First George Steinbrenner takes $95 million from Adidas for the right to slap their three-stripe logo on the Yankee Stadium bullpen awnings, pedestrian ramps, and Don Zimmer’s bald pate. Now, according to team überflack Howard Rubinstein, the Boss is negotiating to sell the naming rights to the stadium itself— a move that could yield a few hundred million bucks. Rubinstein promises that “Yankee” will remain part of the name, and as long as we don’t have to call it Citibankee Stadium, that’s a good thing. But we do have one question: since Steinbrenner in fact only rents the Big Billboard in the Bronx from the city, when are we, the landlords, going to see a cut of the swag?
All those college basketball analysts are shouting their heads off, so it must be March. And with the same shrill certainty they use year after year, the commentators are insisting that good guard play can carry a team to the Final Four. If that cliché holds true, then St. John’s is particularly well positioned to make it to the promised land.
As Big East opponents know well by now, freshman point guard Eric Barkley possesses a variety of offensive weapons. The Brooklyn native, who’s the latest in a long lineage (Stephon Marbury, Kenny Anderson, Pearl Washington, Tiny Archibald, etc.) of New York floor leaders, has refined his raw street game this year for the college hardwood. “He has every gear as a point guard,” says CBS b-ball analyst Clark Kellogg. “He has the slow-down gear. He has the speed-it-up gear. He can score when he wants to and he can also serve the table for other guys.”
One of those other guys is backcourt mate Bootsy Thornton, who’s often the beneficiary of a crisp Barkley pass on his way to the hole. Thornton is a deadly outside shooter, converting on 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc. But his slashing ability is what makes him so lethal— enough so to almost single-handedly slay the Duke Blue Devils with a 40-point effort in a narrow overtime loss to the nation’s number-one team.
Thornton is even deadlier if Barkley can create some interior space by stroking it from the outside. “The thing with Eric, which will take him to another level,” says ESPN loudmouth Dick Vitale, “is making shots from the perimeter. If he does that, then St. John’s becomes almost unbeatable.”
And that may be what the Red Storm’s hopes rest on. Barkley didn’t deliver from long range in the Big East finals (going 0 for 5 from 3-point range), but that won’t deter the ever confident little man. “I never hesitate to shoot,” says Barkley. “The more I take my shot, the better chance for our big fellas to get the offensive rebound and the put-back.”
Rickey Don’t Use That Number
Should Rickey Henderson get to strut around in Willie Mays’s number 24 or should the Mets retire it? That question goes straight to the heart of the Mets’ place in the continuum of New York baseball.
If you’re confining the conversation to just the Metropolitans, a 37-year-old franchise, then the digits should stay on Rickey’s back. After all, did the Braves retire Babe Ruth’s number just because he hit his last homer for Boston? Mays, you will recall, only played one undistinguished, albeit memorable, season in a Mets uniform. So, if the Amazins retire Willie’s number, then by all logic they’d have to do the same for Richie Ashburn, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider, and Warren Spahn, who all played out the string in blue and orange.
Another case for retiring Mays’s number lies in the argument that the Mets are the repository of New York’s National League heritage— similar to the reason why the Milwaukee Brewers retired Hank Aaron’s number 44. If that’s the case, the Mets have some serious retiring to do. Joining Mays among the New Yorkers on the Giants’ never-to-be-worn- again list would be Bill Terry (3), Mel Ott (4), and Carl Hubbell (11), not to mention asterisks for John McGraw and Christy Mathewson, who played in the days before uniform numbers. On the Brooklyn Dodger side of the family, the Mets would have to mothball Snider’s 4, Jim Gilliam’s 19, Walter Alston’s 24, and Roy Campanella’s 39, in addition to Jackie Robinson’s universally retired 42.
The solution? It seems only fitting that Henderson should be wearing 24 when he passes Mays for fifth place on the all-time runs-scored list later this year. Then hang up the number for good after Rickey retires. Unless, of course, Barry Bonds decides that he wants to spend a year at Shea when he’s pushing 40.
contributors: Paul Forrester, Neil Demause, Allen St. John, Andrew Hsiao, Joseph Jesselli Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman