AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE
This is an article from the July 24, 1967 issue
Anarchists we are not, but this is a call for revolution. For the fourth time in eight years the International Lawn Tennis Federation has rejected a British proposal for open tennis. Though the other two nominal tennis powers, Australia and the U.S., supported the British, open tennis was voted down by 129-83, the dissent coming from the Communist bloc—which hardly makes a distinction between amateurs and pros—and nations like Burma, Iran, Sudan and Israel. It is obvious that 100 years from now the vote would be the same, for what is it to these countries that the fraud of amateur tennis is killing the game as a first-class spectator attraction?
It is now time for Britain, Australia and the U.S. to defy the ILTF and establish open tennis on their own. England has the tournament, Wimbledon; Australia has the players; the U.S. has the wealth of latent spectator interest and purse money.
The three nations should rally what support they can and then set out on their own. If Poland and Burma decide to pass up an open Wimbledon, or an open Forest Hills, well, too bad.
Cloudcroft, N. Mex., the southernmost ski resort in the U.S., has been looking for a way to extend its season. For a while the resort considered offering skiing on sawdust, but the idea did not kindle much enthusiasm. Now Cloudcroft has covered its practice ski run with pecan shells, and skiers who have tried the slope say the idea isn't so nutty after all. An El Paso enthusiast declares, "It is like skiing on heavy, wet snow." Another skier likens it to "spring corn snow. It even feels like it when you fall." Which, perhaps, is the ultimate test.
Unsuccessful in his attempt to get a pro football broadcasting job in either St. Louis or New Orleans, former Eagle End Pete Retzlaff charged recently that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle is calling the signals behind scenes. All TV announcers and analysts for NFL games must be approved by Rozelle. Retzlaff claims Rozelle has blacklisted him, because, "I have not kept my opinions to myself regarding player relations with the league. I was head of the players' association for two years, and there were times when Rozelle and I were on opposite sides of the fence. I had to disagree with Rozelle. He had to disagree with me. I also knocked the merger publicly." At the time Retzlaff denounced it as "a disgrace," saying its purpose was "to further line the owners' pockets with all the money that has made pro football so lucrative."
Retiring after last season Retzlaff worked for WIP in Philadelphia and became one of the most popular sports-casters in the area. He hoped to sign with CBS to do color for either the Cardinals or the Saints, but he says the network did not even submit his name for approval to Rozelle, "because CBS knew he would reject me."
NFL publicity man Jim Kensil denies the existence of a blacklist, though he confirms Rozelle's right of refusal. Kensil says, "He has the right to disapprove broadcasters for a reason, but I don't know of anybody who has been turned down."
In Vancouver a 30-year-old, onetime carpenter, John Samson, is making his fortune by designing cement boats. The process may seem unlikely, but for two years Samson has been using chicken wire and poured cement to construct hulls for sloops that have proved both economical and seaworthy. His small company, Marine Design Enterprises, sells how-to-do-it kits for $5 and full specifications for $200. Samson says a cement-hulled 25-footer, including deck and cabin, can be constructed in six months by an amateur builder for about $400, less than half the cost of a wooden hull. The cement is poured and molded three-quarters of an inch thick on a framework of half-inch pipe, steel reinforcing and wire.
Twenty-four of Samson's boats are now afloat—some are even being used by commercial fishermen—and his original model is being fitted out for a voyage to Tahiti. If Samson has a sales problem at all, it presumably is to overcome the sinking sensation a lot of people get when they think of concrete.
Telephone company officials in New Mexico have been harassed this summer by wiretappers, particularly along a five-mile stretch in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Birds have been tearing up the park's phone cable, putting as many as 200 holes in a 150-foot section. The phone company's Carlsbad representative says, "Woodpeckers live in this area, and when they hear the hum of direct-current voltage in the cable they think it is caused by an edible bug. So they punch holes in the cable, even through a shield of aluminum and heavy polyethylene plastic."
The company, with proper respect for the pecking order in a park, says it will continue to repair the cable and let the birds keep looking for bugs.
ALIVE AND KICKING?
The rival National Professional Soccer League and the United Soccer Association are talking of merger—or, as they euphemistically call it, expansion. They would expand from the present 22 teams to 18 or 19.
But many of the clubs involved hardly seem in an expansive mood. Take, for instance, USA's Houston team. General Manager Owen Martinez said last week, "Our people aren't anxious to merge. Our league has the sanction of the FIFA, the worldwide soccer governing body, so we have the star players. The NPSL is crawling. They know the players they have are inferior. The merger would spread the available talent too thin. Why would we want to dilute our product?"
John Allyn, president of Chicago's USA team, feels, "The NPSL is an outlaw league, and it must be punished for its many misdeeds. It is difficult to treat the other league as equals. How do you whitewash them after all they've done?"
Meanwhile, NPSL Commissioner Ken Macker is denying that his league wants to merge to gain the sanction. But at the same time he says he has "lost patience with forces blocking official recognition" and accuses these forces of having a "gigantic blind spot in their view" and "letting the parade pass them by."
The other major obstacle to a merger is the establishing of single franchises in cities where there are now rival teams. A team in New York, for example, needs an average attendance of 14,000 to break even. NPSL's Generals, by their own best estimate, have been drawing 3,800, and USA's Skyliners averaged 5,000 this season. Neither figure represents paid admissions.
The paid gate at one game in Los Angeles is said to have been 347. Even so, NPSL officials in Los Angeles think there is room for two teams. Jack Kent Cooke, who controls the rival USA team, is blunt: "I prefer to go it alone."
In Toronto the owners of the competing clubs are both demanding 51% of the stock if a single team is formed. The only acceptable solution apparently would be for a third party to buy them both out. In San Francisco, George Flaherty, the owner of the Gales, refuses to enter into a 50-50 partnership with the NPSL's Oakland Clippers. "That's husband and wife stuff," Flaherty says, "and even that is never equal." He wants a majority holding or he will sell out. The Clippers, the more popular of the two clubs, is reputed to be $2 million in the red—hardly in a position to buy.
In Chicago the Allyns may have had enough of soccer to put the Mustangs up for sale. Otherwise, they are insisting on 100% ownership of any new franchise.
"It is a United Nations-type war," one club official says of the hassle. The fight will go on—absurd and self-defeating as it is—until the wounds in the wallets force a peace treaty. Hopefully, for soccer, they won't be mortal wounds.
For those of you who might like to throw away your vacation breaking a world record, we pass along this information. Two U.S. Air Force teams at Misawa Air Base in Japan claim to have played the longest continuous softball game—90 hours. The game went 402 innings, and the score was 608-444. At one point ground fog from the sea was so heavy that whenever a ball was hit to the outfield, infielders had to yell out the direction in which it was headed. The last five hours of the game were played in a downpour. An official scorekeeper counted 800 errors before giving up and going home to sleep. All told, 194 players were used, nine of whom are said to have played right through.
The musk ox, that delightful Arctic beastie now being domesticated by the University of Alaska in the hope that its soft warm fleece will outcash cashmere and provide a steady source of revenue for Eskimos (SI, July 17), is being talked about in different quarters as a prize for big-game hunters.
Last week the governing council of Canada's Northwest Territories announced it was considering offering hunters the opportunity to kill musk ox at $4,000 a shaggy head. The cost would include an airplane charter, guides, shooting licenses and all the thrill of killing, say, a cow. "The musk ox is even easier to shoot than a cow," says one northern wildlife expert. "You can walk right up to them."
The Superintendent of Game for the Northwest Territories concedes, "It is no sport in the proper sense. There is no skill to it. The only skill required is to select the biggest animal. But we can capitalize on the musk ox because it is an extremely rare trophy. [None have been shot since 1917.] We already have applications from Germany to hunt them."
Advocates of the plan say that the Eskimos could make a profit of $1,500 on each musk ox shot. They would be the guides and outfitters for expeditions and would receive the headless carcasses.
The Territorial Council needs revenue, but there must be a better way to get its pound of flesh.
WHEELING A DOUBLE
Early in June advertisements in Wilmington, Del. newspapers read, "How would you like to win the daily double at Delaware Park on July 1st?" The ads grew bigger and bigger as the days went on, and readers became increasingly interested. Finally, a car dealer announced that the ads were his, and he would pay the equivalent of the July 1st double to anyone who would buy a car from him on June 24. He pointed out that one daily double at Delaware Park had paid $5,507. That was in 1941, but no matter. Twenty-three people couldn't resist the gamble as they plunged for Lincolns, Comets and Cougars.
The automobile dealer took out a catastrophe insurance policy, under which his maximum loss would be $165 per car. It was a wise move. Come July 1, an 11-to-1 shot won the first race and an 8-to-1 shot won the second. The payoff was $221.20—at track and showroom.
William Harley Greaves, a 54-year-old chemist in Bournemouth, England, is a man whose sport is moth-watching. For some time now he has been taking a periodic census to check the effect on moths of Bournemouth's building boom. And that's what he was doing one night this month when: "I was sitting on the edge of the pavement, and I saw a really big one being chased by a bat. They had a marvelous tussle, just like a wartime dogfight. But then I must have dozed off."
Greaves was found at 3:30 a.m. by two policemen, who rushed him to the hospital for observation despite his protests. After his story was verified, he was released. Every sport has its hazards.
THEY SAID IT
•George Allen, Los Angeles Rams coach, after quarterback Roman Gabriel dropped his $200,000 suit against the club and reported for training: "Roman is a real team man."
•Cardinal Outfielder Lou Brock, discussing night baseball: "The difference for hitters is half a baseball. That's all you can see. But who's complaining? The pay is right."