Good Fences, Bad Fans?
Barriers to protect baseball crowds might create worse problems
A nine-year-old boy underwent emergency surgery on May 30, the
day after his skull was fractured by a wicked foul ball at
Comerica Park in Detroit. While Joey Siket remained hospitalized
on Monday in serious but stable condition, his parents hired a
lawyer who has demanded that the Tigers surround their field
with a three-foot-high Plexiglas wall. "They laughed at the
idea," said James Elliott, the Sikets' attorney, who in the past
two years has filed two other lawsuits against the Tigers on
behalf of fans injured by flying objects. "It's now evident to
me that the Detroit Tigers could care less, and even a death in
their stands will not alter their conduct toward the unsafe
For more than a century anyone with a clue has understood that
the closer you sit to home plate, the greater the risk. Joey was
seated in the front row beside the visitors' dugout--a location
that worried his mother, Debbie. "I didn't even want him to go
to the game, because I've read about this happening before,"
Debbie told The Detroit News. She and her husband are suing, in
effect, to hold others responsible for their decision to let
Joey sit within 40 yards of the batters.
The real danger is that the Tigers and other clubs might be
bullied into submission. At first glance it might seem that the
Plexiglas walls separating fans from the field would serve not
only to protect spectators from line drives but also to soothe
concerns about security that escalated last month when 19
Dodgers were suspended and fined after a brawl in the stands at
Wrigley Field. However, erecting such barriers would be a
decision the Tigers, and baseball, would long regret. Walls
bring out worse behavior in the fans. European soccer officials
realized as much after they erected fencing around their fields
decades ago--and they at least had good reason to build the
barriers, given the pitch invasions that plagued the sport. For
the last decade FIFA, soccer's international governing body, has
been trying to bring the fences down. The experience has been
that, says FIFA president Sepp Blatter, "if you put people in
cages, they behave like animals."
Once baseball builds walls, it's going to have a hell of a time
removing them. In the meantime the obstructions would only
incite the more hostile elements of the crowd. More lawsuits for
everybody. The national pastime, indeed. --Ian Thomsen
A TV viewer finds that in odd ways Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
For those of us who covered the NBA in the 1980s, it was hard
not to like both Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, whose play and
personalities dominated the league as chicken dominates
dumplings. We found something compelling in each player, Magic
effervescent and user-friendly, Bird feisty and frequently
distant. I thought of them then, and think of them now, as a
matched set. Magic and Bird. Bird and Magic. On and on into
So there they were, live, on my TV last Friday night--Bird on
the Madison Square Garden sideline, coaching his Pacers into the
NBA Finals with a victory over the Knicks, and Magic on QVC
selling Magic Johnson Autographed Showtime Basketballs for $270
The time has long passed to make blanket appraisals of people
based on their willingness to sell bangles and baubles and
basketballs; if George Washington came back to life, he'd no
doubt be on Channel 73 peddling replicas of his wooden teeth.
Nonetheless it was depressing--is pathetic too strong?--to see
Magic turning loose his happy-talk sales pitch as an 800-number
flashed on the screen: "You just gotta get these Kobe and Shaq
Magic deserves much credit for his accomplishments since he left
the game, which have dwarfed Bird's. Johnson has raised AIDS
awareness and turned himself into one of the nation's leading
African-American entrepreneurs. But he seems to have an almost
pathological need to stay in the public eye. Or perhaps it's a
pathological fear of being forgotten, which amounts to the same
thing. He needed to be on QVC, just as he needed to be a
late-night talk show host, an endeavor that failed miserably.
Bird, to be sure, has sold his name--witness his efforts on
behalf of McDonald's--but he hasn't sought out the glare of the
spotlight as Magic has. After this season, in fact, Bird will
retreat from it, either into a front-office position or to play
golf and chill in his Naples, Fla., house. Seconds after his
Pacers defeated the Knicks and began celebrating, the camera
caught Bird walking alone toward the locker room. Shortly
thereafter, Magic and his QVC host received news of the Indiana
victory and started hawking Pacers Eastern Conference champions
hats. --Jack McCallum
For one brief, shining moment, centerfielder Karl (Tuffy) Rhodes
was the future of the Cubs. Against Mets ace Dwight Gooden on
Opening Day 1994, Rhodes launched three balls into the Wrigley
Field bleachers in his first three at bats, becoming the only
player to hit a trio of dingers in his first three tries on
Opening Day. Said New York manager Dallas Green, "We made him a
Alas the Tuffy Era in Chicago didn't last much beyond that
bright April afternoon. Rhodes played just 107 more games for
the Cubs in 1994 and '95. After a brief stint with the Red Sox
he was gone from the majors.
Imagine, then, the shock to a Chicago fan who stumbles across
this stat line: RHODES, K., OSAKA, 1999: .301, 40 HRs, 101 RBIs.
Like Spinal Tap before him, Tuffy has found new life in Japan.
"I got older, smarter and became more patient with the game,"
says Rhodes, now 31 and in his fifth season with the Osaka
Kintetsu Buffaloes. "I learned things like studying pitchers
more carefully." Last year he led the Pacific League in homers
and RBIs; through Sunday he was batting .290, with 12 homers and
Rhodes, in the final year of a contract that will pay him $2
million in 2000, recalls that three-homer day at Wrigley with
pride but doesn't dwell on past glory. "No matter where you hit
a home run," he says, "there's a feeling of accomplishment."
Easy for him to say, but for beleaguered Cubs fans so used to
seeing guys hit it big after leaving the North Side--Lou Brock,
Joe Carter, Greg Maddux--those words cut like a Ginsu.
CASEY MARTIN CASE
Setting a Sandy Trap?
When the PGA Tour applied on May 15 to the U.S. Supreme Court to
extend the deadline for its appeal of the lower court decision
that allows Casey Martin to use a golf cart during Tour events,
it went to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who pushed back the
deadline by 30 days to July 5. That gave the Tour extra time to
ready its argument that the high court should hear the Martin
Did the Tour seek out O'Connor because it thought she'd be
sympathetic to its cause? The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
judge who upheld a trial court's ruling that Martin could use a
cart was a nongolfer. O'Connor, by contrast, is an avid golfer
with extensive links connections:
--She's a member of the exclusive Chevy Chase (Md.) Club, where
she has been known to outdrive male golfing partners.
--She and her husband, John, take annual golf outings, often
outside the U.S.
--During a visit to Edinburgh last summer for the 50th anniversary
of the Scottish Law Society, she found time for 18 holes at
--One of the PGA Tour's lawyers, Richard Taranto, is a former
clerk of O'Connor's.
Martin's lawyer, Roy Reardon, sees O'Connor's golf connection as
coincidence. "The PGA's lawyers are in Phoenix, and the Ninth
Circuit includes Phoenix, and she's from Phoenix, so she was
probably the appropriate justice to go to," he says. "If I were
in Phoenix I'd go to her."
Still, Martin might have preferred that the Tour had appealed to
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a justice with not only more liberal
leanings but also a less refined game. Ginsburg, Golf Digest
once remarked, "has a game that mirrors her judicial style: She
aims left, swings right and hits down the middle."
Sam Learmonth was sitting down to supper in his house in
Blacktown, near Sydney, late last month when he was startled by
the roar of Blackhawk helicopters overhead and the rumble of
explosions less than a mile away. "Everyone tore out of their
houses to have a look," says Learmonth, who, like most Blacktown
residents except the mayor, hadn't been informed that the
Australian Defence Force, in charge of security for the Summer
Games, had chosen the Olympic softball complex in Blacktown as
the site of its latest mock terrorist attack.
The army quickly repaired the $100,000 worth of damage to the
new $17 million stadium--mostly broken windows and demolished
walls. Spokesman Mike Harris called the half-hour exercise "the
most sophisticated sort of training that can be undertaken."
Learmonth, a sixth-generation resident of Blacktown's Rooty
Hill, had another name for it. "They wanted to put on a bit of a
show," he says. "Just some hot-shot army kids acting like a
bunch of yahoos, with the rest of us scared out of our wits."
The Aussies plan to use 11,000 military personnel in an effort
(code-named Task Force Gold) to prevent a recurrence of the
horrors of Munich or the bumbling reaction to terrorism in
Atlanta. Since mid-March troops have been training five days a
week to combat everything from chemical warfare to an
While Task Force Gold Commander Gary Byles insists that there
"is no specific threat to the Games," papers Down Under have
cited intelligence sources in identifying Southeast Asian groups
linked to terrorist Osama bin Laden as a possible menace. This,
along with the March 7 arrest of Sydney resident Mehmet Akin
Kayirici for threatening to blow up planes carrying athletes to
the Olympics, was incentive enough for the government to commit
$43 million to Olympic security. "We have drawn on lessons from
Atlanta to ensure we have the appropriate procedures and
responses in place should the need arise," says Byles.
"Hopefully, this will not be the case."
SPORTS AND CRIME
Cheeseheads And Bad Eggs
Citing the sexual assault charges against Mark Chmura, Wisconsin
Democratic state representative David Travis of Madison proposed
legislation last week that if passed, would ban athletes
convicted of violent crimes from playing in sports facilities
subsidized by the state of Wisconsin. In other words, when the
NBA team that drafts Fresno State star and convicted batterer
Courtney Alexander visits Milwaukee's Bradley Center to play the
Bucks, Alexander would be watching the game from the team's
hotel room. Packers corner Tyrone Williams, who served 126 days
in a Lincoln, Neb., jail in 1997 for firing a gun at an occupied
car, would not be able to ply his trade at Lambeau Field.
"If all of these sports teams are approaching every government
in the United States with their hands out for new stadiums,"
Travis says, "then the people who are benefiting directly from
that ought to conduct themselves with basic human civility."
Travis's proposal already faces opposition. "Should any
construction company that has people with a criminal record
working for it not be allowed to bid for taxpayer-funded
contracts?" asks Republican representative John Gard of
Peshtigo. "You follow this through, and you begin to realize how
stupid it really is."
"I don't know anybody who wears a construction worker's jersey
around," Travis counters. "People who are role models for kids
but who are out of control should not be obtaining public
On Monday the Packers--who are pushing for a $160 million county
tax hike to renovate Lambeau--released Chmura.
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In the Trojan War, Paris shot an arrow in Achilles' vulnerable
heel. At the French Open the clay courts of Paris felled
defending champion Andre Agassi, whose blistered big toe hobbled
the top seed in a second-round loss to Karol Kucera of Slovakia.
Fans on hand in Australia for a rematch of the U.S.-China 1999
Women's World Cup final.
Pedro Guerrero's IQ, according to the lawyer defending him on
drug trafficking charges.
Rushing yards by Ki-Jana Carter in five seasons with the
Bengals, during which he made $15.6 million.
Hits by Toronto's Darrin Fletcher--all grand slams-- in five at
bats with the bases loaded this season.
Time in the 40-yard dash last week for Redskins cornerback
Darrell Green, 40, who ran in borrowed spikes.
--From double murder to misdemeanor obstruction of justice, the
charges against Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who was sentenced
to a year's probation. Lewis admitted he told companions not to
talk and gave misleading statements to police after the deaths
of two men in an Atlanta street brawl. Team owner Art Modell
said he looks forward to Lewis's return to the field.
--Reliever John Rocker, by the Braves to Triple A Richmond,
after he blew up on the field and off. Rocker had walked 25
batters in 18 1/3 innings this season and allowed seven runs in
his last nine innings; on Sunday he angrily confronted SI's Jeff
Pearlman, who wrote the December story in which Rocker made
--Arnold Palmer and Peggy Fleming, as the smartest male and
female athletes of the 20th century, in a poll of 4,707 people
conducted by Holiday Inn Express.
--Yevgeny Kafelnikov, winner of the Prix Citron as the most
difficult player on the pro tennis tour, by members of the
tennis media, snapping Marcelo Rios's four-year grip on the
--Stars rookie forward Brenden Morrow, 21, and Anne-Marie
Carbonneau, 18, daughter of Dallas center Guy Carbonneau, 40.
"He's a good kid," says Guy of Morrow.
Todd McFarlane, creator of the hit comic book Spawn, knows from
cult classics, which explains the centerpieces of his latest
line of McFarlane Toys, hauntingly lifelike, 6 1/2" action
figures of hockey stars. Why honor Slapshot's Hanson brothers,
hockey filmdom's most celebrated thug trio? "As a Canadian male,
there are three things that are entrenched in our psyche," says
McFarlane, who's also a part-owner of the Edmonton Oilers.
"Hockey, the Hanson Brothers and the MacKenzie Brothers." Yes,
Strange Brew's Bob and Doug, are availabe from McFarlane Toys,
too--sticks and skates not included.
Hoosiers vs. Hollywood
As the Pacers and Lakers square off in the NBA Finals, we offer
a quickie primer on the differences between Indiana and Southern
Indiana is... SoCal is...
James Whitcomb Riley Charles Bukowski
James Dean, schoolboy James Dean, rebel
French Lick Pan-Asian cuisine
"Win one for "If it doesn't fit,
the Gipper" you must acquit"
Bobby Plump Liposuction
The smokestacks of Gary The gates of Bel Air
Chevy pickup Humvee
Hoosiers The Player
The Dunes Malibu
The Magnificent Ambersons The Day of the Locust
Dick York Dick Sargent
Lincoln Boyhood Playboy
National Memorial Mansion
Florence Henderson Carol Brady
Breaking Away Falling Down
The moonlight Cops in cars,
on the Wabash topless bars
Candidate Dan Quayle Candidate Warren Beatty
Hoagy Carmichael Randy Newman
John Mellencamp Tommy Lee
Jackson family Manson family
The Crossroads of America The 405-10 interchange
"Gentlemen, start your engines!" "Let's do lunch!"
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
A Los Angeles company that plans to market a video with "classic
scenes" of soccer violence is offering hooligans cash for
footage of their mayhem.
Anyone with a clue knows that the closer you sit to home plate,
the greater the risk.
They Said It
Cubs first baseman, 35, on what the team should do if he
reinjures his strained hamstring at Wrigley Field: "Just set up
the podium and hold my retirement party right there."