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The Inside Track | T.J. SIMERS

Quick, Sound the Alarm! The Redbirds Are Coming!

August 09, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

At the risk of causing a panic, I have to report the Cardinals were spotted leaving Arizona and were encamped Tuesday in La Jolla, just down the I-5 from Los Angeles.

Our worst fears.

Arriving as quickly as I could, Cardinal club officials played dumb, obviously following the lead of owner Bill Bidwill.

Under intense questioning, the kind that made Kevin Brown crack, the Cardinals claimed they left Arizona for the express purpose of practicing against the Chargers, and they would be making no move toward L.A.

So how come their buses were pointed up the I-5?

An operator at the nearby Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar said she was unaware of any specific orders, but thanks to a squadron of airplanes that buzzed the morning workout, the scrubs appeared to be pinned down.

Someone else pointed out that the Cardinals were ducking for cover because Ryan Leaf was throwing the ball, but whatever the reason, this wild talk that has the Cardinals moving to L.A. after losing a November referendum for a new stadium in Arizona must be stopped.

"Let me tell you, Mr. Bidwill can say to our people in Arizona this is a team that should be a winner some day," said Cardinal GM Bob Ferguson.

*

LET'S STOP RIGHT there. Mr. Bidwill has a track record that suggests he wouldn't know Secretariat from Mr. Ed. The guy knows absolutely nothing about winning. The team he owns won a playoff game two years ago--the first since 1947.

"This team should be together for the next three to four years," Ferguson continued. "It should be a very valuable franchise to the people of Arizona."

What an odd thing to say: "a very valuable franchise." What's he trying to do, send subliminal messages to Ed Roski, Michael Ovitz and Eli Broad? He's going to have to be a lot more obvious than that to wake up Broad, the only one of the three with any serious dough.

The thing is, the Cardinals are free to move. They've been free to move since the day they arrived in Phoenix, and nobody wants them, including the old citizens in Arizona. The franchise moved before--from Chicago to St. Louis and then to Arizona. And when the Cardinals lose their referendum for a new stadium, they are going to have to call Arizona's bluff, and attempt another move.

"I can tell you this," said Arizona Republic reporter Lee Shappell, "The Cardinals are moving five times in the next 11 days."

Bidwill will want to stop at Legoland, of course, but even if the highway spikes take out the buses, the Cardinals can, if forced to walk, probably make it to Cardiff by the Sea by Thursday, and get through Oceanside by early Friday, leaving Camp Pendleton as the last line of defense.

*

SO I CALLED the Marines.

Now, when you call the finest fighting outfit in the land, you get a recorded message. I stayed on the line, ready to "press 1," if that would bring in the Apache helicopters, or 2 for the tanks. But with every passing second, the Cardinals moving a step closer to L.A., I got "press 2" for day care and 4 for disbursing.

Eventually I made it to Corporal Davis, who knew all about the Arizona Cardinals, "Yes, sir," the corporal said, "I can see your concern, sir, but short of putting up road blocks and bringing out guns. . . ." Now we're talking, and while we're at it, just how long will it take to mobilize and man the I-5 up north to prevent the descent of the Raiders?

"I have the number for the Provost Marshal's office," Corporal Davis said, obviously knowing the difference between the Cardinals and the Raiders. "You'll want to call the police."

*

IT WAS ABOUT 9 p.m. in Las Vegas and Ken Delpit was resting at home when his brother Ron, who works on behalf of the Venetian Casino and Hotel, called asking him to play pick-up basketball with some of the hotel's guests.

Ken, a former player at Cal State Northridge, tried to beg out, but when pressed he reported to the gym and found himself playing on the same team with the NBA's MVP, Shaquille O'Neal.

"Shaq played point guard," reported Ron Delpit, "and was leading the two-on-one break down the court. We played for more than two hours, and in between the games, Shaq worked on his free throws."

Yeah, when I want to work on my free throws, Las Vegas is the first place I go.

While in Las Vegas, O'Neal rode one of the 30 Harley's he had shipped into town for his friends. I'm sure he was wearing sun glasses, which allowed him to go unnoticed while tooling down the Strip.

Delpit said Shaq also purchased a $2-million condo in the Howard Hughes complex, and a 130-carat diamond bracelet for himself.

"It looked like a silver truck tire," Ron said. "You put that on anyone else and they wouldn't be able to hold their arm up."

Laker management will also be interested to know the big guy went down the most challenging Wet & Wild water slide, and without injury.

The splash, however, wiped out three city blocks.

*

THE ANGELS WENT up against Pedro Martinez Tuesday night and the Lakers' Kobe Bryant came to watch, drawing a huge ovation from the Edison Field fans.

Bryant is the first known celebrity to ever select the Angels over the Dodgers on a night when both teams are in town. The way Baby Pedro (Ramon Ortiz) pitched, he'll be back.

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WHEN PORTLAND OFFERED Brian Grant $42 million, he turned down the Trail Blazers. When Cleveland wanted to pay him $93 million, he said, "no thanks." Portland came back with an offer of $70 million, which Grant rejected.

It's not as if anyone is asking the guy to get his hair cut.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from John:

"I noticed you never have anything positive to write about anyone."

I noticed you have the same problem.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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