GREED BEGETS GREED
The twin-double system of betting at racetracks has proliferated since its inception at Suffolk Downs in July of 1960. Now 15 of the country's 44 harness tracks have it, as do 13 of 105 flat tracks.
We have frequently and strongly protested that the twin double is not good for racing, even though it increases track handles and the state's percentage. Now events at Yonkers (N.Y.) Raceway, a harness track, have justified these criticisms. Eighteen agents of the Internal Revenue Service swarmed through the crowd one night last week and arrested 11 men on charges of offering to provide false identification to twin-double winners in return for 10% of their winnings.
The temptation to use false identification derives from the IRS rule that anyone with a winning ticket worth more than $600 must identify himself before collecting and must include his profit in his tax returns. Losses are theoretically deductible from winnings, but the IRS rules are such that losses are just about impossible to prove.
October 3, 1965
The twin double breeds sharp practice of various kinds. It should be abolished. As for the IRS, its unsatisfactory regulations on betting nurture the very kind of offense its agents are trying to suppress.
THE SICK MAN OF PITTSBURGH
His doctor in Puerto Rico advised the always ailing Roberto Clemente to sit out the 1965 season after his most recent illness—a bout of malaria. Now Clemente is driving toward his second straight batting title, fortified with pep pills, a daily shot of B-12 and strong doses of other vitamins.
Throughout his baseball career, the Pittsburgh Pirates' best bat has been plagued with an assortment of back, leg, arm and stomach ailments, not all of them necessarily imaginary, though Clemente is not one to make light of a hangnail. Now he complains that the pep pills make his neck sore, that he has trouble breathing when he runs the bases and that his strength is not what it should be.
He may be the sickest champion in National League history. As Les Biederman, a sportswriter with The Pittsburgh Press, has observed, "If Clemente ever gets well, he could lose the batting championship."
Here's one to ask your group of fellow commuters when they assemble at the station bar: Aside from being sports stars, what do Y. A. Tittle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays and Roger Maris have in common?
The answer is that all five are novelists. With some assistance from Howard Liss, Tittle has co-authored a novel called Pro Quarterback, addressed to the young, and the others have turned out novels on baseball. Or so the jackets of their books, published by Argonaut Books, Inc., assert.
RETURN OF THE ICE AGE
One thing the advanced technology of the electronic age has done for yachtsmen is to make them practically immobile. A modern yachtsman who does things right is as dependent on the electric and telephone lines plugged into his marina berth as a human embryo is on the umbilical cord that joins him to his mother. Taking his ease in the stern sheets of a sleek $75,000 cruiser, a seafarer can watch the ball game on color TV and sip an icy martini while the infrared broiler in the galley works on his filet mignon and an electric dishwasher cleans up the mess from breakfast—but only if he stays tied up at his berth. Electronics have made it possible for any landlubber to navigate in a deep fog from the Grand Banks to the Leeward Islands. Fog and wind and tides are not what he has to worry about. The important thing is: Where will he get his ice cubes if the power is turned off? A company called General Thermetics now has come up with a lifesaving answer: "Weekender"—a handsome new refrigerator based, according to Thermetics, "on the well established 'eutectic' principle of storing up cold and releasing it later." With the Weekender on board, the company proudly announces, the yachtsman can keep ice cubes and frozen foods from thawing "for a full 48 hours after leaving dockside."
THE ESOTERIC SPORTS
Since pillow fighting is a British specialty with robust roots in the first Elizabethan era and beyond, it can be asserted safely that Clifford Walker, a Yorkshire farmer, is the world's champion. At 32, he never has been beaten since his first fight at the age of 16.
Pillow fighters seat themselves facing each other astride a larch pole that is nine inches in diameter and has been stripped of its bark. Each carries in one hand a sack filled with the fleece of a sheep, holding his other arm ready to fend off blows. The rules prohibit a contestant from touching the pole with either hand or dragging his opponent off the pole as he himself falls. Balanced precariously, with legs dangling, the objective of the pillow fighter is to knock the man facing him from the pole while remaining there himself. If both men hit each other simultaneously and fall to the ground, the referee declares it no bout. Two bouts out of three win the contest.
Efforts to defeat Walker have included that of a British television company, which hired a massive professional wrestler to challenge the 175-pound Yorkshireman. The TV people were embarrassed. Their champion was battered to the ground repeatedly. After Walker's brother defeated the champion of the village of Hebden—one Thomas Kitchin, who retired with ears "black, blue and bleeding"—Hebdenites tried a ruse or two to prevent any Walker from winning the annual event. Their most successful: delaying the contest until the Walkers had to leave to milk their cows.
So much for pillow fighting. Albert Bennison of County Durham, England is the new gurning champion of the British Isles. Gurning? It is the fine art of making ugly faces and has been a competitive English sport since 1267. In Bennison's extensive repertoire his best is the expression of an asthmatic bulldog.
There are some 25 million hunters and shooters in the U.S. today, almost 50% more than 15 years ago. One would expect, therefore, that shooting accidents would have risen proportionately. Wrong. The National Safety Council reports that shooting accidents have decreased 13% since 1950. And an insurance company, Travelers of Hartford, has come up with an even happier discovery. A five-year study revealed that hunting and shooting rank 16th on the list of accident claims resulting from recreational activities. Some of the more dangerous activities: swimming, golf, fishing, baseball, football, church socials, theater-going and concerts.
MAN VS. MACHINE
In September, with its favorable tides, the English Channel takes on the challenge of a horde of swimmers. About one in 10 succeeds in crossing it, and over the years these winners have become so numerous that, as London's The Observer noted, swimming the Channel "is looked upon as only slightly more tiresome a way of making the journey than taking the Dover packet boat or the air ferry from Lydd."
But in 1961 an Argentine named Antonio Abertondo completed the first round-trip swim and that, everyone conceded, was a feat worth cheering. To a burly Chicago research chemist, Ted Erikson, it was a challenge. He tried it last year and had to quit halfway through the return trip. This year he decided to mount a scientific assault. Into a computer he fed such details as his stroke rate, speeds and directions of Channel currents and wind velocity. An experienced pilot would do better than a computer, old salts said. It would not work, they insisted.
It did not work. Again Erikson had to give up on the return trip. He rested three days and tried again, still relying on the computer. Another failure.
On his third attempt in eight days, Erikson turned from the computer to Arthur Liddon, Dover pilot, who plotted the course from an accompanying boat. Fourteen hours and 15 minutes after entering the water at St. Margaret's Bay, Erikson stepped ashore near Calais, rested eight minutes and plunged in again. Shoals of jelly fish impeded him and hallucinations (the pilot boat turned into a rosebush) disturbed him. But he closed his eyes and swam on. Thirty hours and three minutes after he had set out, Erikson stepped ashore at the foot of a cliff just east of Dover. His time was 13 hours faster than Abertondo's.
Now Erikson is planning to train his son, Jon, who is 11, to become the youngest ever to swim the Channel. Without computers.
NOW FOR THE 20TH HOLE
The 19th hole has always been thought of as the stop at the country club bar at the end of a round but now, on the state fairgrounds at Sacramento, a golf course with 19 holes, actual holes, is to be built.
Eighteen holes still will constitute a round of golf, but from time to time the course will be rerouted to allow a fairway or green to be rested, repaired or watered.
And in California, where new highways are constantly cutting through open spaces, the additional fairway will be land insurance for the future.
For more than a year, Hayden Fry, coach of Southern Methodist's Mustangs, has been troubled by injuries to key personnel, some of them quite ingeniously arrived at. Mike Tabor, for instance, was injured while skateboarding during the summer. So, during the season's opener against Miami, Fry held his breath and, wondrously, not a single player was hurt. When the game ended with the Mustangs ahead, 7-3, he and the players were deliriously happy. It was SMU's first season-opener victory since 1957.
Quarterback Mike Livingston and Tackle George Gaiser were so glad they jumped for joy. In jumping, Livingston swung his helmet into Gaiser's face. Knocked out a tooth.
WOMEN AND THE LAW
For years California and other enlightened states have forbidden professional wrestling by women. (We know of no state enlightened enough to forbid professional wrestling by men.) Now, with all this legal pressure to give women equal employment rights, it appears that this one decency is about to be expunged, and perhaps not just in California. Superior Judge Harold F. Collins has ordered the California State Athletic Commission to issue licenses to two women wrestlers, Betty Ann Spence and Barbara Baker. Women, the judge said, once were considered "frail and gentle beings," but no more.
Counsel for the two ladies had pointed out that the state constitution provides that "no person shall, on account of sex, be disqualified from entering upon or pursuing any lawful business, vocation or profession."
If we were the California attorney general, who may appeal, we would pounce on that word "lawful." Professional wrestling is either the honest mayhem it pretends to be or it is a fraud. Neither mayhem nor fraud is lawful, is it?
The umpire threw him out of the game and Mickey Sinks, Toronto pitcher, left the ball park in a rage. There, before him, was an automobile that he took to be Umpire Sam Carrigan's. Mickey let the air out of the tires.
The car belonged, in fact, to Tommy Richardson, league president, and Richardson fined Mickey $50.
THEY SAID IT
•Masanori Murakami, San Francisco Giant relief pitcher, when questioned about buying souvenirs in the U.S.: "No good. Everything made in Japan."
•Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboy coach, on Center Dave Handers' wild snap that gave the New York Giants a safety: "He had a man right in front of him who was popping him on the nose with his forearm on every play. I believe it was bothering him."