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Carter, Murray, Bobby Bonilla of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Harold Reynolds of the Seattle Mariners and Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles—plus Twins Chili Davis and Chuck Knoblauch—endured canceled flights and long layovers to get to the Twin Towns for the day.
The players paired off at five tables with civilians who had paid $500 for their chance to play Puckett billiards. For more than five hours, ballplayers and commoners engaged in nonstop 8-ball matches, in which players were awarded one point for each ball sunk and eight points for each game won. "It's an endurance test," noted Ripken, baseball's most durable player, who finished with 224 points, best among the players.
As for the man who has endured the most of late—World Series win on Sunday, parade on Tuesday, White House visit on Thursday, pool on Saturday—he was given the greatest reward. "Nothing you can do about the weather," said Puckett. "The way I see it, it just goes to show I have some really good friends."
The basketball world has a chance to undo an injustice this month. The Honors Committee of the Basketball Hall of Fame is considering the induction of Connie Hawkins, a man of remarkable talent who danced, for the most part, in the shadows. He played seven NBA seasons in the 1970s with the Suns, Lakers and Hawks, averaging 16.5 points and eight rebounds, non-Hall of Fame numbers, to be sure. But Hawkins was 27 before he got his chance to play in the big time, having already spent eight of his most showstopping years with the Harlem Globetrotters and in the old American Basketball League and ABA. And before that he stamped his imprint on the game on the playgrounds and schoolyards of Brooklyn, where everybody—even the pros who happened by for a game—knew you had to beat the Hawk to keep the court.
"He was the first guy on that Dr. J-Michael Jordan level," says Doug Moe, who played against Hawkins in the ABA and coached in that league and the NBA for 18 years. "Long strides. Hold it in one hand. Wheel it around. Nobody could match him for that."
Hawkins's life changed forever one summer night in 1960 when he met with another New York City basketball legend, Jack Molinas, who was then under investigation as the fixer behind the college basketball scandals of the late '50s. Less than a year later, while Hawkins was a freshman at the University of Iowa, he was called back to New York to provide information for the investigation. Amid a confusing maze of questions before a grand jury, Hawkins somehow incriminated himself, even though he hadn't played a single varsity game at Iowa (freshmen were not eligible then) and even though the principals in the scandal, including Molinas, said Hawkins had absolutely no knowledge of fixed games.
Because of his "tainted" record, the NBA banned Hawkins. Commissioner Walter Kennedy finally lifted the ban in 1969 after settling a lawsuit that Hawkins had filed against the league.
Though Hawkins was chosen to play in four NBA All-Star Games, he never lit up that league as he had the playgrounds and the ABA. "He was in a class by himself," says Roger Brown, who also was tarred in the Molinas case and became an ABA star—as well as a businessman in Indianapolis. "There are guys in the Hall right now who can't carry his sneakers."