Wardlow and Lucas met in 1983 at Glassboro (N.J.) State, where they both announced basketball and baseball games for the campus radio station. After graduation, they stayed in touch, doing simulated broadcasts of games to sharpen their skills. Last year, they decided they were ready and sent audition tapes to 176 minor league teams. The Miracle was the only club to offer a tryout. Not coincidentally, Miami's president is Mike Veeck, son of the late Bill Veeck, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last week.
Says Veeck, "My mother reads at the Lighthouse for the Blind, and I know that these people can do amazing things. But a blind announcer?" Their debut last July went so well, though, that Veeck hired them full-time.
Wardlow's only flaw is his penchant for bad puns. After one such pun during a recent game, Lucas said, "That's it. I'm on strike. Let the blind guy do the play-by-play."
And Wardlow did: "Swing and a miss again. That pitch was a little on the low side."
Lucas responded: "Oh, you could tell by the sound that it was low? You're something, Wardlow."
A Sobering Policy
Will the new NFL program curb alcohol abuse?
Last week the NFL became the first major pro sports league to institute a disciplinary policy for players guilty of alcohol-related misconduct. Under the policy, the first time a player is convicted of drunken driving or any other serious offense attributable to the misuse of alcohol, commissioner Paul Tagliabue can suspend him for as many as four weeks without pay, though the player does have the right to a hearing. If the player is caught a second time, he could be sidelined for six weeks. A third conviction could mean suspension for a year. "We're not saying players shouldn't have a drink," says NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. "But we recognize that alcohol abuse is as serious as drug abuse. We're saying if they break the law through the misuse of alcohol, we'll treat it as if it were drug abuse."
That the NFL is taking alcohol abuse seriously is praiseworthy. But according to some experts, discipline may not be the answer. One such expert is Sam McDowell, the former Indians pitching ace who is now a substance abuse counselor for the Blue Jays, Rangers and Reds. McDowell, whose own career was diminished because of his addiction to alcohol, considers the punitive aspect of the NFL's policy unenlightened. He says, "I don't condone drunk driving, and I'm not saying that individuals shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. But punishment has never worked as a deterrent for alcoholics. You can't strong-arm them."
McDowell says that before resorting to suspensions, leagues should offer the players help. The programs McDowell has designed treat alcoholism as an illness and eschew discipline in favor of treatment. There is something to be said for his approach. He has counseled some 200 players, and according to McDowell, only four have relapsed.