THE HELL OF IT
The letter came in a plain white envelope, postmarked Havana, addressed to Gordon Bridge of the Armed Forces Radio Service. In labored, purposeful English, it read:
La Habana, May 27, 1963
June 23, 1963
I am writting you in the name of several hundreds of fans in Cuba which would like to request a favor from you.
As you should know half of the population in Cuba are real good fans of the Major Leagues Base Ball. Due to the situation that we are now passing through, a disgrace, this hell that is the so call socialism, we hardly know about whats going on in the Majors. Thanks to the World of Sport at 1.30 p.m. and the Game that you broadcast every day, we get some news. Only one of the Newspaper of the five edited daily publish the results. No other details are permitted to be printed. In the years before, when Cuba was free and happy we use to have around 15 newspaper printed daily, and in every one you could read all the things that happens in the World about sports. Today is a crime to publish something about sports in the United States. Only news permitted are from countries behind the iron curtain; we are saturated and feel nauseated with news about foot ball soccer, chest game, gynnastic, and those kinds of silly sports practiced in the Comunist Contries. We know something about U.S.A. only when is defeated in a competition against Russia. The victory in Basket Ball of Russia over U.S.A. in Brazil was printed in HIGH BIG LETTERS.
But let me express our request: we would like that the very good broadcasters Curt Flood and George Balamasey (my excuss if this name is not written properly) in the course of the game that you broadcast daily, would let us know the roaster of the teams in both leagues, very slow, so we can take notes, because many changes have taken place in the majors, we are really confused about what team is playing some player.
Thanking you in advance and for the fine broadcast that the Arm Forces produces every day, which are the only way of comunication with the democratic world of sport for the Cubans we remain very sincerely yours
P.D. Forgive me for not given my addres;reasons...Comunismo.
Gregorio meant Curt Block and George Balamaci, who will honor his request. Other than that, his message was perfectly clear.
BLESSED IS A BIRDIE
A fellow named Bob Becker was playing golf last week in Houston with his friend, the Rev. Bob Haley. The reverend lined up a tee shot smack in front of a gaping water hazard, one fairly brimming with stricken golf balls. His shot was less than ethereal. The ball skittered for the lake, hit, skipped, skipped a second time, plopped out of the water and, at long last, trickled wetly onto the green, 10 feet from the cup. Did the Rev. Haley sink the putt? He did, for a birdie, for heaven's sake.
SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL
Inequality of competition is a persistent danger to the good health of the American Football League. The league's two worst teams, the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets (formerly the Titans), are not easy to look at and must be improved. This is especially true of the Jets, because the New York team is by tradition a vital gate attraction—vital to the league's financial condition, but an attraction only when fans in other cities can be proud and not pitying when New York is beaten.
The AFL tried last week to minister to its sickly brethren through an "equalization" draft. They didn't try very hard. From the surplus of mediocrity that was proffered the Jets took a couple of rookies nobody ever heard of, at $2,500 apiece, and the Raiders got Defensive Halfback Claude Gibson from San Diego for $7,500. One can see why this would not move either club toward complacency. The frantic Raiders went out and hired Linebacker Bill Leeka, who played for UCLA five years ago. They got him off the lot at Twentieth Century-Fox. His action time since 1958 has included a substantial number of bit parts in movies and one sensational television beer commercial.
LIVING LIKE A DOG
There was a time when a little lamb could be counted on to act like one, to be gentle and meek and follow Mary, but in Watford in Hertfordshire there is a sheep that chases around with sheep dogs, eats dog food, walks on a lead, answers to his name, senses like a dog, smells like a dog and refuses to take any stuff off a dog because, poor dreamer, he thinks he is one. The schizophrenic is named Larry and he was raised with puppies in a National Canine Defence League program to help cure bad dogs of sheep worrying (savage pestering). To pull wool over Larry's eyes, Trainer Frank Petit starved him for 24 hours, then put him in a compound with a sheep-chasing sheep dog and a bowl of food. Larry doggedly held his own, even with tough Alsatians. Said Petit: "He sent them flying with a butt of his head. They limped away, shocked."
A goat named Coronet was brought up with Larry and also believes he is a dog, except he takes the business more seriously. Coronet is used on real tough cases. He "chases the dog round and round a field until, at last, the dog is glad to be buddies." Police are now sending sheep worriers to Petit instead of having them destroyed. Dale Carnegie should do so well. Petit has had 18 successful personality transformations without a miss. Larry, good sheep dog that he is, has in the meanwhile become Petit's special pet. The only snag in his metamorphosis was the day Petit put him into the field with some other sheep. He chased them.
We thought he was, but now we may never know whether Candy Spots is truly a great horse, because 1) he is being raced to a frazzle on a schedule better suited to the Harlem Globetrotters and 2) he is being ridden less than brilliantly by Jockey Willie Shoemaker. In the nine months prior to his loss to Chateaugay in the Kentucky Derby, Candy Spots ran six times, barely enough to keep him awake, and won them all. Since then, whistle-stopping at a new track every time, he has raced in four stakes in less than a month. After losing again to Chateaugay in the Belmont two weeks ago, he was shipped to Chicago's Washington Park, 20 hours by van, and last week finished second in the Chicagoan to B. Major, a horse he previously had beaten by nine lengths and 13 lengths.
Shoemaker came off his middling ride in the Belmont to do worse in the Chicagoan. In the stretch, with Trainer Mesh Tenney crying for him to "switch the whip, Bill, switch the whip," Shoemaker made no switch, kept pounding Candy Spots on the right side and pounded him right into second place by a neck. Trainer Tenney would not criticize him, but clearly this jockey was not meant for this horse, or vice versa.
As for the schedule, Tenney said Candy Spots grows faster than he runs and needs action to stay trim. Owner Rex Ellsworth said greed (for the big purses) had nothing to do with it. But after all, he added, "you have to run a 3-year-old as much as you can before he is turned over to the handicappers." Tenney was more succinct: "These are big races," he said, "and our stable happens to be in the business of running in big races. Very simple." Happily for Candy Spots, the next big one is not until the American Derby, July 13.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MANAGERS
As most every seasoned second-guesser knows, baseball managers make a lot of money making a lot of mistakes, but there has never been any statistical evidence of that truth. Until now. Two Baltimoreans, Earnshaw Cook, a retired consultant engineer, and Dr. Wendell R. Garner, chairman of the Johns Hopkins University department of psychology, have catalogued 750,000 situations that occurred in the majors, and their report—Percentage Baseball—A Practical Application of Elementary Probability Theory—is as imperious as its title and shows conclusively that there isn't a manager around who would go "by the book" if it came for 25¢ and a Wheaties box top. Debunkers Cook and Garner have them dead to figures: a bad manager, they show, will cost his team 250 runs a year. By contrast, a really good manager will cost his team only 40 runs a year. Platooning is worth 80 runs to the other team, sacrifice bunting costs about 100 runs. Allowing pitchers to bat—except for fine-hitting pitchers who are as abundant as whooping cranes (SI, June 10)—any time the team is behind or less than two runs ahead costs up to 168 runs a year.
Cook does not expect managers to pay the report any mind. He's a statistician, he says, and a baseball fan, and "I just do it to amuse myself."
Mr. Joseph Granatelli is appalled to think that some people would try to ram progress through his property. Granatelli owns three big, heavy Novi cars. They started, but did not finish, the Indianapolis 500-mile race. He is alarmed by the lightweight (1,130 pounds) Lotus-Fords which placed second and seventh. Alarmed for himself, he says, and the 60-odd owners of conventional "500" Offenhauser roadsters. It is unfair, Granatelli contends in a formal request to the U.S. Auto Club, for "bugs" like the Lotus-Fords to "obsolete our equipment overnight." He wants to make the world safe for Novis and Offies by having a minimum weight for Indy cars—one so high that it would neatly disbar Lotus-Fords and such. The word from Indianapolis, however, is that he is unlikely to get his way. "I would be very much surprised," said one influential man, "if any minimum weight is established." And while Mr. Granatelli is learning that the thorn in his side is progress, Parnelli Jones, the "500" winner in an Offenhauser, is talking seriously about switching to a Lotus-Ford in 1964.
LISTON AND CLAY
Sonny Liston's manager, Jack Nilon, will be at ringside when Cassius Clay fights Henry Cooper in London this week, "hoping and praying," he says, and we believe him, "that Cassius wins so I can get him signed to fight Sonny for the title." The probable site: Philadelphia's 100,000-seat Municipal Stadium on September 30. Clay's management would prefer to wait a year, but Liston wants Cassius now, while he's still unbeaten, unsilent and unready. The second contingency, of course, is that Liston beat Floyd Patterson next month in Las Vegas. That could be considered a contingency. High rollers say Floyd's fate there was sealed, however, the day he agreed to live at isolated Hidden Wells Guest Ranch, where Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher began their honeymoon.
TO BE SUITABLE
Charles Finley, owner of the Athletics and baseball's most dashing haberdasher, liked the way the White Sox looked with their names across their backs and decided to do the same for his A's, already fetchingly gotten up in deep-sea green and glowing gold and embarrassed pink. But Finley was balked by his own invention: the Athletics' uniform is of the vest type. The limited space became Finley's bed of Procrustes, namewise. He had to fool around with half measures, turning George Alusik into "Turk" and Jerry Lumpe into "Lump." It was left to Baseball Writer Joe McGuff to think big about little names. Finley, said McGuff, should trade away the men whose names don't fit. Trade Norm Siebern for Norm Cash, Lump Lumpe for Nellie Fox, Wayne Causey for Woodie Held. At third, Finley should have Pete Ward instead of Ed Charles, and Catcher Edwards must go in favor of Catcher Lau. The outfield of Del Greco, Cimoli and Alusik is out. The outfield of Lock, Reed and King is in.
That solves the problem, all right, McGuff, except for Owner Finley, who then must trade himself for Del Webb.
THEY SAID IT
•Charley James, Cardinal outfielder, on how he likes splitting left-field duty with Stan Musial: "Stan and I get along very well. He goes his way and I go mine. Stan goes to the deposit window, and I go to the credit department."
•Elgin Baylor, Los Angeles Lakers ace, on his unusual first name: "At the time my daddy was wearing a new watch. When the doctor told him I'd arrived, he checked the time and decided to name me after the watch."