wynn says, "They could at least triple the pension for old guys and give us hospitalization." That's another sore point with oldtimers; retired players are required to make a contribution, and Wynn says hard times have forced some of his contemporaries to drop out of the hospitalization plan.
Jim Beattie of the Seattle Mariners, a member of the joint player-owner pension committee, thinks a lot more could be done for long-retired players. "We want to increase widows' benefit," he says, "and get deficiencies worked out equitably for the older players if we can."
Wynn isn't griping about all benefits, however. "Hell, we don't need a dental plan," he says. "Our teeth have already fallen out."
Wynn feels he's at a loss on pensions.
SAM Q. WEISSMAN
THEY SAID IT
•Marvin Davis, Denver oilman, after former Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley started a rumor that Davis had bought the team. "No self-respecting fish would allow himself to be wrapped in one of Charlie's comments."
•John McLaren, racing driver, on the perils of piloting unlimited hydroplanes: "If I'm going to die, I don't want to drown, too."