Publish date:



Babe Ruse

A phone tout turns a negative review into a positive one

In his story 1-900-RIPOFFS (SI, Nov. 18), Rick Reilly detailed the chicanery of many call-in sports betting services. One of the touts Reilly mentioned was Johnny DeMarco, whom he described this way: "If you think guys like [Stu] Feiner and [Mike] Warren will make you wish you had never installed your phone, Atlanta's John L. Edens, alias Johnny DeMarco, the Babe Ruth of 900 sales pitchers, will make you wish Alexander Graham Bell had never been born."

Reilly detailed several of DeMarco's underhanded pitches. Now add one more. On two consecutive Mondays recently, New York's Daily News ran an advertisement for "Johnny DeMarco's NFL Game of the Year" that featured this endorsement: "The Babe Ruth of 900 numbers—Sports Illustrated 11/18/91."

Fred Cantor, a lawyer for New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs, who monitors the betting ads, says, "After the SI piece, I sat down with [columnist] Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who is an opponent of these ads, and I asked him, 'Do you think any of these guys will use the article, as negative as it is, in their ads?' He said, 'You can bet on it.' "

Xmas Punch

George Foreman brings Reno good tidings and a bad fight

Santa Claus came early to Reno in the person of jolly old George Foreman. At this time of the year, the town's gambling halls are usually empty as customers prepare for the holidays. But this year, the place was ho-ho-hopping as the 257-pound, 42-year-old Foreman brought his lounge act to Reno for his fight last Saturday night with Jimmy Ellis. This was Foreman's first fight since his 12-round loss to heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield last April 19, and not even the anemic credentials of his 27-year-old novice opponent could diminish the big guy's appeal. Harrah's Reno, for instance, had to double its original order for tickets. Said Mark Neebling, manager of promotions for Harrah's, "It's not really a fight but an event."

It most certainly wasn't a fight, though HBO was paying Foreman $5 million to climb into the ring. Ellis, a former linebacker out of Boise State who bears no relation or resemblance to the former heavyweight champ of the same name, came in with a record of 16-0-1, with 15 knockouts. His last 10 opponents, though, had lost a combined 128 fights. Ellis's career had spanned less than 35 rounds. Foreman, who handpicked him, had more than twice as many fights as that. Nevertheless, Ellis insisted, "I think I am definitely qualified to fight George Foreman."

Ellis lasted just seven minutes and 36 seconds, which is about twice as long as he should have been allowed to go. With a mangled nose and an unshaven, jutting jaw, Ellis at least looked like a fighter as he entered the ring. He stopped looking like one at the opening bell. With a punishing jab and methodical, sledgehammerlike punches, Foreman pounded him almost disdainfully.

Early in the second round, a short hook turned Ellis's legs to rubber, and he reeled drunkenly around the ring. Yet he wouldn't quit. After a searching glance at referee Richard Steele, Foreman continued his assault. At the end of the round, Ellis lurched in several wrong directions in search of his corner. Shockingly, Ellis's cornermen sent him out for the third round. Midway through the third, after Foreman had landed 40 of his 49 punches, Steele decided that he had seen enough.

Still, the crowd of 6,284 filed out happily. As Greg Fine, a spokesman for the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, said, "He could have shadow-boxed, and they would have come."

The Doctor Is Out

The Reds' team physician quits to make a point

In resigning last week as the Cincinnati Reds' team physician, Michael Lawhon said, "I cannot continue to compromise my commitment to quality sports medicine care in light of the present management." Lawhon, an orthopedic specialist, criticized the Reds' front office for refusing to provide equipment necessary for the treatment and rehabilitation of players, continually second-guessing his judgments, releasing misleading reports about injuries and failing to coordinate medical and training programs for Cincinnati's minor league system. Lawhon also said that the club had ignored his repeated suggestions for a midwinter camp to better monitor the physical condition of the players.

Reds owner Marge Schott said Lawhon's charges "really upset me. I have and always will want the best care for my players." But several of the Reds came to Lawhon's defense. Said outfielder Herm Winningham, "Dr. Lawhon was great. With what he had, he did the best he could. He got caught in the middle sometimes." Eric Davis, the centerfielder who was traded from Cincinnati to the Los Angeles Dodgers three weeks ago, said, "I've seen and talked to more people this morning, doctors and trainers who expressed an interest in my health, than I did my whole last year at Cincinnati." Davis missed 73 games last season because of injuries and the aftereffects of the lacerated kidney he suffered in the fourth game of the 1990 World Series.

Several days after Lawhon's resignation, the Reds announced the hiring of their fourth team doctor since Schott became the owner in 1984. Meanwhile the Major League Players Association said that it would look into Lawhon's claims. Said the association's executive director, Donald Fehr, "Obviously, this suggests some pretty deep-seated problems."

The problems are not confined to Cincinnati. In fact, according to one Reds coach who has been around, "our equipment is about average compared to other clubs'. It's old, but it's functional." In this era of $5 million a year salaries, it is amazing that not every organization has state-of-the-art medical and training facilities. Not providing these high-priced players with the best possible care and conditioning seems penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Bowled Over

An IRS ruling worries bowl game officials

Millions of people watched the John Hancock (formerly the Sun) Bowl and the Mobil Cotton Bowl last winter, but none were any more interested than some officials of the Internal Revenue Service. The Dallas office was auditing the nonprofit groups that put on the games in an effort to determine whether the big bucks that corporate sponsors give the bowls should be taxed. Last week, in a move that rattled college football like a forearm shiver, the IRS decided it was entitled to some money.

The organizers of the two Texas bowls were told that the sponsorship fees they receive are taxable because they aren't "substantially related" to the nonprofit educational purposes of the organizers. In other words, the IRS believes that when a company contributes money to get its logo plastered all over a stadium and the TV screen, it is employing the bowl as an advertising vehicle.

Not surprisingly, the bowl groups are appealing the IRS decision. Says Jack Mahoney, a sports marketing consultant for John Hancock, "Not only is the money we contribute related to the purposes of the nonprofit organization, but it is essential. If there's no sponsor, then there's no game." If the ruling stands, the bowls would have to give a third of whatever they receive from the sponsors to the IRS. It is possible that all the major bowls will soon become subject to taxation.

Despite the uncertainty generated by the IRS ruling, the Home Shopping Network is talking about creating a bowl game. It recently offered the NCAA $33 million to stage a Division I championship game that would be sold as a pay-per-view TV event.

The NCAA scoffed at the idea, but that's not to say it will never become a reality. After all, who would have thought a few years ago that the big bowl game in Miami would be called the Federal Express Orange Bowl?



Jolly George meant business in and out of the ring in Reno.


Here's Johnny and his weekly game of the year advertisement.



Davis, injured in the '90 Series, complained of inadequate treatment.






Judgment Calls

[Thumb Up]To Jama Bile, a Fork Union, Va., high school student, for finishing second in a regional cross-country meet after he lost his right shoe at the start. After the race, the younger brother of former 1,500-meter world champion Abdi Bile found a fishhook in his foot.

[Thumb Down]To the promoters of the Broadway musical "Peter Pan," who advertise their star, former gymnast Cathy Rigby, as an Olympic gold medalist even though she has never won an Olympic medal.

[Thumb Down]To the World Boxing Association, for last week stripping Mike McCallum of his middleweight title because he will be fighting International Boxing Federation champ James Toney this Friday instead of one of the WBA 's lesser challengers.


Bob Weiss, Atlanta Hawk coach, on rookie guard Stacey Augmon: "Stacey was a bit disturbed by the salary cap when he came here. They don't have one at UNLV."

Replay: 30 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated

Photographer John Zimmerman followed such great skiers as Stein Eriksen and Toni Spiss for our Dec. 4, 1961, cover and a pictorial story. SI also covered the great indoors: the World's One-Pocket Billiards Tournament, in Johnston City, III. The crème de la crème of hustlers were there: Tugboat Whaley, Weenie Beenie, Tuscaloosa Squirrelly and Minnesota Fats.