National | Sports

Issue: "John Paul II: In memoriam," Oct. 25, 2003

Pushed to shove

When Pedro Martinez went headhunting with a high fastball at light-hitting Yankee Karim Garcia, New York bench coach Don Zimmer shouted out a warning to the Red Sox ace. But the full meltdown came after Roger Clemens beaned Manny Ramirez in apparent retaliation. The benches cleared, and the 72-year-old Mr. Zimmer sprinted at the Red Sox pitcher. Mr. Martinez, a trim and fit 32-year-old, sidestepped the aged bench coach's headfirst lunge and threw him into the turf. Maybe if Pedro Martinez had known Don Zimmer's history, he would have predicted the response by the Yankees bench coach.

In 1953 Don Zimmer was a promising young prospect in the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league system. He was called Popeye because of his bulky forearms and short stature. But his career took a drastic turn when a fastball crushed his skull and sent him into a coma. The future was grim for the 22-year-old ball player. A priest delivered his last rites and his wife and parents waited at his bedside. Doctors drilled holes in his head to relieve pressure and secured his skull with a steel plate and four screws.

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After 13 days, Mr. Zimmer woke up. And after learning to walk and talk all over again, he continued on with his baseball career. He never became the player he was touted to become, but Mr. Zimmer did spend 12 seasons in the big leagues, including his all-star campaign of 1961.

In the aftermath of the melee during Game 3 of the ALCS, Mr. Zimmer left the stadium by stretcher.

It wasn't the first time he left a baseball game that way. c

Triple dipping

The Atlantic Coast Conference, which double-dipped into the Big East Conference for its 10th and 11th members, plundered the Big East again, luring Boston College to the ACC for an even dozen. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who has witnessed a predatory ACC whittle his league down to five members, expressed disappointment.

Months ago, Miami and Virginia Tech both indicated they were leaving the Big East for the ACC for the 2004 college football season. The move left the Big East with only a handful of competitive teams in the fortune-generating world of college football.

Boston College could switch as early as next season, but the move may not come until 2006. The school would face a reported $5 million fine if it left without giving a 27-month notice. The ACC rejected Boston College for membership in June, but the possibility of adding a 12th member eventually wore down the opposition. Once the ACC is complete, the league will be eligible to hold a highly lucrative conference championship game. c

Around the horn

Bill Shoemaker, the dean of American jockeys, died last week of natural causes after spending more than a decade as a quadriplegic. The Hall of Fame jockey broke his neck during a one-car accident in 1991. Said friend and fellow Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, "Shoe had his ups and downs, and to be paralyzed for the last 12 years of his life, well, sometimes life isn't fair, but he was one of the toughest guys you'll ever meet. I'll miss him." Mr. Shoemaker was the oldest man to win the Kentucky Derby when in 1986 the 54-year-old raced Ferdinand to victory.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was back in court on Oct. 15 to resume his preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges leveled against him in Eagle, Colo. On the other court, Mr. Bryant's knee is healing and he's expected to be ready for the season.

Tiger Woods's streak of four consecutive money crowns may be coming to an end. Mr. Woods has earned more than any golfer this year, making $6,278,646 in 16 events. But Vijay Singh trails him by just under $200,000 and will play in three of the final four tour events. Mr. Woods will play in just two of the final four. Mr. Woods said he's not worrying about how he finishes on the money list, noting

Mr. Singh has played in nearly 10 more events.


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