NEW YORK -- At Madison
Square Garden on Thursday night, the privilege of sitting in the press
area turned into a curse. After the riot began in the ring at the
Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota fight, which ended abruptly in the seventh
round when Golota was disqualified for repeated low blows, we all
watched intently from our special seats just a few feet from the action,
trying to figure out who was hitting whom in the chaos before us.
But the fighting spilled out of the
ring and then in front of us. I turned around to see fights breaking out
all over the crowd, with those skirmishes getting closer to the ring.
Fans were jumping over the barrier dividing the press seats from the
rest of the arena, turning over tables, tossing chairs aside.
We then turned from observers to
survivors, trying to find shelter. There was none. For once, I was
wishing we were sitting up in the cheap seats.
I've seen my share of trouble at boxing
matches. Unlike other sports, the risk is always there. It's a volatile
situation, both in and out of the ring. In fact, I had a bad feeling
going into the fight. I told a colleague, "This could be worse than the
Tillery fight," referring to the time the Washington Convention Center
had a riot of its own when Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, jumped into the
ring to grab Tillery, who was kicking Bowe, from behind.
With Bowe and Newman and others in the
Bowe camp's history of violent confrontations and with Golota's
reputation as a dirty fighter capable of doing anything to win, I knew
the ingredients were there for trouble. But I wasn't prepared for the
violence I saw in the Garden. I saw a young man continuously stomp
another man down on the floor on the ring apron. I saw a man in a
wheelchair knocked over and trampled. I saw Golota leave the ring, with
fear in his eyes and blood pouring from a deep gash in the back of his
I kept looking for police, but none
appeared. Everyone - especially those who thrived on this sort of scene
- could sense that there was no control at that moment in Madison Square
Garden. This must be what an English soccer riot is like, I thought -
hooligans, with their shirts off, drenched with beer, screaming that,
for now, they ruled over all they saw.
We couldn't write our stories, because you couldn't sit still long
enough before another wave of humanity would come perilously close to
you. I tried to take notes, but you couldn't take your eyes off what was
happening - to be able to later report what you saw, and also to protect
Police said the Garden was under
control in 22 minutes, but those were long minutes - enough time for bad
thoughts to pop into your head. One thought that
went through everyone's mind was to listen for the sound of gunshots.
There were none, though - a miracle considering the mob.
There were other thoughts, like what
happened to Bowe's children? I remembered seeing Bowe's wife Judy and
his five children at ringside before the fight. I've always wondered why
fighters do this. There is always a risk of being hurt in the ring, and
who wants his children to see that? Now I thought about Bowe's children
and the horror they'll always remember from this night. Fortunately,
none of them was hurt physically.
I thought about Bowe's frail trainer,
84-year-old Eddie Futch, who needs help getting in and out of the ring
between rounds. In a business where most people move around on their
bellies, Eddie Futch stands tall. He is one of the most decent men I
have ever met. What happened to Eddie during all this? How could he have
survived? Somehow, he did.
And there was one image I couldn't get out of my mind, something I saw
briefly as the riot began. As Bowe's corner rushed into the ring toward
Golota's corner to make war, Bowe laid on the other side of the ring,
still in pain from the low blows. There was a man in a suit cradling
Bowe in his arms and covering him from the brawl. It turned out to be
Jeff Fried, Bowe's attorney.
In a seemingly infinite
span of brutality, this was a moment of compassion. Those moments,
though, were like pebbles in a field of boulders, crushed by the
savagery that ruled Madison Square Garden.
TORONTO - The seven-time
All-Star second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles spits in the umpire's
face after allegedly being called a yet unrevealed but allegedly
unprintable name. Then the second baseman says the umpire is bitter
because his son died from a rare illness three years ago, and it's
affecting his judgment.
The next day, the umpire
hears about the second baseman's comments and storms the Orioles
clubhouse, raging and threatening to kill the second baseman. The second
baseman who spit on the umpire and made the tasteless remarks about his
son is suspended for five games but gets to play because he appeals the
suspension. The umpire, though, cannot go out and work because of his
The spitting, tasteless
second baseman then hits the game-winning home run in the top of the
10th inning for a 3-2 win yesterday over his old team, the Toronto Blue
Jays, to clinch the wild card and the Orioles' first playoff appearance
"It was a fitting ending
to this season," manager Davey Johnson said yesterday while the postgame
celebration went on in the Orioles clubhouse at SkyDome. "All the good
parts and the bad parts rolled into one."
It certainly was not a
storybook season, unless the book was "American Psycho." The season of
high expectations started with Johnson and Bobby Bonilla bickering about
Bonilla's role as designated hitter, and it continued from there with
little controversies such as the lousy starting pitchers complaining
that their catchers couldn't call a game, and then Johnson moving Cal
Ripken to third so Manny Alexander could play shortstop Ė for six games.
By the end of the year, no
one liked the manager, including closer Randy Myers, one of Johnsonís
most ardent supporters, who complained about being taken out after
walking two hitters in a big game nearly two weeks ago against the New
York Yankees that Baltimore led when Myers came in but went on to lose
3-2 in New York. "We got hot at the beginning of the season, then we
stunk in May, June and July, but we were able to come through in the
end," said Myers, who got the win in relief yesterday. "Hopefully, we
can continue this."
That's quite a description of a season to celebrate, isn't it?
"Nothing came easy this
year," said Johnson, who admitted that the Orioles felt more relief than
joy after yesterday's victory.
Mike Mussina did his best
to make it easy, striking out nine and holding the Blue Jays to one run
on four hits through eight innings for a 2-1 lead. Then Johnson sent
Armando Benitez out to pitch the ninth inning, and the young reliever
gave up a game-tying home run to Ed Sprague.
Johnson said Mussina told
him he was a little tired. Mussina, who lost his chance to be a 20-game
winner for the first time in his career, said he told him no such thing,
that he told Johnson he felt fine. Par for the course.
In the postgame
celebration, the Orioles covered themselves with cases of champagne and
beer, but nothing will completely wash away the perception that this was
a team of whining underachievers with bad attitudes. Now they will play
the Cleveland Indians, and the way the Orioles are perceived now,
America may actually be rooting for Albert Belle's gang.
Of all the controversies
that surrounded the Orioles this year, the one that may hurt them the
most is the one between Alomar and Hirschbeck. There were so many lines
crossed that the bad feelings will most likely linger for a long time,
affecting possibly the Orioles' relationship with all umpires. At the
very least, Alomar won't have any friends in blue.
Speaking of friends, in
the middle of all the rowdiness in the clubhouse yesterday, Bonilla got
on the phone to talk to a friend of his, to thank him for his support.
The friend? Owner Peter Angelos, who blocked proposed front-office
trades of Bonilla during the season.
"I just wanted to get a chance to thank him for his support and for
keeping me here," Bonilla said. "That meant a lot to me."
And who was the person who
got Angelos on the phone for Bonilla? Pat Gillick, the man who wanted to
trade Bonilla in the first place.
One of the team's star
players on the phone thanking the owner who wouldn't let the general
manager trade him. A fitting scene, indeed.
BALTIMORE - It was 12:34
p.m. at Camden Yards. Uncertainty and tension filled the ballpark.
Reporters crowded into the small tunnel under the stands leading to the
home plate entrance to the field. The Oriole Bird came down the tunnel.
"Here comes a replacement umpire," someone joked.
It was a symbolic moment, depicting the bizarre surroundings before Game
1 yesterday in the Division Series between the Baltimore Orioles and the
Cleveland Indians, as the major league umpires threatened to boycott the
playoffs unless Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar, who spat in
umpire John Hirschbeck's face on Friday, was forced to sit down.
The matter was temporarily resolved - at least until tomorrow, when an
American League hearing on the matter will take place - with the major
league umpires taking the field, and the Orioles left no room for close
calls with four home runs in a 10-4 blowout of the Indians.
But until 22 minutes before the scheduled start of the game, nobody knew
who was going to umpire the game. Now I've been to games before where no
one knew if the umpires were going to show up. It happens all the time
at my son's Little League games.
It doesn't happen, though, with more than 47,000 fans and hundreds of
reporters and assorted media waiting for a major league baseball playoff
game to begin. This is life, though, after the Saliva Felt Around the
Loogie Mania gripped the baseball world yesterday, leading to the
strange circumstances before yesterday's game. General manager Pat
Gillick was running around the field around 11 a.m., looking grim. "I
don't know what's happening," he said.
No one did. There were two umpiring crews waiting to work yesterday's
game, the replacements and the major league umps. Marty Springstead,
supervisor of umpires for the American League, didn't know which would
be taking the field.
The regular umps were furious that American League President Gene Budig
had only handed out a five-game suspension to Alomar for the spitting
incident, and that a hearing on the issue would not take place until
next season. So late Monday night they voted to boycott the playoff
games unless Alomar's suspension began immediately.
Baseball went to court yesterday morning to get a court injunction to
force the umpires to work, because any such job action would likely
violate the terms of their union's contract with baseball, which has a
That meant a judge and some lawyers in a Philadelphia courtroom were
going to decide if playoff baseball would be played with real umpires or
the ones who had to ask their bosses for the day off yesterday so they
could call balls and strikes at Camden Yards. A decision on the
injunction won't be made until tomorrow's league hearing.
How appropriate. Take me out to the courthouse, take me out to the
bench. Get me a judge and a legal brief, or else the fans will get more
As the time grew closer to the 1:07 p.m. scheduled starting time, the
situation grew more ridiculous. At 12:22 p.m., Springstead came out of
the umpires room. Were the umpires there? "No," he said. Anything
resolved yet? "No," he said.
At 12:24 p.m., a priest went into the umpire's room - not a good sign.
At 12:26 p.m., the replacement umpires went into the auxiliary
clubhouse. The major league umps? They were sitting in their hotel
nearby, watching ESPN. "We were waiting for a call from our attorney,"
crew chief Drew Coble said later.
At 12:29 p.m., Orioles workers carried the red carpet through the tunnel
out onto the field. The carpet was for the players to walk on from the
dugout to the baseline during pregame introductions - as if ballplayers
didn't get enough red carpet treatment. That's one of the reasons all
the mess happened, after all. They've been walking on red carpets all
At 12:37 p.m., several Baltimore police officers approached reporters
standing in the tunnel. "Stay against the wall, if you will, gentleman,"
one officer said. This could turn ugly. I vowed to myself that they
would kick me out of there when they pried my cold, dead fingers off my
Baseball Writer's Association of America membership card.
At 12:45 p.m., Springstead emerged from the umpire's room with a
relieved look on his face. "They [the major league umps] will work today
and tomorrow," he said.
At 12:50 p.m. the umpires arrived, just like rock stars, with cameras
running and reporters jostling to get a glimpse. The starting time of
the game was pushed back, and at 1:24 p.m., David Wells threw the first
pitch to Kenny Lofton, with Drew Coble behind the plate. The game had
survived Loogie Mania for one more day.
NEW YORK - Some of the
repercussions from the Roberto Alomar spitting incident were the fears
that Alomar would be targeted by umpires with bad calls. One
unidentified umpire in some stories called it the "Billy Martin rule,"
meaning the negative treatment the late New York Yankees manager got
from umpires because of the abuse he gave them. But yesterday in Game 1
of the American League Championship Series, it wasn't the "Billy Martin
rule" that hurt Alomar and the Baltimore Orioles - it was the "Duracell
rule." That unwritten rule is: If there is a close play in right field
at Yankee Stadium, never, ever rule against the home team for fear of
getting a concussion from a shower of batteries.
In the bottom of the eighth, with one out and the Orioles leading 4-3,
New York's Derek Jeter hit a high drive to right field that Baltimore
outfielder Tony Tarasco took his time getting under on the warning
track, standing up and waiting for the ball to come down.
Then, just like that, it disappeared.
"To me, it was a magic trick, because the ball just disappeared out of
thin air," Tarasco said. "Merlin must have been in the house."
Jeter's ball turned from an out - or a double, at the very most - into a
home run that tied the game at 4-4, allowing the Yankees to hang on
until Bernie Williams tagged a solo shot in the bottom of the 11th off
reliever Randy Myers for a 5-4 win before a raucous crowd of 56,495.
The magician in this case was a 12-year-old Yankees fan named Jeff Maier
who reached out over the wall and made the catch of a lifetime, snaring
the ball in his glove before it could reach Tarasco. It was clearly fan
interfence. If it wasn't, then there is no reason for the rule to exist,
unless fan interference applies only when a player is tackled on the
field by a fan.
And after yesterday, I'm not sure right field umpire Rich Garcia would
even call that fan interference.
"The way I saw it, I thought the ball was going out of the ballpark,"
Garcia said. "The ball was going out of the ballpark, and I called it a
That was an illusion. The reality, shown time and time again on replays,
was that the ball was not a home run, that it would have at the very
least hit the wall, and Tarasco certainly believed he was going to catch
"To me it was a routine fly ball that just happened to be back on the
[warning] track," Tarasco said. "It wasn't a line drive or blast out of
the park. I had plenty of time to get over there. The kid just reached
over and grabbed it. We almost touched gloves. It was very close to me."
Garcia is one member of the umpiring corps that includes "the finest in
the world," according to umpires association boss Richie Phillips in a
news conference earlier in the day. There are six umpires for playoff
games, as opposed to four during regular-season games, which makes this
blown call all the more pitiful.
"When you have umpires down the lines, you expect to get that call
[right]," said Baltimore manager Davey Johnson, who was ejected by
Garcia for arguing the call. "That's their sole responsibility, to get
that call right."
So how many umpires do they need to get it right? Nine, one for each
Once Garcia realized he had been tricked by young Maier the Magnificent,
after seeing a postgame replay, he essentially admitted he blew it.
"Obviously, after looking at the replay, it was not a home run," Garcia
said. "But from what I saw, the fan reached out, not down, which, in my
judgment, did not interfere with the guy catching the ball."
That is still extremely debatable. But even if that were the case, the
worst that should have come out of it would have been a double for
Jeter, which is what should have happened.
"If I think the ball is going to hit the wall, I can call fan
interference and we will award the base [to which] we think the batter
would advance," Garcia said.
But he didn't do that. When he was asked what he thought the crowd
reaction would have been if he had called Jeter out, Garcia said
jokingly, "Do I have to answer that?"
ATLANTA - The lovable,
hugable New York Yankees. The Little Engine That Could. There's been
Rocky, Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers and now the Darling (not Damn) Yankees
- the underdogs. "I've always felt like we were the underdogs all
season," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Not many people were high on
this club this year."
Underdogs? This 1996
Yankees team, at least on paper, doesn't fit that description. It boasts
the highest payroll in the game - about $60 million - and plays for the
most hated owner in the game, Gorgeous George Steinbrenner. Add to those
variables the fact that the Yankees are traditionally the franchise most
fun for fans to hate, and the last team that would be considered
inspirational would be the Yankees.
But that is exactly why
they are such a likable team. Everyone, save for Yankees fans, loves to
hate the Yankees. But they've overcome that persona.
How can you hate a team
that managed to show so much heart this year? They held off the
Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East, showed
that heart by beating Texas and Baltimore in the playoffs, then came
back from a 6-0 deficit in Game 4 of the World Series to defeat the
Atlanta Braves 8-6 in 10 innings.
"The best thing that ever
happened to this team was when our lead in the division went from 12
games to three," Torre said. "If we had stayed up nine games or so the
whole year, I'm not sure how we would have played in the postseason. We
had to see what we were made of."
They are made of the right
No one gave the Yankees a
chance of going back to New York in this Series after the Braves won the
first two games in New York. One American League general manager,
despite having seen the Yankees' tough play firsthand, believed they
were through. "I said before the Series started they would be swept,"
the GM said.
And yet they showed that
grit and determination once again, coming back to take a 3-2 lead in the
Series, with Andy Pettitte's brilliant pitching performance in a 1-0 win
last night over the Braves. It forced a return to Yankee Stadium for
Game 6 tomorrow night - a possible clinching game for New York.
"We're here representing
the American League," Torre said after the first two losses. "We earned
the right to play here and we are sure as hell not going to roll over
Torre is the driving force
behind the change in the perception of the Yankees. He is a three-time
loser, fired from managing jobs with the New York Mets, the Braves and
the St. Louis Cardinals. His one brother died this season, his other
brother is in a hospital waiting for a heart transplant. He was willing
to work for Steinbrenner, and yet he remains one of the nicest men in
baseball. How can you not want good things for this man?
It doesn't stop with
Torre, though. Bernie Williams plays the game with an admirable style
and grace, with a sensitive personality that also includes playing jazz
guitar and a humbleness that belies his new status as one of the best
players in the game.
Then there is rookie Derek
Jeter, a 22-year-old rookie phenom whose love for the game shows through
in his play and still remains respectful enough to call his idol, Cal
Ripken, "Mr. Ripken."
There's David Cone, the
gusty big-game pitcher who came back from surgery to remove an aneurysm
from his right shoulder in April. His return at all this year was
uncertain, yet there he was in Game 3 leading the Yankees to a 5-2 win
in the first game in Atlanta. Big Cecil Fielder, playing in his first
World Series, Jimmy Key, who came back from rotator cuff surgery in
1995, starting for the Yankees tomorrow night in Game 6. This is a team
worthy of the good things that have come its way.
"This is a team that
doesn't worry about individual numbers or accomplishments," Torre said.
"That is a rarity. I've never managed a team like this."
There has certainly never
been a championship Yankees team like this one.
PIKESVILLE, Md. - The
crowd stood and roared "Sam, Sam!" as Sam Hampton pounded away on Obed
Sullivan in the ring at the Pikesville Armory. They cheered when they
thought he won the fight, and they booed when it was announced he had
"These people in Baltimore
have been real good to me," Hampton said, holding two ices packs on his
swollen face. "They make me feel wanted."
They love Sam Hampton in
Baltimore in a way they never loved Glenn Davis, and that is as ironic
as it gets.
You remember Glenn Davis,
don't you? The home run slugger the Baltimore Orioles obtained from
Houston in January 1991 for three youngsters, pitchers Curt Schilling
and Pete Harnisch and outfielder Steve Finley. Schilling and Harnisch,
though plagued by injuries, developed into quality players and Finley
has become an All-Star outfielder who had a career year last season by
driving in 95 runs and hitting 30 home runs for the San Diego Padres.
That's more homers than first baseman Davis hit in three years with the
Davis is now the standard
by which all Orioles deals are measured. Current general manager Pat
Gillick and all future GMs should thank Roland Hemond for making that
deal because now, whenever they make a bad trade, at least they can say,
"Well, it wasn't as bad as the Glenn Davis deal."
Davis turned out to be a
poster boy for the disabled list, with a series of injuries - rib and
back problems and a few mystery ailments. He played in just 49 games in
1991, 106 games in 1992 and struggled in 1993 when he reluctantly agreed
in June to take a minor league assignment. He had only been with Class
AAA Rochester for a week when he met Sam Hampton.
It was at a Virginia Beach
nightclub - the Red Wings were playing in Norfolk - when Davis and some
of his teammates got into an argument that turned into a fight. Hampton,
working as a bouncer at the bar, punched Davis three times, breaking his
Hampton was charged with
assault but was acquitted in a criminal trial by the judge after
witnesses gave conflicting accounts over who had started the fight.
However, Davis managed to convince a jury in a civil trial that Hampton
had instigated the fight and said the punches ended his major league
career. Davis wound up with a $1.6 million award, which Hampton is
"It didn't affect me,"
Hampton said of his fight with Davis. "I didn't feel I was in the wrong.
I'm a child of God. Any adversity, He'll see me through."
Hampton's attorney should
have called a few thousand Orioles ticket holders to testify. Davis was
finished long before Hampton decked him, and fans testified to that
nearly every time he came to the plate in that final year before he left
for his minor league assignment, making him the target of their wrath.
Davis, who played minor
league ball and in Japan for several years after being released by the
Orioles, rarely heard the sort of cheers that Hampton heard Tuesday
night, when he valiantly battled the favorite Sullivan for his
International Boxing Federation intercontinental heavyweight
Hampton, a full-blooded
Choctaw Indian, is battling the odds as a fighter. He had no amateur
experience and didn't start until four years ago, after winning a few
tough-man competitions. At 27, he has to pack in a lot of education in a
In putting together a
17-2-2 record along the way before meeting Sullivan (21-1-1), Hampton
fought in Baltimore several times, gaining a local following for his
hard-hitting style. He also gained some help from veteran Baltimore
trainer Mack Lewis, who co-trains Hampton.
Tuesday night was
Hampton's chance to graduate from tough guy to contender against
Sullivan in the main event on USA Channelís "Tuesday Night Fights." And
he nearly pulled it off as Sullivan did his best Andrew Golota
imitation, getting three points deducted for low blows. But the judges
still gave the unanimous decision to Sullivan, who nearly got knocked
out by Hampton in the 12th, getting knocked to the canvas after a hard
combination that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
"I thought I won the
fight," Hampton said. "He didn't want any part of me. He was hitting me
with those pitter-patter punches."
punches" left Hampton's face bruised and bloodied, with a deep cut over
his right eye, but he had a point. He hit harder than Sullivan and had
his opponent in trouble at the end of the fight.
"He's one tough guy,"
Sullivan declared after the post-fight medical exam.
Though Hampton lost the
fight, he made highlight reels on sportscasts all across the country in
the sixth round when he threw a punch and went flying out of the ring,
landing on the television announcers' table. That may be why they love
Sam Hampton in Baltimore. He gives them everything he's got. Then again,
he's the guy that decked Glenn Davis. That may count for something.