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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

For Latest on Clippers, Just Send In the Clowns

August 11, 2000|T.J. SIMERS

You've heard it said about Clipper owner Donald Sterling: What a clown! Did you see who that clown has hired now? How can that clown live with himself?

First of all, I checked. There are 383 registered clowns in the state of California, ranging from Boo Boo to Yoo Hoo, but no Donald the Clown, or even Sterling the Goof.

I know he's cheap, but if the guy's going to act like a clown, he should pay $25 like every other clown and register with the Clowns of America International. I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't even signed the "Clowns Code of Ethics."

But then I got to thinking, would it bother perfectly respectable clowns to know that most people consider Donald Sterling one of them?

So I called Calamity the Clown--a little worried that Donald Sterling might have been using this as a pseudonym all these years--until I heard a woman's voice.

"Regardless of what the clown does," said Calamity, "bringing people a laugh is a good thing."

Bumbo the Clown couldn't have agreed more. "Some people just have a gift of amusing people all the time, and then people expect them to be a clown all the time."

The clowns make a very good point. When's the last time you heard the word "Clippers" or the mention of Sterling's name, and you didn't just chuckle out loud? This clown has provided a public service. Who has brought more laughter to this city over the last two decades?

When you think about it, Donald the Clown works without a bulbous nose, wig or white face, although like Calamity, who works with a duck, he does rely on props, using Elgin Baylor to deliver his funny lines at news conferences.

*

BAYLOR WAS CALLED on Thursday to announce the team had just hired Alvin Gentry to be the next soon-to-be-fired coach of the Clippers. There was no need to pipe in a laugh track.

"I think there are a lot of people that would like to be in this position," said Gentry, the first known coach to ever make reference to the overcrowded conditions on death row.

"I pursued this job," he said.

A skeptical reporter asked, "Given the reputation of this organization, didn't any of your friends tell you that you were nuts to take this job?"

On the contrary, Gentry said, he was advised to take it.

"No friends?" the reporter said.

"No friends," said Gentry, and that's pretty obvious.

To his naive credit, he then went to the skeptical reporter after the news conference and wanted it known that he is enthusiastic, looking ahead rather than behind at Clipper history and is very determined to bring a new attitude to the team.

Here's a man who needs a friend.

*

THE SITUATION WAS screaming for F.P. Santangelo, the Dodgers needing someone to make an out, and why carry the guy on the roster if you're not going to let him do what he does best?

The winning run was on second base, Gary Sheffield had been intentionally walked to put runners on first and second, none out in a 4-4 game in the bottom of the ninth.

Todd Hundley was due to bat, and the way this guy has been going, you could underhand a beach ball to him and he'd whiff.

Now before the game I went to Manager Davey Johnson, because Bill Plaschke has taken a few days off, and Bob Daly and Kevin Malone are obviously not going to help, the jolly twosome having made up their minds to fire him, and suggested it was high time he start listening to the media. I tell my editors what to do all the time, so why not the Dodger manager?

"Where would that put me?" Johnson said.

Doing it his way has left the Dodgers for dead--5 1/2 games behind the Dusty Baker-managed Giants, and who do you think Baker calls when he needs advice?

If it's me, I'm telling Hundley to hit the bench, hoping he doesn't miss, fall on his butt and get hurt. Then I'm having Santangelo bunt or return to San Bernardino, which brings up Eric Karros. OK, so I'm not crazy about putting my career on the line with someone who's likely to choke, but I'm betting Don Baylor goes by the book, doesn't know Karros is weak in the knees, and walks him.

But Johnson stuck with Hundley, who struck out, and after Karros advanced the runner to third with a flyout, Adrian Beltre grounded out to send the game into extra innings.

I'm sure I could have helped in the 10th too, but my cell phone was ringing, and Mike Scioscia gets a little uptight when put on hold.

*

NOT EVERYONE'S so helpful. Dave Denholm, who does a radio show, repeatedly told his audience: "Davey Johnson should be fired; he must go."

You could write it off as simple sports talk blabber, but the message was being delivered on the Dodgers' station--1150.

*

THERE WAS A lot of movement in this week's USA Today/ESPN top 25 college football poll with Virginia Tech dropping from third to 10th, and Michigan State tumbling from seventh to 22nd.

Did I miss something?

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD, and who knows, it could be his last, comes from Johnson, the manager of the Dodgers:

"Maybe baseball will forget about the [Gary Sheffield suspension appeal] when we go into Milwaukee at the end of the month."

Johnson continues to employ poor strategy. Instead of counting on Commissioner Bud Selig's poor memory, just put Sheffield on a United flight--Selig is bound to think it's been canceled.

*

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

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