Sports

BLENDING IN

Off the basketball court, Jason Kidd has had some selfish moments that have even included a well-publicized case of wife-battering (followed by equally well-publicized acts of contrition). On the court, though, the muscular point guard has been a regular Mother Teresa, the way he shares the ball with his fellow New Jersey Nets.

How did he ever learn such charity? And where did he get his instincts as a passer?

"It all starts with the interracial marriage, my dad being black and my mom being white," he says, "being able to succeed in that, understanding that they had to give up a lot, and also sacrificing for the kids, both of them having a nine-to-five job and having three kids."

Kidd, who grew up in the hills outside Oakland, California, says his basketball genes must have come from mom. "My mother claims to be the athlete of the family," he says. "She played basketball in high school. My dad was too short. She's 5-10, and my dad was only 5-6. She loves basketball. My dad was from Missouri; he grew up a cowboy and always loved horses."

His dad's passion for horses—the family kept several in their spacious backyard—may explain Kidd's willingness to mix it up with forwards and centers. "The only thing I was really scared of as a kid was feeding them by hand," he says, speaking of horses, not power forwards. "But as I got older, I understood that they weren't going to bite your fingers off." His un-point-guard-like strength in wrangling rebounds clearly comes from horse games of another color. "I had a lot of chores," he recalls. "Garbage cleanup, cleaning the stalls, going with my dad to pick up bales of hay. Those became very heavy."


Related article: "Horsing Around With Jason Kidd" by Thomas Beller


WHEN NATURE CALLS

Superstition seems to be the buzzword for the Mets' season so far. First we had error-prone Rey Ordoñez chopping up his infielder's glove into little pieces, and last weekend just about the entire team was trying not to do anything to jinx pitchers Shawn Estes and Pedro Astacio as they each carried no-hitters late into consecutive games against the hapless Milwaukee Brewers. After the two hurlers surrendered seventh-inning base knocks that busted up their no-nos, Vance Wilson, who caught both games, said that if it happened again, he'd ask manager Bobby Valentine to "get me out of there by the end of the sixth—it's clear I'm the jinx."

For his part, Valentine admitted that since he'd visited the dugout men's room between innings just before Estes lost his no-hitter, he consciously "held it in" during Astacio's bid. Alas, a hit came anyway—a relief to the skipper's bladder, but also a preservation of the Mets' dubious distinction of not having a single no-hitter to their credit in the entire 40-plus-year history of the franchise (after last Sunday, it was 6375 games and counting.)

We all know about the Red Sox and the Curse of the Bambino, and with the Mets, it's probably the Curse of the Fregosi—as in Jim Fregosi, the infielder for whom they traded Nolan Ryan (and three others) in December 1971. Fregosi wound up spending all of one and a half injury-plagued years with New York, hitting barely over .230, before being shipped to the Texas Rangers for cash in 1973. Ryan, of course, went on to a Hall of Fame career that included seven no-hitters.


BUSTER'S RHYMES

Yankee watchers, accustomed to patting their bellies complacently as their heroes cruise to another league championship, haven't had much to cheer about so far this season. With Cablevision still depriving them of games and the despised Red Sox leading the division, the news could hardly be worse. But the news actually is worse, now that Buster Olney has relinquished his post as The New York Times' beat writer in the Bronx.

During a five-year reign, the talented Mr. Olney thrilled with his adroit similes and piquant quotes, like Brian Cashman on the teenage Derek Jeter's "frail body and big hair." No one better elucidated the mysteries of the athlete's world for the layperson: Discoursing on Jeter's flexibility, Olney once began, "Imagine a rubber band in three segments . . . " Yet he was best, it seemed, on pitching—the mechanics, the drama, the personalities. Who but Buster would've caught Mike Mussina practicing a secret new pitch, or heard Roger Clemens calling his split-finger fastball "Mr. Splittie"? Who but Buster would've reported the precise clay-to-mud ratio of the Stadium mound?

The 38-year-old Olney, armed with a book contract to collect his musings on the Torre-era Yanks, currently covers the New York Giants for the Times, as well as freelancing for the Atlanta Braves' official fanzine, ChopTalk. To the Yankee Nation, however, the lowest blow has to be his recent spate of Times articles on the Mets. Imagine Steve Phillips cooing, "Buster, if you only knew the power of the dark side—join me and we can rule the galaxy." Say it ain't so . . .


CONTRIBUTORS: Thomas Beller, Billy Altman, J. Yeh
SPORTS EDITOR: Ward Harkavy

 
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