DESPITE THE best efforts of Alex Rodriguez (page 56), home runs were down 19% in the majors through Sunday compared with last year, a decline widely blamed on the colder-than-normal April weather throughout most of the country. However, the truth is that sluggers have been going yard more often in cooler temperatures. Compared with 2006, homers are down significantly in every temperature bracket except the lowest: under 50°. While the home run rate rose steadily with the temperature last year, it initially took a big dip as the mercury rose this season, which means it could be a summer short on dingers—and long on dead-ball theories.
[This article contains a chart. Please see hard copy or pdf.]
HOME RUNS PER GAME
Taters by Temperature
SOURCE: ELIAS SPORT BUREAU
Anatomy of a Fine
Wearing the wrong hat to a Super Bowl function cost Bears linebacker Brian Uhrlacher $100,000
The NFL prohibits on-field personnel from wearing logo apparel from nonleague sponsors in official settings, such as Super Bowl--related activities. Urlacher says he didn't wear his Vitaminwater hat on purpose. "I didn't even think about it," he says. "I grab a hat every morning. My hair is sweet, but I like to cover it up for some reason." Violating the policy during the regular season carries a $10,000 fine; at the Pro Bowl it's $50,000 and at the Super Bowl, $100,000.
Urlacher's cap advertised Vitaminwater, an "enhanced water" beverage that is a competitor of Gatorade (left), the NFL's official sports drink. The league has a strong incentive to keep its sponsors happy: One owner told SI that the Gatorade deal is worth $44 million per year. "That's a big enough deal that it's worth protecting our investment," the owner says.
In 1985 then commish Pete Rozelle docked Bears QB Jim McMahon $5,000 for an unauthorized Adidas headband. The next week his headband read ROZELLE (above).
Vitaminwater offered to pay the fine, which was imposed in March but announced last week. Says Urlacher, "I told them no. I wore the hat. I knew the rules. Instead, they're going to donate $100,000 to the United Way in my name. So that's pretty cool." Says Vitmainwater president Mike Repole, "We chose the United Way because it's an NFL charity. We like the NFL."
The hubbub surrounding the fine has been a boon for Vitaminwater, which is also endorsed by Shaquille O'Neal (below), LaDainian Tomlinson and David Ortiz. "Sure, we're happy," says Repole. "We weren't expecting it." Gideon Fidelzeid, an editor at PR Week, says, "This story has more legs than most Super Bowl ads. Nobody remembers those, yet we're talking about this. The value of all those media impressions has to be at least half a million dollars."
RUSTY KENNEDY/AP (BASEBALL PLAYER)
JESSE GRANT/WIREIMAGE.COM (O'NEAL)
MICHAEL P. MALARKEY/WIREIMAGE.COM (URLACHER)
JEFF LEWIS/ICON SMI (GATORADE)
RONALD C. MODRA (MCMAHON)