Baseball and the Bible
A Team Truly Blessed
With John Smiley and Mark Whiten already on their roster, the Cleveland Indians were overjoyed to pick utilityman Matt Luke off the waiver wire. Consider their Gospel bases covered.
Front Office Is Up Front
Executives of sad-sack NBA teams often write obsequious apologies to season-ticket holders, but that wasn't the tack the Washington Wizards' Wes Unseld took in the 10-paragraph theya-culpa he recently mailed out. Unseld, Washington's executive vice president, one of the best players in the franchise's history and long one of the NBA's most upstanding citizens, minced few words in addressing his team's shortcomings, particularly off the court. "First and foremost, the Wizards organization is not satisfied and will not accept the results of last season... we [have grown] weary of being in situations where we were forced to make statements about our players' off court actions." He vowed to punish players' future transgressions by "the most extreme measures possible," and complained that, as a disciplinarian, he was hamstrung by the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. "With the income bracket that most of our players fall into, [the permissible] fines are not as effective in dealing with the problems as we would like."
Unseld, of course, had good reason to uncap the poison pen. Despite boasting one of the league's most talented rosters, Washington failed to make the playoffs. Along the way, its point guard, Rod Strickland, was convicted of driving while impaired and brawled with teammate Tracy Murray over a woman in their mutual calling circle. The Wizards' erstwhile star, Chris Webber, was charged with three misdemeanors and six traffic violations after being pulled over in January. Webber and fellow forward Juwan Howard were investigated but not indicted for a sexual assault complaint filed after a party in April—when Washington was in the heat of the playoff chase—that police broke up at 4:30 a.m.
The pi�ce de r�sistance, however, may have come when several Wizards—Strickland, Webber and Howard among them—didn't deign to show up for an autograph session and the shooting of a video to be given to the season-ticket holders. "Why do we do videos?" a disgusted Unseld asked rhetorically at the time. "Because they offer the fans a little entertainment. Since we haven't always done that on the court, at least we could do it this way."
One might be tempted to call Unseld's missive just more off-season hot air were it not that, in trading away Webber, as he did last month, he has already shown he is serious about revamping the Wizards. Unseld's fierceness as a competitor made him the kind of player that everyone wanted as a teammate; it sounds as if Wizards fans are lucky to have him on their team, too.
Viva Los Vegas!
Maybe all those big, noisy home runs Mark McGwire is hitting is making it hard to concentrate around the St. Louis Cardinals' front office. In the 11th round of the draft on June 2, St. Louis selected lefthanded pitcher Joel Vega from Ohio Dominican College. The problem? The Cards meant to choose lefthanded pitcher Rene Vega, from Dominican College of Orangeburg, N.Y. Rene, 11-1 with a 2.29 ERA this spring, was eventually taken by the New York Mets in the 31st round, while St. Louis, accepting responsibility for its Vega vagueness, has said the team will sign Joel, who had a 3-5 record with a 5.11 ERA. Calling the mix-up a "clerical error," Cardinals scouting director Ed Creech said, "I feel sorry for the scout, for the kid we didn't get, for a lot of people. It's a little bit embarrassing—no, not a little, a lot embarrassing."
Canadian Horns Of Plenty
In an effort to find a natural, safe alternative to anabolic steroids, researchers at the University of Alberta are feeding some of the school's football players pills made from the ground-up velvet from elk antlers. "A smart food as opposed to a smart drug" is how Alberta physical education professor Brian Fisher terms what he and his team are seeking.
Fisher, described in the Toronto Globe and Mail as "one of Canada's leading elk-velvet researchers," says that the 2,000-year-old Chinese remedy, which can be found here and there in Chinese markets, contains 17 amino acids that can help increase muscle mass and promote recovery from hard workouts. The efficacy of velvet will be tested in the Alberta study, in which 10 Golden Bears players, along with 27 cadets from the Edmonton police academy, will take six elk-antler pills a day for 10 weeks while continuing their normal workout programs. "I hope," says Fisher, "we'll have stronger, bigger football players in September."