Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old S.I. Review (April 27, 1987)

Man, it's been a long time since I did an old S.I. review. Too long in fact. As soon as I came across the site of a triumphant Rob Deer in a box of old magazines this past weekend though, I knew what I had to do. Let's jump right in shall we...

Bobby V. Packing Wood
Strong start to this issue with a picture of Bobby Valentine carrying about 30 Rangers bats in the dugout in an attempt to shake them out of a hitting slump next to the table of contents. Probably didn't work though since the '87 Rangers finished in a last place tie in the old AL West.

1987 Toshiba Laptop Specs
Gotta love this copy from an ad for Toshiba's new laptop computer...

The Toshiba is the most powerful laptop you can buy. With a standard 640KB memory that's expandable to 2.6 MB. And a spectacular, high-resolution gas-plasma display that let's you work for hours without getting quint lines. It is an incredible example of Toshiba's technologies in miniaturization.


Zamboni Fan, eh?
Check out this fantastic letter from Steve Aureli of Knoxville, Tenn...

Thanks for Leigh Montville's fascinating article on the Zamboni (You're an Old Smoothie, March 30). I've been a Zamboni fan for years. In fact, I used to live in Waterbury, Conn., and when the Whalers were floundering not too long ago, we would go to the Hartford Civic Center and pay good money to see the Zamboni perform. Something resembling hockey was played during the long intermissions."

Things That Sounded Better At The Time
One other thing from the Letters page. Tim and Janet Matthews, a couple from Toronto, sent in a note taking writer E.M. Swift to task for his contention that Canadians, by and large, have low expectations for their athletes in international competitions. First athlete they cite to defend Canada's athletic prowess? Ben Johnson.

Remembering the Fast Start of the '87 Brew Crew
Moving on the meat of the issue, we begin with the feature story about the Milwaukee Brewers starting the season with an 13-game winning streak and a no-hitter from "embraceable lefty" Juan Nieves. Some highlights from that piece...

-Riding an 11-0 start, the Brewers drew 29,357 on Easter Sunday. I don't know what the capacity was at County Stadium but that seems like a low turnout for an 11-0 team.

-Juan Nieves channeling John Kreese..."People probably think this is a joke," Nieves said, "but it's not. It's a taste of what's to come the rest of the way. We're back. No mercy." It's worth noting at this point that Milwaukee finished 3rd in the AL East in '87.

-Did you know Juan captained the baseball, basketball and cross-country teams at Avon Old Farms? That's a fun piece of trivia. I have to admit, I didn't have Juan pegged as an Avon man.

-Best part of the article? I nominate this...

"Shortly before Opening Day, The Milwaukee Journal conducted a telephone survey of Wisconsin residents and found that 74% of them had no idea who the Brewers manager was?"

OK, first of all, a telephone survey to see how many people know the manager? That's awesome. I will pay money for copies of those phone calls. Even better that 74% didn't know though. 74%! That's tremendous.

The 1987 Phoenix Suns...More Sordid than you Remember
I think it's safe to say that the '87 Suns probably benefited from a comparative lack of media scrutiny. Consider the following...

-At the time, the '87 Suns were involved in "the largest single drug bust in the history of professional sports." No fewer than 11 players, past and present, were implicated by Phoenix law enforcement officials, including Walter Berry (a 6-time all-star and the leading scorer in Suns history).

-Berry was not only implicated but largely believed to have snitched on his teammates in the process. Good times.

-Aside from the drug bust, Phoenix police were also looking into allegations that a Suns-Bucks game from February of '87 may have been fixed.

Can you imagine the 24-hour indignation we'd be hearing from talking heads if all that was going on these days? Although....one thing would be the same and that's David Stern's reaction. Stern's quoted in the article and sounds exactly the same back then as he does now. "We've been assured there's nothing to the allegations but we're looking into it..."

The LaFontaine Game
Ahh, the old 4-OT Game 7 Isles-Caps thriller that ended on Easter Sunday. I remember it well. Hadley slept over that night and we watched into the wee hours. I can close my eyes and see Bob Mason standing dazed in the Wasington net after LaFontaine's turn-around slapper. Game over. Series over. Isles advance.

What I didn't remember until reading the article though is that Washington had a 3-1 lead in that series and lost 3rd period leads in Games 6 and 7. Now, that's a tough way to lose a series.

The Nigerian Nightmare
Skipping past articles on the Boston Marathon, Kentucky Derby prep races & a piece about Greg Louganis getting beat a few times at some indoor diving competition, we get a pre-NFL draft scouting report on Christian Okoye. Some highlights...

-Christian's favorite food was a pungent Nigerian stew called fufu.

-The stories of his athleticism and physique are pretty crazy. At the time, he was the African record-holder in the discus and a 17-time All-America in a variety of track & field events. 6'3", 255 lbs with a 34" waist. Ran a 4.45, 40. 35" vertical. Could bench 405 lbs. and could squat 725 lbs.

-Scouting reports were mixed because of his inexperience, as you would expect. Last first-round, early-second round seemed to be the consensus (and that's where he went incidentally...going to the Chiefs early in the 2nd round). Best part of the evaluations is this quote from Reed Johnson (head of player personnel for the Broncos)...

"Think of the acceleration from Asuza Pacific to playing against the Raiders! What a shock."

Ummmm...the Raiders then, or the Raiders now? Because I think Asuza Pacific could've given last year's Raiders all they could handle.

-My other favorite quote comes from Christian himself, after being handed a football for the first time in his life in college. Christian's reaction? "Very interesting....but very impractical."

Dr. Z on the '87 NFL Draft
Dr. Z goes 7 for 28 in predicting the first round of the NFL draft. Nobody ever does much better than that in hindsight. 7 for 28 is actually higher than I would've guessed. His best call, to me, is listing Rich Gannon in his top 5 underrated players section. Says if he went to USC instead of Delaware he'd be a first rounder. Good call on someone that ended up going in the 4th round (to the Pats by the way. We'll see you in at the Snow Bowl game in 15 years, Rich).

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