News - Sex, high fives and videotapes

The most amazing thing about the Gold Club trial isn’t that athletes go to strip clubs. Or that athletes get free sex at strip clubs. Or that club management uses their presence to lure the average slob who will then, it is alleged, have an extra zero added to his credit card tab. No, the really amazing thing about the Gold Club trial is that Andruw Jones woke up early enough to testify before the Braves-Reds matinee last Wednesday. The other stuff is merely juicy; Jones arriving anywhere on time boggles the mind.

Bobby Cox, not surprisingly, refused to comment when asked how often he’d had a player take the stand in a federal case as part of his pre-game routine. “Aw, don’t start that,” he pleaded. “There’s nothing I could say that would come out right.” No kidding.

After the game, General Manager John Schuerholz (nattily attired, as always, including his trademark suspenders) and Jones (stripped to his black compression shorts) conferred in the middle of the clubhouse as a horde of TV cameras jostled for position in front of Jones’ locker. Jones wanted to know whether it was OK to say he would talk only about the game.

“You can say, ‘It’s none of your business,’ or ‘No comment,’ which is the same thing,” said Schuerholz, grinning at nearby reporters.

So Jones marched to his locker, screwed up his face as he always does when the camera lights go on, and announced, “I don’t care. I didn’t do nothing wrong.”

He meant the sex. Everyone means the sex. But choice as all the testimony is, that is not the crux of the Gold Club trial. The issue is whether the club fronts for the New York mob.

That’s Mafia. As in gambling. Point-shaving. Game-throwing.

If Jones had received money rather than sex from people whom could blackmail him and threaten his life, would that make the possibility of quid pro quo more obvious?

A cynical person might note that the fastest, most efficient way to raise $200,000 for the Atlanta schools affiliated with the United Negro College Fund would not be to spend two months cajoling NBA players to appear at a fund-raising basketball game at Philips Arena. It would be for each of the 18 NBA players who actually showed up last Sunday to forgo purchasing yet another chunky, diamond-encrusted platinum chain and donate the cash instead.

And a cynical person might note that Gary Payton showed up at 3 p.m. for the game’s scheduled 3 p.m. start. Hey, at least he was there. Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson, advertised star attractions, weren’t. Dominique Wilkins’ dunk skills were AWOL, too.

But let’s not be cynical. Event host Jason Terry burned up phone lines getting such players as Charles Oakley, Sam Cassell and Darius Miles for his celebrity game. Sure, he wants to raise scholarship money. He’s also hoping to generate some excitement about pro basketball in Atlanta.

Now there’s a project.

Surely it’s coincidental that attendance at Braves games is up since John Rocker was traded. That benefit aside, questions remain about ostensible closer Steve Karsay.

Karsay used to be a starter, and while he possesses quirks associated with closers — he believes, for example, that the hematite necklace he wears keeps him grounded — he also is susceptible to giving up home runs, especially at Turner Field lately.

Karsay knows there’s a flaw in his mechanics. His split-finger fastball is flat — the grip is a little off. Because he is new to the team, though, the observations of pitching coach Leo Mazzone and the Braves pitchers, even the resident Cy Young winners, are useless. They’ve never seen him throw his best splitter; they have no frame of reference.

So Karsay asked the Cleveland Indians to send tapes of his games, hoping that Mazzone or reliever Mike Remlinger (Dartmouth graduate and bullpen guru, despite his own penchant for lobbing up the home run ball) might see something.

“If I’m going to be pitching late in the game,” he says, “I need to figure it out quick.”

The Indians sent the tapes via overnight service. Four days later, they arrived.

Hot shots/What’s hot in Atlanta sports
Timing is everything -- Dikembe Mutombo is proclaimed “No. 1 Good Guy” in professional sports by The Sporting News the same day he’s named in Gold Club trial testimony as one of those athletes who received free sex.

And the Hawks are ... ? -- The NBA announces that all eight teams in its new developmental league will be located in the South because the area is poorly served, basketball-wise.

On second thought -- Fred McGriff, saying he thinks it’s about to get ugly in Tampa Bay (what team has he been watching?) decides he’ll OK that trade to the first-place Cubs after all. Think that extra contract year worth $8 million has anything to do with it?

About that strike-zone memo -- Sandy Alderson needn’t worry that umpires are still calling strikes off the plate, where Tom Glavine made his reputation. Midway through the season, Glavine has walked 70 batters. He walked 65 all last year.

Fantasy league -- Whom would you rather have on your team: Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan now?

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