TIME MLB

Former Baseball Star Sues L.A. Cops Over Alleged Beating

Former Major League baseball player Lenny Dykstra appears in Los Angeles Superior Court for an arraignment in San Fernando, California
Former Major League baseball player Lenny Dykstra filed suit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday. Danny Moloshok - Reuters

Lenny Dykstra, formerly of the Mets and Phillies, says police savagely knocked his teeth out and beat him until he could barely breath while they had him in custody two years ago. Now he's suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for an unspecified sum

Former Major League Baseball All-Star Lenny Dykstra filed charges against the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department and county officials on Wednesday after he says he was brutally beaten while incarcerated two years ago.

Dykstra claims two of the department’s deputies threw him against the wall, knocked his teeth out and kicked him until he could barely breath while he was in their custody in April 2012, the Associated Press reports. The sheriff’s department has yet to comment.

During the time of the alleged assault, the erstwhile outfielder was serving time for a litany of charges including grand theft auto, indecent exposure and providing a false financial statement. Dykstra was released from custody last June.

[AP]

TIME

What The Northwestern Football Union Means For College Sports

Kain Colter, Ramogi Huma
Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, right, speaks while College Athletes Players Association President Ramogi Huma listens during a news conference in Chicago, Jan. 28, 2014. Paul Beaty—AP

On the surface, a union for football players at Northwestern seems like a limited development. But thanks to new precedent, and some union-friendly state laws, college athletes could start banding nationwide.

A collection of college football players at Nothwestern University and other high-profile schools, fed up with a system that enriches people involved with the game but not the actual talent on the field, started a solidarity movement last September. They wrote the initials APU — All Players United — on their wristbands during that week’s games. Just six months later, that seemingly quaint gesture could go down as a milestone in the escalating fight over how to define and compensate big-time college athletes.

On March 26, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that scholarship football players at Northwestern are employees of the university and thus have a right to unionize and fight for better health care coverage, larger scholarship funds and other benefits (Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback leading the school’s union charge, says ”pay-for-play” salaries are not on the agenda). “The players now have moral high ground, and momentum,” says Harley Shaiken, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “This was a landmark decision for the future of college athletics.”

And it was an easy one. NLRB Regional Director Peter Sung Ohr reached a logical conclusion: a prior ruling disallowed Brown University graduate teaching assistants from forming a union due to the academic nature of their work. Thus, football players — who don’t read books in front of 80,000 delirious fans on Saturday afternoons — have full-time jobs, Ohr decided. Coaches aren’t professors. You get no course credit for sweating through practice.

The ruling, that scholarship football players recruited to Northwestern are employees under the National Labor Relations Act, is limited in scope as it stands. The NLRB only regulates private institutions, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I teams are dominated by big state schools. In this year’s Sweet 16, for example, only two schools – the University of Dayton and Baylor University — are private. Of the 128 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), just 17 — or 13.2% — are private. And since the NLRB is treating scholarship aid as player compensation, should a cut of player scholarships go to the government?

Northwestern will appeal the ruling to the full NLRB board in Washington, but experts say the ruling is likely to stand. “I think the regional director’s decision is a sound one,” says William Gould, a Stanford law professor who chaired the NLRB from 1994 to 1998. “I expect the board in Washington to uphold it.”

Expect the union movement to expand. Athletes at public schools are subject to state labor law, and Gould points to California as a union-friendly state for athletes. California’s student-employee test, for example, asks: are the services rendered related to the student’s educational objectives? As the NLRB ruling — and common sense — point outs, scholarship football players aren’t tackling opponents in a classroom. The services rendered are related to a school’s economic objectives. So players may be called employees.

Players at, say, UCLA, could make a strong case. “There’s definitely an opening in California,” says Gould. “I think athletes at public schools there would have an easier case than the Northwestern students.” The bigger question, says Gould, is whether more players want to unionzie. Northwestern’s players have yet to officially vote to form their union.

Players in Michigan and Florida can also make strong claims for employee status and the right to unionize, according to a 2012 paper published in the Buffalo Law Review, “A Union of Amateurs: A Legal Blueprint to Reshape College Athletics.” Historically, Michigan has been favorable to student-worker unionism. Paper co-authors Nicholas Fram and T. Ward Frampton write about Florida:

As a “right-to-work” state with only a 3.1% unionization rate in the private sector, Florida might seem an unlikely candidate to pioneer collective bargaining in college sports. But the Florida Constitution enshrines collective bargaining for public employees as a fundamental right under Florida law, and in the public sector, a full 27.8% of Florida workers are covered by union contracts. The robust constitutional and statutory protections afforded public workers under state law, coupled with the dramatic profits earned from Division I football in Florida, create a favorable playing field for college athletes seeking to unionize. But perhaps most importantly, the idiosyncratic history of disputes over the “employee” status of students on Florida campuses has established legal precedent extraordinarily favorable to student-workers. As a result, “the rights of graduate assistants to bargain collectively — and perhaps, by analogy, the rights of college athletes to do the same—“are now more secure in Florida than in any other state.

And if athletes at Florida negotiated more favorable benefits, officials in Alabama, which currently gives college athletes no constitutional or statutory right to collectively bargain, could face pressure to tweak state law in order to compete for recruits. The potential ripple effect, state by state, is real.

For college athletes, finally, that’s a pretty sweet deal on the table.

TIME Soccer

How I Finally Got My Picture With Pelé

TIME's International Editor Bobby Ghosh with Pelé.
TIME's International Editor Bobby Ghosh, left, with Pelé. Javier Sirvent for TIME

This week, TIME International editor Bobby Ghosh stood for a photograph with the Brazilian soccer legend Pelé—a snap that both fulfilled a childhood dream and ended a journalist's longstanding frustration

Pelé, the soccer wizard, may have been the first famous person to enter my consciousness. I was just three years old in 1970, when his goals brought Brazil its third World Cup. My father, a soccer nut, had never seen Pelé play, but read enough about him to become a fan, and he passed that enthusiasm down to me. When I was old enough to kick a ball around, I scrawled ‘10’ — the number Pelé made famous — on the back of my T-shirt and tried to execute his patented bicycle kicks.

I never became the goal-scoring superstar of my own imagination, but when I started my career as a journalist it allowed me to invent a new fantasy: Someday, I told myself, I would meet my boyhood hero. Someday, I would shake hands with Pelé.

The opportunity came in 2002 when TIME sent me to Japan to cover the World Cup, my first major sports assignment. I knew Pelé was going to be there, in his capacity as a pitchman for a famous credit-card brand, and I made it my business to find him.

In the meantime, I got to meet, interview and generally hang out with my favorite players. And not just current (for the time) stars like Brazil’s Ronaldo and Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta, but also stars of a previous era, like French genius Michele Platini and the German ‘Kaizer’ Franz Beckenbauer.

But as a newbie sports journalist, I was not entirely sure about the rules governing such encounters. Was I allowed to ask the players for their autographs or to have my picture taken with them? I decided, foolishly, that to ask would be to behave like a fan, and therefore unprofessional.

It was agonizing to deny myself the opportunity, and made worse by the fact that nobody else seemed to be following this rule. I would find myself chatting with Nigeria’s Jay-Jay Ococha, and a Nigerian journalist would come up and ask if I could shoot a picture of the two of them. I always complied, of course. But I never summoned the courage to ask for myself.

Things came to a head one night in Tokyo, at a grand party thrown by the makers of the official World Cup ball. Sure enough, Pelé was there, and to my delight he agreed to an interview on the spot. He was, true to everything I had read and heard about him, genial and charming. Just over his shoulder, a couple of feet away, Platini was deep in conversation with Beckenbauer. I felt honored just to be breathing the same air as the soccer aristocracy.

Then, a young Japanese kid came up: he could have been no more than 10 years old and he carried a camera half his size. He approached to Pelé and asked if he could take a picture. Once Pelé agreed, the kid went over to Platini and Beckenbauer and asked if they would stand alongside Pelé.

As the giants of the game lined up, I stepped out of the frame, to give the kid a nice shot of the troika. Then, just because he’s such a nice guy, Pelé reached out and grabbed my arm, and dragged me into the picture. “No, you must join us,” he said.

The kid shot a couple of frames, bowed and left.

I couldn’t believe my good luck: a picture of me with these three amazing players! But then a quandary arose in my mind. Should I run after the kid and get his contact details, so I could ask for the picture later? (Remember, this was 2002, before cellphone cameras.) Or should I take the opportunity to have a conversation with Pelé, Platini and Beckenbauer?

Naturally, I chose to stay and chat with my idols.

About half an hour later, I went looking for the kid. He was gone, and nobody could tell me who he was.

For over a decade, I have told friends the story of that picture: the one I would give almost anything for, but could never have. I imagined what the kid’s thoughts would be when he looked at it: “Pelé, Platini, Beckenbauer… but who the hell is THAT guy?”

I’ve kicked myself for my stupidity. And I’ve learned not to be so stupid: years later, when I interviewed Leo Messi, Sachin Tendulkar and Neymar, I made sure I got pictures taken with them.

But that picture, THAT picture… it would never be mine.

Life sometimes throws up consolations. Yesterday, Pelé came to the New York offices of TIME for a photoshoot. I badgered my colleague, Belinda Luscombe, to let me sit in on the shoot. When the chance arose, I told Pelé the story about that night in Tokyo, 12 years ago. He didn’t remember the incident — Why would he? — but since he remains a genial, charming man, he kindly indulged my request for a picture. And he signed a miniature soccer ball I happened to have in my office.

All that remains now is to cling to the hope that life (or Luscombe) will somehow engineer encounters with Platini and Beckenbauer. When that happens, I know I will not hesitate.

TIME golf

Photos: How Tiger Woods’ Descent Into Injury Began

Woods announced Tuesday that he will miss the 2014 Masters after undergoing back surgery earlier this week. Although this is the first time he won't play in the event in 20 years, he's pushed his body to breaking point in recent years

Visit Golf.com for a complete timeline of the golfer’s worsening ailments

TIME Sports

Obama Takes Selfie With ‘Big Papi’ David Ortiz

The photo was retweeted almost 19,000 times within an hour

What do you do when the President asks you to pose for an official photo? Well, if you’re Red Sox player David Ortiz, aka Big Papi, you ask him to take a selfie first.

“Do you mind if I take my own?” Ortiz asked Obama before snapping this gem:

While the photo isn’t quite in Ellen Degeneres selfie territory, it had been retweeted almost 19,000 times in less than an hour.

“It’s the Big Papi selfie,” Obama said.

TIME golf

Tiger Woods Will Miss the Masters

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the final round of the Cadillac Championship golf tournament March 9, 2014, in Doral, Fla. Lynne Sladky—AP

The golf pro will take a few weeks off after spinal surgery to repair a pinched nerve, robbing him of the chance to win a fifth championship in next week's tournament in Augusta, Ga. He'll focus instead on rehabilitating from the procedure

Tiger Woods will not be competing in this year’s Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., and will focus instead on rehabilitating from a recent surgery, the professional golfer announced in a press release Tuesday.

“After attempting to get ready for the Masters, and failing to make the necessary progress, I decided, in consultation with my doctors, to have this procedure done,” Woods said in a statement.

The golfer has been plagued with injuries in recent months, according to Golf.com. On Monday, Woods underwent a successful surgery on his spine to repair a pinched nerve—likely the result, he said, of the repetitive motion in golf—that had been bothering him for months, according to a press release. Rehabilitation after the surgery is expected to take several weeks.

Woods hopes to return to playing golf sometime over the summer.

TIME

Ukrainian Soccer Player Helps Revive Rival After Scary Collision

Oleh Husyev, a striker on Ukraine’s Dynamo Kiev, was midair competing for a cross when he took a knee to the head from the opposing team’s keeper, Denys Boykol. This caused Husyev to swallow his own tongue, blocking his air passageways.

Luckily, before his tongue caused Husyev to suffocate, an opposing player’s quick thinking saved his life.

After being revived, Husyev was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for a bruised jaw, a concussion and three damaged teeth.

TIME

Who Has The Best Beard In Major League Baseball?

In honor of MLB's Opening Day, cast your vote for the player with the most impressive facial hair

Did we miss any beards? Sound off in the comments below if we missed your favorite.

TIME Baseball

Here’s Why Baseball Will Be More Exciting This Year

In an era where star pitchers are allowing fewer big hits than ever, teams must squeeze out runs any way they can — and that means baseball's runners will be stealing the show

Another Opening Day has arrived, and baseball’s 2014 story lines are set.

Among them: The Red Sox going for a repeat. The Los Angeles Dodgers outspending the New York Yankees — the New York Yankees! — and counting on a transcendent star, Yasiel Puig of Cuba, to carry them to their first World Series appearance in over 25 years. Speaking of the Yanks, this is Derek Jeter’s last go-round. You may hear a fair amount about this development throughout the season.

But here’s why I’m more excited about the 2014 baseball season than any in recent memory: we’re going to witness a much quicker game. N0t quicker in the sense of two-hour finishes. Baseball will always be languid, take it or leave it. Pitchers aren’t getting a shot clock.

Here, I’m talking about speed as in really fast players on the base paths, looking to roll the dice and swipe a base or two. Stolen bases create great theater. Will he or won’t he go? Is the pitcher playing some kind of mind-game? The runner’s off … the catcher throws to second, bang-bang. Safe or out?

If a stolen-base threat stands on first, you don’t want to leave your seat.

Back in the 1980s, teams like the St. Louis Cardinals built championship teams around speed. Hits pinballed around turf fields, and players like Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines and Vince Coleman flew across the carpets. The 1982 Cardinals led the National League in stolen bases, with 200. (They would have led the majors, but the Oakland A’s had 232, because Henderson himself stole 130 bases in 1982, still a major league record). The Cardinals hit a league low 67 home runs.

They won the World Series.

But during the 1990s, base-stealing started becoming a lost art. More teams built bandbox ballparks. So instead of signing a speedy corner outfielder, they got a guy who could just knock it out of the park. And oh yeah, players also started juicing. In 1998, Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals slugged 70 home runs, three more than the entire 1982 Cardinals team. (The 1998 Cardinals did not win the World Series).

Meanwhile, the fledgling analytics movement figured out that as home runs became easier to come by, the risk of stealing wasn’t worth it. Between 1983, one of the peak years of the speed era, and 2000, the peak of the steroid-fueled home run era, stolen base attempts per game declined by 26%. Home runs per game rose 50%.

But now, steroid testing, and some pretty outstanding pitching, has popped the power bubble. Home runs per game are down 18% since 2000. And last year, teams scored the fewest number of runs per game since 1992. Players struck out at a record rate. Teams must squeeze runs any way they can.

So that’s why the Cincinnati Reds — a team that has made the playoffs in three of the last four seasons — have handed their leadoff and starting centerfield job to rookie Billy Hamilton, a player who stole 155 bases in the minors two seasons ago, a new professional record. Hamilton’s mission is simple — get on base, and run wild. He’s not the only fleet-footed player worth watching these days. Eric Young of the New York Mets and Michael Bourn of the Cleveland Indians will swipe their share of bases. As if Mike Trout of the Anaheim Angels wasn’t talented enough, he can also burn up the basepaths. Two seasons ago, he led the American League in stolen bases. Delino DeShields Jr., son of another standout of the bygone speed era, swiped over 100 bases in the Houston Astros organization two seasons ago. He’s another prospect worth watching.

Coleman, now a baserunning instructor in the Astros organization, was the last player to steal over 100 bases, when he swiped 109 for St. Louis in 1987. In fact, he exceeded the 100 stolen base mark in each of his first three major league seasons. “It takes a certain individual to be a base-stealer,” Coleman says. “You have to be egotistical, daring, alert — all in one package. You have to be the kind of guy who likes trying to break into somebody’s house, and not worried about being caught.” So, Vince, ever burglarize someone’s property? “Hey, that’s just the example I use when I give my baserunning seminars,” Coleman says. “You can’t be scared.”

Coleman has some advice for Hamilton. “He has to get his PhD in pitchers,” says Coleman. “Go to school. That’s no B.S. That’s real.” Coleman would keep a notebook, his bible, scribbled with a pitcher’s tendencies, his tells. He can still recall some to this day. When Bruce Hurst, Jim Deshaies, Zane Smith and Rick Honeycutt set their feet shoulder-length apart, they were going home. And Coleman was headed for second. “Dissect all the pitchers,” says Coleman. “Find their flaws. It was my craft.”

Hamilton, who is the subject of a profile in this week’s issue TIME magazine, says he’s heeding Coleman’s advice. “I study a lot of pitchers, now more than I have in the past,” Hamilton says. During his call-up to the big leagues last September, Hamilton relished the additional resources available to him. “When they had those scouting reports laid out, it was like, Wow, this is amazing,” Hamilton says. “We didn’t have this in the minor leagues. You were mainly on your own.”

Right now, baseball’s in a pretty healthy state. (Must be, if the Tigers can give Miguel Cabrera a 10-year, $292 million contract). Revenues have reached record levels. For small market teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, coming off their first winning season and post-season appearance, since 1992, and the Kansas City Royals, who also had a rare winning record last year, there’s more hope than usual. But to me — and more importantly, a younger generation of fans — there’s still something missing. Some kind a cultural buzz around the game.

To correct that, a little thievery will go a long way.

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