ALL'S WELL, AND ALL THAT
One of the good shocks that come from shocking reports about scandal in sport is the discovery that there was no need for early shock at all. This week the good shock concerned Charlie Conerly, one of the great quarterbacks of professional football, famous and retired. He does not appreciate its beauty.
The National Football League looked into reports that Charlie had been intimately involved in the financial affairs of a professional gambler. The league, through Jim Hamilton, its new guardian of morals, found he had been. But it found him innocent, too, which is what he was.
Conerly had been a good and not too perceptive friend of Maurice I. Lewis, a Memphis real-estate developer who now is accused of being a bookmaker. Charlie had received checks totaling $9,575 from Lewis. The whole thing burst into newsprint while Conerly, a poor but persistent shot, was dove hunting. His articulate and charming wife, Perian, broke into an attractive sweat and started poking through canceled checks. She established that Charlie had been lending Lewis, member of a respectable Memphis family, thousands of dollars and that Lewis had been paying back promptly. It looked like an innocent series of transactions between friends, except that Perian could not account for $3,500 Charlie had received from Lewis.
Charlie came back with three miserable doves in his bag and with Jim Hamilton, onetime technical adviser to the TV show, Dragnet, about to descend on his bank account. "That $3,500?" he asked numbly, in the familiar manner of a husband accused. "Oh. That came from the Cadillac he sold for me." It was the Cadillac reverent fans had given him on Charlie Conerly Day in 1959.
Few in Memphis, it seems, and least of all Charlie Conerly, knew that the very respectable Lewis had been charged with operating in a downtown apartment as a small-time bookmaker.
"We're not too sharp on this business bit," Perian said. What Charlie had been guilty of, one guesses, was that, like many another man, he had trusted an affable fellow.
END OF A BRIEF ERA
Professional tennis is approaching another crisis. Tony Trabert, director of promotion and programming, is quitting the game to go into business as of November 1. Some of the lower-flight players, unhappy because they cannot maintain a competitive edge on a mere two or three months of play (topflight players get 10 or 11 months) are quitting after they complete assigned schedules. These include Malcolm Anderson and Michael Davies. Barry MacKay, a graduate economist who had always planned to enter business early, is also retiring. And, of course, with the suspensions at the season's middle of those aging greats, Pancho Gonzalez and Pancho Segura, the attractiveness of the pros was greatly diminished.
Jack Kramer, pressing on against the storm, says these developments can be remedied by new signings—with Chuck McKinley, Rafael Osuna and Manuel Santana as obvious targets. Players of their caliber are likely to demand guarantees equal to those given their predecessors, if only out of pride. And destruction may once again be what pride goeth before.
FALSE ECONOMY, PERHAPS?
One of the best indoor athletic facilities in the country is the fine and fancy Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Only 4 years old, it seats more than 15,000 in clean, roomy, pastel comfort, and that is about how many basketball fans showed up when the L.A. Lakers played their biggest games there last season. Now the Lakers have told the city they will not play in the Sports Arena after this season. Their complaint—one common to us all—is that the rent is too high. It is risky to tell a man how much rent he can afford, but before the Lakers actually move to an inferior arena they should be reminded that pro basketball has been a long time trying to get out of just the kind of places the Lakers now talk of moving into. A certain amount of their great drawing power can be attributed to the fact that the Sports Arena is the kind of place in which it is an esthetic pleasure to attend an athletic event. The NBA has been glad to be able to show off its teams in such a place—as it has at Convention Hall in Detroit, and as it now will at the gleaming Civic Center in Baltimore. The Lakers may be right to worry about the rent, but they must also consider the prestige of their team and their league.
DOG WITH A JOB
For the past couple of seasons a regular attendant at Brown University football practice has been an officious, flop-eared, black-and-tan hound dog who says his name is Sam. He turns up at the start of each season, disappears at the end. He ignores the soccer and lacrosse teams, which work out in the same general area, and stays exclusively with the football squad. Not only that, he stays exclusively with the first team. Sam can't abide second-and third-string players.
"Any player who is loafing seems to bother Sam," according to Coach John McLaughry. "He runs up and down the line and yips at them. At first, we tried to run him off, but he wouldn't go. Finally, we gave up and let him go his own way. He's no trouble. Never gets in the way of a runner."
After practice Sam barks the first team up to the locker room and goes inside with the players. A photographer wanted to get a picture of him the other day, but arrived after Sam was through running the first team. The photographer decided, therefore, to picture him against a background of second-team players. Sam refused to pose.
"We think," McLaughry says, "that he's the reincarnation of some old football coach."
Throughout most of his abruptly abandoned tour of Britain, Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston chose to show that he can, on occasion, be a fellow of charm and grace—so much so, indeed, that before long British sportswriters were finding him a truly lovable person. "The image of a soul-less, baleful-eyed destroyer that preceded him across the Atlantic is a grotesque misfit," wrote Hugh McIlvanney in The Observer, where he also reported on Sonny's "smiling good nature and sincere sentimentality."
Well, Sonny is back in the U.S. and back in his old image. Stepping off the plane in Denver, he declared himself "ashamed to be an American," an apparent reference to Birmingham's fatal church bombing, which shamed many another American. In Britain, he left behind a trail of broken contracts, angry promoters and shocked sportswriters. After sellout appearances at Wembley, Glasgow and Newcastle-upon-Tyne and good business in Belfast, Sonny was headed for another sellout at Leicester when something, and no one seems to know what, went wrong. He refused to fly to Leicester, thus arriving too late for a weigh-in and causing doubt that he would appear for the exhibition. Refunds are still being mailed out. At any rate, Liston huffed back to London, after a nightclub row with a boxing inspector, and so to America.
One suspicion was that Sonny was getting increasingly restless about the way his money was being handled. It was not physically passing through his hands, but was being sent directly to the U.S. If so, this form of protest seemed unwise, since he forfeited at least $22,400 by canceling his last three engagements.
Now the British Board of Boxing Control is investigating the unfulfilled contracts, and Mme. Tussaud's Waxworks has abandoned a plan to model Sonny—even with feet of Clay.
ONE WORD = 10,000 PICTURES
Aficionados of pith have a special affection for Willie McCovey, San Francisco outfielder and first baseman. His classic, "The peanut shells get in my eyes," tells as much about windy Candlestick Park and the diet of baseball fans as anyone needs to know.
A reporter telephoned him one recent early morning.
"H'lo," said Willie.
"Did I wake you, Willie?"
THE APPLE SPEAKS
World peace and order would be assured, a matriarch from the world of sport said the other day, if the United Nations operated in the spirit of the international women's field hockey tournament, which ended in Baltimore last week. The matriarch was Miss Constance Applebee, the English lady who introduced women's hockey to the U.S. in 1901 and has nurtured it singlemindedly ever since. "The Apple," as Miss Applebee is known, came down to watch the Baltimore matches from her hockey camp in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, and she thoroughly approved of the no-count proceedings.
"The marvelous thing about this tournament is that there are no champions," she said, and most hockey players agree with Miss Applebee that championships bring headlines, pressure, commercialization, feuds, politics, subsidization and many other headaches.
"It is not the winners, but the friendliness and keen competition that characterize hockey," Miss Applebee said firmly. "It is almost the only amateur sport left. And don't forget physical fitness," she went on, ticking off the qualities she feels hockey brings out in women: strong nerves, will power, determination, endurance. She hardly needed to mention them, though, for The Apple herself, hale and alert at 90, is testimony enough.
Yet who did win, you might still ask, for like contests all over, someone did keep unofficial tally of the six games played by each of the 16 competing countries. The Apple has sold us, though, and we won't tell.
A high percentage of injuries occur in the National Hockey League during a season. Players skate at speeds up to 25 mph and fire a puck at upward of 90 mph. Hooking, spearing and butt-ending are commonplace in professional hockey. Even the hockey player's unpardonable sin—kicking an opponent's skates from beneath him—is far from unknown. It is no surprise then, that of the 100-plus players in the NHL, only 22 completed the full 70-game schedule last season.
One of these was Andy Hebenton, 33-year-old right wing, now of the Boston Bruins. It was not too much of a surprise, since Andy had done the same the season before and, indeed, has not missed a game in 11 professional seasons, eight of them in the NHL. He has played 560 consecutive regular NHL-season games. When the season opens next month, a lot of fans will be rooting for him to break the league's iron-man record of 580 games held by Johnny Wilson (Detroit-Chicago-Toronto-New York). On December 1st, let us say.
As their season draws to an inglorious end, the New York Mets and their hardy fans may be comforted to know that there is hope even now for a better tomorrow. At Raleigh, N.C., two right-handed pitchers owned by the Mets finished first and second in earned run averages in the Carolina League. Sherman Jones had a 2.10 ERA, the league's best, and a record of 12 victories and six losses. Bob Moorhead followed with a 2.19 average and a 13-5 won-lost record.
Not only that, both pitchers toiled under Met-like conditions. Raleigh finished ninth in a 10-team race.
THEY SAID IT
•Murray Warmath, Minnesota football coach who lost 10 starters by graduation and saw three promising sophomores quit after a few days of practice: "They didn't quit because they thought they wouldn't play. I think they may have quit because they knew they would play."
•Fred Hutchinson, Cincinnati manager: "Baseball should make some changes. An interleague schedule should be the first."
•Joe Froh, Rice end, on what department of football he's best at: "None, I guess. All recessive genes, no dominant characteristics."
•Bob Devaney, Nebraska football coach, on the new substitution rules: "Now we have to assign a coach getting $10,000 a year just to handle the substitutions."
•Del Webb, co-owner of the New York Yankees, after they had cinched the pennant: "When we won with Stengel in 1949, I got 292 congratulatory telegrams. This year I got six."