Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on April 30, 1981 · Page 37
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 37

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Thursday, April 30, 1981
Page 37
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C:3 For the complete sports rundown. Page 4. t Once-champ Leon Spinks has a new problem. He's been ordered to pay a pile of temporary alimony to his estranged wife. Story on Page 3D. SPORTS WORLD I (0) ii O . A1 NFL DRAFT PICKS L J DETROIT FREE PRESS HORSE RACING COMICS 9-11 s war 4 Hi 0 I IT 0 I isian a: ti 7v j ii : n 4 Gperee I PlISCOS II Pistons want Thomas, but he wants to go back to Chicago "That's not far from where I live ... a rough part of town, They sell a lot of drugs over there." Harding Lovett, Chicago cab driver By CHARLIE VINCENT Free Press Sport Writer Across from the run-down old Hoover Hotel at the corner of Jackson and Homan on Chicago's west side, old men tired by the dally drudgery of doing nothing sit on benches and endure what remains of their days, stocking caps pulled down over their foreheads and a communal bottle of wine at their side. It Is a neighborhood of vacant buildings with all the glass broken out of the windows and the wails leaning percariously at drunken angles. It is a neighborhood of weed-choked lots filled with abandoned cars and rotting tires, where the sharpies lean against lamp posts and whisper temptation of sweet but Illegal delights to those who will listen. It Is a neighborhood of asphalt basketball courts enclosed by 12-foot high wire fences. It is Isiah Thomas' neighborhood in Isiah Thomas' town. And, after two years of the pastoral life among the tulip trees and meandering streams of Bloomington, Ind., Isiah wants to go home. CERTAIN TO be one of the first three players chosen in the National Basketball Association's June 9 draft, Thomas who celebrates his 20th birthday Thursday wants to play for the Chicago Bulls. But it's Detroit and Dallas who will flip a coin Thursday to determine who will pick first in the draft. And Piston general manager Jack McCloskey said last weekend it "would be reasonably safe to assume" that he would take Thomas, the 6-foot-1 All-American guard and the outstanding player in the NCAA tournament, if Detroit wins that flip. Thomas, Mo announced last week that he was giving up his last two years of college eligibility at Indiana University to turn pro, hopes the Bulls will make a deal that will take him to Chicago. It's not that he's prejudiced against either Detroit or Dallas. It's just that Chicago is home, and the Bulls have the kind of team he thinks he can help. Lions were losers in days of cloak and dagger draft In neighborhoods all over town, there appears to be grave concern - not over how Chrysler or GM is faring, but how Ford made out in the draft. This Is the annual frowning period in the Motor City, when the public figures that, one way or another, Bill Ford's Lions will come up with less than anybody and the football team will remain anchored nolo contendre when it resumes play in the fall. It's not necessarily so. The Lions have had some good, productive drafts in recent years, although they also have had occasional horrors. The draft Isn't what It used to be anyway. Now It is a stop-watched, programmed, computerized bore. There was a time, 15 to 20 years ago, when the draft of college players brought out sheriffs from Waxahatchie to Honolulu. Vice squad cops chased Illicit ladles from motels. The FBI was summoned to investigate alleged kidnappings. Hart lost his Schuh In Dallas, a J.R. Ewing-type promised to take in a bull-necked kid tackle as a partner. On New York's Wall Street, stock brokerages were getting urgent calls from Norman, Okla., for last-second price quotes an All-American halfback was ready to sign, if the portfolio was properly weighted. Although never confirmed, it was said the CIA, the KGB, MI-6 and remnants of the Capone mob also were involved. An exaggeration. Probably. That's what the National Football League draft was like from 1960-67, when the old teams were in a talent war with the fledgling American Football League. The drafting of college players had all the urgency of the H-bomb development or the race to the moon. Both leagues figured they had to win or at least control the draft and the top players to survive. It led to outlandish, if not criminal, activity. Russ Thomas, a player scout then and the Lions' general manager now, is rather vague about those years, maybe deliberately so. "The NFL had hired a group of what we called 'baby-sitters,' " Thomas said as the 1981 draft progressed at a ho-hum pace Wednesday. "The idea was for these fellows to grab the top draft prospects and take 'em somewhere out of reach of the AFL, which was holding its draft at the same time. "Leon Hart (the huge former Lion end) worked for the league. One of the players he was supposed to sit on until our draft was Harry Schuh, a tackle from Memphis State. But Leon never could catch up with Schuh." The AFL had its own set of "kidnappers." With Hart in hot pursuit, Schuh was whisked to Las Vegas, then on to Honolulu, always a step ahead of Hart. "In those years," said Thomas, "if you didn't have a player right with you or in direct contact, you wouldn't dare draft him. A lot of players taken in the first rounds then were not that good they happened to be players you knew you could sign because you had him right there." Schuh, for instance, never was drafted by an NFL team because he could not be reached. Oakland drafted him on the first round and signed him. College players were kept in hiding for four to six days before the draft. Some later said they had been entertained royally, although several complained they had been locked in hotel rooms and enticed by hired women. Managements of Detroit teams usually have lacked sophistication, and it follows that the Lions lost heavily in the talent war with the AFL and suffered for many years to come. Big ones that got away In 1960, they drafted LSU's Johnny Robinson and signed him, but Johnny slipped away to the AFL anyway. Two years later, they were conned into drafting Kansas' John Hadl, when Carl Eller (who's still playing) was the guy they really wanted. Hadl wound up in the other league. In 1964, Pete Beathard was their top pick. How were they to know Beathard's daddy's closest friend was a guy named Don Klosterman, who worked for the AFL? They also drafted a kid named Fred Biletnikoff , only to learn Fred already was under contract to the AFL. You notice those names Robinson, Hadl, Eller, Beathard, Biletnikoff, superstars, one and all on somebody else's field. Well, that's history, you say. How did they do in 1931, this year's draft? I dunno. You never really know until several years later, rookies being mostly unpredictable. But I'd feel a lot better If they had not waited until the sixth round and 158th player to grab a defensive back. We can be bombed out again. 4 ,t. I if" Isiah Thomas relaxing at home with niece Raquel Burnett: "In Detroit, who would I pass to?' "MY JOB IS to get the ball to somebody who can score. In Detroit, who would I pass to?" he asked, sitting on the arm of a couch In his Bloomington apartment. See ISIAH THOMAS, Page7D Heads up call from Piston fans The people have spoken. And Detroit Piston general manager Jack McCloskey has promised he will abide by their choice. In response to a contest sponsored by radio station WJR-AM, listeners sent in ballots directing the Pistons to select either heads or tails in Thursday's coin toss to determine whether they or Dallas will get the first pick in the NBA's June 9 draft. Fifty-three percent of the votes said the Pistons should select heads and heads it will be if McCloskey gets to make the call. However, If Dallas also asks to call the flip, NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien will first flip a coin to determine which of the two clubs gets to call the "real" flip. Charlie Vincent YANKS HAND DETROIT 10TH STRAIGHT LOSS, 3-2 L TmCinnir r Leon Hart mo 4 n 1 9 lger smmp getting naicuious J2S '4,K ? i ' , ! Free Press Pholo by ALAN KAMUDA Reggie Jackson (left) and Jerry Mumphrey congratulate Dave Winfield on his first Yankee homer. By BRIAN BRAGG Fr Press Sports Writer The Yankees scored in only one inning Wednesday afternoon, but that was enough to defeat the Tigers again, 3-2, as Jack Morris took the loss after another strong pitching performance. It was, as Morris said, "one mistake, just one mistake, and the guy hit it 326 feet." The guy was multimillionaire Dave Winfield, who made Morris the victim of his first home run as a Yankee. The 6-foot-6 slugger reached the right-field seats with a teammate aboard in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie and give the Yankees all the offense they needed to conclude a sweep of the three-game series. It was the Tigers' 10th consecutive loss their longest losing streak since 1975, when they dropped 19 In a row. They're still a ways from the modern-day record - the 1961 Phillies lost 23 straight - but they Tigers call Leach from Evansville Fr Prm itaff report The Tigers, mired In a 10-game losing streak, decided Wednesday to bring former University of Michigan football star Rick Leach to the big leagues. Leach, a first baseman, is hitting .386 for the Evansville Triplets, the Tigers top farm, club in the American Association. In 13 games this season, he has 17 hits in 44 at bats, including five doubles and two home runs. He leads the Triplets with 16 RBIs. See RICK LEACH, Page 7D haven't won since April 18, and they haven't hit a lick since then, either. STEVE KEMP is the only full-time player who has been hitting consistently. Kemp drove in the Tigers' first run Wednesday and scored the other after his second double of the game. "We've got to score more than one or two runs a game," the left fielder noted. "What the heck, we had nine hits today and they only had five, but they got the big hit and we didn't. "This ain't pretty and this ain't nice to be losing like this, but we can't get down on ourselves and just give up. The players don't like it any more than the fans or the media or the management, but it seems like just nothing Is going right." The Tigers had enough scoring opportunities against See TIGERS, Page 7D Rick Leach 2 sure starters in Lion draft By CURT SYLVESTER Free Press Sports Writer Monte Clark wasn't threatening to do back flips the way he did when the Lions landed Billy Sims a year ago. But he felt good enough to light a victory cigar at the end of the NFL draft Wednesday. "In the past, we've been drafting just to survive,'' said Clark. "Now we're talking about guys who can help us win. We're past that embryonic stage. It's not a survival thing anymore. This is to put us over the top." That doesn't necessarily guarantee a Super Bowl, a division title or even a winning season In 1981 not with Oakland, San Diego, Dallas and Los Angeles on the schedule. But the 1981 draft should produce at least two Immediate starters (No. 1 pick Mark Nichols, a wide receiver, and No. 2 man Curtis Green, a defensive Months selections 'can help us twV tackle), plus a couple of part-timers and special team players. And Clark is hoping to get additional help out of the final six players he drafted Wednesday Including Michigan linebacker Andy Cannavino, taken in the 10th round. GUARD DON GRECO, No. 3, has impressed both Clark and line coach Fred Hoaglln with his pulling and trapping ability, which means he will probably compete with veterans Homer Elias and Russ Bollnger for a starting job. And it would not be surprising to find wide receiver Tracy Porter, the No. 4 pick, playing in passing situations. The other players taken Wednesday were offensive lineman Lee Spivey of Southern Methodist in the seventh round, tight end Bob Niziolek of Colorado in the eighth, defensive backs Hugh Jernigan of Arkansas and David Martin of Villanova In the ninth and defensive back Willie Jackson of Mississippi State in the 11th. The Lions did not have a 12th-round choice. Out of the three defensive backs, Clark is looking for at least one player to bolster the defensive backfield. He feels Canna-vino's Intelligence, leadership qualities and experience at Michigan can be a boost to Detroit's special teams. MOSTLY, HOWEVER, the 1981 draft could be remembered as the one that made See LIONS DRAFT, Page 2D Case of 'Catch 22' for Mythical Ruler By GENE GUIDI 1 ' Free Press Racing Writer LOUISVILLE - In the Kentucky Derby's storied 106-year history, never has a horse been denied the chance to run for the roses. The Derby was anyone's chance to prove that on the first Saturday in May, they possessed the best three- year-old thoroughbred in America. But all of that has changed for Derby No. 107. And, as a result, Freddy Wirth had to be the loneliest man in town Wednesday. While reporters bounced back and forth between the cluster of barns housing top Kentucky Derby contenders Tap Shoes, Cure the Blues, Proud Appeal and Pleasant Colony, there was Wirth, trainer of Mythical Ruler, with only his horse for company. No one wants to waste much time on Wirth because Mythical Ruler Is a long shot to even get into Saturday's Derby, let alone win it. Churchill Downs instituted a 20-horse limit on Derby fields after the 23-horse traffic jam in 1974. Now only the top 20 money earners can enter the race. THE WIDE-OPEN nature of this year's Derby makes It virtually certain the Downs will have to in voke the 20-and-out rule for the first time. Mythical Ruler stands 22d on the purse earning's list and needs a couple of defections above him to get in. Wirth, a slender ex-jockey (he rode a little in Detroit In the mld-1940s) with a '50s crewcut and teeth that are losing the battle to chewing tobacco, welcomed the chance to talk to someone anyone about his chances of getting in Saturday's race. "Did you hear that Habano might not enter the Derby?" he immediately asks. - Habano has raced like a real dog since coming to the States but earned enough money in the rarified air of Mexico to rank high on the Derby earnings list. "If Habano doesn't go Saturday, then that makes us 21st and all we need is one more horse to drop out for us See KENTUCKY DERBY, Page 8D I . MO Wit Gono Guldi lha Darby

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