Fired by the Diamondbacks four days after he was hired as their manager, Wally Backman. Once a scrappy second baseman, Backman was introduced as Arizona's new manager on Nov. 1. The next day a story in The New York Times revealed that Backman, 45, has, in the past four years, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment after an altercation with his wife and been found guilty of DUI. He also filed for bankruptcy in 2003. The Diamondbacks didn't perform a background check on Backman (above left, with G.M. Joe Garagiola Jr.)--who was named baseball's minor league manager of the year after leading the team's Class A affiliate to an 86--54 record--until they had learned of his problems. After receiving the results of the check, the team decided last Friday to replace Backman, who hadn't yet signed a contract, with Bob Melvin, the bench coach under former manager Bob Brenly. "It's obviously a mistake on our part to have made a decision without having done the proper background work," said general partner Ken Kendrick.
Died at age 83, former Missouri football coach Al Onofrio. After 12 years designing defenses for Tigers coach Dan Devine, Onofrio was given the head coaching job when Devine left for the NFL in 1971. In seven seasons his teams were just 38--41, but they were always dangerous, knocking off Nebraska twice, as well as Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame. The win over the Irish, in 1972, came a week after Nebraska routed the Tigers 62--0. Legendary Cornhuskers coach Bob Devaney was so impressed with the job Onofrio did to prepare his team for the eighth-ranked Irish in the wake of such a humiliating defeat that he sent a letter to Onofrio saying, "I sincerely believe that your preparation--mentally, physically and technically--was the best job done by any coach in the history of football."
Hired as general manager of baseball's ownerless Washington, D.C., franchise, former Reds G.M. Jim Bowden. The team--formerly the Montreal Expos--has been without a G.M. since just before the end of the season, when Omar Minaya left to run the Mets. Bowden took the job knowing he is already a lame duck; he will step aside when the team's new owners are installed (which may not happen until after Opening Day) and return to his job as an analyst for ESPN. Said team president Tony Tavares, "I am very pleasantly surprised that he's willing to do this."
Ordered by a federal jury in Columbia, S.C., that Raptors star Vince Carter pay his imprisoned former agent, William (Tank) Black, $4.7 million in lost commissions and damages. In 2000 Carter dumped Black as his agent after Black was accused of bilking several NFL clients out of more than $11 million. (Black was convicted of fraud charges in 2002 and is serving a five-year jail sentence. In 2001 he pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges stemming from an unrelated drug case.) Black sued the All-Star forward last year for $14 million, saying Carter breached his contract when he fired Black. Carter, who missed two of Toronto's preseason games last month to attend the trial, was back in the lineup for the team's season opener on Nov. 3 and plans to appeal the jury's decision. "I'm very disappointed," he said. "The silver lining in this is that I can now focus all my attention and energy on the Toronto Raptors."
Arrested for driving under the influence, Michael Phelps, who won eight medals at the Athens Olympics. The 19year-old swimmer, who lives in a Baltimore suburb, was stopped by police just before midnight last Thursday in Salisbury, Md., after driving through a stop sign. He was also charged with violation of a license restriction and failing to obey a stop sign. "Getting into a car with anything to drink is wrong, dangerous and unacceptable," said Phelps, who has not yet entered a plea. "I am 19, but I was taught that no matter how old you are, you should take responsibility for your actions. I'm very sorry for this. I made a mistake."