Esiason was no Bert Parks, nor did he try to be. He didn't sing There She Is, Miss America, when Miss Virginia, Nicole Johnson, was crowned, although he did high-five—what, no chest bump?—contestants as they sashayed off the stage. At the risk of damning him with faint praise, we'll say that Esiason was better than his sidekick, Meredith Vieira.
Esiason, 37, a TV rookie in name only, appears to be on the fast track at ABC, not only because he is tall, blond and young but also because he's free with his Monday-night commentary and more than willing to wave the corporate flag. "For two weeks Dan and Al have been teasing me during the telecast about doing this pageant," said Esiason during dress rehearsal. "That's fine. It's also a way of reminding our football viewers when the pageant will air." Now there's a man who understands the ABCs of self-promotion as well as the self-promotion of ABC.
Keep Your Eye On the Balls
The ball Mark McGwire hit over the leftfield wall in Busch Stadium on Sept. 8 for his historic 62nd home run is already on display in a glass case in Cooperstown, presumably off the collectibles market forever. Several other balls from the Great Home Run Chase of 1998, however, including Sammy Sosa's 62nd, remain in play. Two Chicago claimants to Sosa's 62nd are in court over what they hope will prove to be a horsehide cash cow, while the fan who caught McGwire's 63rd and held onto it, hoping to sell, has found himself being characterized as a greedy opportunist. Still, those in the collectibles game say that the true payoff pitch has yet to be made.
"Everybody related to 62, but after the season, it's going to be the final home run ball," says Steve Ryan, the owner of North Shore Sports, a sports collectibles company in Northbrook, Ill. Bob Connelly, a member of the American Society of Appraisers, agrees. " McGwire's 62nd held its value for—what?—about 48 hours," says Connelly. "After that, if it hadn't gone into the Hall, it would have dropped like a brick." Tom Hultman of Sports Collector's Digest estimates that McGwire's 62nd would be worth around $200,000 if it were on the market.
Connelly suggests that the final McGwire or Sosa home run ball this year—the one with which the record will have been established—could be worth $700,000 to $750,000. Or more. Ryan's company, in partnership with two other memorabilia firms, offered the much-publicized $1 million for the first 62nd ball, a bid that went by the boards when Norman Rockwellian Cardinals groundskeeper Tim Forneris nabbed the ball and returned it to Big Mac. They have now repeated that offer for the McGwire/Sosa record ball. "We're pushing for the last one," says Ryan, who intends to display the ball at his own auctions as well as to share it with the Hall. "If somebody gives it back to McGwire or Sosa, that's great, but they'll be giving back a million bucks."
Bucs' New Stadium
Take Me Out, Coach!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer was asked what feature of the Bucs' new $168 million Raymond James Stadium is his favorite. "The showerheads," said Dilfer. "It's a waterfall when you take a shower. I just love it."
Mowing Down The Bad Boy
The mention of lawn bowls, boccie's stuffy cousin, calls to mind overcast British skies, bespectacled matrons in sensible shoes and upper lips as stiff as the starched collars on the match-day white dress shirts. It's serious business for the Brits, so serious that Sir Francis Drake insisted on finishing his game before going about the minor task of defeating the Spanish Armada.