Indiana Gazette from Indiana, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2002 · Page 20
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Indiana Gazette from Indiana, Pennsylvania · Page 20

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Sunday, October 27, 2002
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C-2 SPORTS VIEW Sunday, October 27,2002 Baker's kid headed to bench Win, Lose and DREW By GEORGE VECSEY New York Times News Service . ANAHEIM, Calif. — Given the reactions of his mother and his wife, Dusty Baker was not surprised to hear that the commissioner's office also had some concerns about his 3- year-old son, Darren, almost getting in the middle of a tag play at home plate during Thursday night's game. Because Baker is a mensch, a secure adult, he even volunteered the opinions of his mother ("I told you") and his wife ("doesn't want him to go out there at all") and the deputy commissioner Sandy Alderson ("he told me to watch out"). But young Darren was in uniform and in the dugout Saturday night when the Giants tried to clinch the World Series against the Angels, because that is how Baker's team has done it all year. The Giants are a family enterprise, whose players bring their sons to the clubhouse, where boys have lockers and uniforms, where they watch their fathers at work. One of the most endearing aspects of Barry Bonds is seeing him kiss his son, Nikolai, after hitting a home run. . This all happens under the 10-year regime of their manager. Dusty Baker, who was one of the great people in the Dodgers' clubhouse when he was a player and has brought the concept of family to the Giants' clubhouse. • Baker may not be back as the Giants' manager next year. He and the owner, Peter Magowan, seem to have some kind of icy game of chicken going on. Whatever Baker does, he will win. Magowan, on the' other hand, could win a World Series and lose a superb human being and manager. Of course, the Mets have already lost. By rushing off to hire the thoroughly all right Art Howe, the Mets' owner, Fred Wilpon, showed neither patience nor imagination nor wisdom. Baker is not even saying he will manage next year. He was a man whose religion informed his daily conduct long before he came down with prostate cancer last winter. ' "I see my son, I see my wife, I see a lot of things for me to live for, why am I going to worry about little stuff like this, really?" Baker said Friday. This is a second marriage for Dusty Baker, age 53, and he wants to see his son as much as he can. Recently he said he wasn't likely to accompany his boy to school on a regular basis, but that his boy could accompany him to work. Not all teams have shared that philosophy over the years. Ken Griffey Jr. has never forgotten a cranky ogre with a No. 1 on his uniform (that would be Billy Martin) running a bunch of Yankee children out of the clubhouse area. Junior has transferred his feelings to the Yankees, the Mets, all of New York. But these are kinder, gentler times, and many players want their children around. This year Darren lobbied his father to serve as a batboy, to get out on the field, and Dusty said that he could when he was 4, but the boy whittled it down by midseason. On Thursday night, it all got scary, on national television. Normally, people keep an eye out for Darren, but he ran after a bat while two runs were scoring. It is too bad that the photograph of J.T. Snow of the Giants alertly scooping Darren out of danger will be the lasting image of the game. It was cute when Snow and Darren chatted in the dugout and touched fists. But Baker's face, in the dugout, was not of total relief. He knew he had not heard 'the last of that "I saw the play unfold, and I was thinking about what my mom told me about," Baker said Thursday night. "She said, 'He shouldn't be out there; he's gonna get hurt.' I said, 'Mom, I know what I'm doing.' "First call I got when I got back to the clubhouse was my mom to tell me, T know you listen to me sometimes; just listen to me this time.'" Baker's wife, Melissa, was not happy when they met later. "It's not going to happen again," Baker said Friday. "I'm hoping that him and other kids aren't prohibited from being in the dugout. I'm not proud of it. I don't like seeing my son all over the TV in that light. Some people think it's cute, but I don't. I don't like watching him in the paper. He told me he's tired of being in the paper himself. "In another light, I'm just hoping that they don't come up with some Darren Baker rule that prohibits kids from being in the dugout, being able to do these things," Baker added.. It sounds as if that could happen. Alderson, who knows Baker from when they both worked in Oakland, called Friday. "I went over the occurrence and I voiced some concern that it not be repeated," Alderson said. "I said there is no specific rule forbidding his son from the dugout. But, on the other hand, I expect there to be some judgment, some common sense, I expect them to be careful. Dusty said he would do it. He said his son might be on the field once or twice." Could there be a baseball rule or policy next year regarding the age and duties of children in the dugout, whether family or not? "Yes, that's possible," Alderson said. Nobody knows if Baker will even be in uniform then. He talks about going up on a mountaintop to seek a message after the Series. He is a man who knows himself. He openly talks about his cancer. He described the knuckleheaded fight he got into with a fan in 1981 that injured his hand and jeopardized his play, although the Dodgers did win the Series. He talks about his debt to mentors like Roy Campanella, Joe Black, Junior Gilliam, Tommie Aaron, Bill Lucas, baseball people who have died. He is also a winning manager, one game from winning the World Series. It's hard to imagine that Peter Magowan and Fred Wilpon would not be righting for Baker's services next year. Foreign exchange Yao the latest addition to sports' melting pot By MICKEY HERSKOWITZ Houston Chronicle First came the Cubans, most of them pitchers, to bring a foreign texture to baseball and open the way for others from Latin America and Mexico. Their numbers were few and the language barrier slight because the Washington Senators, a dreadful team, had the early monopoly on their services. Once, with the Senators playing in Boston, a writer called the hotel room of Camilo Pascual, interrupting die star pitcher's sleep. When the drowsy Cuban picked up the phone, the newsman made a quick introduction and then asked, "Camilo, do you speak English?" "Not at seven in the morning," he snapped, checking his bedside clock before hanging up the receiver. When kickers invaded pro football, they were either born or educated here and spoke with an accent not much thicker than that of Bum Phillips. The Gogolak brothers, Pete and Charlie, were a generation removed from their Hungarian roots. Scandinavia gave us Jan Stenerud, who attended Montana State on a skiing scholarship. After A minor explosion_of kickers named Zendejas, one coach spoke for many wKen he IbbHe^'for "a rule "' change. "They need to tighten the immigration laws," he complained. In the NBA, the first significant foreign exchange was out of Africa. The players surprised us with how quickly they polished their use of our language. A fan asked 7-7 Manute Bol the all-time trite question: "How's the weather up there?" She jumped backward when the Dinka tribesman retorted, "Who do I look like, Willard'Scott?" So now comes Yao Ming, the most intriguing Chinese import since chopsticks. Never mind how coach Rudy Tomjanovich communicates with his newest art object. Houston fans were worrying about how Cuttino Mobley, Kelvin Cato and Moochie Norris communicate with their Chinese dragon. Rudy T says not to worry. He learned in China that Yao knows a smattering of English and has vowed to work hard to expand his vocabulary. "We went out on the floor," said Tomjanovich, "and started talking about different stuff. We got into a pick- and-roll conversation, and he said, 'No, Coach. You mean a pick-and-pop.'" In Yao's playbook, when a teammate sets a pick, the 7-5 center prefers to pop back for a fadeaway shot, rather than roll to the basket. Certain definitions are open to ne- gotiation. He is a grandiose figure, this 22-year-old rookie who has been described in China as a national treasure. In his culture, courtesy, dignity and honor are given a high priority. One of his major adjustments will be getting accustomed to the presence of his interpreter, the obliging Colin Pine. While Pine tries his best to be unobtrusive, having someone repeat nearly everything you say—in a second tongue — is a lot like having the late Howard Coseli following you around, broadcasting your meals. Even in this new relationship, there is a certain symmetry. In the basketball idiom, "pine" refers to the bench, where Yao doesn't figure to spend much time once he works his way into the lineup. But as Rudy points out, the one condition that will allow Yao to go with the flow is the fact every NBA team has a language of its own. They are like the Navajo wind- talkers from World War II, using a code their enemies can't break. "You have to understand something about basketball," Tomjanovich says. "We have our own language, anyway. I can stand in front of the other team and talk Rockets basketball, while they are right next to us, and they wouldn't understand what we are saying. We have our own terms, our own §1511315*3513 KariU'sigrialsr'arid mir'own language. "We use words that have no relation to basketball. Banana means something. We had (plays) called Oscar and Felix, but when we got Oscar Torres, that didn't work anymore." Torres is the Venezuelan who joined the team in 2001. Yao told Carroll Dawson, Houston's general manager, that the first NBA game he ever watched on television was Houston's Game 7 victory over the Knicks in the 1994 Finals. He has been a Rockets fan ever since, he claim's, and no doubt the first two American words he learned were "Hakeem Olajuwon." One can lament the fact the Dream did not come along a few years later, or Yao a few years earlier, to see what night music they might have created. In the same vein, if Yao really wanted to hasten his word skills, it is a pity Charles Barkley retired to the television studio. Barkley can speak on a multitude of subjects and often does. When they were teammates in Philadelphia, he referred to Bol as "Kunta Kinte, the Dunkin' Dinka." Of course, you shudder slightly to think about die politically incorrect trash talk Sir Charles would be laying on the formal and modest Yao Ming. Perhaps we should not go there. Charles may yet be heard from, and while the indications are that Yao has a receptive sense of humor, you do not wish to see it tested too much too soon. O'Reilly gave up hockey for greater love By JACKIE MacMULLAN The Boston Globe When he was five years old, his father would carry him into the Bruins dressing room and dump him into the towel bucket. "I remember that," said Evan O'Reilly. "The trainers would push me around in the basket while my dad was on the ice." His dad is Terry O'Reilly, the coach of the Boston Bruins at the time, who had completed a blood-and-guts playing career and was in the process of building a promising, cerebral coaching career. The trips to Boston Garden were special for the O'Reilly boys, who could not recall their father's playing days. Evan and his older brother, Conor, loved the musty smell of the old building, and the special bond the Bruins players shared. Conor distinctly remembers where his family's seats were located — Loge 21, an area surrounded by O'Reilly disciples. "I loved going into the games with my dad," Evan said. "I'd ride on his shoulders to the Union Oyster House. On the way home, we'd stop at the Putnam Pantry in Danvers to get jelly beans." It was on O'Reilly's watch that the Bruins finally snapped a 45-year streak of losing to Montreal in the postseason. That same year, 1988, Boston made it ail the way to the Stanley Cup finals before losing to a loaded Edmonton team. ••Even though his team had been blanked, 4-0, in the finals, O'Reilly's coaching career was on the rise. He seemed to blend the perfect mix of 4 toughness and tenderness to motivate his players. But there was a problem. Evan was having trouble keeping food down. It quickly became apparent something was very, very wrong. Evan was diagnosed with a liver disease — Alagille Syndrome — that prevented his bile ducts from functioning properly. The bile would build up in Evan's system, often causing vomiting and, subsequently, severe dehydration. The strain of his son's illness was overwhelming. There were too many times when O'Reilly would be in a strange city, in a strange hotel, when the phone would ring with news his son had taken ill again. "One year, Evan was hospitalized nine times," O'Reilly said. "I couldn't justify being on the road." When the 1988-89 season ended, O'Reilly resigned as coach of the Bruins. There were other factors, in addition to Evan's illness, he says, but there is no question his son's struggles put the importance of hockey into perspective. "It was an easy decision," O'Reilly said. "Evan would get sick, and I'd be on the road, and my wife would have to drop Conor at the neighbors or try to find a sitter. "I'd fly home, get in around 1 or 2 in the morning, and go right to the hospital. It was very, very stressful on the whole family. It was tough (on my wife) and very hard on Conor, too. Coaching just didn't make sense anymore." His sons didn't realize what had happened at first. Suddenly, Dad was around more, always making sure he balanced time with his sick son, who needed him, and his healthy son, who needed him just as much. "It was nice to have him around all the time," said Conor, "but a piece of me wanted him to keep coaching. He was good at it, and he loved it so much. "But he did it for all the right reasons. My brother was having a tough time. When Dad went on the road, it was a mental thing. Evan got sicker every time Dad took a trip." O'Reilly turned his back on hockey without blinking. He became a tireless volunteer for the liver Foundation. Me turned to one of his other loves — construction — and turned it into his new vocation. His boys suddenly had their father both in body and spirit, and they reveled in the time they spent with him. "I don't remember his actual retirement," Evan said. "But I do remember after (he quit coaching), he started coming to all of my appointments at the Floating Hospital. "There was one time when I was having kidney problems (from being dehydrated). I had to spend the night in the hospital. My dad stayed with me. We played video games all night. For being in the hospital and all that, it was a pretty good time." The years went by. Evan's condition improved. O'Reilly's construction business flourished. In the blink of an eye, Conor was 23 years old — a man. Evan was a freshman at Merrimack College, ready to let go of his father's hand. The New York Rangers, loaded with ex-Bruins like Jim Schoenfeld, Ted Green, and Brad Park on their staff, came calling. Would Terry O'Reilly like to be an assistant coach? Was he ready to step back into hockey? "The timing was right," O'Reilly said. "My boys are older. Evan was going off to college, and doinggreat." Evan reports his health is good. He takes his medicine religiously, and does not drink alcohol. He admits when he was a little boy, he didn't like hockey at all, because it lured his father away from him. "But now I really like it — except when the Rangers lose," Evan said. "I'm rooting for them, because my father never won a Stanley Cup, and I think most hockey players will tell you their career is never really fulfilled until they win one." Thursday night, as they raised O'Reilly's No. 24 to the rafters, his sons, Conor and Evan, stood on the ice with a host of Bruins legends, and marveled at the glowing descriptions of a hockey player they never saw. "I have to say, when I watch the clips on 'ESPN Close-up,' I kind of get a, kick out of it," said Conor. "I mean, he wasn't one of the biggest guys, but to hear all these players say they're scared of him .. . it's kind of funny to me. I mean, that's my dad." Their dad was not the most talented hockey player there ever was, nor was he the most successful coach who ever put on a suit. He was, however, one of the most passionate men the game of hockey has seen. "I think he walked away at the right time, considering what was going on with our family," Evan said. "But when you look at what he left behind, you recognize how amazing it was, what he did. Turning away from all that fame, success, and everything. I mean, hockey is his life." No, Evan. You and Conor are. Guidelines for letters By mail Address letters to: Viewpoint editor, 899 Water St., Indiana, PA 15701. By fax Fax them to 465-8267. Online Go to Ihe Gazette Web site, www.in- dianagazette.com, and click on Sub- mit A Letter in the bar to the left. Rules All tetters to the editor must be signed and include Ihe writer's full address and telephone number before they can be considered for publication. Those who submit tetters online may be contacted for verification. Letters must be factual and discuss issues and not personalities. A recommended limit for length is two typewritten, double-spaced pages. Writers of letters should not ask to have their names withheld. Habitual letters from the same writer are an abuse of the intent of this forum for readers' opinions. All tetters to the editor are subject to editing. This pair belongs together By JIM LITKE AP Sports Writer Rarely have two guys in sports deserved each other more than New York Knicks guard Latrell Sprewell and his boss, Scott Layden. Separately, each has run through more second chances than Robert Downey Jr. Together, they've run the NBA's flagship franchise into the ground. At least there's this consolation: Whichever one winds up taking the fall for this latest adventure probably will be run out of town. Both might be. Sprewell made his case Monday outside the Knicks' training facility. This was hours after he failed to show up at the appointed hour ordered by the Knicks, and not long after he didn't show up at all at a news conference called specifically to announce Sprewell was filing a $40 million lawsuit against The New York Post for its account of how he broke his hand. "You've all dug up my past," Sprewell said. "Look at Scott's track record since he's been here." We have, and it's not a flattering comparison — for either side. Even an abbreviated version of SpreweM's rap sheet includes coach choking, dangerous driving, insubordination and frivolous lawsuits. This is a guy who clearly picked up everything he knows about dispute resolution from "Dirty Harry" movies. Not that Layden's skills are much better. Last month, he slapped Sprewell with a $250,000 fine for failing to report his broken hand in a timely fashion and told him to stay away from his teammates. Then, just hours after Sprewell ripped him and the organization, Layden tacked on another $137,500 in fines and suspended him for a preseason game against the Jazz he could not have played anyway because'of the injury. And then, perhaps to prove he could be every bit as mercurial as Spree,' Layden said he "absolutely" expected his star to play for the Knicks this season. Conveniently, Layden didn't say when that might be. Sprewell, though, said it couldn't happen soon enough. He expects to have a return date set within a week or so. "Stop keeping me away from my teammates," he said. "That's like saying to your kids, 'Go to your room, time out.' You already gave me a $250,000 fine. What is the deal with me not able to come around the team and work out? "This is really dragging on too long," Sprewell added. "I think at this point, they either have to let me start coming back, or they have to tell me to really stay away." By this point, Layden's options are limited. After shopping Sprewell around all summer and finding no takers, this latest fiasco only ensures the next offers will be for even less. Not that Layden hasn't made a mess of player moves before. He wasn't running the franchise when the Knicks tossed Sprewell a career-saving lifeline and an airline ticket three years ago. But he took over soon afterward, following the lockout-shortened 19.99 season, when the Knicks went to the NBA Finals, and they have been on the decline ever since. Rather than rebuild, he hung on to Allan Houston and Sprewell at the maximum salary and paid way too much for Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson and Clarence Weatherspoon. Overpaying virtually everybody on liis roster has made them all nearly untradeable. Last season, despite the league's highest payroll at $92'million, the Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. Worse still, Layden's desperate gambit to paper over all his other mistakes backfired when Antonio McDyess, who cost him the No. 7 pick in the draft, cracked his kneecap dunking a ball in the closing minutes of a preseason game against Phoenix. Sprewell insists he wants to stay in New York, and Layden insists that he wants him there. But making up isn't likely to do either of them much good. Sprewell hasn't proved he can carry this team without more help — even with him playing his best, the Knicks won only 30 games — and Layden hasn't proved he can run an organization. The only thing New York fans can hope for is a meltdown, another season so low that the Knicks get to pick in the lottery again, and the rebuilding effort that should have commenced at least two seasons ago gets under way in earnest. In that sense, these two have things off to a flying start. Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him atjlitke@ap.org

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