Mass Defections Lead Cuba to Regulate Baseball Players

From Staff and Wire Reports

Faced with defections and complaints over the quality of local baseball, a Cuban official said Thursday that the country won't let any more players work abroad.

"There will not be more Cuban baseball players in foreign leagues for the moment," Carlos Rodriguez, national director of baseball, told the Cuban government's Prensa Latina news agency, monitored in Mexico City.

The Prensa Latina article did not directly link the action with recent baseball defections, but the socialist island's amateur-only baseball system has been rocked by the loss of top players who defected to play in the United States.

Cuban President Fidel Castro has referred to such players as traitors, and officials have accused U.S. teams of trying to bribe Cuban players to abandon the country.

Top players in Cuba often receive preferential treatment, with access to foreign travel and good housing, but as amateurs they must work at outside jobs paying about $10 a month.

Many Cuban baseball fans, and even the state-run news media, have complained that the caliber of play in the country's proud national league has deteriorated because of the defections.

Pro Football

Investigators in Plano, Texas, say that faulty electrical wiring caused this week's fire at the home of Dallas Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman.

The Plano Fire Department confirmed that the wiring sparked a three-alarm blaze that caused about $200,000 in damage.

Eddie DeBartolo is close to regaining control of the San Francisco 49ers from his sister, who took over after he was named in a federal gambling probe in Louisiana, the San Jose Mercury news reported.

DeBartolo is expected to swap his holdings in the family business for his sister's share of the team, the newspaper said.

If successful, DeBartolo will drop plans for a $525-million stadium and shopping mall complex, with the belief that the team is more valuable without it, according to the paper.

If San Diego wants another Super Bowl, it must spend millions to increase the seating capacity, lower the playing field and improve accommodations at Qualcomm Stadium.

NFL owners named San Diego and New Orleans as host city finalists for the 2002 game, but said San Diego needs some improvements to seal the deal.

Owners like the warm weather and lively downtown entertainment of San Diego, but stipulated that unless changes to the stadium were made, the nod would go to New Orleans.

The Detroit Lions re-signed linebacker Ben Hanks and safety Ryan Stewart and signed free-agent linebacker Phillip Ward. . . . Linebacker Winston Moss announced his retirement after an 11-year NFL career and was named defensive quality coach for the Seattle Seahawks. . . . The Cincinnati Bengals, looking for a backup for quarterback Jeff Blake, acquired Paul Justin from Indianapolis for a fifth-round pick in the April draft.

Winter Sports

Rob Berney overtook first-run leader Ian Price and won his second national giant slalom snowboarding title at Newry, Maine, and reigning world champion Sondra VanErt collected her fourth national title.

Steve Roxberg breezed to his second national acro-skiing title at Carrabassett Valley, Maine, and Maria Guarnieri picked up her second consecutive women's title.


Florida State's Brendon Dedekind pulled an upset in the 50 freestyle final to highlight the first day of the NCAA men's swimming championships at Auburn, Ala.

Dedekind set the Auburn pool record with a time of 19.17 seconds in preliminaries, then proved it wasn't a fluke with a winning time of 19.22 in the finals.

Stanford, seeking its fourth title of the decade and eighth overall, led the team competition with 183 points, 29 more than defending champion Auburn.

Lorenzo Vismara of Italy upset Russian swimmer Alexander Popov, the two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder, in the 50-meter freestyle at a short-course World Cup event at Imperia, Italy.


Third-seeded Karim Alami of Morocco came back after losing the first set and beat Denmark's Christian Ruud, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in the second round of the Hassan II Grand Prix tournament at Casablanca, Morocco.

The top three seeded players lost at the USTA Women's Pro Challenger at The Woodlands, Texas.

Top-seeded Nathalie Dechy of France was ousted by Jane Chi, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0; No. 2 Silvia Plischke of Austria lost to China's Jian Qian Yi, 6-3, 5-7, 6-0; and No. 3 Lea Ghirardi-Rubbi of France fell to Jolene Watanabe, 2-6, 7-5, 6-0.

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