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Scorecard August 4, 1997
August 04, 1997
A German Tour-ist Makes History...Notre Dame Muddies the Bowl Picture...NHL Owners and the Feds...Baseball's New No. 2...A Dolphin Worthy of the Hall
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August 04, 1997

Scorecard August 4, 1997

A German Tour-ist Makes History...Notre Dame Muddies the Bowl Picture...NHL Owners and the Feds...Baseball's New No. 2...A Dolphin Worthy of the Hall

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SPANO

MCNALL

AGE WHEN ACCUSED

33 (arraigned; he will soon face a preliminary hearing)

44 (indicted)

THE BLOTTER

Charged by federal postal inspectors on July 17 with wire and bank fraud

In 1994 pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and one count each of conspiracy and wire fraud

PUNISHMENT

Has yet to face trial. If convicted, could get a maximum of 30 years in prison

Began serving a 70-month sentence in federal prison in March

WHO GOT SWINDLED?

Two banks, Islanders owner John Pickett (all allegedly)

Six banks, Merrill Lynch, the Los Angeles Kings

NHL STAR TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS

According to published reports, after receiving $1.25 million as an "investment" from Mario Lemieux, whom he had befriended in Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s, Spano gave Lemieux $360,000, then wrote him a $2.5 million check that bounced

After signing Wayne Gretzky to a $15 million Kings contract in 1988, McNall enticed him into a far-ranging business partnership in which the Great One reportedly lost $2 million

LIKED TO GET AWAY TO...

The Cayman Islands, where he briefly stayed at a $390-a-night resort before turning himself in on July 23

Turkey, where he claimed to have narrowly escaped imprisonment while smuggling out antiques in the '70s

NHL SEAL OF APPROVAL

In April commissioner Gary Bettman called him "the type of person we want as an owner"

In 1993 he won the Lester Patrick Trophy for his service to hockey in the U.S.

New Blood

The lingering ill will between France and Germany dissipated a bit more on Sunday. For the first time in the 94-year history of the world's most celebrated bicycle race, a German—Jan Ullrich, born 23 years ago in the tiny village of Rostock in what was then East Germany—won the Tour de France. On a brilliant afternoon, he stood on a podium on the Champs-Elysées and sang the anthem of his country as tens of thousands of Parisians, more than a few of them old enough to remember the Nazi terror, stared at him with awe. His performance was so stirring that the French seemed to have little trouble embracing him.

Ullrich covered the 2,455 miles of the course, over one of the Tour's most grueling layouts in years, at an average speed of 24.38 mph, finishing 9:09 ahead of Richard Virenque of France in what was the largest victory margin in 13 years. Ullrich rides for a German team, Telekom, as does Denmark's Bjarne Riis, the 1996 champion, who was supposed to be Telekom's leader this year. In the early days of the three-week event, Ullrich worked selflessly for Riis, chasing the front-runners, expending his own energy for the welfare of the team. But during the 10th stage, through the Pyrenees, Ullrich assumed control of his team and the race, winning the stage by 68 seconds. He put on the yellow jersey that night and never came close to relinquishing it.

Ullrich's triumph recalled the 1986 breakthrough of U.S. racer Greg LeMond, who went on to win twice more over the next four years and served as an inspiration to Ullrich. Like LeMond, Ullrich had foreshadowed his victory by winning the final time trial the year before; like LeMond, he had unseated the veteran leader of his team; like LeMond, he had become the first from his nation to wear the yellow jersey in Paris. While LeMond was all of 25 when he won the first of his three Tours, only seven winners in the Tour's 84 races have been younger than Ullrich. Few have been more dominant. "He doesn't know how strong he is," says tour rival Marco Pantani of Italy. "This guy has to be from Mars."

Name-Calling
In addition to debating the wisdom of their team's having sent two prospects and $3 million to the San Diego Padres for Hideki Irabu and then handing him a four-year, $12.8 million contract, New York Yankees fans have been at odds over exactly how to pronounce the Japanese pitcher's surname. Now that Irabu, after being shelled in three straight starts, earned a demotion to the minors on Monday, we can understand if Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is hearing it something like: I-Rob-You.

No Irish Ayes

The announcement last week that the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls will join the Rose Bowl to form a Super Alliance starting after the 1998 season appeared to signal a well-conceived solution to college football's national-championship quandary. It would satisfy the desire for a postseason playoff, maintain the tradition of the bowls, raise the per-team payout to $11.5 million from $8.5 million (the amount now paid to participants in the three Alliance bowls, the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar) and, in the interest of the common fan, cap ticket prices for the title game at $100. But like an official who throws a flag nullifying a terrific play, Notre Dame is firmly refusing to sign on to the deal.

Under current rules the Irish are almost assured one of the Alliance's two at-large berths if they win eight games and finish in the top 12 in either of the two major national rankings. But the new deal opens the door for the Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA, both of which complained loudly enough to the U.S. Senate to secure a place among the six major-conference powers in the Alliance (SCORECARD, June 2). If a team from the WAC or C-USA completes the regular season ranked No. 6 or higher, it can lay claim to an at-large berth. Another berth might go to a major conference power that fails to win its league title but also winds up in the top six. Thus Notre Dame, even with eight wins and a top 12 finish, could well be left out on New Year's Day.

"We are being asked to give up the opportunity to play in an $11 million bowl to play in a bowl for $1.5 million," Irish athletic director Mike Wadsworth says. "You can't ask us to make that trade unless you're going to make other accommodations. It's unfair. It's unreasonable."

Wadsworth says that Notre Dame, which like the other Alliance members has veto power over the deal, is willing to go along if the conferences provide it access to the top non-Alliance bowls. Last year the Irish, who finished 8-3 but were ranked only 18th, didn't qualify for the Alliance bowls and chose to stay home rather than play in a lesser bowl such as the Copper or Independence. Under Wadsworth's proposal, however, any conference that puts two teams in Super Alliance bowls would allow a worthy Irish team to fill one of its runner-up bowl slots.

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