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Alaskans Have a Different Opinion About Sled Dog Race

The Iditarod, the thousand-mile-plus sled dog race underway in Alaska, is partly portrayed by promoters as a link to Alaska’s cultural heritage, to pre-snowmobile times, when Alaskans used dogs for winter transportation.

However, not all Alaskans buy that interpretation. Fact is, many of them believe pioneering Alaskans would be appalled to see the punishment endured by the dogs during the Anchorage-to-Nome race.

At the finish of the race, which requires from 10 days to two weeks, many of the 50-pound dogs are reduced to skin and bones. Many collapse at the finish line. Many cannot rise to a standing position to eat for days. Their paws are often cut to shreds from running on jagged ice.

In 1986 a TV crew caught one musher beating and kicking his dogs during the race. In 1985, a dog died during the race after it was kicked by a musher.

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In 1986, reporter Shelly Gill of the Wasilla Frontiersman interviewed rural Alaskans about the race.

Ted Almasy, of McGrath, Alaska, told Gill: “That first race (1973), from Anchroage to McGrath, all you could see along the trail was dog blood and dead dogs. . . . After each Iditarod, we used to see dead dogs at the dump.”

Margaret Mespelt, an Alaskan since 1929, told Gill: “We knew Leonard Seppala (one of the mushers of ’25), and he would turn over in his grave if he knew what was happening.

“Talk about cruelty to animals. They just kick ‘em and boot ‘em.”

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Lighten up, Fay: The Washington Post’s Mark Potts, on baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent’s opposition to Japanese ownership of the Seattle Mariners:

“Many baseball experts outside the Establishment say they believe Japanese investment in the sport would be essentially harmless and could have at least one significant benefit--broadening the shrinking pool of investors willing to spend $100 million-plus for a franchise.

“The objections to the Japanese bid . . . have perplexed many people in Seattle, which has strong economic and cultural ties to Japan that go back decades.”

Trivia time: Who was the first $1 million-per-year baseball player?

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It’s about time: Virginia City, 123 years later, finally got its baseball rematch with Carson City Sunday in Reno.

The two town teams played in Nevada’s first organized baseball game in 1869. The Carson City Stars won, 81-31. On Sunday, Virginia City won, 1-0.

The rematch was organized by Robert Nylen of the Nevada State Museum. He arranged for a replica of a period, leather-covered baseball, period uniforms, old-fashioned bats--and a very old rule book.

The pitchers threw underhand, from 45 feet away. The bats were long, heavy and non-tapered. Except for the shortstop, who could roam about the infield, infielders were required to stand on their bases. No one wore gloves. And umpires made calls only on close plays.

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Trivia Answer: Nolan Ryan, who signed a four-year contract with the Houston Astros for $1 million per year in 1979.

Quotebook: Baltimore Oriole utility player Tim Hulett, on his shoulder injury: “It’s just a spring shoulder. I guess it’s just part of being 32.”


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