PUCKETT UP? In St. Paul, Charley Walters reports of
talk that Kirby Puckett could "become a significant investor
in the Twins, and that owner Carl Pohlad and his family
might help finance Puckett's portion, even if the Pohlads
sell the team." Walters adds that Ogden Entertainment
Services, which operates the Target Center for the
Timberwolves, "is undergoing management changes at its New
York headquarters and will curtail its aggressive attempt to
control operations at the Metrodome" (PIONEER PRESS, 6/16).
NOTES: In Seattle, Mariners CF Ken Griffey Jr. blamed
Microsoft exec Chris Larson, who reportedly owns 30% of the
team, for vetoing the trade of P Randy Johnson: "This one is
Chris Larson. Everyone agreed to the trade except one
person, Larson." Mariners CEO John Ellis: "I absolutely
cannot comment because it just isn't true" (SEATTLE TIMES,
6/15)....In TN, David Williams examined the public's
confusion over the role of the Memphis and Shelby County
Sports Authority. Exec Dir Ross Bartow: "Do people know
what a sports commission can do? I'd say no. I've got to
... get out to civic clubs and meet with people, continue
to answer questions that are out there" (COMMERCIAL APPEAL,
6/15)....In Phoenix, the WNBA Mercury lead the league in
season-ticket holders with "more than 9,000" (AZ REPUBLIC,
6/16)....In Tampa, after announcing a $5M increase in
payroll, Lightning GM Phil Esposito said that new Owner Art
Williams has agreed to pour another $1M into the budget for
player salaries for the '98-99 season (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 6/16).
To the Chinese, Michael Jordan "remains America's
king," according to Elisabeth Rosenthal, who writes from
Beijing about Jordan and the NBA's reach in China on the
front page of the N.Y. TIMES. The Chinese have named Jordan
"kongzhong feiren -- 'space flier.'" When a Beijing company
recently asked 1,000 Chinese to name the best-known
Americans ever, Jordan was second, "trailing Thomas Edison
by just a few percentage points. Behind him were Albert
Einstein, Mark Twain and Bill Gates" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/16).
RELOADING? In Chicago, Terry Armour reports that the
TRIBUNE "has learned the Bulls are prepared to offer" Bulls
F Scottie Pippen a two-year deal worth $35-40M in an effort
to keep the team intact (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/16). Arrests in
Chicago after the Bulls' title win were down 22% from last
year, "with 451 people arrested, mostly for disorderly
conduct." Police spokesperson Pat Camden said that arrests
for "serious incidents" were down "even more significantly,"
from 144 last year to 77 this year (SUN-TIMES, 6/16).
Two addenda to Mario Lemieux's seven-year contract with
the Penguins -- one attached in '92, the other in '96 --
"shows his to be a highly unusual deal," according to Dave
Molinari of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. The "most striking
feature of the 13-page agreement is a clause in the 1992
addendum that states, in effect, that Lemieux was guaranteed
to receive the salaries, bonuses and other payments laid out
in the contract, even if the league office deemed the deal
invalid." The second addendum "might reveal the source of
Lemieux's threatened lawsuit against Penguins co-owner Roger
Marino." It calls for Lemieux to receive a $4M "rights"
payment, payable in $2M installments on January 1, 1997, and
January 1, 1998. Lemieux's agent, Tom Reich, said recently
that the Penguins failed to make payments in January '97 and
January '98, "although Reich did not specify the nature of
the payments missed." Molinari detailed all aspects of the
contract in his piece (Dave Molinari, POST-GAZETTE, 6/15).
Larry and Charles Dolan "have raised the stakes in
their bid to become the next owner of the Browns" by
bringing Don Shula into their ownership group, according to
Terry Pluto of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. Shula was born and
raised in OH and the Dolans will introduce him at a press
conference today as an Exec VP in their proposed
organization. Pluto writes that Shula "is a big name and
known commodity to NFL owners," and with him on board, "the
Dolans believe their seemingly already strong group is even
more attractive to the league" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/16).
In Cleveland, Tony Grossi reports that Shula "might ...
invest nominally in ownership. But his value to the Dolan
effort is priceless." Grossi: "Shula's universal acceptance
by NFL owners makes it increasingly difficult for them to
deny the Dolans' bid." Bengals Owner Mike Brown: "He's a
significant plus for the Dolans" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER,
6/16). In Miami, Kevin Ding reports that Shula would become
a 5% owner in the Dolan group (MIAMI HERALD, 6/16).
MORE BROWNS NEWS: In Cleveland, Tony Grossi reported
that Browns ownership applicants Thomas Murdough and Bart
Wolstein "were less than amused" when they read that Howard
Milstein termed the expansion team ownership derby "a two-
horse race" between he and the Dolan brothers. Wolstein:
"We don't need a New Yorker running our team." Ownership
candidates will have to send a check for $150,000 to the NFL
this week to receive material on the stadium lease and
revenue sharing projection information (PLAIN DEALER, 6/14).
Bernie Kosar, who has been approached by Murdough and the
Dolans about joining their ownership bids, has "serious
questions about whether there is enough time to build a
viable NFL franchise" by '99. Kosar: "I'm concerned about
the timeline of it. It's a tight timeline to get ready to
play in '99" (Carter Gaddis, TAMPA TRIBUNE, 6/14).