FULL IN THE FALL
Professional football, which recently lost an interference call to an 88-year-old children's classic, is now being pushed around by baseball. The national pastime's decision to extend its season two more weekends into the fall to allow for divisional playoffs and then the World Series is likely to cause early-season havoc for the 15 NFL and AFL teams that play in baseball parks.
The Minnesota Vikings, for instance, are very much concerned, because the Twins' regular September schedule and October playoff and Series possibilities leave the Vikings with only one sure date before Oct. 19. With Minnesota winters as they are, it is not salubrious for the Vikings to put off too many of their home games to the end.
And the Vikings already know something about autumnal uncertainty. Had the Twins won the pennant in 1967, as they nearly did, the Vikings could not have played their early October game with the Cardinals at home, as scheduled, and would have been unable to swap dates because the baseball Cardinals were also involved. The Vikings asked for the use of the University of Minnesota field if necessary and were turned down. Fortunately for pro football in Minnesota the Twins blew that last series to Boston.
The problem is not, of course, just the Vikings'. Eight other NFL clubs and six in the AFL use baseball stadia. Apparently baseball may rule that the division winner with the higher won-lost percentage is the host for the playoffs. So what parks baseball will need for the playoffs might not be known until the regular season is completed, Oct. 2, and by then it might be too late to find alternate football sites.
If indeed there are any alternatives to find. College fields are the only evident ports in the storm—the 49ers are looking to Stanford, the Bears to Northwestern, the Lions to Michigan, the Colts and Redskins to Maryland and so on. But the NCAA has recommended that colleges not allow the pros to use their facilities, except in emergencies. Somebody had better start doing some fast coordinating.
CAN'T GET AWAY FROM IT
The University of Tennessee football team has a dirt boy. At any rate, one of its managers is designated to bring along a bucket of dirt whenever the Vols play at home. UT Quarterback Bubba Wyche says he throws better with a dry, dirty hand, and he insists that resin doesn't help. Without the bucket, since the Neyland Stadium field is covered in Tartan Turf, Wyche would have to go beneath the stadium to find any soil.
We were going to recommend this week that Penny Ann Early—who has so far been prevented by male-jockey boycott from becoming the first lady flat-race rider on a major American track—be allowed to play, instead, for an American Basketball Association team. She seemed a little too sizable (115 pounds) and colorful (in her interviews she was sounding more and more like Mae West) to be overshadowed by horses anyway, and the ABA's red-white-and-blue game ball is the next best thing to silks. It seemed the perfect solution. But then it happened. The Kentucky Colonels signed her to a one-game contract. Now all we can do is (1) trust that Penny Ann does not do well enough as a Colonel to make the ABA look bad; (2) say, as Penny Ann's father is reported to have said when informed by his daughter that she hoped to be a jockey, "jeez"; and (3) wonder why Bill Veeck, who was announced last week to be the next president of Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, Mass., did not get to Penny Ann before basketball did.
It probably isn't because Veeck is getting old and stuffy. It may be, in fact, that the former demon promoter of baseball, the man who invented the midget pinch hitter (let's see...a giant jockey?) has something even better than distaff riders in mind. Last week he had a few things to say about change in baseball and racing. Looking back on the former sport, he said: "Pro football has made continuous changes for the past 25 years, always trying to make the game more interesting and exciting. What changes has baseball made? It took the collar off the players' uniforms, the players can no longer leave their gloves on the field and they're allowed to wear white shoes. Yippee!"
So what is Veeck going to do to enliven racing? Well, "we have to attract young people, give them an identification, make them feel it's going to be gay and fun." O.K., but specifically. "Remember the Marx Brothers," Veeck specified, "in A Day at the Races?"
The following guideline has been tentatively laid down by some Japanese zoologists: "The best method for conserving the orangutan, one of the animals closest to man, is to treat it like a man." That is, fingerprint it.
Some time ago, to preserve the species from extinction, the world's zoos compacted not to buy orangutans except through approved channels. But at a recent international meeting of zoologists the Japanese were accused of winking at the illicit ape traffic in their country. Stung, the Japanese animal men came up with a face-saving plan: to fingerprint the nation's orangutans and have mug shots made of them.
The point is not to shift any opprobrium over to the orangutans themselves, but rather to keep them straight. If the proposal is officially adopted by the Japanese Zoological Association, every Japanese orangutan in good standing will have its face and prints on file so that, if an ape is picked up on suspicion of being clandestine, the authorities could just look it up.
As simple as that. Except that last week at the Tama zoo in Tokyo they tried to fingerprint the first orangutan, and the result, as reported by the scratched and sweating keeper who tried to do it, was that' 'after two hours of earnest persuasion, we ended up with fingerprints on everything except the official form. It is frustrating and difficult work."
The mug shots ought to be easier, though.
THE 500-MILE BOIL
It is warming to know that, while the nation slogs through winter, someone is out there, somewhere, cooking up a fast new end-around on the United States Auto Club for next spring's Indianapolis 500. Everyone recalls last year's wonderful controversy involving the turbo-cars—which didn't win anyway but did provoke the USAC old guard to slap enough restrictions on the racing rebels to put them down for all time. Well, it turns out there is more than one way to perk up a car.
Off in a onetime military air base near Reno, the Lear Jet people are cutting metal for a new 450-horsepower Indy race car. It will have 40% front-and 60% rear-wheel drive, says Inventor-Industrialist William Lear, and will corner like crazy. "We not only expect to be in the race," he says, "we expect to be the winner." Is Lear going to a tiny turbine? No. Ah, perhaps an electric car? Uh-uh. The new car will use white kerosene, he said. It will have a boiler sitting there beside the driver, and it will run on...steam.
And, as if that were not enough to upset traditionalists, Andy Granatelli, who introduced turbocars to Indy, says that he, too, is thinking about a steam car—this time a steam-turbine car. He has assured everyone that "we have the know-how to do it." All the 500 needs now is a car with a whistle on it, like a locomotive.
These moves catch USAC with its old-guard down; they have plenty of rules to govern oldtime piston engines, but things are pretty vague on steam. The board meets Jan. 11 to consider this one and, if it accepts the new cars, you can bet that Memorial Day 1969 will be another wild one. What USAC is just starting to realize is that, even now, someone somewhere has a race car all built and is standing there, looking speculatively at an atomic reactor.
BY THE NUMBERS
The National and American Football Leagues are going to ask a computer why so many of their boys keep getting hurt. Every detail, except one, on every major and minor injury this year from preseason games to the Super Bowl will be fed this January into the computers at the University of Michigan.
The information is coming in now on questionnaires filled out by trainers and team physicians. Each report lists the manner of contact on which the player was hurt. (Was it a clip, a crackback block, a pileup? Was he gang-tackled? Was he speared? Was there a rules infraction?) Other data include the player's experience, his team status, whether the injury is new, the temperature, condition and type of playing surface and the exact nature of the equipment worn by the victim and the man who hit him.
The one missing detail will be the victim's name.
No pro owner wants the others to know the exact location and nature of an injury to any of his properties, so social security numbers are used instead. It is all the same to the computer.
THE GOLF CRUNCH
The first head-to-head tournament battle between the Professional Golfers' Association and the new American Professional Golfers—the rebellious touring pros—will take place Jan. 9-12. The $100,000 Los Angeles Open has gone APG. The new $50,000 Alameda County Open, at the Sunol Valley Golf Course about 40 miles from San Francisco, has just signed a contract with the PGA.
The Sunol people are gambling their $50,000 and expenses on the PGA's threat to seek injunctions against any of its members who play in an unrecognized tournament. Joe Black, PGA tournament chairman, says, "It takes six months for a letter of resignation from the PGA to become effective, and we have none on file." With a legal threat held over their heads, some golfers may decide either to sit out the weekend or to play at Sunol for less money and less trouble. Thus Sunol could pick up a representative field cheap.
An evening film-making class in the English seaside town of Hove, Sussex has been given a novel assignment. The mayor has asked it to make a 15-minute color movie of dogs soiling the local roads and beauty spots.
"Our main concern," says a council official, "is to clean up the town. Not that our town is worse off than anywhere else." The film will be shown to women's groups and other organizations that include dog owners, but apparently not to dogs themselves. The message will be that citizens should take their pets to the six recently installed and so far underpatronized "dog lavatories" in the town.' 'We are trying to educate the public," explains the official.
NOMS DE MOM
Albert Davis, Tennessee A&I's heralded sophomore fullback, hasn't always been Albert Davis, at least officially. When young Albert entered Hall High School in Alcoa, Tenn., he went out for football without his mother's knowledge. After he made the team he told the coach his identity would have to be concealed.
It was simple enough to leave Albert out of the program, but since his home was less than a block from the field, there was the danger that Mrs. Davis would hear her son's name over the public-address system. Therefore, as Davis tells it today, he went through one full season—before the secret leaked out and his mother reluctantly gave her consent—"as Elijah Smith, Rufus Brown and/or Willie Watson."
THEY SAID IT
•Wayne Valley, co-owner of the Oakland Raiders, after 41-year-old George Blanda and 37-year-old Cotton Davidson had quarterbacked the Raiders to a 43-7 win over Denver: "We're the only club in pro football with two quarterbacks old enough to run for President."
•Billy Cunningham, 76er forward: "I'm still taking those weird shots like I did at North Carolina. Trouble is, I've taken them so often I keep forgetting they're weird."