Quebec Still Carries a Debt of Olympian Proportions

In 1971, when Montreal was awarded the 1976 Olympics, then-mayor Jean Drapeau said, "The Olympic Games can no more have a deficit than a man can have a baby."

Ouch.

As writer Jeffrey Ulbrich recently put it, citizens of Montreal are now looking for pregnant men. The province of Quebec still owes $304 million for the Olympics and the debt grows every year. Montreal Olympic Stadium is known locally as "The Big O," but many spell it: "The Big Owe."

Eighteen years after the Olympics, the Games have cost about $1.7 billion, including roughly $750 million in interest.

The greatest? Michael Jordan's attempt to succeed in pro baseball--he was batting .221 after Sunday--reminds former Times sportswriter George Kiseda of a decades-ago conversation with NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown.

"It was during the time Wilt Chamberlain was considering a one-fight boxing career, against Muhammad Ali, with Brown as Wilt's manager," Kiseda said. "I ran into Brown at Wilt's Harlem nightclub and asked him, 'What makes you think Wilt can just announce he's going to be a boxer and then go out and do it? Nobody's ever done that.'

"Brown said to me, 'Don't tell me what nobody has ever done. We're talking about the greatest athlete who ever lived.' "

Trivia time: What catcher holds the major league record for fewest passed balls in a season (in 150 or more games)?

Score error: The other day, after San Diego pitcher Wally Whitehurst was hit by a line drive in a game against the Chicago Cubs, Chicago announcers Harry Caray and Steve Stone told of how a line drive hit by Gil McDougald in 1957 had ended the career of pitcher Herb Score. However, in a 1987 interview with The Times, Score said McDougald's liner had nothing to do with the early end to his career. Score was temporarily blinded by the ball, which hit him flush on the right eye on May 7, 1957. He was 25 that night. At 29, he was out of baseball.

"The McDougald line drive had nothing to do with my career ending early," Score said. "I came back in '58 throwing as hard as ever. I had a good spring. I had 13 or 14 strikeouts in an early season game. . . . But late in a game I felt elbow and forearm pain and I didn't get the ball to the plate on two straight pitches. It was an elbow tendon injury. . . . After that, I never had any snap on my pitches."

Trivia answer: Gary Carter, who had one passed ball for Montreal in 152 games in 1978.

Quotebook: Brother Ray Page, a teacher at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., at a recent roast for St. Anthony grad Bobby Hurley: "He once asked me if Beirut was named after that famous baseball player who hit home runs."

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