The news about Ted
Williams in recent years—his three strokes, the fading of his legendary
eyesight, the autograph forgeries and memorabilia scams of which he was a
victim (SI, Nov. 25,1996)—hasn't been too splendid. So it was gratifying last
week to see 79-year-old Teddy Ballgame, despite his failing health, as
pertinacious and peppery as ever.
and Bob Feller petitioned acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig to make
Shoeless Joe Jackson (who, despite having been acquitted in court, received a
lifetime ban from the game following the 1919 Black Sox scandal) eligible to
join them in the Hall of Fame. "I want baseball to right an injustice,"
said Williams. Then Williams, who rarely leaves his home in Citrus Hills, Fla.,
went to New York City for the annual awards dinner of the Baseball Assistance
Team, an organization that provides financial help to needy former players.
But the most
improbable event of his week came on Jan. 20 when Williams yukked it up as a
guest on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The Splinter continued his crusade for
Shoeless Joe, praised friend and senior-citizen astronaut John Glenn for his
plan to go "back to the moon" and said it was likely that someone would
soon hit .400. He also came dangerously close to a Campanis-type misstep.
"I've seen some good Irish hitters," he told O'Brien. "But the best
hitters are the Latins and the blacks because...." At this point Williams
stopped for a moment before issuing a let's-end-the-subject "you
of the greatest players of all time can still make a good catch.
Three days after
Sylvia Crawley won the ABL's first slam-dunk contest with a blindfolded,
one-handed, full-fledged jam on Jan. 18, the Colorado Xplosion center was
traded to the Portland Power. While the timing of the trade seems odd given
that only 10 games remained in the regular season, one thing seems clear: The
dunk queen is calling the shots.
Her sightless slam
during the ABL's All-Star Weekend has been the highlight of the 6'5",
170-pound Crawley's otherwise disappointing season. Last year, as a starter,
she averaged 11.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. This year she split time with
beefier centers and at the time of the trade was averaging just 15 minutes, 4.9
points and 2.2 rebounds. In two games with the Power through Sunday, she had
played a total of 12 minutes, shooting 1 for 3 with no rebounds.
Upset with her
diminished playing time, Crawley says she requested the trade three months ago
and believes that "the slam-dunk contest had a major impact on the
trade." League cofounder and CEO Gary Cavalli denies that, claiming the
trade, which included a two-year contract extension, was approved before the
truth, had Crawley bolted, the ABL, which after last season lost league MVP
Nikki McCray to the WNBA, would have been scrambling for stars. "She was
certainly of value to our league before the contest," Cavalli says,
"but the dunk made it apparent that we needed to keep her." Now the ABL
has the marketer's dream—a poster-perfect moment featuring the blindfolded
Crawley above the rim. Cavalli says Crawley promos will start appearing on TV
next month, in time for the ABL's playoffs, in which the dunking dynamo's new
team, the 21-15 Western Conference-leading Power, could play for the