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Morning Briefing

Hesburgh Did Leahy a Favor

May 16, 1987

When Frank Leahy resigned as the Notre Dame football coach after an undefeated season in 1953, the guess was that he was forced out by the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, who was determined to change the image of the university from a football factory to an institution of higher learning.

Hesburgh, denying it, told the New York Times this week that he was worried about Leahy's health and convinced him to retire.

"I remember how Frank punished himself before games," Hesburgh said. "He got so worked up that he passed out on the field in a game against Georgia Tech. He was hyperventilating and could have died. Before a Navy game, he was laid out on a bench in the locker room and had to be given a hypodermic."

During the season, Leahy slept on a cot in the firehouse near the practice field and rarely commuted to his home 33 miles away, where he lived with his wife and 10 children.

Hesburgh said he thought Leahy's life was out of balance--that he was being consumed by the game.

"It might have killed him," he said.

When Leahy resigned, he was paid the two years remaining on his contract.

Hesburgh: "I sweetened the pot by telling Frank that if his six boys qualified, we'd give them all full scholarships to Notre Dame."

30 Years Ago Today: Billy Martin of the New York Yankees turned 29. The night before, he celebrated with teammates Hank Bauer, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Johnny Kucks at the Copacabana, where a brawl broke out. Bauer was accused of striking a patron but later was cleared of the charge.

Berra summed up the whole affair thusly: "Nobody did nothin'."

A month later, Martin was traded to Kansas City.

Trivia Time: Who is the only member of the Hall of Fame with exactly 3,000 hits? (Answer in column two.)

Add Trivia: Writes Chuck Peri of Carson: "I did it! I did it! I found a way to get around the dumb trivia quiz in the Morning Briefing.

"I start at the bottom of the column and read the trivia answer. Then I think of a real stupid question and, behold, I have the right question. It works 50% of the time. Try it."

Art Mahaffey, one of Gene Mauch's pitchers when the Philadelphia Phillies blew the pennant in 1964, told Rich Ashburn of the Philadelphia Daily News that he wasn't surprised when the Angels lost the championship series to Boston last season.

Of Mauch as a manager, he said: "There's no doubt he wanted to win, maybe too much, and there's no doubt he knew baseball, but he never knew anything about pitching. When I saw him on the top step of the dugout in the playoffs against Boston, just waiting for that third out to run out on the field, I just felt something would happen, and it did.

"That's been his history. I've seen it too many times. Mauch never seems to get that third out."

Trivia Answer: Roberto Clemente. After getting his 3,000th hit with Pittsburgh in 1972, he was killed on New Year's Eve, when a plane carrying supplies to flood victims in Nicaragua crashed. He was 38.

Quotebook

Mychal Thompson of the Lakers, on the difference between this year and last, when he was playing for the Portland Trail Blazers in the playoffs: "This year, I feel like the United States going against Libya. Last year, I felt like Libya."

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