BAY OF BIGS
Despite the fact that Lou Hudson has changed his mind and returned to the St. Louis Hawks of the NBA, the success of the new rival American Basketball Association continues to depend upon the eventual decisions of just two players. They are the established stars of the San Francisco Warriors, Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. In a word, if Thurmond and Barry reject the offer of Oakland Owner Pat Boone and his coach, Bruce Hale, who is Barry's father-in-law, the ABA will be, in all reality, quite dead as viable major league competition. A slower, complete death would almost surely follow.
The defection of a few NBA players—like San Francisco's Clyde Lee to New Orleans—obscures great ABA shortcomings. Several of the 11 teams have yet to hire a coach or any players of professional competence; not a single outstanding draft choice has been signed; arenas in many cities, New York included, would better serve as garages; and some of the teams still appear to exist only in somebody's hat. Last week the Warriors could not locate some ABA franchises when they sought to officially protest the wooing of their players. The National Basketball Association believes that the ABA's strategy is to break up the Warriors and gain, with Oakland, a toehold in at least one of the nation's three prestige sports centers—New York, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.
If Barry and Thurmond remain with San Francisco, Oakland would be doomed in the competitive market. If they sign with the Ail-Americans (as Boone wants to call his team), the ABA would still not be guaranteed success, but national and TV acceptance would become a possibility. At the least, Oakland could create so much havoc and embarrassment for the NBA that the older league might try to make a deal for the Bay and perhaps accept one or two other ABA franchises (Pittsburgh, Minnesota). No two athletes have ever so completely controlled the destiny of one whole league and such a vast sports market.
June 11, 1967
GETTING THEIR KICKS
The Chelsea Football Club, the laughingstock of British soccer for half a century and the Met-like delight of masochistic losers through all those years, has become, because of its uncharacteristic near-success in the Football Association Cup (SI, June 5), unconscionably uppity. After being beaten by Tottenham in the final at Wembley, the team set out on a tour of Canada, accompanied by the Viscount Chelsea, and since it arrived it has been lording it over the provinces.
In Vancouver it defeated a team of all-stars 5-2; whereupon Chelsea Manager Tommy Docherty told his hosts, "I don't think Vancouver would be in England's fourth division—and we don't have a fifth division."
A few days later after a 3-2 win over the Victoria O'Keefes, Docherty observed, "We could have had eight or nine more goals. It was the most one-sided match of the tour. Vancouver is a better team."
Ah, the heady scent of success.
Manuel Ycaza, the Panamanian who was once considered racing's most daring jockey, appears to be regaining that title—the hard, i.e., expensive, way. Last week he won the $119,200 Jersey Derby by six and a half lengths on Dr. Fager but was disqualified and placed last for herding the field on the first turn (page 26). Ycaza was given a 15-day suspension by the Garden State stewards. That, together with one he received earlier at Aqueduct, means he will be grounded for more than a month.
Before this recent outburst of rough riding, Ycaza's reputation had changed considerably. According to knowing horsemen, the fearless kid who two years ago would take almost any risk to win a race for the $2 bettor had become a more cautious and less effective rider. Security may have had something to do with it; he had gotten rich enough to worry about crippling injuries. Other jockeys had even more to do with it. "We got wise to him," one said not long ago. "He used to come into a tight spot and scream, 'I'm in trouble, I'm going down.' And usually we'd open up a little for him. Then we realized that he was overdoing it, and we stopped giving him the holes to go through."
As the holes closed in front of him, Ycaza began taking to the overland route and winners became scarce. Trainers felt he perhaps had lost his nerve, and he stopped getting good mounts. Now he appears out to prove he is the Ycaza of old. Last Saturday, when some jockeys were discussing his disqualification on Dr. Fager, one of them said, "I don't feel sorry for Manny or the horse's owner. You ask for trouble when you use Ycaza."
This kind of talk can only be soothing to Ycaza. He won't win any popularity contests, but he probably will win more races than he has in recent years.
HAVING A BALL
The big hit on campus around Central High School in Minneapolis these days is Ricky Raski. Ricky is the premier pinch hitter on Central's baseball team, and though he has never actually struck the ball his record is well-nigh perfect, largely because he is 39 inches tall. Opposing pitchers have managed to find his 14½-inch strike zone just three times in 20 at bats this season. Last week Washburn High publicly dared Ricky to swing. They brought in seven players and bunched them near home plate. Washburn's pitcher was, in effect, the lone fielder. But Ricky kept cool. The pitcher threw four times, and Central's specialist had his 21st straight walk. "My average may be .000 officially," he said. "But I like to think of it as 1.000."
BLOWING THE WHISTLE IN DIXIE
Oglethorpe College of Atlanta signed its first Negro athlete last week—William Sheats, a 6'5" forward from all-Negro Harper High.
Another ray of hope in the dawn of a new era, or words to that effect?
Not exactly. Leonidas S. Epps, the basketball coach at Atlanta's Clark College, said Sheats had previously signed a letter of intent to attend Clark, a Negro institution.
Epps charged that it is common practice for white colleges to raid signees from Negro colleges and described Negro high school coaches who promote athletic scholarships for their athletes at white colleges as "flesh peddlers."
Said Epps: "The letter of intent and gentlemen's agreement does not seem to hold true when Negro athletes are being recruited. What I mean is, if a Negro signs with a Negro school, white coaches pay the letter of intent no attention at all."
Said Oglethorpe Basketball Coach Bill Carter: "They've been clamoring at schools in the South to integrate. So when we do, they want the white schools to leave their boys alone. Let me tell you this, we're going out to get the best athletes we can. That's all we're trying to do, and we'll continue to do it."
If this is the new, new era that's going to emerge, what say we get together, gentlemen, and hold back the dawn.
For the second time in two years the players on the professional golf tour are threatening to pull out of the PGA and set up their own ball game. In 1966 the skirmish was serious, but the players were eventually mollified by certain apparent (not real) concessions that the PGA made concerning the running of the tour.
In the ensuing year the pros smartened up, and this time the confrontation has reached the showdown stage. The pros are demanding that the PGA give them operational control over the tour and its affairs by June 15 or they will boycott the PGA Championship in July and then presumably seize control by quitting the PGA and putting on their own tournaments. In the last few days the pros have been quietly searching around for executive talent to run such a new tour.
Does this mean that if the PGA refuses to give in to the pros' demands for control of schedules, television and tournament income that the golfers will really walk out? Hardly. Whether the majority of the players like it or not, no revolt is going to be successful unless the stars of the game are leading it. And as of now, the pro tour's biggest names are not eager to desert the PGA—though they strongly oppose its policies—until they are convinced that any new tour is going to be an assured improvement.
The very cause of the present rebellion suggests how much trouble the pros might have in running their own affairs. The brawl has exploded over an offer by Frank Sinatra to hold a $175,000 tournament in Palm Springs, Calif. within a month of the long-established Bob Hope Desert Classic at the same site. A majority of the touring pros, governed by the most predictable of all reactions, greed, wants the tournament scheduled, and their players' committee so voted. But the PGA, recognizing the fact that the Hope tournament—and all tournament sponsors—deserve some protection from such direct competition, vetoed the proposal. The PGA was absolutely right to do so.
For the past few years the PGA has been singularly inept in the handling of its burgeoning, multimillion-dollar tour. But the one group that might run it even worse would be a small-minded committee of touring professionals. The sport deserves something better.
Last winter we interviewed the champion jockey of Iran, 85-year-old Khodagholi Agh (SCORECARD, Dec. 5), who has been race-riding for 66 years. About a month ago our man in Teheran informed us that Agh had fallen from his mount in a race and had been crushed by his horse. Doctors said that he would never ride again.
When Agh regained consciousness in Reza Pahlavi Hospital, he pointed to the foam-rubber mattress on which he was lying and announced, "I must die on horseback, not on these uncomfortable things." A week ago he was released from the hospital, and last Friday he rode in five races at the Kharghoush-Dareh track. He was third with two of his mounts but petulant as a Hartack because he had failed to come up with a winner; he refused to talk to the press and complained it had not reported his accident correctly. "I never fell off the horse," Agh said. "The horse stumbled and fell on me."
TIME OUT FOR SPORT
A constructive measure to reduce television's inordinate influence on sport was taken in the House of Representatives last week. Richard L. Ottinger, Democrat from New York, introduced a bill that would 1) prohibit any network from owning an interest in any professional football, baseball, basketball or soccer team or in any person or organization engaging in the promotion of professional games; 2) prohibit the selective blackout of any professional sports event except in the city where the event originates; and 3) prohibit the interruption or suspension of football, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, wrestling or boxing matches to permit broadcasts of advertisements.
We have in recent months deplored the manipulation of sport—its regulations, traditions and ethics—by the television industry. We have said that television should simply follow the basic rule of journalism: report what happens, don't arrange what happens. Strong legislation, like that which Representative Ottinger has proposed, is needed to set things right.
THEY SAID IT
•Casey Stengel on learning of Whitey Ford's retirement: "He was my banty rooster. He used to stick out his chest, like this, and walk out on the mound against any of those big pitchers. They talk about the fall of the Yankees. Well, the Yankees would have fallen a lot sooner if it wasn't for my banty rooster."
•Jochen Rindt, Grand Prix driver on his first 500-mile race: "It was like going back to boarding school or spending a month in a submarine. It was an extended psychological nightmare, a month of internment with men who had nothing on their minds except oval-track racing and erogenous zones."