BUDIG STRIKES OUT
Surely, we assumed, American League president Gene Budig had his
hands tied by Major League Baseball's collective bargaining
agreement in his handling of the Roberto Alomar affair (page
28). How else could Budig have bungled it so badly? Alomar spits
in the face of an umpire, yet is allowed to play through the
crucial closing days of the season and the playoffs. Then he
gets a piddling five-game suspension at the start of next
season? Ludicrous, galling, appalling--choose your adjective.
Surely, the collective bargaining agreement was to blame.
In truth, Budig could have done the right thing. Despite
widespread speculation to the contrary, there is nothing in the
still-binding 1993 agreement between the players' association
and Major League Baseball that prevented Budig from suspending
Alomar immediately. And that suspension could have lasted for
all or part of the playoffs. Alomar had the right to request a
hearing, but the suspension could have been enforced while the
hearing was pending. Suspensions traditionally have not gone
into effect before an appeal because missed games would affect
an entire team. But in Alomar's case there was no doubt that a
suspension was warranted; any hearing would have been window
Once Budig made his dimwitted ruling he had to live by it. Only
acting commissioner Bud Selig could have stepped in at that
point "in the best interests of baseball." But that would have
invited a lawsuit from Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a labor
lawyer. Such is the state of the game.
Budig had only to look at other sports to see how the Alomar
incident should have been handled. In the NBA, any suspension
begins with the next game--playoffs or not. Seattle SuperSonics
forward Shawn Kemp missed the first game of the 1995 playoffs
for fighting in the final game of the regular season.
The NHL takes the same no-nonsense approach: Any suspected
transgression is reviewed within a day, and a suspension can be
imposed immediately. A hearing can be requested, but the player
must serve the suspension while the hearing is pending, whether
in the regular season or the playoffs. Under that policy the
Colorado Avalanche's Claude Lemieux was suspended in June for
the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals.
In his defense Budig has said, "I'm like an umpire. I stand by
my decision." Well, you blew the call.
FOOTBALL COMES TO NOTRE DAME
Last Friday's showdown between North Carolina and Notre Dame may
well have deserved its billing as the Game of the Century in
women's college soccer. The stage was set 10 months ago when the
Irish ended the Tar Heels' staggering string of nine national
championships by beating Carolina 1-0 in the NCAA semifinals.
But because the goal was a fluke--it came on an accidental
head-in by Tar Heels forward Cindy Parlow--the victory was also
treated as a fluke.
Although Notre Dame, which went on to defeat Portland 1-0 in the
final, retained all its top players, the Irish started this
season ranked second behind Carolina. The pecking order changed
last Friday evening when the two undefeated teams met in the
semifinals of the Duke Women's Soccer Classic in Durham, N.C.
The Tar Heels, playing before a partisan crowd of 3,000, scored
first. But as the early-evening sky changed from Carolina blue
to Notre Dame navy, Irish forward Jenny Streiffer knocked in the
tying and winning goals. "Parity has arrived," said North
Carolina coach Anson Dorrance.
Even Lou Holtz would envy the achievements of Notre Dame's
34-year-old women's soccer coach, Chris Petrucelli. Since he
took over a two-year-old program in 1990--the same year Carolina
won the fifth title in its streak--Petrucelli has gone 119-16-8
and has twice been named national coach of the year. And now he
has twice knocked the tar out of the Tar Heels. His team's
23-game winning streak is causing a stir in South Bend. "When
people think of Notre Dame, they think of football," says junior
midfielder Holly Manthei. "But for the past year, we've been the
team on campus."
Since those prehistoric days when Fred Flintstone converted a
7-10 split by having his ball cleaved in two in mid-alley,
bowling has been forever evolving. Here are two recent
To attract the young and hip, a Wisconsin bowling center
installed two indoor beach volleyball courts. To attract the
dazed and confused, the Brunswick Corp. unveiled Cosmic Bowling,
in which keglers aim at fluorescent pins through a fog of smoke,
strobes and thumping heavy-metal music.
Next thing you know they'll replace the beer frame with the
LOPSANG'S LAST CLIMB
The porters who live on the high southern slopes of the
Himalayas share the clan name Sherpa. They are the backbone of
every expedition to Mount Everest, lugging gear and setting
ropes through the ice fields. Over the last four years Lopsang
Jangbu Sherpa has reached the 29,028-foot summit of Everest four
times, each time without supplemental oxygen. During the last of
those assaults, in May, the 23-year-old Kathmandu native sat on
the roof of the world a record three hours.
That expedition turned out to be the deadliest in the mountain's
history. A severe and sudden storm trapped Lopsang's party as it
descended. Eight people died, including Scott Fischer, the
American group leader. Lopsang had tried to save Fischer, who
was sickened and stupefied by the thin air. But Fischer refused
help and threatened to throw himself off the mountain.
Reluctantly, Lopsang plunged through the blinding snow alone.
Fischer's frozen body was found the following day. "Scott was
Lopsang's hero," says their friend Jane Bromet. "After the
tragedy Lopsang became a living link to Scott."
The link died when Lopsang returned to Everest last month with a
German team and an avalanche buried him and two other climbers
at 25,590 feet. Lopsang's body vanished beneath the snow. To
those who have conquered Everest and seek to conquer it again,
the mountain grows neither less majestic nor more merciful.
START SPREADING THE NEWS
Perhaps no ballplayer embodies the darker side of New York
City's collective psyche--brooding silences, sudden lashings of
anger--more than Albert Belle, the Travis Bickle of
leftfielders. And with the oft-offended, oft-suspended Cleveland
Indian on the verge of becoming a free agent, he may well wind
up with the Yankees in his spiritual hometown.
Belle's agent, Arn Tellem, says his client is intrigued by the
idea of playing half his season in Yankee Stadium, where in 37
career games Belle has belted 12 homers and batted .331. And
though tampering rules prohibit Yankees owner George
Steinbrenner from discussing the surly slugger, he has always
had a soft spot for him. "Belle reminds me of Billy Martin," the
Boss once said. "They're both gunslingers." The '96 Yanks have
been a little short on firepower. Though they won their
division, their 162 home runs ranked 12th in the American
League. Belle alone had 48. The last Yankees leftfielder to hit
that many built the ballpark.
Steinbrenner revealed himself as a Belle ally last year when he
was the only owner to vote against fining Belle $50,000 for his
profane tirade against NBC's Hannah Storm during the 1995 World
Series. "Sure Belle has a temper," Steinbrenner reasoned. "But
then so do I."
Sounds like a match made in, well, not heaven.
WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS
Three decades after he broke the world land speed record four
times on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Craig Breedlove is up and
running again with a superior model of his old jet car, the
Spirit of America. But while Breedlove, 59, who was the first to
eclipse 400, 500 and 600 mph, is set to challenge the current
record of 633.47 and ultimately the 760-mph sound barrier, the
9,000-year-old salt flats in northwest Utah are no longer up to
"The Bonneville Salt Flats are finished as a site for world land
speed records," Breedlove said last week after testing Spirit of
America over the hallowed but deteriorating 100-square-mile
tract of barren saline plain. The flats have been imperiled as a
racing surface by years of potash mining, which siphoned brine
from beneath the flats into evaporation ponds to use the residue
as fertilizer. That process lowered the water table, and the
salt surface, which was once several feet thick and as smooth as
glass, is now a thin, crumbling shell, unfit for supersonic
The only other place in the U.S. suitable for a
land-speed-record attempt is Nevada's Black Rock Desert, 85
miles northeast of Reno, where the current world record was set
by Britain's Richard Noble in 1983. Breedlove, who needs
approximately 12 miles of hard, flat surface for his attempt,
had planned to rocket across Black Rock this month, but he was
waylaid by environmental groups angry over what they consider
mismanagement of Black Rock. The groups filed a petition asking
that Breedlove's permit be revoked, though he has promised to
erase any tracks caused by his attempt, arrange for the cleanup
of any debris left behind and restrict the number of spectators.
The environmentalists argue that the runs and the attendant
crowds could endanger historic Indian trails. If the conflict
isn't resolved by November, when rains begin turning the desert
to mud, Breedlove says his quest, which to date has cost some $2
million, will have to wait until next August.
The Interior Board of Land Appeals in Arlington, Va., is
reviewing the petition, and Breedlove hopes for an expedited
ruling. Speed, obviously, is of the essence.
OLD KENTUCKY HOMEBOYS
In 1986 Calvert Bratton, then the president of the Kentucky
Harness Horsemen's Association, was caught on an FBI videotape
delivering a $500 bribe to Don Blandford, speaker of the
Kentucky House of Representatives at the time. Earlier this
month Bratton was named chief administrative officer of the
Kentucky Racing Commission (KRC), a $55,000-a-year government
position that includes supervising the collecting of licensing
fees from racetracks and coordinating the collection of
pari-mutuel taxes with the Revenue Cabinet, roughly Kentucky's
equivalent of the IRS.
Bratton was never charged with a crime; he testified in 1992
before a grand jury that he had made the payment at the request
of the chairman of the Kentucky Harness Racing Commission and
that he did not take part in a scheme to pay lawmakers for
support of legislation favorable to horse racing. Still, after
testifying, he was fired from the Department of Revenue, where
he was employed as a commissioner in--get this--the Revenue
Logic says an organization that asks for public trust would not
hire someone tainted by an investigation that led to the
conviction of 14 legislators for accepting illegal payments. But
logic isn't running the KRC. Says Richard (Smitty) Taylor, the
commission's recently appointed chairman, "We have the right to
hire whom we please."
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: TIM O'BRIEN When Budig stepped to the plate in the Alomar case, he swung feebly--and missed. [Drawing of Gene Budig swinging baseball bat]
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON; PHOTO MANIPULATION: SI IMAGING [O.J. Simpson with long "Pinnochio" nose]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Streiffer and her Irish teammates have brought a whole new ball game to South Bend. [Jenny Streiffer playing soccer]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ROSANN BERRY [Dollar sign designed with baseball, basketball and football]
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: KENT HANSON [Hockey goalie masks]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK The crumbling surface of the Salt Flats has forced Breedlove to relocate his attempt to shatter the sound barrier. [Craig Breedlove and jet car Spirit of America]
Years since Columbia's football team, which has beaten Harvard,
Fordham and Holy Cross, last won its first three games.
Reported amount, in dollars, offered to Tiger Woods to play in
the Australian Open in November, $32,000 more than the fee
reportedly being paid to Greg Norman.
Seconds left in the Northwestern-Michigan game last Saturday
when ABC's New York affiliate switched to Ohio State-Penn State,
causing thousands of viewers to miss the field goal that gave
the Wildcats a 17-16 win.
Time that IBF super middleweight champion Roy Jones spent
answering questions live on HBO immediately before fighting
Bryant Brannon last Friday.
Time it took Jones to knock out Brannon.
O.J. Simpson's score on a polygraph test he took before his
murder trial, according to Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run of His
Life; a score of -6 or lower is considered an indication of lying.
A Sports Fund Kicks Off
A few years ago Gary Miller, a corporate lawyer in New York, was
looking for an investment opportunity--in part to make up for
all the cash he was pouring into fun and games: basketball
tickets, ski and golf equipment, sports memorabilia. All this
money I'm spending on sports, it's gotta be going somewhere, he
said to himself. Why shouldn't I be getting some of it back?
And that's when Miller hatched the idea of Sportsfund, a mutual
fund devoted to sports-related companies.
Sportsfund, which began selling shares on Aug. 1, invests 65% of
its money in companies that derive most of their revenues from
sports-related businesses. That definition is broad enough to
include Nike, Fountain Powerboats, eyewear designer Oakley and
Penske Motorsports. The remaining 35% is, when possible,
invested in companies that own sports teams, such as Disney
(Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and California Angels) and Ascent
Entertainment (Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets). By
Miller's count the fund has a roster of 167 sports-related
stocks from which to choose; so far it owns 24 of them.
The fund doesn't have any direct stakes in franchises. (The
Boston Celtics are the only publicly traded major league team,
though Wayne Huizenga has announced plans to sell shares in his
Florida Panthers.) But Miller sees public offerings of team
stock as the wave of the future, particularly as franchises need
cash to build their own stadiums or arenas.
Investment experts say there's no reason a sports fund can't
work. "It has just as much reason for being as a fund that
focuses on leisure activities," says Sam Stovall, author of the
book Sector Investing. Indeed, in the eight weeks after it
opened, Sportsfund returned 7.5%, better than the Dow Jones
Many a rookie has had a hot spring training, and the question
for Sportsfund is, Will it survive an economic downturn, when
leisure stocks traditionally turn south? Miller, of course,
thinks so. "Even during recessionary times," he says, "people
are not going to cut back on sports."
Custom-painted masks provide many NHL goalies with a menacing
mien; the Canucks' Corey Hirsch uses his to show he's psycho for
Hirsch's Bates Motel with Hitchcock silhouette.
The Capitals' Olaf Kolzig is gaga over Godzilla.
John Vanbiesbrouck shows his Panthers fangs.
THIS WEEK'S SIGN THAT THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US
Gerrardstown, W.Va's Beverly Rose, one of the entrants in last
Saturday's World Toughwoman Championship in Detroit, was billed
as the PMS Princess.
THEY SAID IT
Senior golfer, on how his catalog of surgically replaced parts
could affect his status on the tour: "My knee's only a few
months old, my back is only 17, and I recently got a new hip. I
might be too young now."