TRAGEDY ON THE COURT
Greg Vaughn, 33, was a junior varsity basketball coach at Prospect Heights High in Brooklyn and, before that, the coach at Medgar Evers College, also in Brooklyn. He spent a lot of time going around to inner-city playgrounds, trying to persuade kids to stay in school and off drugs, and basketball was his tool. His friends and associates say he helped many youngsters that way.
On July 30, the 6'6" Vaughn, who was the alltime leading scorer and re-bounder at Queens ( N.Y.) College, agreed to referee a game at Baisley Pond Park, in an area of Queens frequented by a drug gang known as the Supreme Team. Word on the street had it that some $50,000 had been bet on the game, and after Vaughn made a controversial offensive-foul call late in the game—ruling "no basket" against the team that was losing by one point—he was attacked by an unidentified player. Queens police believe that he was punched as many as three times, after which he toppled to the ground, hitting his head on the concrete. He never got up; he was in a coma for five days before he died. Police say that Earl Byam, a known drug dealer in the area, is being sought for questioning in connection with Vaughn's death.
Fred Patasaw, a computer programmer who used to play basketball with Vaughn, told New York's Daily News, "In the '60s and '70s, young guys coming up had a choice, drugs or basketball. Now drugs run the game." Indeed, one policeman from Harlem estimated that drug money was funding 85% of the summer leagues in that area of Manhattan.
Robin Vaughn, Greg's widow, told the News that she recently went to Baisley Pond Park. "They're still playing ball over there like nothing ever happened," she said. Vaughn's death didn't get the kind of headlines that announced the deaths of Len Bias and Don Rogers. But the Vaughn tragedy has an even deeper echo, and not just because he was an innocent victim. On the playgrounds of Queens and Brooklyn there is a young man he might have saved.
ON THIS SITE
The stadium due to open in downtown Baltimore in 1992 may come to be known as The House That Ruth Haunts. Raymond Martin, a local history buff, recently discovered that a saloon operated by George Herman Ruth Sr., the Babe's father, from approximately 1907 to 1914, was at 406 W. Conway St., or somewhere in centerfield of the new ballpark. During those years, the Bambino was shuffled back and forth from the rooms above the saloon to St. Mary's Industrial School, so it's not hard to imagine him playing ball on the streets outside his father's bar. After he made his first good money in baseball, the Babe bought his father another place, on what is now the site of the Tic-Toc club, a rather disreputable establishment downtown.
Martin, the seafood manager at a Super Fresh supermarket in Baltimore, suspected the connection after seeing a map of the new stadium, and he confirmed as much by going over some old city directories. He has already alerted the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the Orioles. Martin's discovery may, in fact, help those people in Baltimore who are lobbying to have the new stadium named after Babe Ruth. After all, he may have played there once.
HAND IN HAND
During the funeral of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney on Aug. 27, Bishop Donald W. Wuerl came to the moment of the mass at which the celebrant says, "Let us offer each other the sign of peace." Those words prompted NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to tap the shoulder of the man in front of him, Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis. The two longtime adversaries shook hands.
THE QUEEN OF LAKES