Normally up to its ears in complacency, organized baseball last week took notice of games dragged out to unconscionable length and actually did something about them. It altered the strike zone. Since the rule was last changed in 1950, batters have stood head and shoulders above the strike area. Now this zone takes in the shoulders and goes to the knees. A larger target should enable pitchers to retire batters a little more easily and this, in turn, should speed up the game. There will be confusion on interpretation of the law and there will be test cases involving players trying such gimmicks as deep crouches and stooping.
Still, baseball has heeded the cry of the fan to cut the length of the games. We extend our compliments to baseball's beleaguered big leaguers.
Doreen Porter is not only New Zealand's champion woman sprinter, she is also its prettiest athlete, pretty enough to work as a model. That is why, apparently, she will not compete in the Los Angeles Times Indoor Games February 9.
Originally Peter Snell and a manager were invited to make the trip. Then someone had the wit to recognize that Doreen is prettier than any manager and runs better, too. So the manager's invitation was canceled and Doreen was invited, there being funds for the expenses of only two New Zealanders.
That is when the New Zealand AAA turned prissy. Doreen could not go without a chaperone, the AAA ruled.
FAREWELL TO THE BANDITS?
Wade Walker, Mississippi State athletic director and chairman of the Southeastern Conference officials committee, announced the other day: "The new NCAA football substitution rule has killed the three-team system." The Chinese Bandits, as glamorized by Paul Dietzel at LSU and Army, are dead, he said, and so are Florida's Go-Gators.
Walker's pronouncement came after a meeting in Atlanta of Southeastern Conference football coaches, all of whom agreed with his judgment. The new rule allows only two wild-card substitutions on downs on which the ball changes hands and on the fourth down, and it requires a time-out for substitutions on second and third downs.
Florida Coach Ray Graves, who used the three-team system to upset Penn State in the Gator Bowl last season, announced reluctant abandonment of it.
"It took us all the way to the Gator Bowl," he said, "but Florida State Coach Bill Peterson, who originally helped Dietzel put the system in at LSU, agrees with me that the new rule has killed it. I don't know what I am going to tell our third team, whose high morale and defensive play helped win several games."
Now hear this, coaches.
Fritz Crisler, a longtime chairman of the NCAA football rules committee, says the new rule will not necessarily kill the three-platoon system, Bandits and Gators and all, but will make substitutions easier. Aside from the elimination of queueing up for reporting in, he says, it will eliminate the messenger system by which coaches call plays from the bench, and coaches will be gambling if they don't teach players both offensive and defensive football.
That's what Fritz Crisler says. Our own interpretation is that it means you can play platoon football whenever the clock is stopped (Crisler's words) or on second and third down when the wind is out of the north with the cheerleaders doing the twist, unless, of course, popcorn is being sold in the stadium for more than 15¢, as the confused coaches seem to be saying.
IT WAS PRETTY COLD
It was cold enough to disrupt the Detroit version of the world heavyweight wrestling championship when Dick (The Bruiser) Afflis got stranded in a snowbank on the way to the arena; cold enough in Dixie to discombobulate a 300-boat holiday flotilla off Houston and delay the Pan-American rifle shoot in San Antonio for two days; and snowy enough in Minnesota to maroon Viking Coach Norm Van Brocklin and former Los Angeles Ram tackle Don Simensen in an ice-fishing house until rescued by snowplow. It was not cold enough to keep a sporty, 47-year-old Wayne, Mich. housewife from winning a bet. Last winter Lavina Radabaugh read that the Clare, Mich. Chamber of Commerce was paying a man $150 to penetrate the Michigan north woods in midwinter and live for a week with minimum equipment. "Oh pshaw," said she. "Anyone can do that." "Come on up and try," countered the CC boys. For a week, with the temperature at 30° below for much of the time, Mrs. Radabaugh camped out in the northland in only a pup tent and sleeping bag and with barely a bowlful of gruel. It was, moreover, her first camping trip. She got the $150, plus a new hairdo from a local shop.
Four little lakes in western Washington—Hart, Pass, Erie and Cranberry—are just about the best trout producers in that part of the state. Each of them turns out a catch of 50,000 rainbows every season. Unfortunately, they also provide a choice winter hangout for cormorants and mergansers. A gluttonous mob of 79 shags (cormorants) and 300 sawbills (mergansers) has been counted over a single lake in a day, each of them assiduously eating his weight in young trout. Game Protector Hank Moore brought down one merganser with five 10-inch rainbows in its innards and estimates that a full-grown cormorant needs 25 trout of that size per day to keep in the pink.
Moore used to spend his winters tearing around from lake to lake, shooting away at the freeloaders, but shags and sawbills are smart. They learned to spot his car and rose in clouds as he advanced on them. He couldn't ask hunters to help because part of the area is a state park, in which firearms are forbidden to all but Department of Game employees.
This winter Moore is one up on the enemy. He has taken some derelict row-boats, bailed them out and patched them up, and manned them with plywood scarecrows dressed in bright flight suits discarded by Navy pilots of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Base. These, looking rather like fishermen, have been installed on all the lakes. Though the annual decline in saltwater food fish is well under way, and thus the season for bird predators to move in on the lakes is long overdue, not a single one has had the courage to investigate the fake fishermen.
Only complaint, outside of high-flying squawks from the hungry horde, is a mild one registered by Moore's wife. All day long she has to answer the telephone and explain to irate sportsmen that yes. Hank knows about the man fishing out of season on Cranberry (or Erie or Hart or Pass) Lake and no, he isn't a relative.
THE INSIDE TRACK
•Athletic officials of Mississippi State, which was denied participation in the past two NCAA basketball tournaments because of the state's integration policy, believe James Meredith's admission to Ole Miss, no matter how, improves the school's chances of playing in this year's tournament.
•Leading Chicago members of the University of Illinois alumni are determined to replace Football Coach Pete Elliott with Alex Agase, now an assistant coach at Northwestern.
•Construction will start March 1 on Houston's $24 million domed stadium, with completion scheduled in time for the 1964 pro football season.
•California horsemen, whose major tracks (Santa Anita, Hollywood and Del Mar) are open for less than six months each year, expect Governor Brown to grant at least 26 additional racing dates, and possibly 44, to these tracks next year.
THE DEMOCRATIC WAY
At first there was a furious din over the unorthodoxy of it all. English pool promoters wanted to get rid of a $14 million surplus, caused by snowed-out soccer games, by having experts decide who would have won if the games had been played. Most public opinion shrank from the thought, agreeing with The Manchester Guardian that it was a "desperate device by pools promoters for pursuit of their private profit." Furthermore, the Guardian hinted darkly, the move might have far-reaching consequences: "If games can be decided without being played, wars can be decided without being fought. All that is needed is a formula, agreed between Moscow, Peking and the Rand Corporation."
But holders of the betting coupons happily went along with the promoters, and the paper play was on. Promptly at regular kickoff time, a six-man panel met secretly in London and for 90 minutes debated the results of 38 canceled games. Then Panel Spokesman Lord Brabazon of Tara, 78, who described himself as a football amateur, announced the scores on a nationwide TV broadcast. There were 23 wins by home teams, eight victories by visiting teams and seven draws. With five games actually played to a tie that day, there were 12 draws in all, just about average for a Saturday (winnings arc mostly based on picking the ties). "Our results," purred Lord Brabazon, "are perfect." A press panel, also on television, dazedly agreed. One grinning reporter stood up. "On behalf of all Yorkshiremen," he said, "I want to thank the panel for giving Leeds its first cup victory since 1952."
A TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Hippomania is an inordinate love of horses. English women, the BBC nervously told its viewers recently, are particularly susceptible to it. In fact, Britain is breeding lady hippomaniacs at an alarming rate. Why? According to one psychiatrist, it is all biological.
"Small girls develop physically earlier than small boys," says he. "They have grace and poise suited to riding. In addition, horses have to be mothered. A pony is larger and in every way more satisfying than a Teddy bear."
From summers spent at pony camp to tally-ho-ing with the hunt is a quick hurdle, and once they have taken it, ladies ride on for years. Telltale mark of hippomania: arranging for children to be born in the off-hunting season.
THE REWARD OF VISION
A man who saw the name of the late Dr. Charles H. Strub on last week's Santa Anita racing program was moved to remark on the doctor's remarkable foresight. When he built Santa Anita in 1934 he had trouble peddling 200 shares at $5,000 a share to get the necessary $1 million. Skeptics figured to move in and take over at 10¢ on the dollar when his brainchild went broke. But Dr. Strub made racing over from a private diversion into the great public entertainment that it is today. One of the original shares (the stock has since been split 375 for one) is worth about $120,000 today.
Now, for the past three years, his son Bob has been running the show and in a manner that would make his father proud. Bob's first move was to hire permanently New York's able racing secretary, Jimmy Kilroe, now a vice-president and director of racing. Kilroe's goal is to have the best racing in America at Santa Anita and he may have done it, what with the fine turf course and the improvement of California breeding. Santa Anita probably is the best-managed racecourse in America. It certainly is one of the most beautiful in the world. Dr. Strub had foresight indeed.
A few hours before Utah State met Baylor in the Gotham Bowl two seasons ago. Coach Johnny Ralston declared his giant Utah State tackle, Clyde Brock, ineligible. Brock, Ralston learned, had committed himself to play professional football for the Chicago Bears. And the absence of Brock may have been the reason that Utah State lost to Baylor 24-9.
Now Ralston has his reward. At least in part because of his sportsmanlike conduct, Stanford has picked him to coach its football team. The surrender of Brock, committee members said, was an act becoming a Stanford man. Not that Ralston is a Stanford man. He is a graduate of California, Stanford's No. 1 rival.
THEY SAID IT
•Norm Van Brocklin, Minnesota Viking coach, on Alex Karras' admission that he bet on NFL games: "Karras must have been playing without his helmet the last couple of years."
•Jim Umbricht, Houston Colt pitcher, explaining why he quit his off-season job as a Colt ticket salesman: "My conscience hurt me. I hate to play golf when I should be out working, so the only thing to do was quit working."
•Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Dodd, complaining about the new "free substitution" rule: "They've taken the game away from the coaches."