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1995: Year of More Bust Than Boom

THE SPORTING NEWS

In 1995 someone stole O.J. Simpson’s bust from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was recovered alongside a highway in northeast Ohio. To discourage any future thief, the Hall bolted down the bust.

Meanwhile, O.J. himself began a relentless and dedicated and obsessive and really, really big search for the real killers of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman.

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He also appeared on videotape, smiling and cheery and thanking everyone at Johnnie Cochran’s Christmas party to which the jury’s black members were invited.

In 1995 Cal Ripken Jr. made baseball lovely again.

Michael Jordan came to his senses.

Joe Montana left us wanting more.

Ben Crenshaw won the Masters five days after carrying his mentor, Harvey Penick, to the grave. “I believe in fate,” Crenshaw said. “Harvey was the 15th club in my bag.”

Howard Cosell’s death left an awesome silence on the stage he dominated.

Mickey Mantle taught us a certain strength: He blamed no one but himself. We found a Bill Dickey quote from 1951 when the great old hitter first saw the rookie Mantle in batting practice: “The boy hit the first six balls nearly 500 feet--over the lights and out of sight. He hit them over fences right-handed and left-handed. And he hit them over the right-field fence right-handed and over the left-field fence left-handed.”

In 1995 Chipper Jones arrived.

Albert Belle pointed to his biceps.

Jerry Rice was still and forever Jerry Rice.

Julie Krone rode in the Kentucky Derby a year after a racing accident broke her into pieces. She had first come to Churchill Downs as a 15-year-old hot walker in 1979 dreaming of a day she would ride in the Derby: “I imagined galloping down the stretch. I could hear the thundering hooves and the roaring crowd. I imagined them laying the roses across my lap. It was a great feeling of romance.” Though her horse, Suave Prospect, finished 11th, Krone was undaunted. As she wiped mud off her face, she said, “This is Kentucky Derby mud. Real Derby mud. Put it in your pocket and keep it. You’ll want it because I’m going to win this race someday.”

In 1995 Hideo Nomo arrived.

Ryne Sandberg came back.

Art Modell lied.

The arrogant and ignorant lords of baseball threatened to start the season with what they called replacement players, less euphemistically known as scabs. To one old player, two-time MVP Dale Murphy, the prospect of scabball was discomfiting at best: “Yankee Stadium, golly. You’re talking about a place where Joe DiMaggio played and Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth. That’s hallowed ground.” Broadcaster Skip Caray said, “Baseball walking out gave me a feeling like seeing your first girlfriend in high school walking away from you with a guy a year older who’s wearing a letterman’s jacket.” Cooperstown rejected a minor league franchise, saying the city is “really not a baseball town.”

In 1995 Brett Favre arrived.

Mario Lemieux came back.

Art Modell lied.

Ohio State University placed on administrative leave a coach who permitted “improper benefits” to an athlete on the school’s synchronized swimming team. Northwestern’s football team went 10-1 a year after it suspended two players for gambling. Wisconsin’s renovation of its football stadium included two holding cells for fans arrested during games. After Michigan football Coach Gary Moeller’s drunk-and- disorderly arrest, 120 copies of the police report were sold at $15 each to readers of an Ohio State news bulletin.

In 1995 Sylvester Stallone took up golf.

Dennis Rodman posed nude.

Cleveland wept.

A New Jersey company asked $75 for yarmulkes worn by Sandy Koufax. A man who bought Jimmy Johnson’s old house in Arkansas asked $250 for a toilet used by the coach. Leland’s, an auction house in New York City, advertised a Goose Gossage jock strap. O.J.'s ex-teammate/buddy/chauffeur, Al Cowlings, asked $20 each for photographs of himself behind the wheel of a white Ford Bronco. Memorabilia dealer Barry Halper denied he wanted Mickey Mantle’s liver: “I’ve got Ty Cobb’s dentures. That’s as far as I’ll go.”

Greg Maddux became baseball’s equivalent of Larry Bird and Joe Montana, an athlete of surpassing talent who came to his work recognizing possibilities no one else sees. “Picasso had it, Maddux has it,” said George Zuraw, a veteran scout for the Mariners. “Some artists will make a brushstroke and stand back and ask, TIs that all right?’ Picasso just does it and it’s done, a masterpiece. That’s Maddux. Before he throws a ball, he knows where it’s going. I’m in awe.” Braves catcher Charlie O’Brien said he knew of only one lineup that might scare Maddux: “God’s. Maybe.”

Sparky Anderson explained why he couldn’t straighten out the Tigers’ pitching problems: “This is unstraightable.” Bob Packwood calculated the sexual content of his senatorial diaries: “A little more than Francis of Assisi and a little less than Wilt Chamberlain.” Bill Bradley quit the Senate, reminding us of how he would revolutionize the presidential nominating process: “Personally, I prefer jump shots from the top of the key.”

In 1995 Duke Snider pleaded guilty.


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