Sports

THERE'S WAITING, AND THEN THERE'S WAITING

Yankee players got their 2001 World Series shares months ago: more than $201,000 each—for losing. Five waiters at Yankee Stadium's most exclusive restaurant, on the other hand, faithfully served George Steinbrenner and his buddies during the series, and saw some big tips being scrawled on charge slips, but they got zero, nada, zip of that tip money until just last week—and only after the Voice made some calls to ask what the hell was going on.

"It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have to pay taxes on it," a thirtyish waiter (name withheld to protect future gigs) said during the long wait for the $600 owed her. "That's what got me. They made us sign affidavits that made us responsible for the taxes."

The Yankee Club, a narrow restaurant fitted with 20 or 30 tables, is wedged between executive suites high above home plate and admits only luxury-box ticket holders, who snack on $35, diner-quality steaks. Dress is sports-tycoon casual: jacket, tie optional, no jeans. The big macher himself eats his ritual pre-game meal there.

The waiters liked their gig and didn't foresee a problem getting paid for it, because Steinbrenner, one says, "always treated everyone nicely." But suspicions grew as the waiters waited for months for their tip money—estimated by them to total between $2000 and $4000—to arrive in the mail. It didn't. Phone calls to the Yankee Club went unanswered as weeks passed. Because the season was over, the waiters say, it was difficult to get anyone at the Stadium on the phone—especially to demand money.

The tip money had disappeared into the black hole of relationships among the ballpark, the ballpark's contractor Volume Services America, and the contractor's subcontractor, a staffing firm called John Lack Associates. Ultimately, a call by the Voice to a veep at Lack prompted the veep to call Volume Services America, and the checks were finally sent—just as another season is about to begin.

"It's only that you called that anyone did anything," one waiter tells the Voice. Another waiter, referring to the Yanks' signing of Jason Giambi, adds, "It's such a small thing, but you know they just signed a guy for something like $50 million. Yet they can't fork over a couple hundred for you to pay your rent. It's unbelievable."


A DISAPPEARANCE WORTHY OF HITCHCOCK

Live from Tampa, it's Survivor 3: Spring Training. The prize: two spots in the Yankees' starting rotation. The contestants: David "Boomer" Wells, Orlando "El Duque" Hernández, and Sterling "So Boring He Has No Nickname" Hitchcock. In last week's episode, Hitch got thrown off the island—not for his sorry 7.30 ERA, but because a back injury put him on the DL till mid April. Which is really for the best, given the way his rivals have been cranking it. Wells's 30-pound beer belly disappeared from the clubhouse—we hear Ruben Rivera sold it to a memorabilia dealer—but his awesome control (and walrus mustache) remain. No pinstriped starter boasts a lower ERA. After imploding in 2001, El Duque looks equally back in form, which in his case means (a) racking up a 3-0 record, and (b) being as high-strung as the champion poodle in this year's Westminster dog show. During a recent outing, he had to be restrained by Joe Torre from rushing at Rickey Henderson, who'd enraged him by whacking a leadoff homer. "I was just laughing," said opposing pitcher Pedro Martinez, "because I've never seen El Duque lose it so easy." With Opening Day fast approaching, perhaps the Yanks should sic Hernandez on a more important target—like Cablevision owner Charles Dolan.


JOCKCLIPS

How many friggin' more times do we have to hear that friggin' CBS college-basketball theme music the network plays 500 friggin' times an hour during the NCAAs? Answer: As many more times as you want. It's floating above the planet in the Internet ether. Masochists will find it at http://wso.williams.edu/~mgarland/themes/cbstheme_cbsopening.wav . . .
When you make more than 1600 predictions a year, surely some of them have to be right. Why then does the back cover of this year's Baseball Prospectus feature a claim that last year's edition of the book cautioned readers about Pat Burrell? Actually, BP2001 included the following comment on the young Phillie slugger: "Pat Burrell didn't hit as well as was hoped in his rookie year, but he will get better. His knowledge of the strike zone is outstanding, and his ability to drive pitches to all parts of the field is amazing. Within three years he will be one of the best hitters in the game." That's not caution; that's a buy call. Just like the ones Wall Street analysts offered investors about Enron this time last year. . . .
In the course of a surreal recent column on how Steinbrenner has brought "class" to the Yankees, Newsday's Joe Gergen noted that when El Jefe bought the team, he inherited a 30-year lease on the renovated Yankee Stadium, but "attendance was abysmal." The Yankees' ranking in A.L. attendance the last five years of CBS ownership? 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th. The first five years of George? 5th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st (the year Yankee Stadium reopened), 1st.


CONTRIBUTORS: Joe Pappalardo, J. Yeh, Ward Harkavy, Neil Demause, Dean Chadwin
SPORTS EDITOR Ward Harkavy

 
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