The Notre Dame Trial
Flagged before The Play
The job of Notre Dame football coach comes with big shoes. Trying to live up to the likes of Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian, not to mention the sainted Knute Rockne, can turn a man into mush. (Can't it, Gerry Faust?) But the job is even tougher when the Golden Domer digs his own public relations hole, as Irish coach Bob Davie did at the age-discrimination trial in which Notre Dame was the defendant.
An eight-member jury in Lafayette, Ind., last week awarded Davie's former offensive line coach Joe Moore $86,000, ruling that Davie had discriminated against Moore on the basis of age when he fired the then 64-year-old assistant in December 1996. But it was the details that emerged during the trial that were most damaging to Davie. He emerged as disloyal, for it was Moore who had helped Davie secure an assistant's job at Notre Dame by talking him up to Davie's predecessor, Lou Holtz. Davie emerged as insincere, for his repeated claims that "age had nothing to do" with his firing of Moore did not go over with the jury ("[Davie's testimony] seemed rehearsed, like his lawyers told him exactly what to say," one juror told the South Bend Tribune). Davie emerged as petty, for the things he found objectionable about Moore included his smoking, long lunches, dirty cars and doodling during meetings. Davie emerged as somewhat mean-spirited, having testified that he "despised" some of the things his predecessor had done as coach and questioning whether Holtz suffered "mental problems" in 1996, when Davie was Holtz's defensive coordinator.
Beyond the misfortune of having his private conversations about a still-popular Irish figure such as Holtz made public, Davie was embarrassed by one of this season's mainstays. Co-captain offensive lineman Mike Rosenthal testified on Moore's behalf, saying that he had heard Davie say Moore was too old for the job.
Davie said afterward that he wants to put the trial behind him and just start coaching again. And he'll have a lot of coaching to do. Davie was only 7-6 in '97 (his first season), and the Irish face four bowl teams in their first five games. Last week's trial hasn't made his task any easier.
Farewell to Hudler
The Hustler Hangs It Up
Rex Hudler, a 37-year-old veteran of six major league teams but late of the Triple A Buffalo Bisons, retired last week, a milestone that will have no impact on, say, Cooperstown. (The Wonder Dog bowed out with a .261 career batting average.) We nevertheless lament his departure because Hudler was the ultimate exponent of the increasingly rare commodity known as hustle.
There is a fine line between hustler and thespian, and Hudler assuredly walked it. (Actually, Hudler ran it.) "Some of what Rex does is put-on hustle," Milwaukee Brewers manager Phil Garner once said, "but the guy sells it well." Even if he didn't, it almost wouldn't have mattered. There is so much nonhustle going on these days—batters trotting to first on infield ground balls, hitters voguing at the plate before deigning to run on long fly balls, outfielders loafing after balls that have gone through their legs—that Hudler's hustle was a much-needed, albeit much-overlooked, tonic. In batting practice he collected loose balls near the cage like a madman, swatted teammates on the butt as he ran to shag flies in the outfield and, while others took their hacks, actually worked on baseranning, taking long leads or breaking for home on infield grounders. When he got his shot during the game, usually in mop-up situations, he took the extra base, made the headfirst dive for the ball in the outfield, broke up double plays with abandon.
In short, Hudler loved doing what he was doing, and that enjoyment is what seems to be missing from the sport these days. So many players seem so unenthused about BP, so uninspired during the game, so uncommunicative after it Hudler? A few months ago he was making a pro-motional appearance at the Philadelphia Visitors Center. "I insisted on wearing my uniform," said Hudler, then with the Phillies. "I always feel proud and honored when I wear a major league uniform."
After Philadelphia general manager Ed Wade told him he was being waived last month, Hudler apologized to manager Terry Francona for not contributing more, lauded the Phillies organization, ran around the clubhouse urging his mates to keep hustling and finally burst into tears as he packed his bags. He played only 11 games for the Bisons, a Cleveland Indians farm team, before he realized his time had come. He made his last at bat a memorable one. After being hit in the head with a pitch, Hudler crumbled to the ground for a moment, then, waving away two trainers, arose and dashed pell-mell for first base. Baseball has to miss a guy like that.