Sports


Keeping Up With the Joneses

With the Mets opening spring training last week, and there being no sign of debilitating confusion as a result of same-named teammates on the roster, Jockbeat sees no reason why the team shouldn't continue to stockpile Bobby Joneses. And why restrict itself to the realm of baseball? With all this in mind, here's a list of players GM Steve Phillipsmight want to pursue:

Bobby Jones: Former pro basketball player. Nine-time member of NBA All-Defensive Team would fit well into Mets' defense-oriented scheme.

Bobby Jones: Former championship golfer. Proven winner would bring positive attitude to clubhouse. At 97 years of age (including 28 in the grave), only slightly older than Jesse Orosco.

Bobby Jones: Middleweight boxer from Cleveland. Perfectly positioned to fight winner of next Luis Lopez/Rey Ordoñezbout. Pro record of 5-26-2 would be an improvement on Billy Taylorand Chuck McElroy.

Bobby Jones: Gospel singer. Recorded repertoire includes inspirational pennant-race songs "All the Way" and "We Won't Give Up." Another tune, "Steal Away," could serve as backup signal for when Rickey Hendersonmisses a sign.


St. John's Not So Divine

Talk about déjà vu all over again. The city's plan to park the Mets' new single-A farm club at St. John's University for the next two years has started off the same way as its previous ballpark proposal for Brooklyn's Parade Grounds: with a protest march and threats of lawsuits. After a community meeting last Thursday, at which local elected officials tore into the plan, about 200 residents from Flushing Heights, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest Estates, and Jamaica Estates marched down Union Turnpike to condemn the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) plan to build a 3500-seat, $5.5 million stadium on the St. John's campus at public expense.

The area's 7500 homeowners are "livid," says Barry Weinberg, chair of the Jamaica Estates Association. "This is a residential area. This is not where you go and build a ballpark." Since the St. John's site is private property, and thus not subject to the public land-use oversight process, the homeowner groups are filing a suit charging EDC with violating local zoning laws; the ballpark's outfield wall would face the residential-zoned neighborhood of Jamaica Estates directly across Utopia Parkway.

Whatever the outcome, the team will have to play somewhere starting this June, and it won't be its current home of St. Catharine's, Ontario, in the wine country west of Niagara Falls. The deal to sell the erstwhile St. Catharine's Stompers (until now, a Toronto Blue Jays farm club; mascot: the Grape Crusader, a humongous grape with purple-stained feet) to the Mets should close in the next few days, says Stompers president and part-owner Greg Sorbara, who adds that the sale is "not subject to approval of their new facility—that's not a condition." As to what happens if the Mets end up stuck with a team and no site, he speculates, "I guess Shea Stadium is the contingency plan."


Stock Price Smackdown

World Wrestling Federation stock (WWFE) has been pinned in the $11 range of late—it closed at $11.63 at the Voice's deadline—narrowly above its lowest level since the WWF IPO in mid October. This, of course, came shortly after Newsweek called WWF Chairman Vince McMahona "mastermind" and his company "a louder, raunchier version of the Disney kingdom" in its February 7 cover story. The article, which highlights the profitability of the WWF, waits 2000 words before mentioning that its "stock price has lagged lately," pointing to a recent advertising mess and an injury to Stone Cold Steve Austinas causes.

The latest tumble came after, as was reported here, McMahon announced plans for the Extreme Football League (XFL). Jockbeat's scoop of the month award goes to Newsweek's John Leland and the magazine's editorial staff for its cover story subhead: "It may look like a cartoon spectacle, but the WWF is serious business. And business is good." Eleven bucks a share, John, ain't so good. It was $34 just a few months ago.


Jockclips

The Ivory Coast's new military dictator, General Robert Guei, took soccer hooliganism to new heights recently when his country's national team was eliminated from the African Nations Cup. Feeling "dishonored" by the team's early exit, Guei locked the squad up—at gunpoint—in a military camp for two days. Team members are understandably timid about committing to playing for the team in the future. . . . The Canadian government's clumsy and ill-conceived offer last month of a financial handout to fiscally troubled Canadian-based NHL teams and its vox populi?forced withdrawal of the corporate-welfare package just two days later has left the clubs and Canadian hockey fans scratching their heads over how else to keep the teams economically viable. Teams north of the border have to pay their players in American dollars while taking in the 65-cent Canadian dollar as ticket revenue. They must also pay millions in arena rent and taxes that U.S. state and municipal governments forgive for American-based teams. Since NHL Commissioner Gary Bettmanand large-market NHL owners won't consider any meaningful revenue-sharing deal among the clubs, and the NHL Players Association won't even discuss a salary cap, the league may be leaving itself open to a fiscal Armageddon. If it can fly at all, a legal challenge based on the U.S. teams' apparent violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement—gaining an unfair competitive advantage by dint of government assistance—could save the league from destruction. . . . Jockbeat couldn't help notice that the media canonization of Charlie Ward is in full effect now that the ouchie on his pinky has forced him from the lineup for a month or so (Times headline on Friday: "Ward, Rugged and Durable, Is Hard to Replace"). Guess the prospect of major minutes for Rick Brunsonwill do that to Knick-watchers.

Contributors: Paul Lukas, Neil Demause, Howard Z. Unger, Ramona Debs, Karl-Eric Reif Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

 
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