FORECAST ON SWINGERS
The American League expansion of last year was, according to Mike Higgins, who is poised prettily for his eighth season as manager of the Boston Red Sox, the sweetest "cousin" batters have had in baseball history. Next year, though, it will be different, he says, sounding just a bit like an old Dodger fan. Take warning, Roger Maris.
"Expansion was a good break for the hitters," Mike explained. "To be honest about it, there were too many pitchers up there who didn't figure to be there under the old setup. When there wasn't too much pitching talent to begin with and you spread it over two additional teams—well, there was an awful lot of mediocre pitching.
"And, you know, you can take some mediocre hitters who will never touch good pitching but they'll wear those soft touches out. They'll get four for four off that kind of pitching and when they run across a good pitcher they'll get the collar.
"I think you'll see the same thing in the other league [that would be the National League] this year." But in the American League, he went on, the hitters are due for a rougher time.
"For one thing," Mike said, "those pitchers who were starting for the first time last year—they weren't used to pitching in the big leagues. They'll have more experience. And some of the young ones who might not have been ready for the big leagues, they'll have a year's experience."
He pointed out that the Los Angeles Angels will move out of their bandbox into the more spacious stadium of Chavez Ravine.
"Man, in that old Wrigley Field," he sighed, "you needed about 15 runs to win. Balls flew outa there like birds. I think there were more hits out of there than anywhere in the league."
In other words, Higgins figures that no one in the American League will be getting as many cheap hits in 1962 as in the free-swinging season of 1961. That, he believes, should make for an interesting season and he can hardly wait for it to start. Neither can we.
PRESCRIPTION FOR GREATNESS
Those amusing tales of Mickey Walker winning tough fights while champagne bubbles still snapped, crackled and popped in his head are rarely appreciated by athletic trainers, who strive to bring athletes to physical perfection with exercises, a rigid training diet and plenty of rest and sleep. But every once in a while something happens in sport that makes one wonder if something more subtly mysterious than mere physical condition is not behind the great deeds of great athletes.
For instance, there was the inspired performance that Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers put on against the New York Knickerbockers last week. He not only scored a record 63 points from his guard position—which made him the fifth man in National Basketball Association history to score 60 or more points in a single game—but he excelled at the other end of the court, too. He was brilliant at floor control and rebounding. "The most fantastic single game I've ever seen in basketball," said Fred Schaus, Laker coach.
West had a rather simple explanation for it all. He attributed his fine performance to fatigue. "I was so darned tired that I was completely relaxed," he said.
And then there was Dick (Night Train) Lane, long one of the National Football League's top defensive halfbacks, who kept a date for the Pro Bowl despite severe illness.
"I never slept a wink Saturday night," he said. "If it hadn't been for the game I'd just as soon have died. I've never felt so weak so long in a game."
It was his seventh Pro Bowl game and one of his best. It was, indeed, Night Train who picked off a stray pass by Y. A. Tittle and ran 52 yards to the West's first touchdown. That was Sunday afternoon, of course. Early Monday morning Dr. Daniel J. Fortmann, Rams team physician, confirmed the diagnosis Night Train had made and kept to himself. He removed Lane's appendix.
FLESH, FISH AND FOWL
On top of that $3 daily double at Tropical Park, Florida bettors have had no end of conversation pieces thrust on them by track owners this season. The Flagler Kennel Club contributed the world's biggest tote board, an electronic gee whiz that lists 28 combinations of odds on quinielas along with the usual win, place and show figures. And now Hialeah, queen mother of southern racing establishments, has come up with a whale-sized seaquarium, though it already has a piranha-stocked lily pond and an aviary that annoys horsemen, who complain that the birds raise such a raucous racket that their horses can't sleep.
They have races, too, occasionally.
IN VINO VERITAS
Reporters, detectives and Gallup pollsters all have their individual ways of getting information. And so has K. S. (Bud) Adams, president of the Houston Oilers, who wanted to know last week what the football coaches of the country think of their own players. Finding the coaches nicely assembled in Chicago for their annual convention, Adams invited them up to his Imperial Suite in the Conrad Hilton's penthouse for a drink or two. To make sure he got a representative selection he made the invitations good for two successive evenings. On the first night he made provision for 100 guests and 1,100 showed up. They ate $175 worth of popcorn and peanuts alone, and when the bill for drinks was presented to him, Adams whistled like a basketball referee. The coaches had downed 5,300 drinks at 85¢ each.
To pay for their drinks the coaches filled out a questionnaire on which they were asked to name their best offensive and defensive linemen, best offensive and defensive backs and top prospects. Lest any coach lazily neglect his duty as a guest, Adams had arranged for the questionnaires to be signed and put in a box, from which five would be drawn each night, each worth $100 to the lucky coach.
It turned out as you might expect. One of the character builders stuffed the box with 20 questionnaires in his name.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•The American Football League has scheduled four exhibition games in Atlanta this fall as part of a plan to bring that city into the league. Seattle is also being considered as a likely spot for an AFL franchise.
•Syracuse University, a perennial football power of late, has the worst major-college basketball team in the country, possibly one of the worst in modern times. Only experienced player at the start of the season was the 11th man from last season's 4-19 team. Through last weekend Syracuse had lost 19 in a row over two seasons. In the same period Syracuse's branch college team at Utica did a little better—they lost 18 straight.
•The Dallas Texans of the American Football League will shortly announce the signing of James Saxton, the All-America halfback from the University of Texas. Saxton, who was a draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals of the National Football League, wants to stay in Texas, and while there was talk of the Cardinals trading the Saxton draft rights to the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, Cowboy Coach Tom Landry believes Saxton to be too small for pro football.
•The net proceeds of the last three Bing Crosby golf tournaments, which normally would have gone to California charities, are being held in escrow by Crosby and his advisers until they learn whether the Internal Revenue Service is going to claim $150,000 of it in back taxes; the government's argument is based on the technicality that Crosby failed to apply for proper tax exemptions for the tournament.
Most college football players love the hoopla of the game—the cheers, the bowl games, the All-America lists and the testimonial dinners. Now meet an exception. He is Joe Romig, All-America guard on Colorado's Big Eight championship team, who is delighted that his four years of football are over, even though he loved to play. What he didn't like was all that publicity, which made him out a bit of a freak and an egghead because he majored in physics instead of phys ed and actually maintained a fine B average.
"I'm neither a genius nor an egghead," Joe insists. "I'm just a guy of ordinary intelligence who studied hard and made good grades."
As for all those bowl games—at least 14 for the colleges alone this past season—Joe disapproves. "I don't believe in bowl games," he says. "They don't prove anything and they take so much time that the players' studies go to pieces. If they held one postseason game, the week after the season ended, to decide the national championship, that would be fine."
That head isn't egg-shaped. It's level.
DARWIN GO HOME
There is a new book out called African Genesis which says, in essence, that man is not the best of the animals but the worst. These days man rarely loses a moment in proving out this very thesis in his dealings with his own kind; but seldom has there been a week, like this one just past, when man has gone to such lengths to prove his inclination to the meddlesome or absurd.
Item: London Lawyer Joseph Yehuda persuaded a friend who owns a pig farm to let all the pregnant sows spend their accouchements in the same sort of mechanical hammock in which Yehuda has been sleeping for years. "A feeling of relaxation pervades my whole body and I wake up feeling fit and fine," said Yehuda in behalf of his hammock. "As the body swings to and fro all the cells are shaken gently—no exertion, no strain, no fatigue. So I feel that a sow kept swinging during her pregnancy would produce better-quality stock."
Item: In Bristol, England, Zookeeper Stan Evans was discovered, bucket in hand, crouched next to Stephanie, a two-ton black rhinoceros. What was he doing? He was milking Stephanie. Why? So her milk can be analyzed to find a substitute that can be fed to baby rhinos whose mothers are killed by poachers.
Item: A group of Russian wolf hunters in Atjubinsk Oblast, Siberia (where else?) knocked off 300 wild wolves by teaching pet wolves to utter parental cries and mating calls. When junior or the roving husband comes home in response, blooie!
Item: A representative of Oxford University's Bullingdon Hunt Club gets a regular allotment of wolf urine from the London zoo. The cost is seven shillings sixpence a pint, and the club has always been glad to pay, since no other scent gets half the response from the club's hound pack during drag hunts. This week the zoo, wielding its monopolistic power, raised the minimum quantity to a gallon, which costs ¬£3. There being no other source, the club must accede. What to do with the surplus has not yet been decided.
PIRACY IN PARADISE
Four years ago General Manager Lynn Patrick of the Boston Bruins collaborated with Leo Monahan, Boston Record sportswriter, on an instructional book called Let's Play Hockey.
Scouting the 1958 world hockey championships at Oslo, Norway, Patrick met several officials of the Russian team. One of them borrowed a copy of the book and never returned it. But last week Patrick received two copies of the book, translated into Russian.
There won't be any royalties from the Russians, of course. Too bad, though, that Patrick's hockey club, a panting sixth since the first game of the season, can't read the book in Russian. It may have gained in translation.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike DiSalle, Ohio governor, explaining John F. Kennedy's presence at his birthday celebration in Columbus: "The only way I could get the President out here was to promise he could meet Jerry Lucas, and it's going to be arranged, too—just as soon as Jerry finds time to fit him into his schedule."
•An Army officer, commenting on Paul Hornung's military assignment: "We can't win; if a chef from the Waldorf-Astoria joins the Army and you don't make a cook out of him, you hear all sorts of howls. But if you let a football player play football or assign him to the athletic department, then they say you are giving him preferential treatment."
•Warren Spahn, Milwaukee pitcher, on the anxiety of a pitcher as a home run hitter circles the bases: "The umpire won't give you the ball until the runner crosses home plate, probably because you might throw it at the guy, and there have been times in my career when I would have been tempted."
•Cal Kunz, Denver Broncos president: "We'll definitely get rid of those vertical-striped socks. But it really wasn't the socks that bothered me last season. It was the guys wearing them."