The immediate reaction to the scorecard fiasco that cost Roberto de Vicenzo his chance to win the Masters championship was a demand to "change the stupid rule." After all, 10 million people saw Roberto birdie the 17th hole, so who cares what his scorecard said?
But now that the emotions of the moment have quieted, it is interesting to note that those most directly affected by the controversial rule—the touring pros—have not joined in the chorus of outrage. The reason is that they do not like any of the foreseeable alternatives to the rule which in essence makes a player totally responsible for the score on his card when he signs it.
Nobody, least of all the United States Golf Association, which legislates the Rules of Golf in this country, is satisfied with a situation whereby a mistake in scorekeeping can deprive a golfer of what his athletic performance has earned him. However, no major variations of the scoring system have proved successful for tour tournaments, and many have been tried. For a few years in the 1950s, for example, official scorers were employed at the U.S. Open, but their presence caused more confusion and controversy than existed when the players did the job themselves, so the nonplaying scorer was abandoned.
The scoring rule, as it stands, is not archaic and, unpopular though the viewpoint may be at the moment, the responsibility for scorekeeping should not be taken from the golfers. Isolated incidents notwithstanding (and think how awful it would have been if Bob Goal-by himself had been keeping de Vicenzo's card), the players are the best score-keepers on the course.
However, one small change in the rule is worth considering, and the USGA is giving serious thought to it this week. Instead of keeping the score of the man he is playing with, the golfer would keep his own score. His partner would merely attest the score at the end of a round. Since every golfer knows what he himself has shot on a hole, there would be no de Vicenzo-type mistake. As Jimmy Demaret, who would like to see such a change, puts it: "You always know what you shoot. It's your money."
HOOK, LINE AND SINKER
In an unlikely show of April Fool's Day frivolity, the British Broadcasting Company devoted a 20-minute documentary to salmon catching in the Thames. The cameras showed the spawning grounds, Thames anglers fishing in weir pools and one large salmon actually being hooked, fought and landed in the best sporting tradition. The BBC commentator gave the latest information from the Thames Salmon Observatory at Gravesend on the number of fish in the river and interviewed an angler, asking his advice on the best kinds of flies to use.
Few people sensed that something was fishy, but the next day the BBC happily confessed the show was all a hoax, including the salmon itself, which had been bought frozen from a local fishmonger, thawed, hooked and dumped into the water. A live salmon hasn't been seen in the Thames since 1885.
The AAU presumably will be surprised to learn that George Carter, selected to play as an alternate on the U.S. Olympic basketball team, is a professional. He signed a three-year contract with the Detroit Pistons sometime last summer for a $500 bonus and $10,000 a year. Carter collected the $500 in cash, then reported to training camp at Saint Clair, Mich. and was paid $50 a week for at least five weeks. He made the squad and played in one regular National Basketball Association game against the Cincinnati Royals before vanishing from Detroit.
"Carter just came up missing," Piston General Manager Ed Coil said last week. "We had paid him the $500 bonus and the training-camp money, but when he disappeared I took what he had coming in salary and paid some hotel bills and other debts he had incurred in Detroit. I never thought much more about him—other than wondering where he had gone—until I saw him in the Olympic trials in Albuquerque a couple of weeks ago. I asked him what he was doing there and Carter said the Army had sent him, and I just figured it was all right. I know two years ago the National AAU said that any player who signed an NBA contract but did not play in a regular-season game or didn't collect any money would still be considered an amateur. Well, Carter didn't qualify under either of those criteria. But I figured that the AAU and the Olympic Committee must know what they were doing." The Pistons still hold the rights to Carter.
A MEASURE OF THE MAN
Baseball club owners say that their scouts are correct about 3% of the time in predicting what talent will make the majors—which makes one wonder why the owners don't save themselves some money and pick players out of a hat instead. In the belief that anything might be an improvement, the Phillies are experimenting with a computerized scouting machine developed by the University of Delaware. The batter's box is a platform loaded with instruments that is similar to the apparatus that opens the door at the local supermarket. Wires connect this platform to the pitcher's rubber. Small instruments are placed in holes drilled into a player's bat and two thin wires lead from the handle of the bat to an electronic unit.
As the batter swings, surface pressure on the platform relays time measurements to the main unit. The speed and smoothness of a hitter's stride are recorded. Each man's swing has its own pattern, much like a person's signature. This is plotted electrically on a graph.
The computer records 13 individual traits, which in the end are reduced to four factors: the speed of a swing, the time and length of a batter's stride, whether or not he hits a ball at the peak velocity of his bat and the ratio between his stride, power and swing.
The electronic scout seems to know its business. When Phillie batting star Richie Allen was tested, his swing was so outstanding the recording device jumped off the graph. He has the fastest bat of any major league player tested so far.
By 1970, the Delaware scientists say, they will have established standards for the perfect player. Then all the Phillies have to do is find him.
THE LION'S SHARE
The thousands of tourists who pay to visit England's stately mansions apparently have had enough of stone lions and that sort of thing. Estate owners have had to turn to wild schemes to keep the public interested. The Marquess of Bath, for instance, imported 50 lions to romp about his ancestral home in Wiltshire. They were a roaring success the first year, drawing nearly a quarter of a million people (at $2.80 apiece). Since then the Marquess has added hippos and chimpanzees.
Now there is considerable consternation in the fox-hunting country of Leicestershire over the news that Lord Gretton has bought 25 lions for his home, Stapleford Park. The master of the local hunt has declared, "If I find lions roaming in Lord Gretton's estate, I'll be absolutely appalled." So, undoubtedly, will the hounds.
PRO AND CON
Certainly the most novel request being made this year in contract negotiations between pro football clubs and drafted players is that of a Lansing (Mich.) attorney, Fred Abood, who is acting for Jesse Phillips, the Michigan State defensive back picked in the fourth round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Phillips is now serving a 14-month-to-15-year sentence for forgery in the Ionia, Mich. reformatory. He will be eligible for a parole hearing on June 1, but should he be released then, he would still have to face at least three more felony charges concerning bad checks and stolen property. Abood, who is Phillips' criminal lawyer as well as his agent in dealing with the Bengals, has suggested to General Manager Paul Brown that he give Phillips a bonus big enough to enable him to make restitution to the merchants in the pending cases and perhaps get the charges against him dismissed. If he is paroled and the other charges are dropped, Phillips could then join the Bengals' training camp in July. "It's worth a try," his lawyer says. "The whole thing could be cleared up for $500 or so. Of course, we'd like to get more than that for a bonus."
Everybody knows that it's nice to carry around knowledge and that reading can be an uplifting experience, but the field of letters has not generally been considered among the more taxing of sporting endeavors. A Denver bookstore, however, changed all that recently when it offered a clearance sale to the effect: "All the books you can carry for $1."
The response was overwhelming. Last year a fine physical type was able to lift 84 books; this year the new champion staggered out with 105.
Ah, the possibilities. Soon, undoubtedly, another bookstore will report 125, still another 150, and others will perhaps announce even greater feats of equally encyclopedic scope. In time, university phys. ed. departments will offer such courses as "Uplift 201: From Light Reading to Anthologies" and "Uplift 202: Press, Snatch and Jerk Techniques as Related to the Modern Novel and Unabridged Dictionaries." Fitness classes will be filled with quarterbacks, halfbacks and, uh, paperbacks.
AN IDEA WITH PUNCH
There has been serious talk in the last two weeks concerning the formation of another major sports league: boxing. The idea was launched by Sportscaster Jack Drees and is picking up support from well-known sports investors, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers' Art Rooney. Present plans call for a league to begin operation by the fall of 1969 at the latest and to consist of eight cities, probably Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Boston, Washington, Pittsburgh and Louisville. Each franchise would have 15 boxers, three in each class—heavyweight, light heavy, middleweight, welterweight and lightweight. This would insure that a weekly schedule could be maintained. An intercity match would consist of five six-round bouts, one bout in each division.
The scoring system under consideration would give a certain number of points to a decision winner and more points to the winner by a knockout or a TKO. The earlier the round in which the KO was scored, the greater the number of points awarded the boxer. The team with the most points at the conclusion of the card would be considered the winner. There would be, as in other big-league sports, weekly standings, divisional playoffs, championship matches and perhaps even all-star shows.
Boxers would be signed to one-year contracts of between $8,000 and $15,000, and each team would hire a coach and a trainer and would provide a gym. At present a feasibility study is being made to determine what talent, trainers and facilities are available. Prospective owners of the eight franchises will meet early next month in Chicago to assess the findings.
Already a number of names have been suggested for the new teams. One was inevitable: the Louisville Sluggers.
THEY SAID IT
•Frank Kostro, Minnesota Twins utility man: "So far I've played right, left and first base and I'm Polish. Does that make me a utility pole?"
•Larry Csonka, Syracuse All-America fullback, after signing a contract with the Miami Dolphins: "I'm taking the check to my wife. She wants to go shopping."
•Roberto de Vicenzo, Argentine golf pro, on his faulty English: "I learn English from American pros, especially Jim Turnesa, that's why I speak so bad. I call it PGA English."
•Ernie Banks, 37-year-old Chicago Cub first baseman: "We've got durable players on the team. Whenever a player breaks down, we just stick him together with chewing gum—Wrigley's."
•Sonny Jurgensen, Redskin quarterback, greeting Johnny Unitas at the opening of the Colt quarterback's new cafe, the Golden Arm: "Johnny, it's wonderful of you to name your restaurant after me."