One of our most popular weekly features is CATCHING UP WITH..., in which we check up on past SI cover subjects, but cover boys and cover girls aren't the only sports figures who intrigue us years later. So does the athlete, coach or fan who emerged from the shadows of obscurity for one brief moment and did something unforgettable. Or the oddball character who hung around the periphery of the sports world, like the guy in the rainbow wig with the JOHN 3:16 sign. In this week's issue, we've expanded on our CATCHING UP WITH...premise and sought out a number of these memorable subjects. (In fact, we have expanded on it so much that this is a double issue; subscribers will not be getting a copy of SI next week.)
We began by coming up with a list of sports figures who had once been compelling but had vanished from the spotlight. We then set about finding them, a task that was made more difficult in several instances by the fact that we didn't know their names. Says reporter Pete McEntegart, "In some cases, the only thing the editors told me was something like 'find those guys who ran around the bases with Henry Aaron' or 'track down the kid in the Mean Joe Greene Coke commercial.' "
As we began locating the story subjects, we discovered that not all of them were eager to be caught up with. Jeffrey Maier, the then 12-year-old New York Yankees fan who turned Derek Jeter's deep fly ball in the 1996 American League Championship Series into a home run by snatching it from Baltimore Orioles rightfielder Tony Tarasco, told us he didn't want to be remembered as "the kid who caught the ball." He's trying to make a name for himself as a baseball player at Northern Valley Regional High in Old Tappan, N.J.
Ultimately, however, we tracked down so many fascinating characters that it became impossible, even in a double issue, to include them all. Among those who didn't quite survive the final cut were Bobby Bonner, the Orioles' shortstop of the future before Cal Ripken and for the last 11 years a missionary in Africa; former Atlanta Braves backup catcher Francisco Cabrera, the unlikely hero of the 1992 National League Championship Series, who manages the St. Louis Cardinals' Dominican League team in Santo Domingo; NHL tough guy Basil McRae, who, oddly enough, sells disability insurance to hockey players; former Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe, the NFL's 1980 MVP, who is an architect; Bob Nystrom, an executive with one of the nation's largest property and casualty insurance firms, who is often introduced to clients as "the man who won the Islanders' first Stanley Cup"; and myriad CEOs, including Dave Bing, Oscar-Robertson, Gale Sayers and Roger Staubach.
More information on some of these and other not-so-lost souls can be found on the Internet at our Web site, cnnsi.com. You can listen to what the sports figures have to say about themselves and surf your way through a gallery of then-and-now portraits, which are complemented by articles from the archives of SI—including George Plimpton's April 1, 1985, introduction of Sidd Finch. There will also be on-line chats with baseball favorites Oscar Gamble and Bill (Spaceman) Lee.
For us, tracking down the people behind so many memorable sports moments has been an intriguing endeavor. We hope that you'll find our efforts as entertaining as we did.