Turkeys of the Year

The worst flock-ups of 2003, starting with Big Tom himself

What amazes the colleague is that Martinez, 44 years old and a six-year veteran of the bench, apparently confessed on the phone to a cop.

"It strikes me as peculiar that a municipal judge, who's probably given a thousand Miranda warnings, permits a detective to extract a confession from her over the phone," the colleague says. "If you want to slap some chucklehead with a purse, go ahead and do it, but don't confess to it over the phone."

Martinez's lawyer, Sharon Levine, says she can't really comment on the case or the phone conversation. "All the facts are not out yet," she says. "You're going on some limited information from the state's side. We're still kind of in the early stages of it all."

Judge Roxane Martinez's idea of judicial activism 
includes pool-game disputes at icehouses.
Chad Crowe
Judge Roxane Martinez's idea of judicial activism includes pool-game disputes at icehouses.
Jimy Williams made sure this year's flop was 
extra-annoying to Astros fans.
Chad Crowe
Jimy Williams made sure this year's flop was extra-annoying to Astros fans.

She says, "Obviously, at this point we're looking for a just resolution," whatever that may be. Any conviction for theft would endanger Martinez's bar license.

In the meantime, Martinez is suspended with pay from her job -- presumably giving her some extra time to research Miranda and the right to remain silent.

Not to mention the right to remain silent during a ladies' night ice-house pool game.

Sports Turkey

Being a Houston Astros supporter has never really been easy -- fans of the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox can whine lyrically about decades of ineptitude, but at least their teams win a post-season series every now and then. The Astros, in 40-plus years of existence, have never managed to achieve such success.

Even so, the semi-successful teams of the 1980s were fun to watch. The current spate of semi-successful teams -- which have been failing in the pennant races and playoffs since 1996 -- is much more of a chore to endure.

Maybe it's the colorless, unemotional, white-bread stars. Maybe it's their tendency to never really get hot for a long, momentum-building, energy-inducing stretch. Perhaps it's the fact that the chances of getting a single frickin' hit with a man in scoring position is as likely as their winning a playoff series. Or possibly it's the fact that their owner is a Southern-preacher, Zig Ziglar version of George Steinbrenner, always meddling and complaining. (Except where Steinbrenner complains about on-field losses, Drayton McLane just complains about payroll.)

Whatever it is, Astros supporters lately have needed a whole lot of patience. And never more than this year, when Sports Turkey of the Year Jimy Williams made sure that fans had an extra-sour taste in their mouths after the latest disappointment.

It wasn't just the baffling personnel moves manager Williams made during the season -- or his refusal to offer cogent reasons for them -- that annoyed followers. After all, Red Sox fans often bitched about his managerial decisions when he was in Boston, and the media there grew so frustrated at his content-free post-game sessions that they invented a new term to describe his meaningless language: "Jimywocky."

But Williams outdid himself in 2003. It began in the last days of the season, when the 'Stros were still battling the Cubs for the division lead. One night some idiot at Minute Maid Park thought the fans might like to know that the Cubs were getting shellacked and so the outfield scoreboard was updated. The fans had the temerity to cheer such a heinous development, apparently disturbing the tender psyches of the Astros.

Pitcher Tim Redding said the cheering upset his "rhythm." Williams said he was going to complain to McLane. (Strangely, no comment was made by then-closer Billy Wagner, who'd already done his part in alienating Astros fans by telling Sports Illustrated that Houstonians didn't know when to cheer during a baseball game.)

In the following days, Williams went into full Jimywocky mode.

He criticized KTRH's Ted DeLuca for asking a question after one game, saying he hadn't seen him in the locker room all year. (DeLuca does the after-game show every night for KTRH, although not from the locker room.) A follow-up question about the fans from the Houston Chronicle's David Barron got the same reaction: "Maybe you should buy a ticket and come out here more often or maybe see if they'll buy you a ticket so you can come out here," he said. (Barron says he'd been in the locker room just three or four times in 2003, so he wasn't offended.)

"My biggest complaint is that I wish Jimy would understand that we have legitimate baseball questions and we're not just asking things to start controversies," says KILT-AM's David Dalati, a frequent clubhouse visitor. "It became pointless to talk to the manager. There was no insight to be gotten at all. You do it because it's part of your job, but it was worthless...Jimy's biggest problem is he thinks we're all like the Boston media, but not every question we ask is intended to trap him or make him sound bad."

Mishandling a pitching staff, shuffling the lineup for no visible reason except to piss off touchy veterans, criticizing the fans for cheering and snapping petulantly at the media...No wonder McLane awarded Williams with a contract extension after the latest early Astros exit this year.

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