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Original Issue


Minority Opinion

Major league job openings aren't open to everyone

Since the start of the 1991 baseball season, major league teams have gone hunting for a new manager 14 times. Only the Kansas City Royals decided a black man—Hal McRae—was the best man for the job, and of the five teams that were still looking for a manager at the end of the World Series, none was expected to name a black or a Latin. Seven teams have sought general managers this season. No blacks or Latin Americans have even been interviewed.

Twenty-one jobs available; one minority hired. That's a record so dismal that Clifford Alexander, a black who is the baseball commissioner's consultant on equal-opportunity hiring, feels compelled to blast major league owners. "They're ignoring everything they're hearing from us and from the commissioner," Alexander says. "They say they need talented people, yet they're not giving consideration to all the available talent—in this case, Latinos and blacks. That's just stupid."

Ten Latin Americans and 13 blacks managed in the minors this season, filling only about 10% of the jobs. Most of the Latins are at the rookie league level, where they are often thought of as little more than glorified interpreters for young Spanish-speaking players. Only one Latin, Max Oliveras of the California Angels' affiliate in Edmonton, managed at the Triple A level, and Oliveras, a native of Puerto Rico, has not been considered for any major league position.

Milwaukee Brewers batting coach Don Baylor, who is black, is frequently mentioned as a managerial candidate, but he is sometimes faulted for refusing to go to the minors and manage, preferring to coach in the majors. Says Alexander, "Why is it we have to toil in the vineyards for 20 years to get a top job? Did Lou Piniella toil for 20 years before he got a shot?" Alexander might also have made mention of Art Howe, Jeff Torborg, Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine, other white big league managers who, like Piniella, never skippered in the minors.

Major league teams say that they are looking for managers and G.M.'s with experience. But before the Florida Marlins hired him last week as a scout, Cookie Rojas, the last Latin to manage in the majors (with the Angels in 1988), wasn't interviewed for any of the managerial vacancies. And experience has yet to help Houston Astro assistant general manager Bob Watson, who is black, get an interview for a job as a G.M. despite the fact that he is a respected administrator.

Baseball should start giving people like Oliveras, Rojas and Watson the opportunity to make a case for themselves.

Canuckling Under

Vancouver's losing ways could change this season

We are gathered, dear friends, to lament the passing of one of the more amusing nicknames in sport. In bumbling their way to a .413 winning percentage in the first 20 years of their existence, the Vancouver Canucks came to be known around the NHL as the Canuckleheads. Alas, all good things must end.

At the beginning of the week, Vancouver, at 8-3-1, had 17 points, tied for tops in the NHL. Are Vancouverites excited by this? Last weekend local columnist Archie McDonald suggested that his city's name be changed to Wincouver.

True, the season had five months to go, but Canucks fans celebrated anyway. Theirs, after all, is a franchise that hasn't had a winning record since 1975-76. That's the longest losing streak in pro sports in North America. "The last time we were in first place," says veteran Vancouver trainer Larry Ashley, "I was reading the newspaper upside down."

Even with their newfound, giddy success, skeptics remained. They recalled that Vancouver also started strongly in each of the two previous seasons. "I know, I know," says the Canucks' president, general manager and coach, Pat Quinn, a former NHL defenseman with a lantern jaw and a weakness for nightstick-sized Partagas cigars. "Both times we, well, I wouldn't say disintegrated is the right word." Then Quinn sighs and says, "Aw hell, yes, it is."

Virtually all of the Canucks stress that they are a team with no superstar—which is not to say they are without a celebrity. Trilingual goon Gino Odjick, a full-blooded Algonquin whose one goal this season came on a penalty shot, has attracted a substantial following. But besides outstanding young center Trevor Linden, the closest Vancouver comes to a marquee name is goaltender Kirk McLean. Last season McLean allowed 3.99 goals a game; this season, McLean's goals-against average was 2.31 through Sunday. Says the modest McLean, "I'm not doing it by myself."

No, he's not. Many Vancouver players trace this season's success to last Jan. 31, when Quinn, who has been with the Canucks since 1987, took over the coaching duties from Bob McCammon. Quinn's toughest job has been sandblasting the Canucks' institutionalized complacency. By the time Quinn arrived, the Canucks had become synonymous with mediocrity. Even when they reached the 1982 Stanley Cup finals, in which they went down in four straight games to the New York Islanders, Vancouver finished with a 30-33-17 regular-season record.

Of the many canny deals Quinn has cut, none was as lopsided as the trade that brought defenseman Robert Dirk and forwards Geoff Courtnall, Sergio Momesso and Cliff Ronning from St. Louis in exchange for defenseman Garth Butcher and center Dan Quinn. At week's end, Ronning, who humbly describes himself as a "throw-in" in the trade, had a team-high 17 points.

"What Pat is doing with this team reminds me of what [Edmonton general manager] Glen Sather did in the early '80s," says onetime Oiler defenseman Randy Gregg, who now plays for Vancouver. "Need some leadership? Trade for older guys. Need some size on defense? Make the trades to get it. Sather had a great eye for recognizing holes and the ability to fill them. Pat's like that."

Quinn has filled several holes for the Canucks, but his most impressive achievement has been creating a new one. Vancouver has no nickname now. They are Canuckleheads no more.

A Choice Idea

The new Breeders' Cup Pick Seven should spur interest

Thoroughbred racing officials may have finally devised a betting concept that should enable their sport to compete effectively against state lotteries, greyhound racing and other forms of gambling. The Breeders' Cup Pick Seven may be just that.

The Breeders' Cup, the $10 million, seven-race showcase that annually brings together the best American, Canadian and European horses, will be held on Saturday at Churchill Downs. To win the Pick Seven, and a payoff that could amount to millions of dollars, all a bettor has to do is correctly select the seven winners. There are only about 35 million combinations to choose from. The minimum wager will be $2, and bets may be placed at more than 550 outlets around North America.

Looking for some tips? How about Housebuster in the Sprint, Bertrando in the Juvenile, Dance Smartly in the Distaff, Tight Spot in the Mile, Preach in the Juvenile Fillies, Itsallgreektome in the Turf and Summer Squall in the Classic.

You're welcome.

Chip off the Block

Vince Lombardi's grandson is playing college football

As a coach, Vince Lombardi was well known for his iron will, his torturous practices and his oft-quoted maxim, "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." But as a grandfather, Lombardi is a virtual unknown.

Joe Lombardi, grandson of the legendary Green Bay Packer coach, is a 6'3", 212-pound sophomore tight end at the Air Force Academy. Born in June 1971, nine months after Vince died, Joe knows less about his grandfather's Packers of the '60s than he does about the Seattle Seahawks of the late '70s. (Joe's father, Vince, was then assistant general manager of the Seahawks; he's now a motivational speaker.) "I'm kind of distanced from the whole thing," says Joe. "I don't play because I'm a Lombardi, I play because I enjoy it."

After a stellar high school career at Seattle Prep, Joe plays primarily on special teams at Air Force. Nevertheless, he has developed a reputation for fierceness that is true to the Lombardi name. Says teammate Stan Lawrie, "He's an intense guy, all right."

Joe has attempted to avoid comparisons to his legendary grandfather, saying, "I can't hold myself to the standards my granddad had, because I'd probably end up failing." Yet Joe's football philosophy invites such comparisons. He says, "The will to win is the only thing." Sound familiar?




Rojas was the last Latin American to manage a major league team.



Ronning has the Canucks off and running



With his approach to football, Joe probably could have played for Vince.



Getting Momesso's muscle in a trade was one of Quinn's mightier moves.



Judgment Calls

[Thumb Up]To Virginia basketball All-America Dawn Staley, for talking a 16-year-old Charlottesville girl out of committing suicide. Staley persuaded the girl, a basketball fan, not to jump off the top of a building.

[Thumb Up]To the NFL, for distributing 20 million sets of football cards to fourth-graders. The cards feature photos of NFL stars on the front, and lessons on health and the environment on the back.

[Thumb down]To the National Rifle Association, for strong-arming Sears, Roebuck and Co. into rescinding its agreement with a stuffed animal manufacturer, which was to donate 8% of the proceeds from the sale of its products through Sears to the Humane Society, an organization the NRA considers "radical."


Dick Motta, Sacramento Kings coach, to team executives who questioned the expense of a private plane in light of the Kings' 1-40 road record last season: "I don't think we would have won that game if we didn't have the plane."

Replay: 15 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated

Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench appeared on our Nov. 1, 1976, cover, after earning MVP honors in the World Series. The Reds' sweep of the New York Yankees was so convincing that we wondered how they would stack up against the greatest teams of all time. We boldly concluded that they would be "competitive." One of our FACES IN THE CROWD was a 16-year-old jockey from Walton, Ky., named Steve Cauthen.