Something about the Harlem Globetrotters has always said "vaudeville," and you know where vaudeville is today. But in recent years the Trotters have tinkered with tradition to modernize a song-and-dance image that had begun to get stale. Owner Mannie Jackson, a former Globetrotter and longtime business executive who bought the team in April 1993, added younger and stronger players, new sponsors, an expanded array of opponents and a more businesslike atmosphere on and off the court. And last month he added something else—a Globetrotter who is not African-American.
Orlando Antigua, a Bronx native who played at Pitt from 1991-92 through the '94-95 season, is not the first nonblack Trotter, but he is the first in 53 years. Bob Karstens, who played with the team in 1942-43, was a white player who actually originated several of the routines that the Globies still use, including the "magic circle" that precedes each game to the accompaniment of Sweet Georgia Brown. Antigua, though, was brought in to help with a less colorful Jackson innovation: the 15-to-20-minute span of each game in which the Trotters play straight basketball without throwing confetti or stuffing balls under their shirts. Jackson says he recruited the 6'7" Antigua for his skills (he made the Big East all-rookie team in '91-92) and for his character (he earned the national basketball writers' Most Courageous Player award in '94, partly for overcoming a childhood during which he was shot in the head in '88 and spent a year living homeless in the Bronx). Jackson has even said that he "never thought about" Antigua's race.
"I don't know how to do any of the tricks," says Antigua, 22. "I can't even spin the ball on my finger more than a few seconds. The only way I knew the Globetrotters was from Saturday-morning cartoons, like the Globetrotters on Scooby-Doo or the Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island." Well, Antigua was certainly not invited for his sense of history. But that's O.K.—for too many years the Trotters have been too much about yesterday and not enough about today.
Card-carrying Mantle Fans
Nobody ever went broke overestimating Mickey Mantle's impact on the baseball-card business. The Mick's coveted cards ignited the collecting phenomenon in the 1950s, and his first Topps issue, in 1952, is by far the most valuable, at $25,000, of any in the 45-year history of the company. So, sometime after Bob Costas finished telling mourners at the Hall of Famer's funeral last August that he keeps a Mantle card in his wallet, the folks at Topps began planning a memorial of their own.
Their '96 set includes reprints of the 19 original Mantle cards along with a new one. And though baseball-card sales have slipped steadily since '91 and fell dramatically after the 1994-95 players' strike, Mantle's return seems to be flipping the trend. In one month Topps sold out its '96 hobby boxes—24 packs with 12 cards in each—its fastest sellout in five years. "Everyone's after Mantle," says Topps publicist Marty Appel.
The Mick is affecting collectors as he did in his prime, when his cards were the original "chase cards," so-called because people bought packs searching for them. In this final chase the new card, a photograph taken after Mantle's retirement, bears the number 7 in the set of 440. Next year Topps will retire that number, the same one that graced Mantle's jersey. "His cards have always had an allure," Appel says. "Asking why is like asking, Why Elvis? Why Marilyn?"
House Bill Is No Refuge
The 92-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, a group of 508 nature preserves that touches all 50 states, was set up in 1903 by an environmentally conscious president named Teddy Roosevelt. The integrity of that system, which provides habitat for at least 200 threatened or endangered species, is now imperiled by an obscenely misnamed bill known as the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. Currently under consideration in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1675 would effectively gut the system by lifting restrictions on such uses as Jet Skiing, cattle grazing and military aircraft exercises, activities that threaten the preserves' fundamental purpose—the conservation of fish and wildlife, and their habitat.
Consider the difference H.R. 1675 would make to game animals: At present, hunting and trapping are allowed on about half the preserves and only when funds are available for proper management and supervision of those activities; the bill would open the entire system to hunting and trapping, without requiring supervision and without regard for the biological consequences. Also, the bill would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from banning the use of toxic pesticides in 22,000 acres of the Klamath Basin complex, a part of the refuge system located in California and Oregon. Such substances have previously killed waterfowl and bald eagles on farmed areas in that complex, one of the world's largest gathering grounds for migratory waterfowl.