A Pepperdine tennis player enjoys a day of distinction
As relief from the endless accounts of academic embarrassments in college athletics, we present one day—Friday, April 19—in the life of Anna Brunstrom, a Pepperdine senior from Karlstad, Sweden.
9:40 a.m.—Brunstrom defeats Becky Bauer of the University of Portland 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the West Coast Conference women's tennis tournament. She showers and changes clothes.
10:00 a.m.—During Pepperdine's annual senior banquet in Firestone Fieldhouse, Brunstrom, a math and computer-science major with a 3.93 GPA, is honored as the school's outstanding natural-science student.
11:45 a.m.—Back in tennis gear, Brunstrom wins her second-round match over Loretta Fleming from the University of San Francisco 6-0, 6-0.
1:00 p.m.—Brunstrom and teammate Camilla Ohrman beat a pair from Gonzaga 6-0, 6-0 in a first-round doubles match. Brunstrom showers again and dons cap and gown.
2:00 p.m.—Graduation ceremonies begin at Eddy D. Field baseball stadium, and Brunstrom arrives barely in time. "They stuck me in and I just followed along," she says later. Brunstrom's parents, on their first visit to the U.S., are in the crowd when it's announced that their daughter has been selected valedictorian of the graduating class. "I had no idea before then," she says afterward. "Luckily I didn't have to give a speech."
After commencement, Brunstrom attended a reception honoring the graduates and went to dinner with her parents. "Then I went to sleep—I was kind of beat," she says. "I never had a day like that before. I'll never forget it."
Brunstrom decided to go to college in the U.S. because she wanted to combine her athletic talents with her academic ones—Swedish colleges have no athletic programs—and she chose Pepperdine, sight unseen, from brochures. This season she is 24-11 in singles and 20-8 in doubles for the Waves, who are ranked fifth entering this week's NCAA tournament at Stanford.
Postscript: Brunstrom lost in the semis of the conference tournament on April 20, and she and Ohrman lost in the finals in doubles on April 21. Still, we felt she merited a bit of recognition before she goes off to graduate school—if only to demonstrate that the term student-athlete isn't always a contradiction in terms.
Some NHL veterans sue the league over benefits
A number of former NHL stars gathered in Toronto on April 26, but they weren't there for an old-timers' game. They had come to file suit against the NHL's 21 teams, league president John Ziegler, the NHL Pension Society and the Manufacturers' Life Insurance Co., of Toronto, charging those parties with improperly allocating more than $25 million from these players' pension fund.
Seven former players are applicants in the suit, including Carl Brewer, Eddie Shack, and Hall of Famers Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull. They contend that surplus money was wrongly channeled from the old-timers' pension fund to another retirement plan benefiting current players.
"I heard about the surplus, and several of us former players asked the league about it, but they said it was none of our business," says Howe, who receives a pension of about $12,000 a year. "Then we got ourselves an attorney, and he told us we'd been wronged."
It's not unusual for pension plans to become over-funded. As the price of stocks soared in the 1980s, it was common for the value of retirement funds to swell far beyond the sum of benefits a corporation was required to I pay out. And generally businesses can do what they want with these surpluses, as long as they continue to pay their former employees their due pension benefits.
But the older players maintain that the NHL was not allowed this latitude. According to Mark Zigler, a Toronto attorney representing the former players, trust documents drawn up in 1967 call for any pension surplus to be allocated among retired players.
Zigler says that the NHL Pension Society made improper amendments to documents in the early 1980s, thereby enabling the owners to reallocate the surplus funds. Of the $25 million at issue, he says, $4.5 million was distributed to retired players. According to the suit, the rest was used by the owners to fund retirement benefits for current players.
The NHL Players Association has not commented on the suit, but the league issued a statement that "not one cent of money contributed by or belonging to former players has been used to fund benefits for current players." NHL officials would not elaborate on their statement.
According to Howe, the lawsuit might not have been filed had those overseeing the pension plan been more forthcoming—and less arrogant—with the former players. He says that when he sent a list of questions about the fund surplus to officials of the NHL Pension Society last year, "they didn't give me any answers, but they charged me 10 dollars for copying charges."
Sinking shots became easier on a Florida golf course
At 7:30 a.m. on April 29, a sinkhole 16 feet across and 10 feet deep opened up just off the 17th green of the Mount Dora (Fla.) Golf Association course. The hole swallowed an 18-foot camphor tree and some azalea bushes, and was big enough to make a very inviting target for even the sorriest of hackers.
Mount Dora general manager Doug Passen immediately roped off the area. He then called the Florida Sinkhole Research Institute at the University of Central Florida, which dispatched a geologist to inspect the abyss. "The guy told us everything's cool, to go ahead and fill up the hole," says Passen, "but before we could, it had taken an eight-foot bite out of the cart path." The massive divot was then quickly replaced with 10 truck-loads of sand.
Sinkholes are common in limestone-based regions like central Florida. Often after periods of heavy rain, subsurface soils will wash into limestone cavities, causing chunks of real estate to collapse.
The Mount Dora sinkhole barely missed devouring one of the least popular holes on the course. "Everybody hates 17," says Passen. "It's 180 yards and uphill—a very difficult par-3." Mount Dora golfers who would have appreciated a drastically redesigned 17 can take heart. The rainy season isn't over yet.
A Bulls' Market
The most celebrated minor league franchise is sold
Miles Wolff paid $2,417 for the Durham (N.C.) Bulls in 1980. Last week he sold what has become the most renowned Class A baseball team—thanks to Bull Durham—for more than $3 million.
So why the grim face?
"There's a general sadness in minor league baseball now," says Wolff. "The minors are successful, sure, but the joy of running a club has left the game. You can't be an entrepreneur anymore. There are too many rules, and everything costs too much."
The majors and minors fought a bitter battle for a new working agreement last year, and Wolff, one of the negotiators, became disillusioned by what he saw as the crushing of the minors' independence. Plus, Durham voters rejected plans for a new downtown stadium, and Wolff was tired of fighting to keep a competing team out of nearby Raleigh.
Eleven years ago, Wolff was just a guy with a diverse background (minor league G.M., radio announcer, novelist) and a crazy idea: resurrect baseball in a sleepy tobacco town. And he did it. The Bulls were successful when Kevin Costner was just another working stiff (see The Big Chill). Attendance at patched-up Durham Athletic Park (capacity 5,000, maybe) topped 200,000 in 1987, the summer before Bull Durham was filmed there. Last year, more than 300,000 packed the place, and the total could be greater this year.
The new owner, Raleigh broadcasting mogul Jim Goodmon, wants to move the team to a proposed $15 million stadium on the outskirts of town, so the old park may have only two years left. "The atmosphere Miles created there is second to none," says Sal Artiaga, commissioner of the National Association, which oversees the minors. "It's the Fenway Park of the minor leagues."
Wolff remains publisher of the twice-monthly newspaper Baseball America, he still operates the rookie-level Burlington (N.C.) Indians, and he just bought a minor league hockey franchise in Raleigh, but he's not looking for another baseball team. "It's such a big business now," he says. "It's pretty tough for one guy to say, 'I'm going to buy a ball club and run it.' "
Long Beach State beats USC for the NCAA volleyball title
With an upset of USC in the NCAA men's tournament final in Honolulu last Saturday night, Long Beach State scored victories over both volleyball tradition and car sickness.
The title is the first for Long Beach State, a commuter school of 32, 875 best known as the place where Jerry Tarkanian had his first brush with the NCAA and George Allen coached his last game. On the other hand, USC had won four NCAA men's volleyball titles, including two of the last three. The Trojans arrived in Honolulu with a 26-1 record and six returning starters from last season's championship team, including 6'7" opposite hitter Bryan Ivie, the best college player in the country. Southern Cal has been ranked No. 1 all season and was thought to be one of the best collegiate teams ever.
And it seemed that the Trojans had Long Beach State's number, too, having won all three matches against the 49ers this season. But in last Saturday's match, Long Beach State's resolute diggers kept the ball in play, preventing the Southern Cal offense from getting into rhythm. After trailing 10-5 in the first game, the 49ers ran off eight straight points en route to a 15-11 win.
The teams split the next two games and were tied 6-6 in the fourth, when Long Beach State sophomore Brent Hilliard sealed his selection as tournament MVP with two kills for points, which were followed in quick succession by two rare and costly hitting errors by Ivie. With the 49ers ahead 14-8, USC sent a marsh-mallow over the net, and Hilliard, who had 27 kills on the day, closed out the match with a straight-down smash.
A late bloomer in volleyball, the 6'5" Hilliard was on the club team at Humboldt State in 1989 when Long Beach State coach Ray Ratelle watched him play and liked what he saw. Aware that other schools were interested in Hilliard, too, Ratelle took the initiative. "I decided I had to sign him," said Ratelle, who, even though he was under the weather, made a 45-minute recruiting trip to Hilliard's house. "I've never told Brent this, but on the way over to his house, I threw up in the car," Ratelle said after Saturday's match, "and it was my wife's car."
On April 19 Brunstrom won it all.
Howe (shown here in 1967) is one of a handful of frustrated retirees.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
Auerbach ranks Cousy (shown here in the 1962 finals) and Magic as the best ever on the break.
MVP Hilliard was a smashing success story.
WALTER IOOSS JR.
[Thumb Up]To Manute Bol and his Philadelphia 76er teammates for raising $10,000 for famine relief in Bol's native Sudan where nine million people are facing starvation.
[Thumb Down]To the New York Mets for not inviting former manager Davey Johnson to Old-Timers' Day on June 15, which will feature players and opponents from the Mets' World Series teams of 1969, '73 and '86. Johnson, the New York manager in '86, also made the last out for the Orioles against the Mets in '69.
[Thumb Down]To ABC Sports for not televising the conclusion of bowling's Firestone Tournament of Champions on April 27. ABC cut away from the event, which had been delayed because of a bomb threat, to air a gymnastics meet taped last year.
THEY SAID IT
Bo Schembechler, Detroit Tiger president, who was a staunch proponent of the ground game when he was Michigan's football coach, after rightfielder Rob Deer dropped a crucial fly ball: "Bad things do happen when the ball is in the air."
Eugene Lockhart, a linebacker traded by the Dallas Cowboys to the New England Patriots, while cleaning out his locker: "It's a cold business—a cold, cold business, And it's even colder in New England."
Courtney Hankes pitched six complete games for the UNC-Charlotte softball team, working 41 innings and compiling a 4-2 record—all in one day. That was during the Spring Fling tournament recently hosted by Furman, and Hankes's stint began at 10:00 a.m. one day and ended at 12:30 the next morning. "I've never been that tired," said Hankes, a senior who happens to be the 49ers' only pitcher. For the record, she won Games 2, 3, 4 and 6.
Making a List
The NBA playoffs are in full swing, so SI's Jack McCallum asked Red Auerbach, who has won 16 NBA titles with the Celtics, to name the 10 players whom he would most want in the playoffs. Said Auerbach, "Look, I had 12 players when I coached. The hell with 10." So departing from our standard list of 10, here are Red's 12 (in no particular order, he stresses).
1. Bill Russell. The most influential player of his era, maybe of all time. By innovating the art of shot-blocking, he totally dictated tempo.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Perhaps the single most potent offensive weapon ever. A durable player, a clutch player.
3. Larry Bird. Plays all parts of the game better than anyone who ever lived.
4. Magic Johnson. The most potent point guard ever.
5. John Havlicek. The ultimate professional. Superb condition, superb attitude, superb defender, superb versatility.
6. Michael Jordan. He's just everywhere. He could do anything.
7. Bob Cousy. When you're in the running game, you have to have Cousy. Next to Magic, the best ever on the break.
8. Jerry West. A very underrated defensive player. And a pressure performer.
9. Oscar Robertson. Like Bird, he did so much. He could rebound, shoot, play defense, and he was strong-willed.
10. Julius Erving. With one move, he could raise a team and destroy the opponent.
11. Charles Barkley. He does what he has to, whether it's outside, inside, rebounding or scoring. A winner.
12. Karl Malone. The thing that sets him apart from Bob Pettit and Elgin Baylor is that he runs the floor like a big guard.
Replay 25 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Kauai King, the horse on the rail, appeared on the May 16, 1966, cover after winning the 92nd Kentucky Derby. Said Kauai King's jockey Don Brumfield, "I'm the happiest hillbilly hardboot you have ever seen." We also reported on the firing of Johnny Keane as New York Yankee manager and the hiring of Jackie Robinson as general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a football team in the short-lived Continental League.