SI Vault
Edited by Franz Lidz and Kostya Kennedy
August 21, 1995
Drug Running
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August 21, 1995


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Even with the $2 million signing bonus the Dodgers gave him, Nomo has been a bargain. He's playing for $109,000—the major league minimum—and isn't eligible for salary arbitration until after the 1997 season. Nomo, however, has an option that no second-year player has ever used as leverage. If he doesn't like the Dodgers' offer, he can return to Japan as a conquering hero.

Sesame Street Fighter
Baseball's first case of on-field Muppet bashing unfolded at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium last week. During a pregame autograph session on Aug. 8, Phillie outfielder Andy Van Slyke swatted 19-year-old college student Tricia Garrett on the head with a program. Garrett was outfitted as Sesame Street's beloved Bert, and Van Slyke claims to have mistaken the PBS icon for the eminently whackable Philly Phanatic. When Garrett's father complained, the Phillies issued a public apology. Van Slyke just said, "Ernie would have laughed."

Not Fade Away

Perhaps because he mowed Y.A. Tittle's lawn as a kid in San Francisco, sports were more than a passing fancy for the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, who died last week at 53. In the '70s he was a spiritual guru to Bill Walton; in the '80s, to squash champion Mark Talbott. And in '93 the Dead sang the national anthem on Opening Day for Garcia's hometown Giants. A scheduled Sept. 19 Dead show at the Boston Garden would have been the last major event there before, in Deadspeak, "they tear the old building down."

Garcia's greatest gift to sports came before the 1992 Olympics when he put a new spin on the phrase "Better Dead Than Red." Lithuania's cash-strapped basketball team, its players recently sprung from Soviet rule, was preparing for its first Summer Games. The Dead donated $5,000 and a set of tie-dyed warmups. After Lithuania won the bronze medal, a commemorative T-shirt featuring Dead "Skullmen" generated $300,000 for a Lithuanian children's charity. The shirts also inspired a mural for permanent display at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Even in the sports world, Garcia was right when he sang, "I will survive."

Paying the Piper

English soccer legend Paul Gascoigne has made headlines for belching into a microphone, brawling in nightclubs and screaming expletives on and off the pitch. But the most incendiary act of his career came late last month when he pretended to play a flute after scoring his first goal for his latest team, Scotland's Glasgow Rangers. The impromptu performance led to scolding editorials in the British press.

The pantomime fluting by Gazza, as he is widely known, recalled the annual Protestant parades honoring the Glorious Revolution of the 17th century that limited Catholic power in Britain. Though Glasgow is a sea away from the strife of Northern Ireland, the mostly Protestant Rangers and the mostly Catholic Glasgow Celtics are both beloved in Ulster. And while players of both faiths can play on either Scottish team, they stay clear of potentially riot-inciting sectarian displays.

Gazza's gag was deemed especially dangerous because fans follow him as if he were a pied piper. In streets from Glasgow to Belfast, Gazza's faithful peroxide their hair like their antihero's. Whether the flute gesture was politically motivated is irrelevant. The Northern Ireland peace process is tenuous and volatile, and as London's Guardian points out: "The last thing it needed was a blond, crop-haired footballer putting his talented foot into it."

Live Bait
Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., won the Bass Masters Classic in Idaho last week, but it was a fellow Arkansan who hooked our attention. Finishing fourth, less than six pounds below the winning weight, was Hot Springs native Mike Wurm. "I like to think the fish know my name," Wurm says.

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