Rudy’s Stadium Slugfest

Trying to follow the mayor’s plans to build three minor-league ballparks—at a cost of $116 million and rising—is like watching a Cleveland Indians game: No lead is safe, and you can’t tell who’s winning until the final out.

The pregame favorites, Rudy’s Bunker Bombers, were battered in the early going. On November 23, a Brooklyn judge granted a temporary restraining order against the mayor’s planned stadium in the Parade Grounds, which would be home to a new Mets farm club while a permanent home in Coney Island was under construction. Five days earlier, Community Board 13 had voted 25-4 to officially oppose the Coney Island park, since it would potentially displace the amateur sports arena that has been in the works there for years. Over on the junior circuit side, meanwhile, the Yankees’ proposed ballpark by the Staten Island ferry landing was ducking bullets in the City Council, where Queens councilman Walter McCaffrey was peppering Economic Development Corporation star Michael Carey with questions about parking, the lack of a signed lease, and the stadium’s whopping $71 million price tag, which would be a new minor-league record.

On Monday, however, the council’s land use committee voted 14-1 to approve the Staten Island plan, with the full council set to vote on Tuesday. (Queens journeyman John Sabini was the lone holdout.) And across the river in Brooklyn, EDC lawyers threw a curveball, asking for a one-week delay in the Parade Grounds suit in hopes of cutting a deal with the plaintiffs. Monday’s Daily News reported that the city would consider cutting the ballpark’s seats by nearly half and relocating parking to the Prospect Park skating rink.

So what’s it all mean? Perhaps, as the Staten Island Register speculated in a weekend editorial, McCaffrey’s squad simply kicked the ball upstairs to the full council, in hopes that the Coney Island controversy would ultimately cause the whole deal to fall through. (Register editor Bill Franz, told of Monday’s land use vote, laughed and said, “The first part of the scenario’s in place.”) In all likelihood, though, the outcome won’t be known until we see who can score the services of fearsome free-agent fireballer Peter Vallone, who has yet to weigh in on any of the ballpark plans. Stay tuned—there’s plenty of good hardball yet to come.

Triple Japanese

The Eighth Annual Double Dutch Holiday Classic, held at the Apollo Theater Sunday, was dominated yet again by teams from Japan. For the fourth consecutive year a Japanese squad took the coveted “Best in the Show Award,” while another perennial Japanese winner didn’t even compete because they are just plain too good.

Absolute Wish, making their debut, took the trophy for first place, with R and R placing second. They were easy victories. Starting with classic double Dutch moves, each team added amazing rope handling and dives during fusion segments (diverse three-minute original routines performed to recorded music) that clearly outshined most of their American counterparts.

Their creativity was a welcome diversion; due to the repetition of the event (there were over 50 teams, each performing compulsory routines and speed trials) the afternoon tended toward monotony. Even organizers onstage seemed to feel the boredom—when they got to other fusion acts, more times than not a weak performance meant a quick Apollo hook.

But the excitement was ratcheted up to the max when Run-D-Crew took the stage. The Japanese team had taken first place each of the last three years, and had won so handily that they were invited back this year not to compete, but simply to perform. Their usual brand of fireworks—including ropehandlers twirling and jumping at the same time—sent an otherwise lukewarm crowd wildly to its feet. “When we first came here three years ago we were worried we wouldn’t be accepted,” said 26-year-old Miki Matsui, who, along with her teammates, was thrilled once again just to be there. “It was crazy. They love us. And we love the Apollo!”

The lines of little girls waiting to get Run-D-Crew’s autographs were proof enough they’ve brought double Dutch to a new level. Others must agree, because the Japanese company Bandai (they make Power Rangers) helped sponsor the event and the Japanese teams. The company hopes to promote the sport worldwide next year.


Contributors: Neil Demause, Frank Ruscitti

Sports Editor: Miles D. Seligman

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