Tops banquet gets bigger and better

The Inside Stuff

January 13, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Wouldn't you think a banquet chairman would be satisfied with a sellout crowd of 2,500 every year and a head table featuring the biggest names in baseball?

That's what Frank Sliwka has been getting each January at the Tops in Sports banquet, and what he had once again at the 39th annual affair at the Towson Center over the weekend.

What a dais! Fielder, Feller, Palmer, McNally, Cuellar, Dobson, Ripken, Colavito -- and more.

That's not enough for Sliwka.

"I'm going to get a hangar," the chairman was mumbling. "I'm getting a hangar next year.

"All the planning's done. We're going to bring back all the past Babe Ruth Crown winners. I'm getting a hangar and we'll have 5,000-6,000 people at this thing."

That's right, all you who packed Towson State's indoor facility once again Friday night -- next year you're going to see the inside of an airplane hangar if the irrepressible and Sliwka has his way.

"Yeah, a hangar, either at BWI or Martin Airport," says Sliwka.

Sliwka and the sponsoring Maryland Professional Baseball Players Association will need extra room for the program Sliwka has lined up for '93.

The previous Ruth Award winners would include Cecil Fielder, who would be attending his third straight Tops in Sports dinner; Jose Canseco (a no-show in '88), Don Mattingly, Jim Rice, Mike Schmidt, George Foster, Greg Luzinski, Willie Stargell, Johnny Bench, Joe Torre, Harmon Killebrew, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Mickey Mantle.

They may need a hangar for that one.

* One of the guests this year was Earl Weaver, who retired, finally, as Orioles manager in 1986.

Weaver, who lives in Miami and plays golf "never more than five days in a row," appears slim, fit and energized.

In fact, he looks good enough, at 61, to manage again. After all, the National League will have a club in Miami next year.

"No way, shape or form would I manage," Weaver insisted.

Why not?

"I don't have the enthusiasm any more," he said. "I've got enough money that I don't have to go through all that stuff again, arguing with guys like Jim Palmer. Managing, even on the good days, will bring tears to your eyes."

Palmer is not the only ex-Oriole with whom Weaver has had a love-hate relationship. He's not even the only pitcher.

Dave McNally, now an auto dealer in Billings, Mont., where he says business "is pretty good" -- exceptional in this economy -- has had his moments with Weaver.

McNally chortled as he recalled striking out Weaver in batting practice with a "3-and-2 slider 30 years ago."

"No," said Weaver. "I was 48 years old when you did that. Thirty years ago I would have had you. In fact, 30 years ago I did have you in the minor leagues at Aberdeen, South Dakota."

Weaver that year made McNally carry the bats every other night, while other players on the club got that job seldom or never.

Finally one night McNally confronted the skipper. He wanted to know why he was being picked on.

"Because," Weaver told him, "you got $75,000 to sign. So earn your money."

* The Hurley family, of Jersey City, N.J., is becoming legendary in the game of basketball.

Everyone knows by now about Bobby Hurley, the star point guard for Duke's national champions, who walloped Georgia Tech Saturday, 97-84 (Bobby scored 17 points). Real hoops fans also know about Bobby's brother, Danny, a freshman on the Seton Hall team, which was beaten by Georgetown, 73-65 (Danny had 14).

The boys' father, 44-year-old Bob Hurley Sr., was in town yesterday for a news conference to promote the Charm City Classic this Friday and Saturday night at the Towson Center.

The eldest Hurley coaches St. Anthony's High School, which, along with St. Raymond's High, of New York's Bronx, will mix it up with our own Dunbar and Southern highs. What we learned from the dad yesterday is that both sons were upstaged this weekend by their sister, Melissa, a sixth grader.

"Melissa plays for Our Lady of Mercy," Bob Sr. said. "She's as tall now as her brothers were in their freshman year of high school. Saturday she had 18 points, 14 rebounds. Melissa was the high scorer in our family this weekend."

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