The cancellation of numerous sporting events as a consequence of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was a proper—if incidental—response to the tragedy and its riotous aftermath. But the killing may have a deeper effect on sport than the mere rescheduling of this week's athletic competitions. In particular, it may influence the decisions of some of our black athletes in regard to participation in the Mexico City Olympics.
Long-jumper Ralph Boston, who has steadfastly refused to join a Negro boycott of the Games, says he is now reassessing his position. "For the first time since the talks about the boycott began," Boston says, "I feel that I really have a valid reason to boycott. I sat and thought about it, and I see that if I go to Mexico City and represent the United States I would be representing people like the one that killed Dr. King. And there are more people like that going around. I feel that I shouldn't represent people like that. On the other hand, I feel if I don't go and someone else wins the medal and it goes to another country I haven't accomplished anything either.
"It is disturbing when a guy cannot even talk to people and he is shot for that. It makes you think that Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown are right. All my life I felt that violence wasn't the way to deal with the problem. How do you keep feeling this way when things like that keep happening? How?"
Waiting for his spring fashion show to begin last week in Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall, Designer Bill Blass was complaining about his male models: "They take so much longer to dress than girls do." You could hardly blame them. Who, for instance, wants to rush right into the Philharmonic in yellow, square-toed gillie shoes ($55), or in the blue-velvet dressing gown($175) that Mr. Blass suggests is perfect for shooting pool?
There were a number of other sporting outfits in the collection—a $1,000 raccoon coat that doubles as a bedspread and a "non-shooting shooting jacket for bird watchers." Blass capped his show with a battered-looking fisherman's hat ($20) worn by a model with a day-old beard. The beard was a nice touch, but the hat needed something—perhaps some sweat around the hatband.
GIVING THEM THE RASPBERRY
As might have been expected, it is Leo Durocher who has come up with the most distinctive interpretation of baseball's contentious new spitball rule. He has been using it to give an intentional walk. The rule, its amendments having been amended, now reads, "The pitcher shall not bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher's rubber. Penalty: For violation of this part of this rule, the umpire shall immediately call a ball."
In the eighth inning of a recent game between Cleveland and Chicago, Cub Pitcher Jim Ellis had a 3-and-0 count on Dave Nelson with a runner on third. The game was tied. Durocher leaned out of the dugout and yelled to Ellis, "Go to your mouth." Ellis dutifully licked his finger, flagrantly, defiantly and shamelessly. The umpire immediately called ball four, and the batter went to first. Ellis struck out the next man, ending the inning. In the ninth, the Indians got runners on first and third with nobody out. Strategy called for an intentional pass, and Durocher ordered Ellis to lick his fingers again—four times. Another walk.
"This shows just how ridiculous the rule is," Indian Manager Alvin Dark said. Durocher's idea not only saves time and the pitcher's energy, it eliminates the risk of a wild pitch, a balk, the catcher balking by stepping out too soon, or a steal by a runner.
Always on the lookout for a chance to needle the Establishment—any establishment—Durocher has become something of an expert at free interpretation of new rules. Last year Leo sprung the "pinch-kneeler." This derived from a league directive that said the "next batter" must be out of the dugout and in the on-deck circle when the previous batter is at the plate. The aim of the directive, of course, was to keep the pitcher from malingering in the pleasant shade of the dugout and thus delaying the game when his turn came to bat. Durocher developed the technique of sending a guy "to kneel for the pitcher" in the on-deck circle. The pinch-kneeler's duty was simply to go out and kneel and sweat and knead a resin bag and, generally, to look interested in the game while the Cub pitcher stayed in the cool of the dugout. When the pitcher was up, Durocher would call the pinch-kneeler back and send the pitcher to the plate.
For years, the Bron-Shoe Company in Columbus, Ohio has been bronzing baby shoes for doting parents, but recently the firm received an unusual order. The Kansas State alumni club wanted one of the size 21EEE sneakers of Nick Pino, the school's 7'1" basketball player, made into a trophy. "The job dwarfed anything we have ever done," Vice President Robert Greene said, hardly choosing his words with care. "It was just before the copper strike ended, and I was afraid we would run out of materials."
Pino is a gentle giant who lacked aggressiveness and did not win a starting position on the Wildcat squad until his senior year. This season, however, he was a major factor in State's winning the Big Eight Championship. Pino's shoe will be awarded annually to the team's "most inspirational player." K State may have quite a time finding an athlete big enough to fill it.
Jim Clark, 32, racing's foremost driver and the only one to win both the world driving championship and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year, was killed last Sunday on a course near Heidelberg, Germany in a comparatively modest Formula 11 race. On a bend in the fifth lap his Lotus Cosworth-Ford inexplicably spun off the road at better than 150 mph and crashed into trees. He apparently was killed outright. The track was wet, but then Clark was famous for his safe driving in rainy weather. The probable cause of the accident was a defect in the car's rear suspension.
Two weeks ago in Indianapolis, after Clark had tested a new turbine racer at astonishing speeds, he had dinner with some friends in a local restaurant. In the air was an intense, expectant feeling about the car and the coming 500-mile race, in which Clark likely would be the favorite. It was a happy affair with much laughter, and when someone brought up the risks of racing Jim Clark scoffed. "When you are racing there isn't time to worry about the dangers," he said.
The drama could have been a Japanese adaptation of a western movie. The scene: a card game. Two Oriental card-players, poker-faced, are seated at a table.
"You cheat!" shouts one man, pulling a knife. "Hai," screams the other, leaping to his feet. He strikes the wooden card table with a blow of his hand, neatly cleaving it in two.
The 3,000 spectators cheered lustily. The performance and others like it were part of the Karate Grand Championship of North America held in New York. It was a cheerful combination of Oriental decorum and American baseball manners.
"I welcome you," said Korean Jhoon Rhee, over the loudspeaker, "to the joyful anxiety of the peaceful use of our karate tournament." And what sports fan does not like joyful anxiety?
Before long a cry was heard that meant karate had truly arrived in New York. "Kill the bum!" a spectator shouted, obviously warming up for opening day at Shea Stadium.
Soon young fans were begging for autographs, and by week's end they had learned proper karate etiquette, presenting a shattered piece of card table to be signed instead of a scrap of paper.
A Communist international sports festival to be held in July in Sofia, Bulgaria has announced those taking part will receive, as souvenirs, pieces of U.S. planes shot down in North Vietnam.
The public, for reasons not immediately discernible, is fascinated by that new sports phenomenon, the computerized championship. Last weekend an estimated 25 million people listened as Citation beat Man o' War by a neck in the Race of the Century. Last fall the alltime heavyweight boxing championship tournament, which went on for 15 weeks, was carried on 382 radio stations, drew 16,500,000 listeners per fight and brought in $3.5 million in advertising.
Now Murry Woroner, the Miami radio producer who thought up the heavyweight extravaganza, is in the process of punching out a middleweight-title tournament. The Ford Motor Company has purchased the rights for $500,000, and 500 stations in the U.S. and 70 to 80 in foreign countries will broadcast the series beginning in September. In 1969 Woroner plans the alltime college-football championship, in 1970 the all-time pro-football championship and after that the alltime Super Bowl. It sounds like an alltime joke on somebody.
The declaration of "all-out war" against the established NBA by some clubs of the American Basketball Association is a farce. In recent weeks Houston and Louisville have come up with a lot of hot words but very little cold cash in their battle for college basketball stars. The day after Elvin Hayes, the player of the year, signed a $440,000 contract with San Diego in the NBA, the ABA Houston team loudly—and quite safely—declared, "We will pay Hayes $750,000 now, tomorrow or next week." The offer was a bit late. Three weeks before Houston had picked Hayes in a secret ABA draft but the team never moved to make personal contact with him. "We did not think he would sign with the NBA until he had at least talked to us," Houston President T.C. Morrow said. It was a lame explanation.
Then last week, also belatedly, the Kentucky Colonels trumpeted a $500,000 offer to Louisville's All-America Westley Unseld. This was only done after Unseld had made a verbal agreement for $400,000 with the NBAs Baltimore franchise. When it was known that Unseld was NBA-bound, the Colonels took $62,000 worth of full-page advertisements in the Louisville newspapers, urging "all basketball fans in Kentucky to tell Westley that they want him to play in Kentucky." The ads purported to tell "the facts" about their negotiations with Unseld and their $500,000 offer. But Unseld's lawyer, Arthur Grafton, said the highest offer the Colonels made prior to being told Unseld was headed east was $210,000.
ABA clubs are making claims—which could be true—that the NBA has a $1 million slush fund composed of contributions from all club owners to assure the league of getting the top five college players. Be that as it may, it appears the ABA "war" for the best players is a propaganda one, not a real one.
Interestingly enough, most ABA clubs are following a wiser policy for establishing a new league. "I'm going to offer substantial contracts, not crazy figures," says Pittsburgh President Gabe Rubin. The general manager of the Indiana Pacers, Mike Storen, agrees: "I think all the ABA has to do is sign its share of good players." Dick Eicher of the Denver Rockets declares, "We are not going to pay unreasonable money." This, rather than poverty-provoking wars, will build sound teams and sound franchises. Only then, after the league is secure, is the real talent battle likely to start—just as it did between the AFL and NFL.
THEY SAID IT
•Charlie Bradshaw, Detroit Lions tackle, after joining 29 teammates in the filming of Paper Lion: "Some of the boys worked harder playing lions than they did as Lion players."
•Ernie Banks, Chicago Cub first baseman and a partner in the first Negro dealership ever granted by the Ford Motor Company: "The motors in the cars I sell run as quietly as a mother-in-law with lockjaw."