Posted: Friday July 28, 2006 9:41AM; Updated: Friday July 28, 2006 12:55PM
The baseball world was shocked when the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza to Florida.
Walter Iooss Jr./SI
Have a question or opinion for Pete? He might answer/address it in his mailbag.
If Floyd Landis' B sample is as testosterone-heavy as his A and his suspension is upheld, his reign as Tour de France champ will have lasted a whopping four days. Thus he'll be joining the list not only of famous sports cheaters but also of those in the sports world whose tenure at the top has been brief indeed. Here are some other short-timers (in no particular order):
1. Mike Piazza as Mr. Marlin: The Marlins shocked the baseball world when they pried loose slugging catcher Piazza from the Dodgers on May 15, 1998. Piazza, well on his way to becoming the greatest-hitting catcher of all time, was already an L.A. fixture at age 29. One national magazine (OK, it was SportsIllustrated) put Piazza on the cover with the tagline, "Trade of the Century." As it happened, it might not even have been the trade of the week. Precisely seven days after Piazza became a prize Marlin, Florida shipped him to the Mets for three players. Of the three, only Preston Wilson has had a meaningful career.
2. Bill Belichick as Jets head coach: When Belichick's mentor, Bill Parcells, stepped down as New York coach on Jan. 3, 2000, it seemed he had pulled off the rare feat of an orderly succession by appointing Belichick to replace him. That all blew up a day later at the press conference that was supposed to announce Belichick's hiring. Just before taking the podium, Belichick scrawled out an impromptu resignation note from the position of "HC of the NYJ" on a piece of loose-leaf. Belichick then befuddled the New York media with a rambling monologue that lasted more than a half-hour; his only coherent complaint was that the team's impending sale to a yet-undetermined owner made him nervous. Belichick evidently knew what he was doing, though, since he joined the Patriots as head coach later that month and has won three Super Bowls with New England.
3. Eddie Stanky as Rangers manager: A scrappy second baseman who earned the nickname "the Brat" as a player, Stanky was named Texas' skipper on June 22, 1977. He met the team in Minnesota, where the Rangers beat the Twins 10-8 that night. But Stanky suddenly became homesick for his family in Mobile, Ala., so he packed his bags and headed for the airport. He called the team's GM and told him he was done just before hopping on a plane. His confused players wondered, quite naturally, what Stanky might have done after a loss. In all, the Rangers went through four managers (Frank Lucchesi, Stanky, interim manager Connie Ryan and Billy Hunter) in a six-day stretch.
4. George O'Leary as Notre Dame coach: Then Georgia Tech coach O'Leary landed his dream job leading the Fighting Irish in December 2001. Five days later he resigned after inaccuracies in his résumé were revealed. O'Leary's biographical sketch included notes that he had earned three varsity letters as a player at the University of New Hampshire and a master's degree in education from NYU. Neither statement was true. The Irish rebounded by hiring Tyrone Willingham, who turned in one magic season before being run out of town himself a few years later. O'Leary has rebounded to turn around the Central Florida program.
5. Wally Backman as Diamondbacks manager: The former scrappy second baseman (though he was never called the Brat) lasted only four days as Arizona skipper in November 2004. Afterward, the D'backs conceded that they hadn't performed a rigorous background check before handing Backman the job. If they had, they might have discovered two arrests (for driving under the influence and for a domestic dispute), that Backman had filed for bankruptcy and that several federal and state tax liens (one for almost $200,000) had been filed against him.