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RSVP / INTO THE NIGHT

Sports Stars Score Big Bucks

July 07, 1994|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Tuesday's ninth annual Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular fund-raising dinner at the Century Plaza Hotel. This is said to be the most prestigious sports dinner in the country. Talking about society's fascination with athletes, attorney F. Lee Bailey said: "Sports are the last frontier of the all-American spirit. They're totally benign, certainly healthy and a clean form of combat. If lawyers pull something dirty, you might not catch it. But in sports, it's all out in the open."

Who Was There: The dinner was chaired by Marv Chanin and emceed by Tommy Lasorda. Presented with Man of the Year awards in their respective sports were Dodger catcher Mike Piazza, the Clippers' Dominique Wilkins (who was unable to attend) and Rams running back Jerome Bettis. Lifetime Achievement awards went to Joe DiMaggio and Joe Montana, both repeatedly referred to as legends. In DiMaggio's case it's certain. Montana, who is still playing, said, "Hopefully not yet" regarding legend status.

The Crowd: Predominantly male. It was as though they'd taken the entire membership of a West L.A. gym, put them in suits and handed each a Corona.

Details That Evoke Paralyzed Grins in Publicists: The evening's honorary chairman (and 1986 Lifetime Achievement honoree) was O.J. Simpson. And, until the company went out of business, the event was co-sponsored by Drexel Burnham Lambert, Michael Milken's junk bond dealing investment house.

Money Matters: Close to $600,000 was netted. This brought the total to more than $5 million the nine dinners have raised for Cedars' Medical Genetics-Birth Defects Center.

Sports Figure With Best Assets for a Second Career: Lasorda's booming voice makes him a perfect emcee. He basically just yells louder than the crowd talks. He's also full of choice expressions perfect for sports dinners. A sample would be his line on Bettis: "If you don't like that guy, you don't like Christmas."

Quoted: DiMaggio was asked how sports dinners have changed through the years: "How has baseball changed? How has the world changed? I was paid $10,000 a year, now players get $7 million. If the club owners are making a dollar and so are the players, I'm not knocking it."

Pastimes: Getting autographs. It was mostly kids doing it, but attorney Bob Shapiro was at the reception carrying a Broadway shopping bag filled with the three-dozen baseballs he and his son asked players to sign. He then left early to work on the Simpson case.

Observed: There was an extensive pre-dinner silent auction that included restaurant dinners and ski trips, but was geared mainly toward sports items. In the midst of fitness equipment, team jackets and every kind of autographed ball imaginable, stood a porcelain Barbie doll in a lace dress. Hey, it's the '90s. Barbie hangs out in the locker room.

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