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September 10, 1999 - Image 19

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-10

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Friday,

1-0 Spartans ready for Washtenaw's other team

September 10, 1999 - The Michigan Daily - 19
-Eastern

EAST LANSING (AP) - With an
opening game victory under its belt,
Michigan State's goal this weekend is
pretty simple: To not look past
.stern Michigan at Notre Dame and
upcoming Big Ten schedule.
For Eastern Michigan, the goal is a
strong season opener. The team must
also try not to be discouraged by its
status as a four-touchdown-plus
underdog or by the 47-0 shellacking
Michigan State gave it three years
ago.
The intrastate rivalry resumes at I
p.m. Saturday at Spartan Stadium.
Michigan State - which was embar-
-sed by back-to-back losses to
,ntral Michigan earlier this decade
- is vowing not to take the Mid-
'American Conference for granted.
"This may be the best Mid-
American team we've played since
I've been here in terms of their ability
to make plays and move the football
as well as their experience on defense
and their style of play," Michigan
State coach Nick Saban said of
stern Michigan.
'This will be a challenge for us and
I, think it's very important for our
ifayers to have... the respect they need
tothave for their opponent," he said.
Saban needn't worry about his key
pilayers taking Eastern Michigan for
gtanted.

"We take it one game at a time. We
don't worry about anybody eise," said
strong-side linebacker Julian
Peterson, a standout in the Spartans'
27-20 victory over Oregon on Sept. 2.
"We're not looking past anybody,"
added star flanker Gari Scott. "You've
got to play them like any other team."
Eastern Michigan coach Rick
Rasnick isn't cowed by the underdog
status of his team, which was 3-8 last
season and faces a 30-point-plus dis-
advantage against the Spartans.
"I've been there before. I could care
less about those types of things,"
Rasnick said. "That's what Michigan
State should be; I'm surprised it's not
higher. I think it's relatively low going
into this contest.'"
Rasnick also has clearly defined
goals for the Eagles' first game.
"To play the best football game we
can possibly play," he said. "To not
make mental mistakes, particularly in
our opener.
"Fortunately we have more experi-
ence than we've had in the past, so
that should help us in our opener."
Michigan State, which started 0-2
last year, is led by quarterback Bill
Burke, who hit on 18 of 31 passes last
week for 205 yards.
Burke's top receivers are Scott, who
grabbed six aerials, and height-
endowed split end Plaxico Burress,

target for five.
Tailback Lloyd Clemons stepped
into the top rushing job and logged
122 yards.
"We played with a lot of toughness
in the game," said Saban, who wants
to establish the Spartans as a hard-
nosed football team.
He warned that the Eagles won't be
pushovers.
"With 14 starters back and 44 let-
termen, they have a very experienced
team," he said. "I think the strength of
their team probably starts with their
quarterback, the type of offense they
run, which is wide-open."
The Eagles are led by quarterback
Walter Church, who connected on 213
of 355 passes last season, and tailback
Eric Powell, who charged for 473
yards.
Powell has a hamstring injury and
plans to miss the Michigan State
game. Taking his place is scheduled to
be junior Reggie Gage.
The top receiver is Jermaine
Sheffield, who had 62 receptions for
953 yards last year.
"It's a question of whether or not
physically we can get it done,"
Rasnick said. "But we know exactly
where we want to attack.
"They've been susceptible to cer-
tain things and we're going to try and
take advantage of it."

AP PHO O
Amp Campbell (above) turned the tide in Michigan State's victory over Oregon on Sept. 2. The Spartans hope that Campbell's
heroics won't be needed as they face MAC stalwart Eastern Michigan.

Despite homers, Cubs still a sinking ship

r.

CHICAGO (AP) - He should be
savoring the last few warm breezes of
summer right about now, remembering
the heft of history in his fingers, book-
marking the sights and sounds of one of
the great closing chapters in sports.
But Sammy Sosa can't. Not complete-
ly, anyway. Not while the rest of the ship
is taking on water like the Titanic.
Whoever said that losing gets old fast
must have been, like Sosa, trapped on a
team as hopeless as the Chicago Cubs.
And so, what seemed a short while ago
to be a triumphant march toward 70
home runs, that newly minted but still
most-cherished record in baseball, has
become a grueling crawl.
In the fifth inning Thursday against
Cincinnati, Sosa hit his 59th home run
of the season, leaving him on the brink
of becoming the first slugger ever to
notch two 60-homer seasons, and con-
secutive ones at that.
But the celebration turned out to be
unmercifully brief. By the end of the
afternoon, after the Reds climbed back
to win 5-3 and hand the Cubs yet one
more beating, the mood in the Chicago
locker room was almost funereal.
"I'm going to continue doing my
job," said Sosa, surrounded by a battery

of TV cameras, "and see what happens
tomorrow."
No. 59 was a laser beam that traveled
465 feet to the bleachers in dead center-
field before disappearing into the
juniper bushes. It bought Sosa a breather
from having to explain how he'd gone
homerless the last three games - imag-
ine that - but not from the larger debate
that has sprung up around him.
On June 9, he had 21 home runs and
the Cubs were in second place in the
National League Central. Since then,
Sosa raised his game to the point where
he is on pace to hit 68 home runs this
season. The Cubs, meanwhile, have low-
ered theirs to a winning percentage of
under .300. After Thursday, they were on
pace to lose 97 games.
Ten days ago, even though Sosa's cur-
rent contract runs through 2001, he sent
a shrewdly timed message to manage-
ment that he was interested in renegoti-
ating. While the club remained silent,
Chicago's two biggest daily newspapers
played the debate out in the sports
columns and the editorial page.
Was Sosa baseball's savior or a
sideshow? A team player or a restless
opportunist? Someone who let his
defense, baserunning and leadership

lapse at the expense of his home-run
totals? Would he look better in a halo or
horns?
"I don't read the papers," he said. But
a day earlier, in a reflective moment,
Sosa admitted he woud have explodcd'
if the attention had been heaped on him
10 years earlier.
"Now I'm 30. I'm a man. I'm eating
good, getting my rest, relaxing," he said.
"My first year, 1990, 1 hit 15 home runs
with the White Sox and I thought I was
Babe Ruth."
But there are times, when he's around
close friends, that he lets down his
guard.
"I was talking to him before the
game," Reds shortstop Barry Larkin
said, "and the thing Sammy told me was
that it's not the same because he's not
playing for anything.",
That frustration was evident again the
third inning when he went after a 3-0
offering from Cincinnati's Pete Harnisch
and popped up weakly behind second
base. Two innings after Sosa's home run,
it bubbled to the surface again. With two
out in the seventh and nobody on, Reds
manager Jack McKeon brought in right-
handed reliever Scott Williamson to
pitch to Sosa. He chased two bad pitch-

es and barely laid off a third that was a
foot wide of the plate -only because it
was ball four. To top it off, Sosa got
called out on strikes to end the game.
His pal and only pursuer, Mark
McGwire, isn't faring much better, The
one-year anniversary of the bighe
head's record-breaking 62nd homer
passed Wednesday without much notice.
McGwire, holding at 54, went I-for-3 as
the Braves completed a three-game
sweep of the hapless Cardinals.
"He's still my friend," Sosa said. "We
just haven't had much time togthr;'"
The season feels so different from the
last. The money hasn't changed and his
celebrity has only grown. Sosa hashis
own endorsement label. He just
bankrolled a medical center back inihe
Dominican Republic. Wherever he goes,
whether it's New York or the Left Coas,
the beautiful people stop by his locker to
pay homage, to shake hands or press
invitations into his palm.
Bill Cosby dropped by Wrigley Field
on Thursday to have Sosa tape a segment
for his TV show.
Still, something is missing.
"I'm going to finish my job," Sosa
said one more time, "then put this all
behind me."

AP PHOTO
rhe magic of last season seems long gone, because even though Sammy Sosa is
hitting homers at a faster clip, the Cubs are losing at a faster clip.

_ ' .

Cehrig's

disease claims Hunter, 53

ssociatcd Press

Pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter, the
nodel of control in a 15-year Hall of
tame career, died Yesterday of Lou
iehrig's disease, which left him
nable to grip a baseball at the end of
i life. He was 53. Hunter, baseball's
big money free agent, died at his
ome in Hertford, N.C., where he fell
kug. 8 and hit his head on some con-
rete steps. He was unconscious for
everal days in the hospital, but
nproved and was sent home to his
erquimans County farm on Saturday
fair condition, according to Rev.
eith Vaughan, a family spokesman.
Hertford was the same country
where Hunter grew up to
Wime one of the game's most dom-
ant pitchers.
As the centerpiece of pitching
affs first with the Oakland
thletics and then with the New Yoik

Yankees, Hunter won 224 games, pro-
duced five straight 20-victory sea-
sons, a perfect game and a Cy Young
Award.
It was at home in Hertford, howev-
er, that he returned each winter to
enjoy the hunting and fishing of the
small North Carolina town and where
friends and family always called him
"Jim" or "Jimmy," but never
"Catfish."
That was where Athletics owner
Charles 0. Finley found Hunter, one
of the first building blocks in a
dynasty team that won three straight
World Series from 1972-74.
Finley pinned the nickname
"Catfish" on the pitcher, and Hunter
went along with it. He loved a joke
and when the owner decided his play-
ers should all have mustaches, Hunter
was one of the first to grow one and
collect the $300 bonus.

Hunter came up with the A's in
1965 and punctuated the team's move
from Kansas City to Oakland with a
perfect game against the Minnesota
Twins on May 8, 1968. At the time, it
was just the seventh perfect game in
modern baseball history.
"He was a big game pitcher, a con-
sistent pitcher who always kept you in
the ball game," said Sal Bando, the
third baseman on that Oakland team.
"He consistently pitched well in big
games. He was a No. I starter, and
you can't win without one."
Bando recalled Hunter as the ulti-
mate team player, a guy who loved to
sit around the clubhouse, spinning
stories with a country drawl.
"He was very low key, a very warm
person. He treated everybody the
same. If you were an extra man or you
were a star, it didn't matter. Just a
down to earth guy."

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