By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Picking Up the Signs
Ever wonder why Major League Baseball players are so darn competitive? Why they're so elated after victory and so angered by defeat? Why they grab their crotches so frequently? The answer may be that so many of them are Scorpios. In fact, more baseball players reside in the not-so-friendly confines of Scorpio than any other astrological sign. According to the Major League Baseball Web site, 92 players were born Scorpio (October 23 to November 21), edging out the 91 Leos (July 23 to August 22). Aquarius is the Houston Astros of the Zodiac, clocking in last at 57. Curiously, one-quarter of the Mets are Scorpios (Al Leiter, Glendon Rusch, Armando Benitez, Edgardo Alfonzo, Lenny Harris, Rey Ordoñez, and Bubba Trammell). Scorpios in the Hall of Fame include Jim Bunning, Roy Campanella, Leon Day, Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Walter Johnson, Ralph Kiner, and Tom Seaver. Why the autumnal rush to be born under the heavenly arachnid? We're not quite sure, but it's worth noting that last year's World Series also began on October 23.
Scorpios are legendary for their competitive drive. They are persistent and energetic in getting what they want, whether it's a bigger paycheck or the pennant. Ruled by the dark planet of Pluto, they're also characterized by aggression and volatile emotions that can lead to self-destruction. (Or, in the case of Benitez, destruction of Tino Martinez.)
As for crotch grabbing: The genitals are the body part shined on by this sun sign. So when a Scorpio adjusts his package before stepping up to the plate, the orbs he's realigning may be his planets, not his balls.
Just Call Them 'The Scabs'
OK, so professional football players aren't the most lovable unionists in the world. But the release of the gridiron film The Replacementsinsert Bob Stinson joke herecomes with its own set of ironies. Based loosely on the 1987 NFL players' strike, the Gene Hackman-Keanu Reeves vehicle unabashedly positions itself as a feel-good film about the joys of crossing the picket line. "I would love it if it also touches people's emotions," says director Howard Deutch, a member of the directors guild. "It would make me happy if this film gave people a sense that if Shane, Coach McGinty, and the other 'losers' in the movie can redeem their dreams, then there's hope for everyone." While it's not Triumph of the Will, The Replacements scores a few clumsy, antilabor propaganda pointsthe striking star quarterback played by Brett Cullen calls Keanu and Co. "scabs" and then, echoing recent Hall of Fame inductee Joe Montana, crosses the picket line himself. This venomous anti-union sentiment on a union production is troubling enough under any circumstances, but the movie opens during the third month of the Screen Actors Guild strike against commercial advertising shoots. SAG plans to call Tiger Woods to an August 18 trial board for shooting a Buick commercial in violation of the union's strike stance. Among the notable supporters of the strike? The NFL Players Association. In a letter to its rank and file, NFLPA head Gene Upshaw urged its members to "avoid shooting commercials or advertisements that are considered 'struck work' until further notice." While a couple of NFL-ers broke ranksTerrell Davis and Kurt Warner hawked Campbell's SoupJohn Elway was one of the first to negotiate an interim agreement that conformed to the SAG demands. While the Players Association declined comment until the movie's official release, the Screen Actors Guild downplayed the antilabor message of The Replacements. "It's not been a topic of conversation,"says SAG spokesperson Greg Christman.
Henderson the Vain King
"Know your clichés. They're your friends," Kevin Costner advised Tim Robbins in Bull Durham. But while parroting, "We're just playing them a day at a time," would cause reporters to turn off their tape recorders and close their notebooks, anti-narrative ramblings are still very much in vogue. Returning last Friday to New York for the first time since his release by the Mets, Rickey Henderson was grilled by a small cluster of reporters who hoped to provoke him into saying something bad about former manager Bobby Valentine. Instead, Henderson, who is normally articulate if not David Cone quotable, did his best Casey Stengel, obfuscating with the same zeal with which he terrorizes control-challenged pitchers. "In the back of my head it was one of the stupidest things in baseball. If you release me, release the whole team. But I was relieved. I was happy. It was time. That's life. That's baseball." More interesting than his say-everything/say-nothing soliloquy was Rickey's pregame ritual, which he continued while holding court. Midtangent, he picked up three bats, a red one, a black one, and a natural ash onebelonging to Royce Clayton, Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinezand began swinging them near the corner locker. "You might be the one. Yeah baby, ahhh, yeah, uh-huh. Right Alex? Royce Clayton. Edgar. Yeah! One of you bad boys has some hits in you."
Jockclips Two or three things you didn't know about new Yankee Jose Canseco. He needs two home runs to reach the Kingman barrierevery retired slugger with more than Kong's 442 is in the Hall of Fame. His fraternal twin brother, Ozzie Canseco, is the career home-run leader for the minor-league Newark Bears. Jose did not, to our knowledge, father any of Madonna's children. . . . At the press conference for the "10 Greatest Moments in Mets History" promotion before the July 30 game against St. Louis, Sid Fernandez was asked what he's been up to since he retired from baseball and went back to live in Hawaii year-round. "Uh . . . I play golf, and I go to the beach. I usually go to the beach first." Newsdaysportswriter Marty Noble ghosted Lenny Dykstra's 1987 autobiography, Nails, which began with these words: "There's six teams in the National League East: the Mets, the Expos, the Phillies, the Cubs, the Piratesand the fucking Cardinals." Spying Noble at the Mets history event, Dykstra was overheard greeting him: "Hey, Marty! They're still the fucking Cardinals!" . . . . Anagram Dept.: David Coneodd cave-in. . . . As always, the sports section appreciates the support of the pornography industry, without which we'd be flush up against a page of dreary classified ads. Contributors: Liz Frankel, Allen St. John, Billy Altman, Brian Parks Sports Editor: Miles Seligman (who was actually on vacation, so somebody else had to do it, which he did with good cheer and something approaching aplomb)