OSCAR VS. FELIX
De La Hoya and Trinidad make an oddly perfect match
Greed and ego have an upside. Without those twin pestilences we
would never have this: two unbeaten champions meeting in their
prime. What else explains De La Hoya-Trinidad, an event so
popular, so obvious, that boxing in all its perversity would
normally not allow it? Money and attention--and two fighters who
can't get enough of either--finally overrode cynical matchmaking
to produce a game-saving bout.
For WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya, the respect he
could earn by destroying IBF welterweight champ Felix Trinidad
this Saturday in Las Vegas might be worth more than his $15
million guarantee. Even as he has won five titles in four weight
classes De La Hoya (31-0 with 25 KOs) has been beset by
doubts--his own and others'. Is he a tough guy or just a
complicated marketing tool, making the occasional ring
appearance to leverage his endorsement deals?
For Trinidad (35-0 with 30 KOs), $8.5 million is the payday of a
lifetime. He has been plenty concussive, but his fame hasn't
traveled far beyond his native Puerto Rico. Until he was matched
with De La Hoya, who has been a moneymaking brand since winning
Olympic gold as a lightweight in 1992, Trinidad was a poorly paid
secret. Will he be outclassed on Saturday night?
This fight is compelling for reasons beyond seeing two practiced
26-year-olds make boxing history. De La Hoya once clung to a
defensive style that had even his fans booing, but now he backs
up his superior technique with crowd-pleasing brawling. As he has
stepped up in competition, he has increasingly found himself in
desperate situations and each time has responded eagerly with
ferocious mayhem. His WBC title fight with Ike Quartey in
February didn't showcase his boxing as much as his heart--a minute
of full-on trading in the final round proved that this crossover
star is driven to win.
Trinidad is desperate in a different way. Unlike his opponent, he
hasn't earned almost $100 million in the ring. Could Trinidad,
hungrier and with a bigger punch, upend the weekend welterweight?
This is as close to a pick-'em as we'll see for a while, but De
La Hoya somehow makes magic out of his toughest fights, dredging
up a scary desire when he needs it most. De La Hoya by
decision. --Richard Hoffer
CATFISH HUNTER, 1946-99
Gone to a Bigger Pond
Jim (Catfish) Hunter spent one of his last days on Earth with
me--on the 20th anniversary of Thurman Munson's death, no
less--and several times on that hot afternoon last month, in the
presence of this dying man, I was powerless to contain my tears.
He was that funny.
"The first time I pitched to Munson," Hunter said of his Yankees
batterymate while sitting on a porch swing outside his house in
Hertford, N.C., "I was windin' up when he was just startin' to
give the sign. He called timeout and ran out to the mound and
said, 'What are you on?' I said, 'Whaddya mean, what am I on?
I'm not on anythang.'"
"But I haven't gave the sign yet, and you're windin' up."
"As long as you give the sign before my hand gets over the top of
my head, I'm gonna throw whatever you call."
"How in the hell you gonna do that?"
"I throw every pitch the same way."
"You don't like to waste time, do you?"
"That's right--give me the damn ball and let me throw it."
Hunter, who died last Thursday of amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis--Lou Gehrig's disease--stuffed 20 pounds of life into
a five-pound sack: He married his high school sweetheart,
skipped the minors, went to the big leagues at 19, threw a
perfect game at 22, won five World Series in seven years in the
1970s, retired at 33, was inducted into the Hall of Fame at 41
and died at 53. Waste time? He'd fly home to Hertford as soon as
possible after the final out of every season. Teammates knew a
World Series was clinched when they saw a plane ticket in
Hunter's jacket as it hung in his locker.
I have no idea why the Cat agreed to have me in his home on Aug.
2, except that I asked, and he was always a ridiculously soft
touch. As a member of the Oakland A's he would leave his car on
the West Coast each off-season and let trainer Joe Romo drive
it. Every year Romo billed Hunter for gas as well as his hotel
bills on the drive to spring training. Hunter always paid up,
always muttering with mock outrage, "Shouldn't I be chargin' you
for the sonofabitch?"
To hear Hunter tell it, his life was a charm bracelet of good
times: the time his brother, Pete, shot him in the right foot
(long story, and funny), or the time he bought a bumper-pool
table for the Yankees' clubhouse and billed it to Lou Piniella,
his roommate and favorite target of abuse. Even while terminally
ill Hunter razzed Piniella, now the Mariners' manager, for
always making pitching changes in his warmup jacket, the better
to hide his gut.
Piniella's tantrums against umps have always been intense,
intentionally silly and childlike, which is how Hunter played
and lived. "Remember when Lou threw the bag, but he didn't throw
it far enough, so he picked it up and threw it again?" Hunter
asked as we stood in his driveway, giggling. "I liked that. I
Last week Piniella gave Hunter a fitting epitaph: "If you didn't
like Catfish, you just didn't like people." --Steve Rushin
The Real Crash Davis
Four years ago J.R. Phillips was the new Will Clark. A tough
customer from the rugged L.A. suburb of La Puente, where he was
once stabbed at a party, Phillips was a hairy-chested homer
hitter with a trademark Tarzan yell that could bust your
eardrums. He hit 27 homers for the Triple A Phoenix Firebirds in
1994, and when Clark went free agent in '95, Phillips--sporting a
COMPLACENCY SUCKS T-shirt under his jersey--stepped in at first
base for the Giants. Boom! Opening Day home run off Greg Maddux.
The boom went bust. Phillips's bats, broken in during long BP
sessions until all the impact dents evened out, turned to dust.
On June 2 he was hitting .099: 10 for 101. The Giants sent him
down, then traded him to the Phillies, who let him go in '96.
After a stint with the Astros, he had a career .184 average, with
21 homers in 217 big league games.
Last December the erstwhile home run hero of the Mexican winter
league's Culiacan Tomato Growers signed with the Rockies as a
minor league free agent. "It's my 12th year of professional
ball," said Phillips, 29, as he headed for Colorado Springs of
the Pacific Coast League. He had long since been fitted with the
dreaded 4A tag--too good for Triple A, not quite good enough for
the majors--but he had a simple plan: "Go down there and put up
some ungodly numbers."
A swing tinkerer, Phillips tried standing more upright with his
hands higher. Boom! He hit a club-record 41 homers to lead the
minor leagues, batted .311 with 100 RBIs and earned a September
call-up. Last Saturday night Rockies manager Jim Leyland sent
Phillips to pinch-hit in the eighth inning of a 6-6 game against
the Brewers. He drove an 0-1 pitch 427 feet into the second
deck, and Colorado won 7-6. "I was floating around the bases,"
The next afternoon he had a key double in a Rockies rally.
Phillips knows he can't displace Todd Helton at first base in
Colorado, "but I've opened up some eyes in Japan," he said. "If
the Rockies don't want me back, maybe I'll go over there."
Complacency? Not in this hairy chest. "It does wear on you,"
Phillips said of his struggle to find his place in the game,
"but you're getting paid to play baseball. Ain't nothing better."
The hottest parlor game in Italy is trying to guess the identity
of two men who claim they threw a pro soccer match last year.
The scandal has rocked two major religions, Catholicism and
calcio--Italian for soccer--and cast a pall over the prestigious
Serie A league.
In August the news magazine Famiglia Cristiana, which is owned
by the Council of Italian Bishops, ran a letter purportedly from
a player claiming that he'd thrown a "very important" match in
exchange for a new contract from another team. "I no longer feel
alive," he wrote. "I feel a burden on my soul, my conscience is
hurt, I am no longer a man." The letter sparked a storm of
speculation in soccer-mad Italy, a squall that gained force when
newspapers in Milan and Turin printed a missive from someone
claiming to be a former teammate of the first letter-writer,
stating that he had helped fix the match.
Antonio Sciortino, editor in chief of Famiglia Cristiana, and
Antonio Rizzolo, who edits the advice section, say they know who
wrote the first letter but won't reveal his identity. The two
priests claim to be protected by their vows, but prosecutors may
charge them with obstruction of justice--the government claims
that publishing the letter was a journalistic act, not a
The letter might have been dismissed as a hoax if not for the
shadows hanging over Italian soccer. The magistrate in charge of
an ongoing drug investigation may expand his inquiry to include
the match-fixing claims and some questionable results from last
season. Gigi Buffon of Parma, a devout Catholic who may be
Italy's best goalkeeper, believes the crisis is real. "It can't
be a hoax," says Buffon. "But if it is true, I would go to
Lourdes and quit the game."
NFL RICHES TO RAGS
During his 16-year run as the Eagles' owner, Leonard Tose
flaunted his taste for the high life. Casinos dispatched
helicopters to whisk him from Philadelphia to a suite in
Atlantic City. In 1981 he flew 870 guests to New Orleans for the
Eagles-Raiders Super Bowl. "If you beat the Cowboys, there'd be
a case of Dom Perignon on your front step when you got home,"
says Dick Vermeil, the Eagles' coach in those days. "Then he
started giving cases of Dom Perignon for each grandchild born.
When you have 11 grandkids, you're living pretty good."
By 1985 Tose was broke. He sold the Eagles to Norman Braman for
$65 million, but it wasn't enough. Tose was evicted from his
mansion on the posh Main Line in '96 and now lives humbly in a
downtown Philly apartment. Far from comatose, he has survived
four wives, heart surgery and archenemy Pete Rozelle, who he
says reneged on a vow to help him raise $10 million to keep the
Eagles. Of reports that his gambling losses topped $100 million,
the 84-year-old Tose says, "Nah! I bet it wasn't half that."
According to Tose, the Eagles' front office refused to renew his
parking pass last year until he paid the $100 fee up front.
"That's why I stopped going to Eagles games," he says. "I only
went back when St. Louis came to town." Last December, Rams
coach Vermeil helped Tose exact a small measure of revenge at
Veterans Stadium by parking the disowned owner at the end of the
Rams' bench. He may be there again on Jan. 2 when the Rams come
to town for the season finale.
"I consider him one of the key people in my life," says Vermeil,
who sends Tose an occasional financial pick-me-up. Not too much,
though: "He has a lifestyle that isn't going to change. If he did
have some money, he'd probably have at least one good evening
"I still drink Scotch and still believe in pretty women," Tose
says, "but I don't gamble anymore. What would I bet, a hundred
dollars? That's no fun. The only time gambling is fun is when
you're gambling more than you can afford." --Franz Lidz
These Guys Really Blow
Whistling's latest high note came last week at Edmonton's
Winspear Centre, where Michael Barimo of Orlando won the
Millennium World Championships of Musical Whistling. Thirty
lipsters performed in straight, pucker, chirp and wa-wa styles
(don't ask), often trilling at speeds of more than 200 notes a
minute to show off their labial dexterity.
Barimo, 15, edged three other finalists including Chris Ullman,
36, of Arlington, Va. A public affairs director with the
Securities and Exchange Commission, Ullman eschews kissing for
24 hours before he competes. "Prolonged kissing makes the lips
mushy," he said. Barimo, who is to the pucker what young Gretzky
was to the puck, will settle for the kiss of respect. "People
don't know what we do," he said. "They think we're out whistling
for our pigs and chickens."
CORYELL AIRS A SECRET
Don Coryell drew up the plays that helped him become the only
coach in football to win 100 games on both the college and pro
levels. But 60 years ago, standing at a blackboard in his
Seattle junior high school, Coryell couldn't diagram a sentence
if his life depended on it. In an emotional Aug. 13 speech in
South Bend during his induction into the College Football Hall
of Fame, Coryell revealed that he suffers from dyslexia--a
learning disorder that made him stutter and have difficulty
reading and spelling as a schoolboy. Coryell, age 74, credits
sports with allowing him to live a productive life.
"I was always this dumb kid who talked funny," says Coryell, who
fine-tuned his Air Coryell passing attack as head coach of San
Diego State from 1961 to '72, where he went 104-19-2 with three
undefeated seasons before taking his show to the NFL. "Then as a
sophomore in high school I learned that I could play football.
It gave me confidence." After decades of doubting his own
intelligence, he also learned that his deficiency has a name.
That happened when a young man approached him at a banquet in
'86, the year Coryell retired as the San Diego Chargers' coach,
to discuss a program for dyslexics. "It all became clear--why I
had trouble reading street signs while driving, why my wife had
to help me spell words," says Coryell.
"It was embarrassing for me to talk about an imperfection,"
Coryell says of his Hall of Fame speech to a crowd that included
fellow '99 enshrinees Bo Jackson and Tom Osborne. "I was scared.
But we were supposed to talk about how the sport has affected
our lives, and football was the one thing that gave me the
self-esteem to pick up my grades, go to college and become a
coach. Maybe someone with a disability will look at me and say,
'If that guy did it, why can't I?'"
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY RANDY DAHLK
B/W PHOTO: RON RIESTERER Straight A Clean-cut and carefree, Hunter pitched a perfect game for Oakland back in 1968.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY ERIC PALMA
COLOR PHOTO: ED ANDRIESKI (PHILLIPS) Showtime Minor league home run king Phillips came up swinging.
COLOR PHOTO: ERIC RISBERG/AP
COLOR PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER SMITH
The Jets sputtered on takeoff. After Vinny Testaverde blew a
tire coming off the runway, Bill Parcells encountered emergency
quarterback turbulence and proceeded to coach without apparent
genius. Now Gang Green creeps upstate to Buffalo, where
Parcells's division favorites might fall to 0-2. Grilled Tuna,
Pitches to the Padres' Phil Nevin with three outs in the seventh
inning of a Sept. 9 game against Montreal.
Skeletons of Confederate war dead found under The Citadel's
Johnson Hagood Stadium.
Average speed of A.J. Alsop's winning car in a crash-marred
Sept. 6 NASCAR Featherlite race.
Big league pitchers (Greg Maddux and Charles Nagy) who have won
at least 15 games each year since 1995.
Pounds gained by Arizona State tackle Kyle Kosier since '97 on a
diet that includes 3 a.m. beef jerky binges.
--Maryland, by Orthodox Jewish hoops phenom Tamir Goodman, who
withdrew his oral commitment, citing friction with Terrapins
coaches over his refusal to play on the Sabbath.
--Caddie (and girlfriend) Linda Lundberg, by pro golfer Jarmo
Sandelin of Sweden, who hopes to improve caddie-player chemistry
by using Oxford chem major Tim King at the Ryder Cup.
--Another big-bucks contract, by Rockies manager and clubhouse
runway cig sneaker Jim Leyland, who'll quit at the end of the
season and pass up $4.5 million over the next two years.
--The mountain kingdom of Lesotho's national baseball team,
which had a single single in a 43-0 one-hit loss to South Africa
at the All Africa Games.
--Dontonio Wingfield, to a year in the cooler for assaulting two
Forest Park, Ohio, cops. The former Cincinnati power forward
left college after his freshman year only to wash out in the
NBA. "He has nothing to fall back on," said a friend. "He
doesn't know how to do anything but play basketball."
WORD FOR WORD
Young Talks Dirty
"It's kind of sad that we play football indoors. It's like
playing golf indoors--it's a joke. When we play indoors, I bring
some dirt to have the feel of dirt on my hands. It's not
superstition; it's actually what I use.... I've had to deal with
bad dirt, good dirt, clay dirt, soft dirt, silty dirt. It's
tough to find good dirt nowadays, to be honest with you.
Sometimes I'll bring it, you know? Though there are times I've
forgotten it all the way up till we're coming back in for
warmups, and go, 'I don't have any dirt!' And I'll send a kid
out for dirt outside the Superdome--he'll go out there looking
for dirt. Yeah, if I find good dirt, I'll keep it with me.... If
anyone knows where good dirt is, I'd pay for good dirt... but
it's like anything nowadays--everything's kind of processed,
and, you know, even dirt seems to be kind of processed now, and
you don't get the good stuff like the old days...you know the
apocalypse is near when you can't find good dirt."
--Steve Young, in an outtake from a future segment of John
Madden's radio show
Each fall the Army Corps of Engineers releases billions of
gallons of water from the Gauley River through valves in the
Summersville Dam, turning the river into a 27-mile roller
coaster. "It's the Super Bowl of whitewater," says Dave Arnold,
who runs one of the rafting outfits born in the 1970s after a
handful of paddlers persuaded the government to publicize
water-release schedules. He and his fellow outfitters expect
more than 65,000 rafters to brave the rapids this year. "You
don't have to be an expert," Arnold says, "but you should be fit
and comfortable around water." In 1997 a rafter died running the
Gauley, and Arnold counts on taking at least one client to the
hospital every autumn. The risk attracts paddlers like Dennis
Olmezer, 35. "Your adrenaline starts pumping as soon as you put
on your life vest," Olmezer says. "Fear is necessary here."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Detroit police caught a fan trying to steal a urinal from Tiger
When the Ryder Cup tees off at the Country Club in Brookline,
Mass., on Sept. 24, Tiger Woods and his U.S. teammates will try
to avenge two straight losses to Europe's top golfers. Get a grip
on the sport's biggest grudge match with a tour of these sites.
Catch a bird's-eye view of the punishing Country Club course on
this Boston Globe-Golf Digest site. There are pictures and
analyses of every hole, including the hilly 513-yard par-5 9th,
known as "the Himalayas."
Tiger's official site tracks virtually every swing he's taken,
from his appearance on The Mike Douglas Show at age two to his $1
million victory in last month's NEC Invitational. Also, be sure
not to miss the video clip showcasing the 10 best shots of his
The best way to get inside Team Europe, this site has in-depth
player and tournament records dating back to 1970. Review Colin
Montgomerie's dazzling six-year reign atop the European tour
money list or wade through the stats of that tour's 23 Garcias
to find rookie phenom Sergio.
Visit the event's official site for real-time scores, news and
analysis of every match. Die-hard hackers will relish the Ryder
Cup archives, while merchandise junkies can fill their cyber
carts (and the PGA of America's pockets) by purchasing Cup
Two golf sites, golfweb and pgatour.com, recently merged to
create a megapage offering video highlights of the year's leading
events, comprehensive tour stats and player bios, and feature
sites we'd like to see
Real-time updates of Slammin' Sammy's diurnal meanderings as he
salsas his way toward the home run record.
On-line alternative film festival for fans who are fed up with
baseball movies starring Kevin Costner.
For De La Hoya, the respect he'd earn by beating Trinidad might
be worth more than the $15 million he'll take home.
They Said It
Marlins pitcher, on making contact with a fourth-inning Randy
Johnson fastball: "I started swinging in the second inning."