- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
All but overlooked at the time, a committee of baseball club owners and general managers began meeting last year to try to resolve discrepancies in umpiring styles between the American and National Leagues. The results were decidedly mixed. The committee couldn't iron out apparent differences in the strike zone, mainly because nobody would acknowledge that there were differences. The committee also got hung up over the fact that American League umps wear maroon jackets, those in the National League blue. Committee members decided that everybody must wear the same uniform but because they couldn't agree on which one it should be, the clash between maroon and blue still exists.
But some issues were resolved. One was that a handful of American League umpires wear chest protectors outside their uniforms while the National League allows inside protectors only. It was agreed that as each of the American League umps who wear them retires, outside protectors will be phased out. Barring backsliding, other changes implemented this season will be evident in the World Series. For example, foul-line-umps in the National League used to straddle the line while American Leaguers worked in foul territory; today everybody stands in foul territory. Also, with runners on base, all second-base umpires now stand in the infield; in the past, American League umps positioned themselves on the outfield grass.
World Series watchers will note one other example of interleague d�tente. At last year's fall classic the men in maroon signaled foul balls by raising their hands above their heads while the men in blue pointed to the foul line. No more. In a compromise that can only be described as Solomonic, umps in both leagues now are supposed to raise their hands above their heads, then point foul.
When they joined forces in the early '60s, Bobby Orr was a 15-year-old hockey prodigy and Alan Eagleson an obscure Toronto lawyer. Their fortunes soared together. Orr, who became the best defenseman in NHL history, made a lot of money, thanks in part to Eagleson's acumen as his agent. That in turn helped Eagleson become hockey's leading agent and head of the NHL Players' Association. Eagleson liked to joke that tour guides in Toronto referred to his elegant home as "the house that Orr built."
Now Orr and Eagleson have parted company. Over the years Eagleson has been front and center at almost every father-and-son banquet Orr attended, but the agent was conspicuously absent last month when Orr, who retired from the NHL early in the 1978-79 season because of his ailing knees, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. And last week Orr was named special assistant to NHL President John Ziegler, a job he apparently arranged without benefit of Eagleson's counsel.
Fueling speculation about a rift between the two were rumors that some of Orr's Eagleson-engineered investments had gone sour and that Orr was miffed because the agent had committed him to deals without first consulting him. There also were reports that while negotiating his new job with the NHL, Orr had found it prudent to cool his friendship with Eagleson, whose ofttimes abrasive style offends some league officials. Eagleson said simply that Orr "has more time on his hands, and he wants to learn to handle his own affairs."
OUT OF THE VOID
Greg Jacobs, a soccer-style football place-kicker at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., converted all 40 of his point-after-touchdown attempts last season but, to his dismay, hit on only three of 10 field-goal chances. After the season Jacobs, a psychology major, became interested in "sensory isolation" tanks, which are enjoying a vogue around the country as aids to meditation and relaxation. As a result of that interest, Jacobs feels that his field-goal kicking has improved this season.
The idea of sensory isolation is that by floating in salt water inside a blackened, soundproof and temperature-controlled tank, an environment in which one hears and sees virtually nothing and has little sense of touch, a person supposedly can experience a deeper sense of self. Jacobs and another Lawrence student raised $700 and built a bubblelike, five-foot-high tank and covered the bottom with 10 inches of salt water. Jacobs has since been spending an hour each day lying suspended on his back, nude, in the water. Much of the time, he says, he thinks about placekicking.