Skip to main content
Original Issue


Miracle Milers

There were echoes from the past everywhere last Saturday at the Legends Mile in Miami, an event that more than lived up to its name. On hand were former world-mile-record holders Peter Snell (3:54.1 in 1964), Jim Ryun (3:51.1 in '67) and Steve Cram (3:46.32 in '85), plus 1968 Olympic 1,500-meter champion Kip Keino, former No. 1-ranked 1,500-meter runner Marty Liquori and '72 Olympic marathon winner Frank Shorter. And, most magically, there on breezy Biscayne Boulevard, was honorary starter Roger Bannister, who on May 6 will mark, with characteristic dignity, the 40th anniversary of his historic four-minute mile.

The runners set off at staggered intervals, based on the time each had predicted for himself. Snell estimated that he would clock 6:15, so he started first, still running up on his toes at 55. He finished in 5:57.6. Ryun looks very much like the tall, gangly boy who appeared virtually out of nowhere in 1964, an Olympian before his senior year in high school. His head still wobbles when he gets tired. But at 47 he wears hearing aids in both cars, a revealing concession for a runner whose balance deserted him at some critical times. On Saturday, Ryun ran 5:29, nine seconds slower than he had predicted.

The battle of the day was between Liquori, 44, and Keino, 54, who started together, each having predicted 6:00. They ran shoulder to shoulder all the way around the one-loop course. With 100 yards to go they launched into a ferocious sprint. "We were not playing around." said Liquori. "1 felt a little embarrassed to be sprinting so hard and not dropping a guy who's 10 years older." He may have reached the finish slightly before Keino, but the result was judged to be a dead heat, in 5:23.6.

Presiding over all of this—and looking slightly out of place in his blue blazer and gray wool trousers amid the throng of roller bladers and halter tops—was Bannister. He does not dwell in the past but will wax eloquent on it when called upon to do so. "When I went up to Oxford, I wanted to take part in sport," said Sir Roger. "I was too light for rowing, and I wasn't skilled enough for rugby. But I knew I could run."

On a drizzly afternoon in 1954, at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, he ran the 3:59.4 mile that changed track forever. "I suppose people will remember me for [the four-minute mile]," he said. "But my life has other strands."

Indeed. The Four Minute Mile, which Bannister wrote in six weeks as a 26-year-old medical student, remains one of the best sports books you'll ever read. As chairman of the British Sports Council, he instituted track's first drug-testing program, in 1973. Bannister retired last October after eight years as Master of Oxford's Pembroke College, but he hardly plans to be inactive: He will edit medical journals and revise the third edition of his Disorders of the Autonomic Nervous System. He's 65 now and walks with a cane after breaking his right ankle in a car accident in '75. But he still gets exercise, by cycling.

"He's delightful," said Ryun simply, summing up the feelings of his fellow legends.

The Cincinnati Kids

In the wake of public discussion about the role of basketball coaches in education, it is sad to see that some coaches provide classrooms nobody should study in. A couple of them are in Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati's Bob Huggins and Xavier's Pete Gillen, two high-profile coaches running high-profile programs, have never been terribly simpatico. But on Saturday night at Cincinnati Gardens, after Xavier defeated the Bearcats 82-76 in overtime in an annual showdown known locally as the Cross-town Shootout, the enmity between the two men exploded.

Gillen strode toward the Cincinnati bench for the perfunctory postgame handshake with Huggins but received instead a blistering tirade. Huggins said he was upset with remarks and gestures that Xavier assistant coaches had made as the game ended. (The assistant coaches say they made no improper remarks or gestures.) "Don't come over and shake hands like everything's all right," Huggins told Gillen. "Everything's not all right. I'm not a phony."

"It's not being phony, shaking hands after games," countered Gillen, who stormed across the floor swearing as Huggins walked away.

Even before this year's Cross-town Shootout, the two coaches had expressed reservations about facing each other because of the rivalry's intense heat. But what were they worried about? Certainly not the players, whose conduct, except for a modicum of trash talking, was exemplary. Perhaps Huggins and Gillen were simply worried—and with good reason—about their own self-control.

There is talk, some of it from Gillen, about putting the series on hold. What Huggins and Gillen should work on, however, is maintaining the rivalry and putting their contentious attitude toward each other on hold.

Parental Support

Eight-hundred parents camped out overnight last week to make sure their kids got one of the coveted spots in the eastern section of the Cobb County (Ga.) Little League. County officials tried to discourage them by locking the gates to the park, where registration would take place, but the stouthearted parents simply set up tents outside the gate.

Reports that three Grateful Dead fans signed up were unfounded.

A Danny-Donnybrook

With the thunder still echoing from the Jan. 17 grudge match in Chicago between aging former child stars Danny Bonaduce and Donny Osmond, we asked SI boxing writer Pat Putnam, who has covered more than 200 title fights, to analyze the action.

Here we are, desperately trying to convince the rest of the planet that we are not the most violent people on earth, and there they were in Chicago, little red-headed Danny Bonaduce, the former Partridge family imp, and toothy Donny Osmond, who with sister Marie spread more mush on TV than Quaker Oats, in a fistfight. What's next? Winona Ryder mud-wrestling Drew Barrymore? Lassie and Benji in a pit-bull ring?

The impetus for the bout was some health club lip-flapping that went on between the protagonists, neither of whom has spent much time studying the sweet science. They said it was for charity, but nobody rabbit-punches, hits on the break, sticks a thumb in an eye (shame on you, Donny), curses, backhands, elbows or does any of the other nasty things Fritzie Zivic did on the way to the welterweight championship, for charity. We should just be thankful that when it came to the boxers' skills, this bout looked like a three-round punch-out between Marie Osmond and Susan Dey.

At least the proceedings resembled real boxing in one respect: The judges screwed up. They gave a split decision to the 34-year-old Bonaduce, who, when not doing an imitation of the Australian crawl, set a world record for losing his headgear. He and his bonnet parted company three times in the second round alone, so confusing the timekeeper that the round lasted only 49 seconds, a charitable act much appreciated by the onlookers. For his part Osmond, 36, was no Ali, but he did land more scoring blows than Bonaduce.

Bonaduce attempted to go out a gracious winner, but Osmond would have none of that. Suggesting angrily that he had been robbed, which proves he does know something about the sport, he offered to go another round. "Go fight your sister," snarled Bonaduce, a radio personality for Chicago's WLUP-FM, the sponsor of the event. "Take off your —- gloves. Bare knuckles."

Cooler heads said knock it off. As the winner, Bonaduce gave his share of the gate, $8,400, to the—don't laugh—Tom and Roseanne Arnold Foundation, while Osmond's share, $2,100, went to the Children's Miracle Network.

Sitting at ringside, former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, one of the few bona fide boxing figures at the bout, weighed in with his opinion: "They shouldn't have given it to the guy who kept losing his headgear."

"What did Leon say?" asked one ringside commentator, the one who announced to the crowd at the China Club that Osmond was trying to jab his way out of a clinch.

"I don't know," said the other, the one who, after watching Bonaduce warm up violently before the fight, had said in amazement, "He looks like he's shadow-boxing with himself."

Maybe that would have been a better idea.

The Max Factor

For years—an alarming number of years, in fact—the sports world's artist in residence has been LeRoy Neiman. Whatever the merits of Neiman's paintings and lithographs of football players, boxers and other athletes (one critic has described Neiman's art as "the visual equivalent of an overbearing lounge band"), they have made the mustachioed, cigar-waving Neiman both famous and fabulously rich.

Well, move over, LeRoy, here comes Peter Max (above). Yes, that Peter Max. The pop art giant of the 1960s, whose wildly colored improvisational images served as a sort of wallpaper for the Woodstock era—and, not incidentally, made the mustachioed, brush-waving Max both famous and fabulously rich—has turned his neon palette to sports. Already this year Max, 56, has created the official posters for both the World Cup and the Super Bowl. Moreover, the NFL has declared him the official artist for Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta, an honor that his psychedelic status would have made unthinkable around the time of, say, Super Bowl I. His football-related art, which includes brightly painted balls and helmets, will even be featured in a special Peter Max pavilion at the NFL Experience exposition.

Max, who grew up playing soccer in China, Israel and Tibet and later moved to Brooklyn, where he attended Lafayette High, the alma mater of Sandy Koufax, admits he lost touch with his sporting roots over the years, but he's thrilled to be back. "It's an addiction that's coming through my veins," says Max. "I've just surrounded myself with sports. I'm part of the fabric, and I love it."

Oh, yes, his painted helmets go for $3,500 to $6,000 apiece.



Honorary starter Sir Roger with mile legends (from left) Wilson Waigwa, Snell, Keino, Shorter, Cram, Ryun, Rod Dixon and Liquori.



Child stars Bonaduce (arm raised) and Osmond have gone from lunch boxes to tomato cans.



[See caption above.]




•Baseball's expanded playoff format, devised in part to accommodate its new three-divisional alignment, is far too kind to wild-card teams. Each wild card will play the division champ with the best record—but only if that team is not a division rival. Had the system been in place last season, the Phillies would have been the National League wild card but would have avoided a first-round meeting with East Division rival Atlanta, the best regular-season team in the league. And while the Phillies would have been playing the Central Division champion Cardinals, the Braves would have been playing the Giants, the team with the second-best record in baseball.

Why pretend that intradivisional rivalries are sacred? In baseball's balanced schedule, teams play either 39 or 52 divisional games and the rest of their 162 games against teams from the league's two other divisions.

•Game 7 of the 1994 World Series is scheduled for Oct. 30. And on deck: the first Mr. November.

•The sale of the New England Patriots to Boston businessman Bob Kraft for an estimated $158 million seems to be exactly the dose of stability that one of the NFL's least stable franchises needs. Kraft is already talking boldly about going after free agents to build the perennial doormat into a contender.

But Kraft's debt—the price of the team plus legal fees—could restrict his ability to go after champion-making free agents, not to mention the Pats' own contract-expired stable that includes mainstays Bruce Armstrong, Maurice Hurst and Leonard Russell. Kraft will probably have to spend large chunks of his own money, and many other owners have cowered in the face of that reality.

This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse is Upon Us

The Buffalo Bills are headed back to the Super Bowl for the fourth straight year.

They Said It

The former Runnin' Rebel basketball coach, on UNLV president Bob Maxson, with whom he has openly feuded over the years: "I think Bob Maxson's done a great job turning Las Vegas into a hockey town."