No more neutral zone for today's fans, players

Lawyer's new billboard a sign of hostile times

Sports Plus

September 19, 1999|By Andy Knobel

Michael Hornung, a personal injury lawyer in Fort Myers, Fla., is a walking advertisement for his professional services, and now he has an 8-foot-by-3-foot billboard at the Florida Everblades' TECO Arena to help him spread the word.

Cut on the head after he heckled a Miami Matadors hockey player last December, Hornung received $30,000 and the right to advertise his name and business without charge for two years as part of a recent settlement with the two teams and the East Coast Hockey League.

The incident began when Hornung, being a lawyer, razzed right wing John Badduke, a visitor to the penalty box.

Badduke, being a hockey player, swung his stick, which slipped through a gap in the glass. Hornung needed six stitches to close a head wound and said he was knocked out by the blow, with his hearing and vision impaired.

After the season, with Hornung's suit pending, Badduke sent the lawyer a No. 8 Matadors jersey, a puck and an autographed hockey stick with the cautionary notation, "Heads Up."

He hit the ball real hard

If Hornung keeps up his badgering next season, visiting players may make his billboard a target.

After Carl Everett of the Houston Astros batted a ball off a Fox Sports advertisement at the Astrodome earlier this season, TBS announcer Skip Caray had this to say about the well-placed blow: "Everett just did something a lot of people in sports have wanted to do for a long time: hit Keith Olbermann in the face with a line drive."

Root of the problem

The New York Times reports that a bleacher bum in the right-field stands at Wrigley Field once called an usher over and said, "These guys are bothering me."

"Which guys?" the usher asks.

The fan points to the Cubs.

Last licks

Across town, the White Sox have trouble drawing enough humans to complain about the bad play, but for the third straight year, their attendance is up in one important demographic: dogs.

Their annual Dog Days of Summer game drew a record 527 fidos, up 16 from last year.

White Sox promotions genius Rob Gallas attributed the 1999 increase to -- what else? -- giveaways. For the first time, dogs got a free, nondairy, ice-cream-like treat.

"I scream, you scream, dogs scream for ice cream," Gallas said. And if you serve it, they will come."

The outlook wasn't brilliant

and if you build it, well, we've seen that movie.

One of the first new baseball facilities of the next millennium will be Mudville Stadium, home of the former Stockton Ports of the Single-A California League, who this month changed their name to the Mudville Nine.

The team comes by the name honestly. In the late 1880s, the San Francisco Examiner's Ernest Lawrence Thayer watched a game at Stockton's first professional ballpark, then wrote one of the nation's most popular poems, "Casey At The Bat."

One could only imagine how the fans would treat Casey today if he struck out.

Somewhere hearts are light

Too bad the Mudville Nine -- either version -- wasn't around on Sept. 9, 1999.

On 9/9/99, six major-league players who wear No. 9 were in action. They went a combined 12-for-25.

And mighty Sean Casey was 2-for-3 with a double.

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