SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD
Five days later than expected but very much alive, Thomas and Tina Sjogren reached the top of the world last week. After a grueling two-month trek by ski to the North Pole, the New York-based couple completed their Triple Crown of adventuring: Mount Everest and both poles, all conquered on foot.
Tina’s the first woman to achieve the feat “unsupported”—no air drops of supplies, no caravan of helpful aides and camera crews bearing hot coffee, not even sled dogs to haul their 400 pounds of gear. Their adventure didn’t end when they touched the northernmost point on the planet: Bad weather kept a rescue plane from reaching them.
“We have a snowstorm up here,” Tom Sjogren told the Voice via satellite phone on May 29, just an hour after reaching the pole. “There’s no chance of a landing for six days, we think. That’s bad, since we only have about one day of food left.”
“We’re going to starve,” Tina Sjogren added, speaking in a voice altered by her frostbitten nose. “Right now I’m not sure we’ll miss anything about being up here. Now we want to come back to civilization, have a beer and maybe a cigarette. Roast chicken.”
They could at least comfort themselves with warm feelings. “From the start we had big doubts we’d make it. Everybody said our chances were slim,” said Tom Sjogren. “We’re kind of surprised ourselves.” They soon got another surprise. The next day, a storm let up enough for a plane to land five kilometers from them. Late on May 30, they got ferried back to civilization. —Joe Pappalardo
THE UMPIRES STRIKE BACK
Explaining last week why he doesn’t use steroids, slim yet slugging Yankee Robin Ventura deadpanned, “Kidney failure bothers me.” While the rest of baseball buzzed with talk of steroids, Mariner manager Lou Piniella was bugging out in Tampa. After getting the thumb from umpire John Shulock for protesting ball-strike calls, Piniella scurried out to kick dirt on home plate. Shulock had retired to a safe distance near third base—or so he thought, until Piniella ran over and kicked some dirt on him. The skipper then returned his attentions to home, kicking the plate nine times before crouching on his knees and covering it with soil. When Shulock refused to clean the plate off, Seattle catcher Dan Wilson had to ask for the ump’s brush and remove the dirt himself. “I wish I’d been catching,” he growled. “I would’ve put more dirt on the damn plate. He would’ve needed a broom and a towel and some Windex.”
Not to be outdone, peppery little Bobby Valentine had his own dustup. After bellying up to umpire Ed Rapuano and screaming in his face, Bobby V. claimed, “He bumped me. Then he threw me out for bumping him!” The men in blue were also flexing their muscles in Texas—by ejecting goody-good Alex Rodriguez twice in two weeks. His offenses: (1) Accidentally tripping and stumbling into an ump. (2) Looking funny at an ump. We know about the Rocket‘s red glare, but A-Rod’s? “I’ve never heard of anything like that,” said astounded Ranger manager Jerry Narron. Hmm . . . Umpires presenting erratic behavior, senseless aggression, and impaired judgment—sounds like it’s not just the players who need steroid testing. —J. Yeh
GEORGE AGAINST THE COSMOS
Both of the major American pro soccer leagues are struggling financially, but the WUSA is regarded as the top women’s league in the world, and soccer definitely gets more respect in the U.S. now than it did last century. Testifying to the bad old days is Gordon Bradley, the former player-coach of the New York Cosmos, who had a a run-in with George Steinbrenner that still rankles. The incident happened in 1976, when the Cosmos were about to unveil Pele to American audiences.
“We had drawn up an agreement that we were going to play in Yankee Stadium,” recalled Bradley. “Before the first game, they were putting a new field down. The day before the game, I went down to Yankee Stadium to check the field out, because it had been raining. On game day, which was a beautiful day, as I stood talking with the groundsman, Joey Esposito, Steinbrenner comes out.” The Boss had left his office and was walking around the field. Bradley said, “I’m thinking, ‘What’s he doing?’ He calls Esposito over. Then Esposito comes back to me, and Steinbrenner goes up into his office. Esposito says, ‘You can’t play, Gordon,’ and I ask, ‘What do you mean?’ He says, ‘He won’t let you.’ I ask, ‘Why?’ ‘He said the field’s too wet.’ I say, ‘Too wet? The guy’s crazy.’ I couldn’t believe it, so I took the elevator up to Steinbrenner’s office and started knocking on his door. He said, ‘You’re going to be in big trouble.’ I said, ‘If you don’t let those doors open, the fans will smash those damn doors down and you’ll never live down this day.’ He says, ‘Play your f-in’ game, and the day after the game, don’t come back.’ But we had already signed a contract to play the whole season there.”
The Cosmos wound up playing two seasons at the stadium. A Yankee spokesman says Steinbrenner won’t comment. But the Boss shouldn’t have complained. The Yankees reached the World Series that year and drew more than 2 million fans for the first time in 26 years. But their average attendance, 24,844, was 2000 less than the Cosmos drew that day. —Jon Cooper