CAUGHT OFF BASE
Lots of baseball fans were surprised that Montreal received one of the two new National League franchises, but the city itself apparently is flabbergasted. Resistance appears to be building—but not the promised 55,000-seat domed stadium. "The city made no commitment regarding the stadium," the chairman of Montreal's executive committee now says. And newspaper editorials have stated flatly that Montreal cannot afford big-league spending—the domed stadium is expected to cost $45 to $55 million. Nor is there any certainty that the club's temporary ball park on the grounds of Expo '67 can be adapted to suit baseball by next April when the team is scheduled to begin play. Canada is in the midst of national elections and no politician has been sporting enough to commit himself to the necessary expenditure.
Furthermore, there must be some doubt as to how the All-American pastime will appeal to French Canada. There was no overwhelming enthusiasm for the sport when the city had a fine Triple A club in the late '50s.
The new team still has no president, no general manager, no coaching staff, no farm team and has given no thought to a spring-training site. "The franchise was gathered in such remarkable style," says Charles Bronfman, one of the major backers, "that it was here well ahead of the organizational groundwork. Three days before the franchise was granted, I wasn't even in, and none of the sponsors had even had a formal meeting."
June 30, 1968
The chairman of the board of directors (it is reassuring that the team now has one) admits, "We are fighting desperately for time. Frankly, it is going to be a gigantic task to open on the projected 1969 date."
Only the National League seems oblivious to the troublesome situation. "What is happening among the backers of the team and the city over the stadium is no concern of the league's," John Galbreath, a member of the NL expansion committee says. "It is strictly a club matter and we have no part in it. Their problems are their own, not ours."
Looking for ways to give an uplift to its business, The Lovable Company, a manufacturer of brassieres, is offering engineering school students prizes for fashioning new designs. Students at such schools as Harvard, Columbia, Purdue and Carnegie Institute of Technology are being asked to apply complex engineering principles of stress and load to improve brassiere design. They are also, the company hopes, looking for the sporting angles. Lovable has just developed a jogging bra, made of sweat-shirt-gray flannel, for fitness enthusiasts. It will go on sale on August 1 and will retail for $3.
Lovable, isn't it?
We take you now—by flashback—to snowy old Grenoble and there is Jean-Claude Killy doing something typically dramatic, like winning Winter Olympics gold medal No. 5 or 6, or whatever the number was. Killy is buried in adoring fans, the darling of the sports world. But, hark! Who is that standing off to one side in topcoat and loafers, coolly appraising Killy? It looks like America's Mark McCormack. End flashback.
We take you now to Toots Shot's in New York. It is this very week and Killy is being introduced by the Chevrolet Division of General Motors as its new sports figure, its new image—the face that launched a thousand Camaros. There will be TV spots with the Corvette, Chevelle and Nova SS, followed by Killy at all the auto shows, Killy and all the cars. But there is more.
There is Killy, star of a GM one-hour television special on Killy; there is Killy, the world's new No. 1 model of ski apparel; Killy on tour in Japan; Killy driving a Corvette at LeMans; Killy turning down a supporting role in a Paul Newman movie—Paul who?—and Killy, star of a movie involving escape from a POW camp. There is Jean-Claude promoting French cookery; promoting his home town Val d'Is√®re; promoting mineral water. And who is that standing off to one side, in loafers again? Uh huh.
Promoter McCormack, who also packages and manages such stars as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Fran Tarkenton, figures that Killy is starting out making more ("conservatively half a million a year") than any of his other clients. "He is totally unique in sport as far as earning possibilities," McCormack declares. Chevrolet paid $1 million for his services.
Even Avery Brundage would have to confess that is fast going for an athlete who has never competed as a pro. But there is a certain warm feeling in knowing that someone who worked so hard for it now has it all. Sic transit slalom.
A TRUFFLING MATTER
The Kalahari bushmen, that old and primitive desert race which anthropologists have studied down to a silly millimeter of their skulls, continue to be newsworthy. Relatively recent expeditions have found that the average bushman can distinguish the four moons of Jupiter with his naked eye, that he can hear an airplane 70 miles away, that he likes to dance to Beethoven (but apparently to no other Western music), and that he can run 35 miles in five hours through heavy sand and burning African heat. But perhaps the most valuable tidbit of information discovered so far about the bushmen is that they have been eating one of the world's delicacies for as long as they have lived in Botswana, which is a long, long time. Along with snakes, lizards and ground grubs, they feast on truffles, the gastronomical delight that Europeans train pigs and dogs to unearth in their oak forests. The bushmen like a bucketful of truffles—worth its weight in silver, $28—for dessert. Now the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is investigating the marketing potential of Kalahari truffles. Though the great restaurants of Europe are eager to buy the precious fungi, the bushmen are not particularly eager to sell. Said one, "Digging is a lot of work, and if we sell them we can't eat them."
If there is one thing that Leo Durocher detests, aside from alienation-of-affection suits, it is the scoreboard in the Houston Astrodome. The Astroboard (what else?) is an electronic whizzbang, lighting up with all sorts of animated cartoon flapdoodle for the amusement of the fans—and to the anger of the volatile Cub manager. Trouble began two years ago when Dick Ellsworth, then with the Cubs, left the mound with a muscle injury. The Astroboard flashed a cartoon of a pitcher trudging off and then sinking in the shower. Shortly afterward Bill Giles, orchestrator of the Astroboard and son of Warren Giles, the National League president, phoned the Cub dugout to inquire about Ellsworth. The Lip was so angry he reportedly yanked the phone from the wall.
Since then Leo has smoldered all the more. He absolutely refuses to talk to Houston writers. Once he submitted a phony lineup that the gullible Giles posted on the Astroboard. Snarled Durocher: "I'll give 'em a lineup with nine pitchers if I want to. I'll have Fergie Jenkins leading off and Bill Hands batting cleanup." For a man who used to revel in controversy, Durocher has worked up an anger that may seem strangely Astronomical (what else?), but, in truth, he feels that the board is unfair because it mocks the visiting team. He is especially peeved by a cartoon that shows a manager yapping away at an umpire (the ump plays a fiddle).
For his part Bill Giles says, "Leo and our scoreboard have a lot in common. They're both noisy. They're both animated. They're both unique. They're both expensive. And, in my opinion, they're both good for baseball." Durocher is having none of this. Seethes The Lip: "The old man [Warren Giles] didn't buy his kid enough toys when he was little, so now he plays with those scoreboard buttons."
Hollywood (Fla.) College is a relatively new school with only 65 students, but, no matter, it had hoped to field a football team next fall and had even scheduled seven games (one opponent: Pensacola Navy, which is quarterbacked by Roger Staubach). Then last week the school announced it was dropping the sport. "It wasn't the money," said Head Coach Guy Scott. "It was because the football team got to be such a big thing. They had 30 students in the college when I started recruiting, and I came up with 40 football players. They didn't think that was right."
When Cincinnati Industrialist Lloyd I. Miller paid $6,000 for Dark Mirage at the 1966 Keeneland summer yearling sales, most horsemen considered it a waste of his time and money. The filly was scrawny and underweight. Her sire, Persian Road II, was so undistinguished that he later was moved from Kentucky to, of all places, Ridgefield, Conn.—which is hardly known for its production of champion racehorses. Dark Mirage's dam, Home By Dark, although well bred, was stone deaf and never raced.
Last year while Queen of the Stage was taking bows as the 2-year-old champion, Dark Mirage, with only two wins in 15 starts, was heading deeper into obscurity. But this season has been different. After finishing fourth in her first start, she reeled off six wins in a row, the last five of them stakes—among them the Acorn and the Mother Goose, which make up two-thirds of the Triple Crown for Fillies.
Last week at Belmont Park came Part III of this series, the mile-and-a-quarter Coaching Club American Oaks. There was Dark Mirage, all 710 pounds of her (the average weight of a filly is around 850 pounds), standing barely 15 hands. At the finish there was Dark Mirage, too, skipping with beauty and grace under Jockey Manuel Ycaza down the Belmont stretch to win by 12 easy lengths in stakes-record time of 2:01[4/5]. The crowd rose to cheer this marvelous little lady, and Owner Miller could well afford a broad smile—the filly has won him $269,149.50. Such fine champions as Bowl of Flowers, Cicada, Lady Pitt and Furl Sail had failed in their bids to take the first filly Triple Crown, but Dark Mirage had succeeded.
NEVER SAY DIE
Let a few innocent things happen, like summertime in Detroit and the Tigers taking a 6½-game lead, and people start looking for things to worry about. Like: Where are they going to put up everybody for the World Series in October?
Nothing like being prepared. Detroit has been prepared since 1945. The way it probably will work out this time, see, is that the Tigers would be the home team October 5, 6 and 7, which turns out to be a Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The city's convention bureau, which obviously does not have enough to do, is busy blocking out hotel rooms all over town, even 600 across the river in Canada. Same thing they did last year, and it was a wonderful plan, much admired and saluted by convention bureaus ever) where, except for one nagging item. The Tigers did not win the pennant. But forget all that, says the bureau's Leonard Rolston. They now have discovered a new little worry that is even better.
On Monday, October 7, World Series or no World Series, a 4,000-delegate convention moves into Detroit. If the Tigers win, if the Series goes off on schedule, if it does not rain, Detroit will just barely be able to move both crowds in and out of town, says Rolston. If it does rain, well, there is trouble.
About that convention. The fact that it is the National Funeral Directors Association ought to tell Rolston something.
THEY SAID IT
•Ben Davidson, Oakland Raiders' defensive end, on the NFL's decision to eliminate the extra-point kick in exhibition games this summer: "The AFL Player Association is interested in this. It's a union issue. We don't want our kickers put out of work unless they can be retrained."
•Billy Graham, to onlookers who appeared shocked that he and four other clergymen had side bets during a round of golf: "We were playing a sermon a hole, but I don't call that sinful because we were betting on something of questionable value."