Jim Pierce, whose daughter, Mary, is the 15th-ranked player on the women's tennis tour, was removed from the French Open last Friday for creating a disturbance in the stands. Pierce's ejection, which occurred during Mary's third-round win over Kimberly Po (Mary lost to Jennifer Capriati on Sunday) wasn't his first run-in with officials at Roland Garros. Last year he slugged two spectators and later bragged about it. And in an altercation earlier last week, he reportedly punched another spectator.
Pierce is well known on the tour for the obscenity-laced tirades he directs at Mary, her opponents, fans and officials. He curses and bullies his daughter and breaks rackets during her practices. Concern about his conduct has been heightened by revelations that in the 1960s, Pierce was confined to mental hospitals and served time at Sing Sing for attempted robbery and at a prison in North Carolina for forgery and for escaping from a work-release program.
Last November the Women's Tennis Association passed what is known as the Jim Pierce Rule, which provides for the fining or banishment of any member of a player's entourage guilty of unruly behavior. The rule was invoked in expelling Pierce from the French. Adolescent victims of abusive parents aren't always emotionally able to ask for help, but news services said that officials acted after Mary had complained that her father's outbursts were bothering her. That may be a sign that Mary, who turned 18 in January, is trying to distance herself from her father. Others on the tour would like to do the same.
As has been widely reported, baseball's new joint venture with NBC and ABC, which was overwhelmingly approved by the owners last week, provides for regional television coverage of postseason games and, although its architects deny any such intention, paves the way for the eventual adoption of pay-per-view. What has been less widely noted is that the venture is also a first step toward narrowing the gap between the game's rich and poor teams. That's because under the new arrangement as many as 12 of each team's regular-season games will be pulled from local TV, the source of the greatest financial inequities among franchises, in deference to the national TV package, from which revenues are shared equally.
The prospect that they'll lose revenues from their lucrative local TV deals explains why two big-market teams, the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox, voted against the joint venture. Met general manager Al Harazin referred to it as "revenue sharing in a backdoor form."
But shoring up the poorer teams would help restore stability to the game by, among other things, making the idea of a salary' cap more palatable to the Major League Players Association. As long as some clubs are in the poorhouse, it will be impossible to set a salary cap high enough to satisfy the union. Agreement on a cap could help control runaway salaries and bring about a true partnership between the owners and the union.
In the short run, though, reduced income from the joint venture—the owners' national TV revenues figure to decline next season to half of the $14 million each team receives from the current deal with CBS—may exacerbate relations with the union. SI baseball writer Tim Kurkjian says: "The owners will try to cut salaries. If the next batch of free agents don't get rich offers, the union will be angry. That could make for one long, ugly negotiation for a collective bargaining agreement for next season. If there is a next season."
Saved: Lumber Job
Secretary of Labor Robert Reich ruled last week that 14-year-old Tommy McCoy can toil as a batboy for the Class A Savannah Cardinals. Seven days earlier Tommy was fired after a Labor Department official phoned the team and said it was violating child labor laws limiting work hours for youngsters under 16. In suspending those laws as they apply to batboys and batgirls, Reich called the original decision "off base."
We agree. After all, with baseball losing its hold on the MTV generation, it can't afford to alienate kids like Tommy, who, even before being hired by the Cardinals, had adorned the walls of his bedroom with photos of Savannah players.
Why should anybody care that the NFL last week set the franchise fees for the two expansion teams that will begin play in 1995 at a staggering $140 million apiece, or that the league further decreed that each of those teams will get only a half share of TV revenues during its first three seasons? Here's why: The NFL's terms are so onerous that once the winning cities are chosen in October—the contenders are Baltimore, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Memphis and St. Louis—their owners will eagerly seek to pass the burden on to taxpayers and fans.
In fact, they've already begun. After learning of the NFL's price tag, Touchdown Jacksonville, the organization promoting that city's bid, asked the city council to pick up the entire bill for renovating the Gator Bowl; previously, Touchdown Jacksonville had agreed to pay $30 million of the projected $80 million tab. It also asked to be excused from paying rent at the Gator Bowl for five years. Similarly, Mark Richardson, of the group making Charlotte's bid, told SI that the high franchise fee will affect prices of everything from concessions to luxury boxes. "We'd prefer to charge lower prices for a ticket, a program, a Coca-Cola," Richardson says, "but as the NFL turns up the fee, we have to turn up the numbers on our revenues."
The huge entry fees may also make the new teams less competitive. Jerry Clinton, head of the St. Louis group, says, "Originally, with liberalized free agency, the hope was that the expansion teams could achieve parity relatively quickly. Now that doesn't seem possible."
Madam I'm Adam
What do a defunct pro basketball league, a first-to-second-to-first double play, a confrontation between Ryne Sandberg and Bob Walk, and Emerson Fittipaldi's vehicle have in common? All can be expressed as palindromes, i.e., words, sentences or terms that read the same backward and forward: ABA, 3-4-3, Cub v. Buc, and race car. But, hey (yeh!), those aren't the only sports palindromes. Dave Dye of The Detroit News notes that Texas Ranger pitcher Robb Nen is the eighth major league player whose last name is a palindrome. The others: Nen's father, Dick, a journeyman first baseman in the '60s and '70s; catchers Truck Hannah and Mark Salas; pitcher Dave Otto; and infielders Toby Harrah, Eddie Kazak and Johnny Reder. Monica Seles's last name is a palindrome, as is IUPUI, the acronym for the site of the 1992 U.S. Olympic swimming trials, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. And what of such made-up palindromes as the well-worn "Madam, I'm Adam", or the fresher "He goddam mad dog, eh?" SI's resident palindromist, Steve Rushin, rushes in to fill any sporting gap that might exist. "A World Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies would be, at the owner level, a 'Selig-Giles' showdown," says Rushin. "And if Indiana Pacer guard Pooh Richardson [left] hosted an NBA highlight show, it could be called Pacers' Pooh's Hoops Recap."
NATHANIEL BUTLER/NBA PHOTOS
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBA PHOTOS
[See caption above].
Reaching New Heights
What if the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the second choice in the June 30 NBA college draft, pick 7'6" Shawn Bradley (left) and pair him on the front line with Manute Bol (right), who is even taller? In that case, say readers Ricky and Joel Klein of West Babylon, N.Y., the team can rename itself the Philadelphia Seven-Foot-Six-ers.
In the June issue of Tennis magazine, associate editor Mark Preston assails The Golf Channel, a proposed cable-TV operation, for planning to show "24 hours of chubby guys in bad clothes speaking in jargon that only they understand." All of which, Preston adds, makes the channel redundant "considering we've already got C-Span."
They Wrote It
•Tom Weir in USA Today: "If NCAA execs were treated the same way that teams and coaches are after they get in trouble, Dick Schultz's successor as executive director would be spending the next two years on probation."
They Said It
•Ken Squier, television commentator, offering advice to colleagues working Sunday's NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 for Russian and Ukrainian TV: "There are only two things you really have to grasp. You have to be able to say, 'There they go' and 'What a wreck!' "
•Deion Sanders, Atlanta Brave outfielder, after missing 20 games to protest his lack of playing time, when asked if he followed the Braves during his absence: "It's hard to sit up and turn on the TV and watch the whole game. I'm not a baseball fan. I'm a baseball player."