THE THING TO SAY
After the assassination of President Kennedy there was a predictable clamor for restrictive legislation that would make it difficult—but not too difficult—to buy firearms. Nothing much came of it, except that Senator Thomas J. Dodd of Connecticut was encouraged to concoct a bill that looked askance at the purchase of firearms by mail—presumably on the theory that weapons that pass through the post office are more lethal than those obtained from the neighborhood sporting goods dealer—and would otherwise meaninglessly discommode the person who wanted to buy a rifle or shotgun for hunting or plinking purposes. Nothing in the bill would have done more than inconvenience the Kennedy assassin or the nut who retaliated by killing Lee Harvey Oswald.
Time cooled political passions, and the bill seemed headed for deserved oblivion. Then a shallow-brained misfit murdered eight Chicago nurses, although not with a gun, and a psychotic student mounted the University of Texas tower, after murdering his wife and mother, and slaughtered 14 more.
Political reaction was instant. President Johnson demanded legislative action of a wonderfully unspecified kind. All hands, including the President, conceded that no legislation, contemplated or prospective, would have had the slightest effect on any of the deranged killers or would have saved their victims. But, in the emotional climate of the moment, "Let us pass a law" seems to be the expedient thing to say.
August 14, 1966
The merger between the NFL and the AFL, which nine weeks ago seemed a fait accompli, now appears, after all, to be neither a fait nor accompli. Pete Rozelle, the would-be commissioner of the combined league, said last week that he was seeking a bill from Congress that would specifically exempt pro football from antitrust laws. Rozelle added that without such legislation the merger might be ruled illegal.
As we have previously stated, the benefits of a merger would largely accrue to the owners; it seems of little advantage to the fans whether they see NFL ball, AFL ball, NFL-AFL ball or ETAOIN SHRDLU ball. What the fans are aching to see, however, is the AFL-NFL championship game, scheduled for sometime next January. If the merger does fall through, we hope at least the dream game survives.
THE WORM DIGGERS TURN
As we go to press the airline strike is in its 32nd day, but you will doubtless be cheered to hear that the blood-worm diggers' strike is over. One hundred diggers laid down their shovels in Wiscasset, Me. last week, demanding a price hike of 25¢ or $2.50 per 100 worms.
Since the worms are highly prized as bait by saltwater fishermen, the bloodworm dealers averted a crisis by capitulating after the diggers had been idle only 24 hours. As a result of the settlement, the wholesale price of blood worms in New York has soared from $2.75 to $3 a hundred, and the cost to the fisherman is up from 80¢ to 90¢ a dozen. Although the pay boost, which means $10 to $15 more a week to the diggers, grossly exceeds the President's anti-inflation guideposts, the White House has so far been silent.
Quantitatively, Pete Riccitelli, 22, a light heavyweight from Portland, Me., is the best fighter in the world. He has already had 20 fights this year, which is not only more than anyone else but, according to the Ring Record Book, more than any fighter had in all of 1965. Moreover, Pete has won 19 of the 20.
Is he, then, championship material? Well, for one thing, his opponents have been somewhat wanting qualitatively. For another, last week, following the 20th fight, in which he gained a loudly-booed split decision over Rocky Halliday of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Pete went to the office of the Portland Press-Herald and requested that a statement announcing his retirement be written. Said Pete: "I can't take the booing."
PGA officials posted the following notice on a telephone booth situated at the first tee of the Lakewood Country Club in an effort to maintain silence during last week's Cleveland Open: "Please do not drop money in while golfers are teeing off."
LEAD, KINDLY LIGHT
Since time immemorial, or at least for as long as the Washington State Fisheries Department has cared to count, 150 silver salmon have swum up Coal Creek, which flows on the outskirts of Seattle, to spawn. Since the last salmon passed that way, however, Interstate 405 has been built, and a 500-foot stretch of Coal Creek now goes through a culvert.
Fearing that the fish may refuse to enter the black mouth of the culvert this autumn—homing salmon don't travel at night—highway engineers have spent $3,000 rigging it with electric lights and elaborate controls so that the light inside can be adjusted to coincide with the time of day and weather conditions outside. Or, as one highway official rhapsodizes: "The illumination can be changed from the full brightness of a sunny day to romantic moonlight."
When the Orioles play at night in Baltimore, a tall, distinguished gentleman watches from a box seat. At 10 p.m. he gets up and leaves the ball park. Not at 9:59 p.m. Not at 10:01 p.m. There can be a no-hitter going, a record on the line, the possibility of a rally—no matter. At 10 p.m. he arises and departs.
The gentleman is Frank Cuccia, a Baltimore businessman who quite simply is of the opinion that ball games are unnecessarily prolonged and that two hours of baseball is enough. In the seven years that he has been standing up for what he believes in, Cuccia estimates he has seen four complete games—and had several hundred good nights' sleep.
THE FOURTH STEPS FORTH
A fourth television network is scheduled to begin operation in the fall of 1967. It will be called the Overmyer Network after its chairman, Daniel H. Overmyer, who heads a group of companies that includes a warehouse system, a credit corporation, an industrial leasing concern, a national bank, a business newspaper and six TV stations. Its president is Oliver E. Treyz, formerly president of ABC, and its vice-president and director of sports is Thomas J. McMahon.
"In TV today we have followership not leadership," McMahon said the other day. Of course, since the three going networks have the major sports sewed up, the Overmyer Network has little choice but to innovate, if not exactly lead.
So, what's on McMahon's mind? Well, for one, he's thinking about putting on the Continental League, which plays professional football. "They're playing a schedule," McMahon said somewhat defensively. "People are paying to come in." Then he's investigating drag racing, which, he said, is the sport in which "the most money is spent by teen-agers, dollarwise," but he's not sure what kind of picture he'd get as the dragsters are enveloped in clouds of exhaust. He also is considering televising minor league baseball on a regional basis. "Everybody is major league conscious, but the grass roots is the story of success," he argued rather obscurely. "You'll find excellence in one phase of play in the minors compared to a balance of ability in the majors, but not peaks of ability."
McMahon is thinking, too, of reviving boxing on a weekly basis; he has talked with Lloyds of London about insuring a gimmicky kind of bowling show, evidently having something to do with 300 games, and he wistfully mentioned skiing, lacrosse, yachting and skin diving. "Everywhere you go there's a guy in one of those suits," he said.
Next, McMahon waxed mysterious and sibylline. "I've got two things so hot I'd lose them if I talked about them," he confided. "I'm going to beat pro football. Tie or beat them. That sounds bold. But it's not the time to say it. It's the time to do it."
Less visionary, perhaps, is a show he proposes to call Yesterday in Sport. It seems the Overmyer Network has nine million feet of film depicting what McMahon calls great moments in sport. "Bobby Jones!" he said. "Lenglen-Wills! Barney Oldfield! Babe Ruth playing for the Red Sox! If we can't be great today, we'll be great yesterday."
Now you're talking, Mac.
The lot of the average man has rarely been so poignantly expressed as in this want ad appearing last week in the Los Angeles Times:
"Mediocre tennis player wants better player to rally twice a week, $2.50/hour."
A classified ad in the latest issue of the Orleans, Mass. Oracle reads, "Cats for rent. A few choice solids and popular patterns still available. Don't be without a pet on your vacation. 25¢ first week, 10¢ a week thereafter. The Oldest Cat Rental Agency on Cape Cod...."
The oldest what?! A child's enterprise? An adult's joke? A multimillion-dollar cat-renting empire? Nope. It seems that two Sundays ago a young woman who lives year-round on the Cape was out driving with her husband, and they were remarking upon the number of flags displayed by summer people. The couple mused that human beings enjoy ritual and tradition but find time for them only on holiday. It was too bad, they thought, that there should be no place for vacationers to rent appropriately large shaggy dogs to go with summer houses, and from this whimsy all it took was one mighty, inspirational leap to arrive at the Oldest Cat Rental Agency on Cape Cod—now, in fact, exactly two weeks old.
"We have eight cats, and we don't need eight cats," the wife explained. "Two or three are fine—they're nice to have purring around—but our cats have had kittens." Unwilling to give them away or sell them—vacationers are too apt to abandon kittens when the trip back to the city looms—it occurred to her that if she rented kittens, come summer's end people would feel perfectly free to return them. Thus if a kitten renter said he wanted to keep the kitten, one could be assured he was going to keep it. Eureka! But how's business? "Our first customer is coming this afternoon," she replied. "A man called and wants a calico for two weeks. He has field mice."
Next question. Why does this unknown man with field mice have to have a calico cat to chase them?
THE UNFIT GLOVE
As devotees of a game that defies perfection, golfers buy all sorts of gimmicks to improve their play—only the game is then no longer golf. For instance, a few years ago ads appeared heralding atomic golf balls that were mysteriously irradiated with cobalt at Oak Ridge, Tenn. and were alleged to travel considerably farther than unexposed golf balls. Next thing you know, they will dispense with clubs and shoot the balls out of guns. Meanwhile, Rod Campbell, a driving-range pro from Bala-Cynwyd, Pa. and Dr. Stanley K. Herberts, a Philadelphia optometrist. guarantee a golfer up to 75 more yards off the tee with a simple flick of the left wrist. It's not in the ball. It's not in the club. Where is it? It's in the glove!
Campbell and Herberts are marketing a little item called the Miracle Golf Glove, which is loaded with four ounces of metal pellets. These, sewn into the back of the glove, add weight to help pull the hands into the ball faster. Additional hand speed results in longer drives.
"I think this glove will have the same effect on golf that fiber glass had on pole-vaulting." Campbell says. What the USGA would think is something else. Campbell, prudently, hasn't asked.
THEY SAID IT
•Enzo Stuarti, Italian tenor and racing car buff, asked how he knew when to shift a borrowed Ferrari 275 GTB: "By ear. When I hear A flat from the engine, I shift."
•Bob Veale, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, on the relative importance of pitching and hitting: "Good pitching always stops good hitting and vice versa."
•Jim Ryun, taking his first real vacation after three dedicated years of twice-daily workouts: "You know, television is terrible."