Shocking defeat deflates Becker; Philadelphia's baseball follies
Boris Becker's bubble finally burst. West Germany's 17-year-old tennis wunderkind has pretty much been living up to his new-found superstar status during the past month, but the reigning Wimbledon champion was suddenly returned to earth by an unknown named Diego Perez. Perez, the 99th ranked player in the world, handed Becker a shocking 6-3, 6-1 first-round defeat in Austria last week that Boris said left him at his ``lowest low.'' The talented teen-ager shouldn't dwell on the loss too much, though, not given the depth in men's tennis these days. After all, only one of the tournament's top six seeded players survived the opening round.
Becker, of course, had been riding high for some time, following up his Wimbledon triumph by reaching the semifinals of the US Clay Court Championships, where he lost to Ivan Lendl, then clinching West Germany's 3-2 victory over the United States in last weekend's quarterfinal Davis Cup match. Playing before a supportive Hamburg crowd, he won both his singles matches handily, sewing up the team victory by beating Aaron Krickstein 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, after earlier defeating Eliot Teltscher 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
The American squad, which had not lost to the West Germans in five previous cup matches, was without John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, who have been at odds with the US Tennis Association over a good behavior pledge.
West Germany now prepares to meet Czechoslovakia in one semifinal as defending champion Sweden readies to face Australia in the other.
Fall came early to Philadelphia the other week, when the Phillies threw their fans a big-league curve by holding Halloween Night at Veterans Stadium. A fall of another sort, of course, has been taking place on the field, where the floundering Phillies are experiencing their worst season in a decade. The idea in this case, however, was hatched by the club's marketing and promotion staff during the off-season as a gimmick to get people to the ballpark. The inspiration for Halloween Night came from relief pitcher Larry Andersen, a hang-loose kind of guy who sometimes livens up the locker room by wearing an assortment of masks. (According to the team's media guide, his hobbies are crossword puzzles and practical jokes.)
In a sense, it was Larry Andersen Night, because what the Phillies gave away were masks made to look like him. Before the game, won by Atlanta after a long rain delay, there was also a costume contest, with first prize a trip to Salem, Mass., which is rich in witch lore.
A crowd of 22,212 turned out, but they didn't get to see Andersen in action, unless of course he was in disguise.
Larry, incidentally, supplied teammate Mike Schmidt with the wild-looking wig he wore onto the field earlier this season in a highly publicized gag.
Schmidt donned the hairpiece and sunglasses to defuse a tense situation which grew out of comments he made about Philadelphia fans being ``uncontrollable'' and ``beyond help.'' The remarks were prompted by the boos he'd been hearing during a slump. The boo birds were ready to come down on him after reading what he'd said, but their catcalls turned to applause and laughter when he turned up looking like a hippie during pre-game infield practice.
Officials of the PGA Championship missed an opportunity to win over part of the golfing community last week when they denied Jim Thorpe's entry. Thorpe, one of the few black golfers on the tour, showed up in Denver last week hoping to play but was told he hadn't qualified. He figured he belonged after collecting the winner's paycheck as the low pro at the previous week's Western Open, where he lost a playoff to Scott Verplank, the first amateur to win a tour event in 29 years. As an amat eur, Verplank was ineligible for the PGA tournament. Some observers, however, wondered why he and Thorpe weren't extended special invitations. After all, the tournament reportedly invited several countries to send playing representatives, including South Africa. California-born pitcher Tom Seaver may play for the Chicago White Sox, but ever since starring for the 1969 Miracle Mets, he has retained strong ties to New York, where he still has many fans. Madison Avenue, therefore, had him just where they wanted him -- on the mound in Yankee Stadium -- when he collected his 300th career victory last Sunday. In that day's edition of the New York Times, American Express ran a full-page ad featuring Tom Terrific, who has lived in Greenwich, Ct., since h is Met days.
The United States Football League, which has given up on playing in the spring, won't reemerge for its fourth campaign until September 1986. Some observers wonder, though, if the league will survive until then. Attendance and TV ratings were both off during the past season. The key to survival may lie in a $1.2 billion antitrust suit the league has brought against the NFL.