07/11/2004 9:38 PM ET
Legends and Celebrity notes
A good time is had by all during softball exhibition
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- If there's one thing everyone at Minute Maid Park learned from the 2004 Taco Bell Legends and Celebrity Softball Game on Sunday, it's that Rollie Fingers still has it and that the celebrities shouldn't quit their day jobs.
The National League rolled over the American League, 15-8, but unlike the All-Star Game on Tuesday, this exhibition game had no further meaning beyond some good-natured competition between some of baseball's greatest former players, versus a whole lot of celebrity figures.
Fingers, best known for his 17-year Hall of Fame career that defined the modern-day relief ace, displayed a stunning amount of chutzpah from his post in right field. He made a valiant diving catch to rob ESPN's Kenny Mayne of a base hit, prompting center fielder (and Miss USA) Shandi Finnessey to leap in the air with glee.
Fingers wasn't done there. In the second, he knocked a two-run homer off National Pro Fastpitch third baseman Jamie Foutch. Jimmy Kimmel finished the back-to-back effort with a solo homer to pace the National League.
Former Astros manager Larry Dierker was named the MVP of the game, and deservedly so. After all, it's not every day that you see "Big Daddy" Cecil Fielder swing and miss on two underhand softball tosses.
|Rollie Fingers is helped up while Miss USA Shandi Finnessey has a laugh. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
The Cincinnati Kid: Nick Lachey, one-half of those crazy MTV newlyweds, sported the cap of his hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds.
Asked if he took any time to fine-tune his softball skills for this game, he shook his head.
"No, I didn't have my glove with me," Lachey said. "I've been on the road with my wife a little bit. I didn't have many opportunities to practice. That's going to be my excuse for today."
Considering he's married to bombshell Jessica Simpson, Lachey's male fans would certainly consider that a good excuse.
All-Star memories: This year's celebrity softball game was the third for Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who enjoys the opportunity to be a part of the excitement that surrounds All-Star Week.
Winfield was a starting outfielder for the American League All-Star team in 1986, the last time the Astros hosted a Midsummer Classic.
A 12-time All-Star, Winfield said he never grew tired of the yearly exhibition game.
"Once you get to that level, you say, 'I want to continue to do this,' " he said. "You say, 'I want to come back next year and the next year.' I did 12 in a row. I was fortunate to be healthy and have a long career. And it was exciting."
Winfield and former Houston Rockets star Clyde Drexler both played for the National League celebrity team.
"We switched positions," Winfield said. "He wants to run in the outfield and play left, and I'll play first base."
It's a little known fact that Drexler was quite a baseball player when he was a kid. That is, until the 10th grade, when he decided to concentrate fully on basketball.
But Drexler was pumped and ready for Sunday's game.
"In the summer, we play a lot of softball, so I should be OK," he said.
She wears it well: Credit Finnessey for being able to laugh at herself. The organizers of the softball game asked her to wear her pageant sash, and the statuesque blonde obliged.
"I thought it would be a little geeky, but that's OK," Finnessey laughed.
Actor Matthew Modine high-fived all of his American League teammates during pregame introductions, but when he got to Finnessey, he planted a big wet kiss on her.
More ladies talk: Finnessey received plenty of hoots and hollers from the crowd, but "Best Damn Sports Show Period" correspondent Leann Tweeden had nothing to be jealous about.
Plenty of drooling, beer-swigging male Gen-Xers -- which pretty much defines "The Best Damn Sports Show's" demographic -- vied for Tweeden's attention, or at the very least, an autograph. And she didn't seem to mind the attention.
Swoopes in the house: Comets superstar Sheryl Swoopes was originally scheduled to play in the game, but she was placed on the "disabled list" after hurting her foot during a recent WNBA game.
So Swoopes was worked into the game in a different manner. In the fourth, "The Apprentice" winner Bill Rancic pretended to argue with the home plate umpire on a called strike. The two engaged in a "heated" argument, and Rancic, in true Donald Trump fashion, yelled, "You're fired!" to the umpire and dragged him off the field.
Needing a replacement ump, Swoopes, wearing a black and white striped referee shirt over her Astros tee, was summoned from the home dugout.
"My son told me I'm not allowed to use basketball signs to call balls and strikes, but I may use the traveling sign when someone runs down to first," Swoopes joked.
The skit would have probably worked better had Astros right-hander Roger Clemens not picked that exact time to walk across the field with his wife, Debbie. Needless to say, that scene diverted the crowd's attention for a few minutes.
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.