The Mouse That Roared
When ski racer Marc Girardelli was 12, he met David Zwilling, the 1974 world champ in the downhill. Asked if he wanted Zwilling's autograph, the young Girardelli said, "No. I'd rather wait until he asks me for my autograph." At 30, Girardelli, who lives in the tiny, virtually mountainless Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, put his signature on a fifth World Cup overall title. That's more than Gustavo Thoeni or Pirmin Zurbriggen or David Zwilling ever did.
Bear In Mind
Ten years after the death of the legendary Bear Bryant, Alabama beat Miami 34-13 to win its 12th national title, its first since 1979. The Sugar Bowl victory was made even sweeter by the fact that 'Bama did it with one of Bear's Boys, Gene Stallings, as coach. Stallings plodded like Bryant, squinted like Bryant and grumbled like Bryant. Finally, he won like Bryant.
That's Not All, Folks
Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft as a favor to Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, family friend Mike Piazza last summer showed up the 1,388 players chosen ahead of him. Piazza had the best season ever by a rookie catcher, batting .318 with 35 homers and 112 RBIs. He also threw out 35% of potential base stealers, third best in the league. "I look around, and I think, What the hell am I doing here?" said Piazza almost apologetically. "Someday someone is going to drag me away and put me in a Looney Tune."
He's a Pushover
Bob Knight did what many college basketball fans have wanted to do for a long time slam-dunk Dick Vitale. Vitale, ESPN's talking machine, clamped a playful bear hug on Knight during a break in the filming of the movie Blue Chips, in which both men had roles. Knight turned, saw Vitale and slammed him to the floor. "I was surprised when he pushed me, but it's no big deal," said Vitale. "I just wanted to surprise him." Now, if someone had the guts to floor Knight....
A Nose For the Ball
On May 13 George Brett's 300th career home run cleared the fence at Cleveland Stadium, caromed off a concrete wall and bounced around the stands before it was retrieved by Ralph Gay, 55, a fan on an outing from a nearby veterans' hospital. Gay didn't exactly catch the ball: He picked it up as it rolled in front of him. Still, it was a pretty slick move. Gay is blind.
Cutting loose franchise favorite Joe Montana turned out to be not such a bad move by the San Francisco 49ers, even though they took a pummeling in the press for granting the then 36-year-old quarterback's request to let him start or let him go elsewhere. Given that Montana's bum elbow had limited him to playing in only one game in 1991 and '92, the Niners opted to stick with Steve Young, who, in Montana's absence, had kept the team among the NFL's elite. Snatched up by the quarterback-starved Kansas City Chiefs, Montana missed five games and parts of three others with hamstring and wrist injuries in the first 13 games. At least the Chiefs were 6-2 when Montana was able to play.
Play Him Where He Lies
While ambling toward a bunker at the LPGA Jamie Farr Toledo Classic on July 2, golfer Tara Fleming spotted a hazard she hadn't noticed before. Raymond Henzler, 63, was lying in an adjacent fairway, the victim of a heart attack. Fleming raced to Henzler and, assisted by caddie Jason Hamilton, administered CPR. Henzler was taken to a nearby hospital, and he recovered. Fleming found her ball and made bogey en route to a 74.
The Way the Ball Bounces
Defying 66-to-1 odds, the merely mediocre Orlando Magic won the May 23 lottery for the first pick in the NBA draft. The Magic, who finished 41-41 and lost a tiebreaker for the final playoff spot, had only one of the 66 Ping-Pong balls used to determine the first three picks. Under the lottery's weighted system, the team with the worst record, the Dallas Mavericks, had 11 balls, but they wound up with only the fourth pick. After Orlando got the top choice for the second straight year, the lottery was retooled in November to lengthen the odds against the Magic's pulling a three-peat.
Take It from An Expert
In a lecture to graduate business students at Penn's prestigious Wharton School, self-promoting boxing promoter Don King called himself a "pioneer, trailblazer, maverick, entrepreneur with magic vision, and a bridge over troubled waters." Advising budding CEOs to "rhapsodize and soliloquize," the man who was once acquitted of tax-evasion charges said, "You must write it on before you write it off."
Dial M For Martina
Her brilliant tennis career nearly over, Martina Navratilova found new life as a mystery writer, signing a reported $1 million deal with Villard Books for three whodunits. Best of all, she won't even have to buy a pad and pencil. Villard has hired a published novelist to take care of the messy writing end of the deal.