Mostly, though, Ciccarelli talked about how he earned his bread. Every game, whether he was dishing out pain or scoring goals in clusters, he took something on the chin: the butt of a stick, the point of an elbow. His back hurt, he said, and he was slowing down. He was 35 that season and had 529 career goals. Asked how much longer he could endure the punishment, he said, "Endure it?" and for the first time his scowl gave way to a smile. "Hey, man, I love it."
Ump vs. limp
The same week that his mass-resignation ploy cost 22 umpires their jobs, Richie Phillips saw his leadership of the Major League Umpires Association challenged on another front. A group of dissident umps led by the American League's John Hirschbeck charged that Phillips's little-publicized business dealings with Major League Baseball are rife with possible conflicts.
Umpires' union general counsel Phillips is also president and CEO of Pilot Air Freight, a privately held company that he says has 1,500 employees and will do about $200 million in business this year. Two of Pilot's clients are baseball's American and National leagues, which use the firm to transport umpires' equipment from ballpark to ballpark—business that Phillips says amounts to about $375,000 a year.
His company's relationship with baseball management strikes the dissident umps as more than a little suspicious. The plot thickened last week when a New York Times story alleged that seven Phillips supporters—all members of the umpires' union's board of directors—were also on Pilot's payroll. "It makes me extremely mad that people can take money and then vote on important union matters," ump Tim Welke told SI on Sunday. "If they're taking one dollar, that's too much."
But Phillips says that only two current union board members, Bruce Froemming and Drew Coble, work for his airfreight company. Froemming couldn't be reached last week, but Coble acknowledged getting $10,000 a year for such p.r. duties as making luncheon appearances on Pilot's behalf. (Former umpire Don Denkinger, who evaluates umps for the A.L., does similar work for Pilot) Coble and Phillips insist there's nothing wrong with their dual duties. "It's not a conflict," says Phillips, accusing Hirschbeck's group of "attempting to destroy my reputation."
There's no shortage of dialogue among the combatants. In Phoenix last week, umpire Mark Hirschbeck—John's brother-was confronted by crewmate and Pilot employee Froemming in the umps' dressing room at Bank One Ballpark. "This is going to get ugly. It's going to get personal," Hirschbeck says Froemming told him. "And we're going to bring up dirt on anybody we can bring up dirt on. If [your brother] wants a war, we're going to give it to him."
Fan vs. Hockey Star
Ottawa Senators season-ticket holder Len Potechin has had it with Senators captain and leading scorer Alexei Yashin, who's demanding a trade unless he gets a $4.4 million raise to $8 million a year. If Yashin holds out and misses Ottawa's Oct. 2 opener against the Flyers in Philadelphia, real estate mogul Potechin plans to high-stick it to him with a $5 million lawsuit.
"Yashin is the deciding product in a package deal offered by the Senators to season-ticket holders," says Potechin's lawyer, Arthur Cogan. "Leaving the team for reasons other than trade or injury—intentionally interfering with the team's promise to the fans—constitutes a breach of contract" Cogan says that if Potechin wins the case, he'll give the $5 million to "sick kids who can't play sports at all."