Reggie Jackson Remains the Straw That Stirs the Drink
Revisiting the Making of Bull Durham 24 Years Later
Catching up with: Greg Louganis, Shawn Kemp, Ben Helfgott, Johnny Newman, Ray LeBlanc And More
Sports Activism: Why Don’t More Athletes Take A Stand?
(NEW YORK – July 5, 2012) – Earl Campbell graces the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 13th annual Where Are They Now? issue, dated July 9 and on newsstands now. It is the fourth cover for the alltime great running back and his first since the September 3, 1979, issue. To download a hi-res JPEG of this week’s cover, click here.
Reggie Jackson famously called himself “the straw that stirs the drink,” when he was in his prime hitting home runs for the Yankees and generating headlines for the tabloids in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. When it came to fame, Reggie threw the straw aside and drank it up in huge gulps. Never have a star and a stage seemed more meant for each other than Jackson and New York. But Mr. October does not starve for the spotlight anymore, largely because he decided to reconnect with his spiritual side in his late 50s.
Jackson has found peace in his life after his playing career. “I say I didn’t need the attention, but in a way I struggled with the attention. I got mean, mean to the people around me, mean to some of the fans who would approach me. I wanted to create some space for myself, so I developed a shell to keep some peace. After being in the fishbowl of New York, that shell got thicker and thicker. I finally got to the place where I didn’t want to carry that shell around with me anymore.”
Few athletes have ever been as comfortable confronting sensitive topics as Jackson. It’s when he is plunging into touchy issues that some of the Reggie of old emerges; the only difference is that the star no longer has as big a stage.
Jackson’s stance on the issue of undeserving members of the Hall of Fame: “I didn’t see Kirby Puckett as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Gary Carter as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Don Sutton as a Hall of Famer. I didn’t see Phil Niekro as a Hall of Famer. As much as I like Jim Rice, I’m not so sure he’s a Hall of Famer.”
On whether Bert Blyleven should have been elected into the Hall of Fame: “No. No, no, no, no. Blyleven wasn’t even the dominant pitcher of his era, it was Jack Morris.”
On being passed on the alltime home run list by players linked to performance-enhancing drugs: “I don’t think the fans really count them, and I agree. I believe that Hank Aaron is the home run king, not Barry Bonds, as great a player as Bonds was.”
On Alex Rodriguez: “Al’s a very good friend. But I think there are real questions about his numbers. As much as I like him, what he admitted about his usage does cloud some of his records.”
Jackson’s view on whether players linked to performance-enhancing drugs should be inducted into the Hall of Fame: “If any of those guys get in, no Hall of Famer will attend.”
On Andy Pettitte’s possible election to the Hall of Fame: “The question is going to be a guy like Andy
Pettitte, who admitted that he got involved for a while, but who is so universally respected in the game. I think he’ll get in, but there will be a lot of [members] who won’t go.”
Would Jackson attend? “He’s an awfully good friend. I’ve known Andy since he was 20. I’ll leave it there.”
Hal Steinbrenner’s view on the slugger’s relationship with his father, George Steinbrenner: “Reggie is larger than life. That’s why he and my father got along so well. Those last several years my dad began to mellow, and I think Reggie did too. Their relationship became a little less about the emotion of any given moment and more about the long-term friendship.”
Earl Campbell was one of the most talented and most punishing running backs that college football and the NFL have ever seen. His style was to punish defensive players with the ball in his hands. When former defenders describe what it felt like to tackle him, they sound as if they are recalling a near-death experience. Former Oilers safety Bo Eason: “He hit me so hard that both my contacts flew out. The next day we were watching film with our defensive coordinator, Jerry Glanville, and he asked me why I was running the wrong direction the rest of the game. I told him, ‘Coach, I couldn’t see s—. Earl Campbell knocked my contacts out of my head.”
Campbell played only eight years in the NFL and it had an impact on his body that came to haunt him in his 40s. Arthritis froze his knees, back and feet. He developed gout and diabetes. At 45 he was required to be in a wheelchair. Panic attacks, which had hounded him since retirement, grew more frequent. It was around this time that he began taking OxyContin, up to 10 pills a day, downing each with a Budweiser. It became so bad that during the 30th-anniversary celebration of his winning the Heisman, Campbell struggled to remember names and dates. Said Heisman winner and former NFL running back Eddie George after that celebration: “I stay focused and prayerful that I won’t have to with the situation of Earl Campbell one day.”
In November 2009, Campbell’s two sons, Tyler, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) during his junior season of football at San Diego State, and Christian approached their father and told him he needed help. They drove him to a rehabilitation clinic in Austin. The program lasted 28 days, Campbell stayed 44.
Today Campbell is feeling better than he has in nearly two decades. He’s a special assistant to Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, spending a lot of time on campus rehabilitating his knee. His business, Earl Campbell Meat Products is doing very well. It specializes in sausages, as well as microwavable plates of pork, chicken and brisket. His son Tyler, who works with Earl, hasn’t suffered an MS episode in 18 months. Together they are ambassadors for the National MS society, organizing a variety of events to raise money for research. Campbell said, “Some people have a chemical imbalance, I had a chemical imbalance too, until I decided not to put chemicals in there.”
WORSHIPPING AT THE CHURCH OF BASEBALL
The motion picture Bull Durham gave viewers details into the color and craziness of the lives of minor league ball players itching to make it to The Show. It has since gone on to become a classic, even earning the Greatest Sports Movie Ever in 2003, from Sports Illustrated. Twenty-four years later SI reassembled everyone’s favorite Carolina League roster for a look back at the making of Bull Durham.
Kevin Costner on pitching the film to studios: “We took Bull Durham around to everybody. Ron [director Ron Shelton] said that he felt like we were a couple of hookers trying to sell ourselves on the street. I had a relationship with Orion, but they had another baseball movie, Eight Men Out.”
Tim Robbins on his character, Nuke Laloosh: “Nuke was a great character. I always loved the eccentric players—Bill Lee, Jimmy Piersall. . . . When the knuckleball pitcher with the crazy long hair and the attitude comes along, or Bobby Valentine dresses up as Groucho Marx in a fake mustache, those guys are delightful to watch.”
Susan Sarandon on being cast in the role of Annie: “As a rule, most studio executives’ strong suit isn’t imagination. So when you’re trying to get a part, it helps for them to be able to envision you in the part. I definitely didn’t go in there in a T-shirt and jeans. I remember I had on an off-the-shoulder red-and-white-striped dress. It was very form-fitting. It was understood what I had to do.”
Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon on their budding relationship: “Actually, it happened after the movie. I mean, there was an attraction during the movie, and I could see something was changing from friendship to something else, but we both decided we would wait until we cleared up things in our lives,” said Sarandon. “And we have two great children as a result of that movie,” said Robbins.
Director Ron Shelton on dancing coach Paula Abdul: “I’d never heard of her. But she came up to me and asked, ‘What part do you have for me?’ And I said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘The producer said that if I did the choreography for Tim you would have a speaking part for me.’ I said, ‘I’m sorry,’ and she marched off screaming.”
Tim Robbins on what has happened to the characters since then: “Well, I’d like to think that Crash and Annie ended up having a pretty good marriage and that they’re still together. And Nuke? I always thought that Nuke maybe had a flash in the majors and then blew out his arm and is now signing autographs at trade shows. But maybe you shouldn’t print that. That’s the kind of idea that leads to sequels.”
FLYING WITH EASE – REBECCA SHORE
For more than a decade Greg Louganis was the closest thing to perfection the diving world has witnessed, winning five world and 47 national titles, and, most memorably, four Olympic gold medals and one silver across three Games (’76, ’84 and ’88), often by eye-popping margins. Later, his book, Breaking the Surface, would change his life forever. Louganis revealed a history of abuse—emotional from his father, physical and sexual from a partner—and his own battles with depression and addiction to alcohol and painkillers. He also declared that he was gay and HIV positive. Following the release, Louganis received a lot of backlash and was hurt by the lack of contact from USA Diving. His coach and mentor, Ron O’Brien, told him it would take time for USA Diving to come around.
It wasn’t until 2011, when USA Diving invited him to become an athlete mentor, that Louganis started working with the organization again in an official capacity. And since early last year he has served as a vice president of the U.S. Olympians Association, a support network for former U.S. Olympic athletes. He has been especially busy in the months leading up to the London Games. In his capacity as a coach, Louganis has worked on breathing exercises with divers such as David Boudia and Nick McCrory. Today Louganis talks freely about the darker times. He says, “I could make that my story and say, woe is me, but that’s not who I am. I wrote [Breaking the Surface] to let go of it. It’s history.”
From draft pick who never played Division-I basketball, to superstar, to punchline, Shawn Kemp’s story arc is unlike any other in NBA history. But these days, 15 years after he was traded by the Sonics in a sour divorce, the man they once called the Reign Man has moved back to Seattle and embraced the city that first embraced him. Heb has put his personal and legal troubles behind him, owns a restaurant and even plays in a flag football league. He’s more of a local fixture than a celebrity, and he is as revered as ever to locals. Seattle is Kemp’s home, and, he says: “It’s like you can get lost here, but you can’t get lost,” he says. “It’s big enough that people respect your privacy but small enough that you get to know a lot of people. Really, it’s been fabulous.” (page 74).
Ben Helfgott may have been an Olympic weightlifter for Great Britain in 1956 and 1960, but that is not where his story begins or ends. In September of 1939, when he was 10, Helfgott’s Polish town of Piotrkow was blasted to rubble by German bombers. Throughout the next six years the Helfgotts hid out in ghettos but eventually became prisoners in concentration camps. In May of 1945, Helfgott walked out of Theresienstadt concentration camp as an 80-pound sack of bones. Almost his entire family had been killed in the camps. He still talks about the war, saying: “If I forget, then I’m not worthy of being a survivor.” As a 15-year-old he was sent to live in a group home in England with the other 731 orphans from WWII to become part of a group known as The Boys. As The Boys grew into men, Helfgott discovered weightlifting and began training after work as a regional housewares sales manager. When his weightlifting career was over, he became captain of The Boys and chairman of their charity in 1963. Today he coordinates a large gathering of The Boys and their families each year, even though fewer than 250 of the original members are alive. “You’ve always got to live with hope that things will be better. One thing I’m certain of, people are capable of a lot,” Helfgott said.
WHY DON’T MORE ATHLETES TAKE A STAND? – GARY SMITH
There was a time when American athletes placed a major emphasis on making the public aware of their stance on important issues. Jim Brown, Bill Walton, Arthur Ashe and Tommie Smith all took a stand on some of the world’s most sensitive issues but few athletes do that. In many instances this has to do with fear of upsetting fans or corporate sponsors. John Carlos, who, in an effort to bring attention to racism in the U.S., raised his black-gloved fist on the medal stand after winning a bronze in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Games and “brought all hell down upon his head,” said, “Athletes today? They don’t know history! They don’t want to come out of their box and risk people taking away their lollipops.”
This is what makes what Joseph Williams did at the University of Virginia so special. Williams, a walk-on on the Cavaliers football team, went on a hunger strike this past semester to bring awareness to a Living Wage campaign, which is fighting for the workers on the campus in Charlottesville, so that they may earn a decent salary. Many of the workers on campus grew especially close to Williams throughout his first few years in school, while still rehabbing his injured ankle, taking a full course load of classes and participating in volunteer work that is so special to him. Some teammates thought he was crazy, and his coaches didn’t approve of his decision to go on a hunger strike, but he recognized the importance of taking a stand, as well as the impact an athlete can have.
If a walk-on athlete can make this much of difference, it makes you wonder what a star could accomplish. Dr. Harry Edwards says of athletes, “They have to speak up. They’re the most visible expression of achievement and financial success in the country. Actors in Hollywood have always been very outspoken. Athletes have surpassed them as Number 1 entertainers; they should be at least outspoken. Those who set the table that today’s athletes are dining at, they exercised that responsibility. Now you have to get past an athlete’s corporate and personal advisers, and so he’s got to think what’s in the best interest of Buick and Nike and Starbucks and General Electric.”
RAY LEBLANC – MATT GAGNE
The 1992 U.S Olympic hockey team made the medal round for the first time in 12 years, and Ray LeBlanc was a major part of its success. He was a minor leaguer turned Olympic goalie, averaging 2.20 goals against with a 94.6 save percentage during the Games. “He seemed destined to land a full-time NHL job,” wrote Matt Gagne.
But LeBlanc never got the successful NHL career many predicted. He played one 60-minute game for the Chicago Blackhawks, before returning back to the minor and international leagues. Although he was eligible for that summer’s expansion, he was not selected. LeBlanc now calls Largo, Fla., home. Instead of skating, he spends his days fishing, spending time with his family, volunteering with the homeless or working in receiving at Budweiser at Great Bay Distributors. “I really like driving a forklift,” he said.
ERIC MCCOO – MATT GAGNE
A decade after he left Penn State ranked ninth on the school’s alltime rushing list, Eric (Choo Choo) McCoo is still playing on Sundays. The 31-year-old was picked up two years ago by the Legion of Doom, a team that plays Sunday mornings in the lowest level of a three-tier flag football team in Bolingbrook, Ill. “My body doesn’t function like it used to, but I always find myself in the right position because of my background,” McCoo says. “Not many people know I played in the NFL.”
JOHNNY NEWMAN – STEPHANIE APSTEIN
Until recently, the man with the most losses in the history of professional basketball (664) didn’t even know that he holds that record. A second-round pick in 1986 out of Richmond, Newman played 16 years at guard and forward in the NBA. He laced up alongside such likely Hall of Famers as Patrick Ewing, Tim Hardaway, Ray Allen, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki – but almost all near the start of their careers. “I had the opportunity to be around guys who became great players. Unfortunately my record took a hit because it was early and they all were still learning to play the game.”
Newman, 48, retired in 2002 and moved back to Richmond. He now dedicates his time to many ventures including the Johnny Newman Foundation, which he started in 1985 to mentor underprivileged kids.
CHRIS DUDLEY – STEPHANIE APSTEIN
When he was diagnosed at age 16 with type 1 diabetes, Chris Dudley refused to let his condition stop him from playing basketball. Told by doctors that he would never be able to play in college or professionally, Dudley walked onto the Yale basketball team and was drafted 75th overall by Cleveland in 1987. He played for five teams in 16 seasons and retired in 2002. In 2005 he became a partner in Filigree Advisors, a Portland-based wealth-management company that specializes in helping current and former professional athletes manage their finances. In 2010, Dudley ran for governor of Oregon and lost in one of the closest gubernatorial races in state history. Today he manages the Chris Dudley Foundation, which aids diabetic children and runs a basketball camp annually for 75 diabetic teens. “It’s incredibly difficult for someone with diabetes but don’t let it stop you,” Dudley said.
Anthony Young holds a dubious record. From 1992-93 he lost 27 consecutive decisions, a number that has not come close to being topped in the last 19 years. But that streak and his career record (14-48) haven’t stopped Young from staying close to the game. The former pitcher, who lives in Houston coaches one of the top-ranked Little League in the country. Young says he took lessons from enduring his historic streak as well as the encouragement he received at the time from Hall of Famers, teammates and opponents. Now, he just wants to pass those lessons on to young kids. Of breaking the infamous record, Young says: “It was like the zoo had been lifted off my back and we had just won the World Series.” (page 110)
It only took 142 years to implement a playoff system in college football, and it’s still not done yet. There remains to be contracts signed and money to be divided up. For decades college football’s power brokers have argued that a playoff would permanently damage the sport by ruining the best regular-season in sports. Now there is hope that a playoff will save the sport, or at least stabilize it, after an ugly era of conference-hopping and broken contracts. A playoff is not just desirable, it’s necessary.
The year is 2042, and SI writer Phil Taylor is reveling in the annual Where Are They Now? issue of Sports Illustrated. The magazine is projected in hologram form and takes readers back to look at sports in 2012 – those were the days! Taylor’s teenage grandson enters the room and wants to talk about what sports were like back then. He tells him to wait a moment, while he finishes reading a story about portly retirees Andrew Luck and Bryce Harper getting into shape as Weight Watchers spokesmen. Taylor then says, “In 2012 fans didn’t criticize everyone the way young folks do now. We even appreciated umpires and referees – back when they were human.”
FUTURE GAME CHANGERS – WHERE WILL THEY BE?
Call it Where Are They Now: The Prequel, in which SI travels 10 years into the future and looks back at how the stars of tomorrow got their start today. Dizzying, to be sure, but so is the potential of the eight teenagers-to-watch profiled in this week’s issue. Someday you will be able to say that you knew the following athletes back when.
· Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, Utah) – Ski Jumping
· Jeremy Martinez (Fountain Valley, Calif.) – Baseball
· Arielle Gold (Steamboat Springs, Colo.)– Snowboarding
· Travis Wittlake Jr. (Coos Bay, Ore.) – Wrestling
· Jabrill Peppers (Midland Park, N.J.) – Football
· Taylor Townsend (Stockbridge, Ga.) – Tennis
· Jahlil Okafor (Chicago) – Basketball
· Jane Campbell (Kennesaw, GA.) – Soccer
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD
· Jordan Freer (Lotus, Calif./California Montessori Project) – Swimming
· Austin Kafentzis (Sandy, Utah/Jordan High) – Track and Field, Football
· Drew Jackson (Tyrone, Ga./Woodward Academy) – Lacrosse
· Tristan Nunez (Boca Raton, Fla./#1 Education Place) – Motor Sports
· Nicole Gibbs (Santa Monica, Calif./Stanford University) – Tennis
· Timothy Olson (Ashland, Ore./39th Western States Endurance Run) – Ultramarathon
To submit a candidate for Faces In The Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
· MLB (page 33): Regeneration – The sudden rise of rookies Mike Trout and Bryce Harper characterize a season dominated by the new. Tom Verducci
· NASCAR (page 42): Man on the Move – Former cup champ Matt Kenseth hasn’t lost a step, so why is he walking away from his long-term team? (@LarsAndersonSI)
· Tennis (page 38): The Older the Better – Brian Baker’s run in the first round of Wimbledon was just one example of a big trend in men’s tennis: age is actually in a player’s favor. S.L. Price