BATTER UP AND DOWN
The brush-back is as legitimate a pitch as a sinker, and a lot easier to throw. Its purpose is not to maim the batter but to keep him restless, so he will not be able to dig in and knock the bejeezis out of the ball. A knockdown pitch, on the other hand, is one thrown with malice aforethought at the batter; if he doesn't take violent evasive action he gets hit.
Although pitchers have been throwing at batters since the days of Wee Willie Keeler, historical precedent doesn't make it any more right or make it feel better if you should happen to wake up in the hospital. Knockdown pitches have no place in baseball, which is in no way a contact sport; its beauty and drama are not enhanced by the sight of a man writhing on the ground.
If a batter hits a home run, why should the pitcher be allowed to justify his ineptness by knocking him down? Or, conversely, why should the batter be penalized for his skill or luck by having to test his reflexes against a speeding baseball? Take Rick Reichardt, the Angels' rookie. He has hit 12 homers and, in appreciation, has been hit nine times.
A doubleheader between the Phillies and the Mets last week was beautiful: Richie Allen of the Phils hit a homer, Dick Selma of the Mets hit Allen, Bob Buhl of the Phillies hit Selma and Jack Fisher of the Mets hit Buhl. Great games.
Once upon a time, pitchers piously claimed that the pitch got away from them, but in our permissive era they confess and rationalize, and nobody in the commissioner's office says a discouraging word.
The avowals go like this:
"I didn't start it." No 7-year-old uttered this little gem, but 43-year-old Wes Westrum, manager of the Mets. "You got to protect your ballplayers," he went on. "I believe in an eye for an eye. A thing like that could mean Selma's career."
"I didn't throw to hit Selma," said Buhl. "I just wanted to brush him back. If I don't throw close to him, do you think my team's going to respect me? I just hope he isn't hurt bad."
"I don't enjoy doing it," said Fisher" "but I think the point has to be made. It's all part of the game."
No, it isn't. According to the rules of baseball, umpires are supposed to warn a pitcher if he throws at a batter, which results in an automatic $50 fine. As best as can be determined, Plate Umpire Billy Williams didn't even raise his voice to Selma, Buhl and Fisher.
Before someone gets badly hurt, everybody should grow up. The fine should be increased. Fifty dollars isn't enough of a deterrent, particularly when the odds are it won't be assessed. The umpires should be instructed to enforce the rule. Over to you, Commissioner Eckert.
In England it seems that it is not whether you win or lose, but how you watch the game. The London Daily Mail rates the behavior of soccer crowds, and we are pleased to report that this year the Liverpool spectators "led the field for sportsmanship and good behavior," with 79.52 points out of a possible 100.
"We are very fond of our crowd," Team Secretary Peter Robinson said. "They are noisy, vociferous, well behaved and very sporting." As it so happens, Liverpool is the English champion, a fact that might well contribute to the jolly good nature of its fans.
CATFISH IN AND OUT
Catfish are so far In they're generally out of them: at this very moment, only 25% of the national demand can be met, and Governor John J. McKeithen of Louisiana, where most of the cats come from, has predicted that within two years they will be the state's top crop.
But before you all run out to dig a hole in the backyard to start raising a mess of itty bitty catfish, listen here: 100 acres and $100,000 are recommended for founding a catfish ranch. Pure well water is also desirable, because stream and river water is liable to be so polluted that an entire batch of fish can be wiped out. Spawning fish need lots of tender loving care, too. Pairs of breeding catfish are placed in cages containing 52-gallon drums with holes cut in the tops. The male catfish will drive the female into the drums and do his part, but then someone must check daily for the spawn, and remove the eggs to a shed where rotary blades can keep the water free of debris until they hatch.
It takes a fish 10 months to reach eating size, but its entire feed bill runs to only about 6½¢, so there's nothing to it once you raise $100,000.
Juan Marichal and Sandy Koufax each won 10 games before the season was a third over, but Jimmie (The Greek) Snyder, dean of the Las Vegas oddsmakers, is unimpressed. He has quoted odds of 3 to 1 against either becoming the first major league pitcher to win 30 games since Dizzy Dean did it in 1934.
At most parks, a rock collector is about as welcome as Jackie Robinson at a Ku Klux Klan rally. With good reason. Without rules against picking up samples, the Grand Canyon would be widened and the Carlsbad Caverns deepened in nothing flat.
But here comes a park which will be gneiss for collectors. This month New Mexico opens Rock Hound State Park on 240 rock-strewn acres near Deming.
"We believe this is the first state park in the nation where visitors are encouraged to collect specimens," says John Elliott, director of the New Mexico Park and Recreation Commission.
So, anything goes, and probably everything will.
VITA LONGA, ARCHITECTURA BREVIS
Every morning before breakfast, Professor William Ira Ferguson of Missouri Valley College of Marshall, Mo. jogs a quarter of a mile and does 15 push-ups, so it's a dead cert he is sound enough of wind to blow out all the candles at his birthday party this week. That is, if there is a cake. The professor doesn't want to make a big fuss just because he will be 91.
Five days before his birthday, Professor Ferguson retired and Missouri Valley is naming a dormitory in his honor. The college already named the student union for him, but it is falling apart and has been condemned.
THE BIG TIME
When Paul Dietzel became athletic director and football coach at South Carolina last April, the school and the alumni knew that Paul would be leading them into the promised land of big-time football. Now they've found out they will have to pay first-class fare to get there.
In a letter which was sent to members of the Gamecock and Century clubs, the existing alumni associations whose tax-deductible contributions help defray the costs of athletic scholarships, Dietzel wrote: "We must now raise both our sights and our goals and revise the dues structure...." What Paul has wrought is to devise five (5) alumni clubs, as follows, with their respective annual dues: The Gamecock Club, $25; The Century Club, $100; The Roundhouse Club, $250; Coach's Club, $500; Paul's Club, $1,000 (or more).
Those who join the Gamecock Club get, for their $25, "the all-important" priority for buying football tickets, "two beautiful Gamecock decals," a membership card, periodic newsletters and a book about Carolina football, in addition to receiving "a great self-satisfaction from helping the institution that you greatly love and admire."
For $100 you get the above plus the right to park in the reserved parking area at Carolina Stadium. For $250 you get all the above plus a personally reserved parking space, a twice-monthly, personal "how-goes-it" letter from Paul, and an engraved Gamecock '66 pin for your lapel.
For $500 and up you get all this plus a parking space with your name on it, which "will be very close to the stadium doors," plus a personal weekly "how-goes-it" letter from Paul. In addition, your "silver Gamecock pin will be to your liking, I am sure," and "we will plan a private 'get-acquainted' dinner before the season."
Unaccountably, Paul fails to describe the benefits accruing to members of Paul's Club. We can't think of anything else, except maybe before the game Paul will personally park your car.
ME AND MY SHADOW
University of Illinois at Chicago Circle was playing George Williams College the other day, and the sun was shining brightly. So brightly, in fact, that the shadow of the George Williams catcher was cast in faithful detail below and behind him, including the signs—one finger for a curve, two fingers for a fast ball—which the UICC team took note of in the very first inning. Final score: UICC 15, George Williams 0.
The not-so-secret dream of every big-game hunter is to shoot a trophy animal with antlers, horns or skull big enough to make the Records of North American Big Game compiled by the Boone and Crockett Club.
At the club's biennial awards dinner, which was held recently in Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum, six new world-record trophies were on display: whitetail deer, Columbian blacktail deer, cougar, jaguar, black bear and bighorn sheep.
The bighorn is one of the most prized heads on the continent. The old record had been shot in 1924, and few believed it would ever be bettered, though many had spent a great deal of time and money trying. Thus it was with heavy hearts that the dinner guests heard the particulars of the brand-new record. It seems the head had been hanging in Clarence Baird's ranch house in Twin Butte, Alberta until a local taxidermist convinced him to enter it in a competition held by the Willow Valley Trophy Club of Lundbreck, Alberta. The ram had been shot with a .30-30 Winchester carbine, six miles from the ranch, by Baird's partner, the late Fred Weiller, in 1911.
But the trophy that was the envy of the nation's millions of deer hunters was a 13-point whitetail buck, the second best ever recorded. The deer was shot by Melvin Johnson, a 32-year-old tractor assembler from Peoria, Ill. Melvin did not travel thousands of miles, spend thousands of dollars or employ a guide to get it. In fact, he did not even use a spotting scope or a rifle. Melvin bagged that beauty with a bow and arrow at 10 paces in a soybean field 17 miles from the heart of downtown Peoria.
DIAL S FOR SUCKER
It is the second inning of a game between the Athletics and the Orioles at Kansas City. The A's bullpen phone rings, and Coach Bobby Hofman answers it. "Warm up, Krausse," a voice barks. Relief Pitcher Lew Krausse gets up and starts throwing. Moments later the telephone rings again. "O.K., tell Krausse to Sit down," says the same voice. Krausse sits down. Funny, A's Manager Alvin Dark doesn't recollect making those calls. Aha! The intercom setup in Municipal Stadium is such that you can call one bullpen from the other—if you know the number. Moe Drabowsky, now with Baltimore, pitched for the A's last year. He knows the number.
It is a couple of days later in the A's bullpen. The phone rings. Hofman answers it. "This is Charlie Finley [the A's owner]," the caller says. "I just got in town, and I read in the paper about the call you got the other night. I'd like to hear your version of the episode."
"Well, sir," Hofman replies, "although we didn't know it at the time, sir, it was Moe Drabowsky who called...."
For several minutes Hofman obediently explains what happened before.... Aha! Drabowsky strikes again.
THEY SAID IT
•George Halas, Chicago Bears owner-coach, who is 71, on the rule restricting coaches from pacing beyond the 35-yard lines during games: "Any coach over 60 should be given the privilege of wandering another 10 or 15 yards."
•Joe Horlen, White Sox pitcher, asked what he threw to Boston's Tony Conigliaro, who hit a home run to beat Chicago 1-0: "It was a baseball."