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Morning Briefing

His Aspirations Were a Bit Too High

February 22, 1986

Horoaki Tominaga, a 21-year-old Japanese student, was going for his second title in two weeks Thursday when he took the starting line in the Empire State Building Run-Up in New York. He came up a little short.

Out of 52 runners in the 86-floor race, Tominaga finished 52nd. It sort of figured. Tominaga stands 6-6 and weighs 264.

The title he won the week before was a hot-dog eating contest at Coney Island. He ate 10 1/2 franks in 10 minutes.

And how did he celebrate?

"We went out and got some sushi," he said.

Former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier still hasn't conquered his fear of flying, which is why he drove out from Pennsylvania to watch son Marvis fight James (Bonecrusher) Smith Sunday at Richmond, Calif.

One problem. The car broke down in New Mexico, so he had to make the rest of the trip by plane. "I just prayed a lot," he said.

Of his fear of planes, he said: "I just don't like it. I've had some rough experiences. I look at the guy sitting next to me and say to myself, 'What if it's his time?' I've never known Jesus to stop a plane and pull someone off."

Trivia Time: Who did Muhammad Ali face in his last fight? (Answer below.)

The Cincinnati Reds invited Rollie Fingers to camp if he would shave his handlebar mustache. The 39-year-old reliever declined.

Red General Manager Bill Bergesch said Fingers told him, "The mustache is my trademark, and it has been for 15 years. I am not about to shave it off just to play baseball."

Bergesch: "That terminated the conversation. I wished him well in the future."

George Steinbrenner, former assistant football coach at Purdue and Northwestern, has hired Stump Merrill, backfield coach at Bowdoin College in Maine, as an administrative coach for the New York Yankees.

Steinbrenner: "You'll see more of the football mentality. In football, you didn't want to go home once the season ended. You'd stay around and watch films, work on techniques. I'd spend seven hours in the film room. I learned all about attention to detail.

"I brought in our coaches three days a week this winter. They studied film on every one of our players. Sammy Ellis and Mark Connor had VCR machines at home and studied all the pitchers. This way, the coaches all come to spring training prepared. They've done the work that they normally do for the first two weeks."

Said Yankee Manager Lou Piniella: "This is not a football camp. It's a baseball camp."

Right, Lou.

Note: In 1982, this quote was attributed to Steinbrenner: "I've learned at times that Lou Piniella is not the brightest guy in the world. I've learned to live with him."

On the difference between East and West, Brooklyn-born Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors said: "Instead of eating pizza, I find myself eating alfalfa."

Trivia Answer: Trevor Berbick. Ali lost a 10-round decision on Dec. 11, 1981 at Nassau.


Lee Corso, coach of the Orlando Renegades of the USFL, on all his appearances on the rubber-chicken circuit in Florida: "I no longer sleep. I roost."

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