RUMORS OF WAR
If you can believe what you read in the papers, we are now in the midst of what has been termed A Grid War. To date, however, it seems to have been chiefly fought with hot-air guns, and, far from the NFL and the AFL seriously bloodying one another, they have gotten a lot of ink (if it is still called that) in the middle of the baseball season, to their mutual advantage.
The first shot was fired by the New York Giants, who signed Pete Gogolak, Buffalo's famed soccer-style place-kicker, who had played out his option in the AFL, and was thereby a free agent. But there was supposed to be a "gentleman's agreement" among the owners of the rival leagues that they would not "tamper" with each other's players, free or indentured.
Since Gogolak's defection, there has been a lot of vague sniping from both sides. The Giants say that Greg Larson and Steve Thurlow were approached by the San Diego Chargers, and that Houston contacted Tucker Frederickson—but that one turned out to be a hoax. Then Alex Karras signed an unprecedented seven-year contract with Detroit (actually seven one-year contracts at more than $35,000 per annum, but the club can still drop him at the end of any year). Depending on the source, Karras had been solicited by George Wilson, coach of the AFL's Miami Dolphins, or had merely paid a social call on his old coach, or both. Coincidentally, the NFL may move its Runner-up Bowl out of Miami.
Long-term contracts are, of course, one way an owner and a gentleman can protect his property, and more power to the players that can command them. For some reason the players seem to have gotten the short end from the working press. Apparently they are supposed to abide by a gentleman's agreement not to try to better their lot. The chief concern of the press appears to be for the owners and The Fate of Football. We feel certain the pro football fans of America can sleep easy these nights. When they awake, both leagues will still be there. Perhaps the owners will be a trifle poorer, but then the players may be a little richer. It's good for the economy.
MORE GET LESS
There were those who did not believe that renaming the Los Angeles Angels the California Angels and moving them to Anaheim would sweeten the gate.
But how sweet it is! In their first 19 home dates at Anaheim Stadium the Angels have drawn 386,810 paid, compared to last year's 19-date total at Dodger Stadium of 186,719. And the Angels packed these mortals in playing second-division teams.
So what's the gimmick? One thing it isn't is the hot dogs. When the Angels left L.A. they changed concessionaires as well as their name. A 35¢ hot dog at Dodger Stadium was eight inches long and weighed five ounces. A 35¢ hot dog at Anaheim is four inches long and weighs three ounces.
WHERE THE ACTION ISN'T
In Texas a man may gamble in oil and pro football franchises but he cannot place a bet on a horse. To V. E. (Red) Berry of San Antonio this is plumb unfitting, improper and un-Texan. In fact, Berry, a retired ("I'm not reformed, just retired") gambler, has been elected to three terms in the Texas House of Representatives on a one-plank platform: bring Thoroughbred racing back to Texas by legalizing pari-mutuel betting.
Every so often Berry thinks bigger. He once proposed a constitutional amendment calling for the division of Texas into two states. One, the state of South Texas, he envisioned as a tax-free paradise where horse racing, the sale of liquor by the drink (also illegal in Texas) and tourism would flourish.
This spring Berry ran in the Democratic primary for the state Senate. During the final week of the campaign he put on several hour-long TV specials, which consisted, in the main, of films of famous horse races narrated by Berry. The most famous was a race in which he had a winner paying $87.
Primary Day in San Antonio was May 7, which was also when the Kentucky Derby was run. The night before, Berry devoted the greater part of an hour and a half of paid political time to a discussion of Derby entries and odds. The next day he won the election laughing.
Although his pari-mutuel bill has been regularly defeated, Berry, like all long-shot players, is undaunted. He figures about 20 "first-class funerals" among his fellow legislators would make for a clear track.
And in Texas trout fishermen are about as scarce as horseplayers, despite the lure of there being no legal limit to the number of trout you can take. How come? Easy. Until April there were no trout in Texas, except for one private fishing hole high in the western mountains; elsewhere the water was too warm. However, when Canyon Dam on the Guadalupe River was completed, it was discovered that the water released from the bottom was between 49° and 54°, comfy for rainbows, and a San Antonio brewery was persuaded to put up $10,000 for 10,000 adult rainbows to stock the stretch below the dam.
On opening day hordes of voracious anglers lined the 10 miles of fast, clear rapids and, using popcorn, marshmallows, cheese, worms, minnows and one verified saucepan, hauled in 4,000 trout.
Horrified conservationists pleaded with the state to impose a limit to give the fish a break. But rainbows wise up fast. The surviving 6,000 fled to the deepest pools, where they are living happily ever after. An occasional fly fisherman may still get a rise out of one, but the trout are now so chary and elusive that the question of a limit is academic. You can still keep all the trout you can catch in Texas.
In Montana, on the other hand, there are plenty of cooperative trout—but, how long, America, how long? The Federal Bureau of Reclamation is planning to build yet another dam. This one, the Reichle Dam, is to go up on Montana's Big Hole River, one of the nation's most revered trout streams. Indeed, throughout the land there are as many dams on the drawing boards as Holiday Inns. As David Brower, executive secretary of the Sierra Club, says, "The Bureau of Reclamation people are like beavers. Both can't stand the sigh of running water."
Although the benefits of the Reichle Dam are somewhat tenuous, and although trout fishermen have spent as much as $36.5 million in Montana in a year, it appears that the concrete will be poured unless opposition stiffens.
Leading the fight against the dam is the Montana Fish and Game Commission, which has said: "The State of Montana does not wish to be known as Lake Montana."
WHAT'S THE NAME OF THE GAME?
Things have come to a very pretty pass in what used to be known as our national pastime. Here is Eddie Stanky, the manager of the White Sox, admitting he instructed John Buzhardt to throw at Minnesota Pitcher Jim Perry after Perry hit Al Weis, the Chicago shortstop.
Stanky is sore because Weis is only a little old .108 hitter, and because Perry insisted the pitch was a slow curve that got away. "That so-called curve broke about one ninety-eighth of an inch," fumes Stanky. "Who do they think they're playing with—kids? If the umpire goes out and talks to Perry, I don't throw at them, but he didn't, and after Perry gets hit, he says, 'Everybody's even now, let's go.' "
But what's really got Stanky steaming is what he calls a "leak" in his organization. Sam Mele, the Twin manager, has discovered that White Sox Pitcher Bruce Howard was reprimanded on the bench in front of his teammates for failing to carry out Stanky's retaliatory beaning order in a game in Detroit.
Says Stanky: "I'm just disgusted with these so-called men...people who are supposed to be your own flesh and blood turn on you." Says Mele: "Howard wouldn't do it. He threw the ball over the batter's head, so Stanky chewed him out and fined him. I guess you can't blame Buzhardt. If he doesn't hit Perry, Stanky will take some of his money." A Chicago player confirmed that Stanky ordered Howard to throw a pitch three inches behind the head of Detroit Pitcher Joe Sparma.
Does the umpire still cry, "Play ball"? Or is it, "Come out fighting"?
EASY DOES IT
Charlie Greene of the University of Nebraska may or may not be the World's Fastest Human, but he certainly isn't the World's Hardest Working Human.
In the two-week interval between the Drake Relays and the Big Eight meet, in which he did a 9.3 hundred, Greene claims he ran only about 600 yards.
As he says, "I try to be individualistic." In pursuit of this goal, Greene wears sunglasses while he runs, has been known to compete in a rain hat and may be found at the refreshment stand between races sipping soda pop. Actually, Greene's tinted glasses contain prescription lenses. He points out that he is nearsighted and wears the glasses so he will be able to see the tape and won't keep on running after he has broken it. "I was never much for overdistance work," says Greene. "Also, the glasses kind of add to my stature."
According to Greene, his premeet routine goes like this: "On Monday I loosen up a little and ride a bike around the track. On Tuesday I run a couple of 220s. Wednesday I'll run one 330 and practice some starts. Thursday I'll try a few more starts and then taper off from the strenuous week. Friday I devote to rest and recreation with lots of card playing on the bus going to the meet. This is my weakest point. I can and must improve my card playing."
Fifty cadets from Sandhurst, the British counterpart of West Point, are going on an expedition to Ethiopia this summer. One of their missions is to capture specimens of wildlife for the British Museum.
"But first the chaps have to be able to recognize them," says Captain Blashford-Snell of the Royal Engineers, who is leading Exercise Safari.
To train his men, Blashford-Snell plans to create a mock rain forest on a common near Sandhurst, where stuffed animals will lurk.
Says the captain: "I shall put the animals in the trees or behind bushes, and as we come across them I shall say, 'What's that?' The chap should be able to recognize it straightaway."
So far the lone occupant of the forest is a frowzy stuffed mongoose. This was brought in by Blashford-Snell's golden Labrador, Kinder. "It's a mystery where it came from," says the captain, "but it's just what I wanted to start the collection."
MEN OF THE HOUR
The other morning the management of the Baltimore Orioles, bless it, broke a law. Under a city ordinance no inning of a baseball game in Memorial Stadium is supposed to begin after 11:59 p.m., and this ordinance, like several others that linger in some major league cities, is absurdly archaic. With the scoreboard clock clearly showing 12:03 a.m., the Orioles continued about the business of completing a game with the Detroit Tigers that 26,094 people had paid to see in its entirety.
The reason the hour was so late was that the game was the second half of a twi-night doubleheader which had begun at 6 p.m. Assuming that a game does not go into extra innings and allowing the players the needed 20 minutes rest between games, it is ridiculous to expect two important games always to be finished within six hours.
The city has not fined the Orioles yet, and the team has six more twi-night doubleheaders to play. We hope the antiquated law will be repealed, but if it costs the Orioles money to break the law they will get it back in fan support.
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Russell, Boston Celtic star and coach, attempting, in Bermuda, to water ski for the first time in his life: "I've just changed water skiing from a participant to a spectator sport."
•Jim Busch, UCLA track coach, asked to comment on San Jose State's phenomenal sprinter, Tommie Smith: "I think he should have a saliva test. It would take a four-legged man to beat him."