The U.S. Lawn Tennis Association has defined a new kind of player—called, simply enough, a "player." He may take expense money, negotiate for appearance money, play for prize money and accept money for endorsements. The new classification is open to everybody 19 or older who opts for it: club champions, Arthur Ashe, even teaching professionals and former touring pros like Tony Trabert or Alex Olmedo. Everyone is eligible except professionals who are under contract to either of the two pro groups—the National Tennis League, run by George MacCall, and World Championship Tennis, run by Bob Briner with Lamar Hunt's money.
The new category is, in one sense, a power play by the USLTA, an attempt to entice the Ralstons and Gonzalezes back under USLTA jurisdiction and to keep the Ashes and Graebners there. At the moment, for example, Pancho Gonzalez can compete in and make money from open tournaments only—excepting, of course, the pro tour. But if his contract were terminated and he chose to become a "player," Pancho could play not only in the opens but in other USLTA-sponsored tournaments, which may now be offering cash prizes. Under International Lawn Tennis Federation rules, Gonzalez would then also be eligible for Davis Cup play, which could lead to lucrative endorsements. So the touring pros may find the lure of the player category strong.
On the other hand, the pro promoters, who this past week worked out an agreement with the USLTA on the four open tournaments remaining this year, like the new concept, too. If, when it meets in July, the ILTF approves the almost total integration of pros and players, it will mean players can appear in various pro-sponsored events, as well as vice versa. If, however, the ILTF rejects the idea, the tentative understanding between the touring pros and the governing associations will be destroyed and the battle for control of the sport will be escalated, with potentially disastrous results.
February 17, 1969
ONCE BURNED, TWICE SHY
Vince Lombardi has moved on to the Washington Redskins (declaring on his arrival, "I'd like to have a winner the first year"), and as a result the city of Milwaukee may decide to build a monument to Alderman John R. Kalwitz. Last autumn there was considerable talk in that city of naming a street after Lombardi, then still a statewide hero in Wisconsin. Alderman Kalwitz suggested that such action might be hasty. After all, he argued, Milwaukeeans would feel pretty foolish now if 10 years ago, in their love for the then Milwaukee Braves, they had named a street after Braves Owner Lou Perini.
The proposal was hurriedly tabled.
HOW HIGH THE DOME?
Sometimes it seems as though every city in the country has talked about building a domed stadium. Surveys have been made, committees appointed, plans drawn up, bond issues prepared. Yet not one shovelful of earth has yet been turned on construction of what would be the world's second roofed super ball park. And Judge Roy Hofheinz, who built the first one, the Astrodome in Houston, thinks it will be quite a while yet before that first shovelful of earth is turned.
"The next domed stadium will cost four times what it cost Harris County to build the Astrodome," Hofheinz says. "The rising costs of land, construction and borrowed money now make it impossible to build a domed stadium that can pay for itself out of its own revenue. The city that builds one will be undertaking a huge public subsidy of six or seven million dollars annually."
Hofheinz, of course, would be happy if his gilt-edge tourist attraction remained the only domed stadium in the land. But he may be right. If all the domed parks that have been talked about had actually been built, they would probably outnumber old-fashioned, open-air stadiums. Yet the Astrodome stands alone.
HOLD THE MUD
Don't know whether you ever saw New York City's East River, up close. An eminent writer who once took a small-boat ride along that dark-gray stream commented afterward, "You'd think all anybody does in New York is spill oil and eat oranges."
Nonetheless, Cyrus Adler, a physical oceanographer, Dr. George Claus, a marine biologist, and Sanford Moos, another marine scientist, are using that same East River to grow an experimental crop of oysters, clams and mussels. Last October they suspended their unsuspecting bivalves in a screened tray about six feet below the surface of the river. Once a week they bring their charges to the surface, wipe away the heavy coating of silt, check the identifying numbers painted on each shell, measure the shells for growth and put them back in the Stygian gloom.
The results? Ahhh! The scientists claim the experiment is bright with promise. For one thing—and a startling thing it is, too—the oysters, clams and mussels are still alive. This means, according to Dr. Claus, that "apparently there are no substances in the river that are harmful to the bivalves, despite such things as detergents and other pollutants that have been poured into the water."
Furthermore, not content with merely staying alive in their murky home, the mussels are actually growing, even though they should be dormant during the cold winter months. This, the experimenters say, may mean that the East River contains some vital growth nutrient.
Like automobile tires? Never mind, say the scientists. Bacteria counts indicate that the East River may be slowly getting cleaner, and one must not forget that it is a vast "unused water mass" very close to a huge market. Adler, Claus and Moos have not yet gotten to the point of eating one of their East River shellfish, but the moment cannot be too far off when some free-spending devil in "21" or the Colony snaps his fingers at the waiter and orders, "Oysters Queens Midtown Tunnel, my good man."
A MATTER OF DEGREE
A survey made recently of professional football rosters for last summer's training camps indicates that although practically all the players on AFL and NFL rosters have come to the professional ranks from college, slightly more than half of them (50.4%) have not yet earned degrees. Colleges with the greatest percentage of nongraduates in pro football are Minnesota, Houston, Arizona State, Colorado and Iowa State.
THERE'S NO PLACE
Curiosity about basketball's "homers" continues. Jim Hefner, assistant basketball coach at the University of Southern California, which has an outstanding freshman squad and, therefore, high hopes for the next few seasons, did a little research into the subject for the fun of it. What Hefner was looking for—possibly with intent to avoid—are places where a visiting team does not seem to stand a chance of winning.
"We're not looking for patsies," Hefner says. "We want to play the best. But we want to play where the home victory record is at least slightly less than 100%."
Hefner was not referring to teams, like UCLA, which are just as good away as they are at home, but to those whose home and traveling records show remarkable contrasts. He pored over schedules and results for the past two seasons, and his research disclosed some fascinating extremes.
Utah, for example, was 7-18 in away games but 25-2 at home. Brigham Young, 9-20 away, was 18-2 at home. Colorado, 8-21 away, was 18-3 at home. These three mountain schools together had a dismal 24-59 record in road games but were a devastating 61-7 back home.
Such discrepancies were not confined to the Rocky Mountain area. Michigan State, 8-17 away, was 20-2 at home. Nebraska, 14-17 away, was 17-2 at home. West Virginia, 17-17 away, was 19-1 at home. Yet the high-altitude schools do seem particularly fond of home games. New Mexico State, 18-16 away, and New-Mexico, 17-12 away, were, respectively, 20-1 and 25-1 at home, and it is very hard for a visiting club to win in the Western Athletic Conference. When Arizona won a conference game away from home in January, tongue-in-cheek experts immediately named the Wildcats overwhelming favorites to win the WAC championship. It was only a joke, but a month later only one other conference game had been won by visitors.
SAY GOODNIGHT DICK
The Detroit Red Wings have a rookie forward named Eddie Hatoum. His nickname, naturally, is "Sock."
A disenchanted baseball fan, writing in Pittsburgh Weekly Sports on the possibility that major league baseball players may go on strike because of the pension-plan dispute, says, "If the baseball players, who are overpaid, overpampered and overpublicized, decide to strike, I think all of us should hold one big drunk.... If only the Little League players would decide to strike for more ice cream soda money, then the summer would be perfect....
"I have managed to live without baseball for the last few years and have found the feeling wonderful.... Maybe it is the same type of feeling one receives when he goes off dope or quits smoking. I felt like a free man. No longer did I lie awake to hear the scores. It mattered not if the Pirates won or lost....
"Of all the professional athletes, the baseball player is the most obnoxious, the most conceited, and the most boring.... The baseball player actually believes the Great American Society will evaporate and go away forever if the public doesn't have the chance to see at least one game this summer.
"If the players do strike, I hope President Nixon doesn't use the Taft-Hartley law.... I also presume that Congress will not call extra night sessions to look into the problem....
"So strike, players. Strike forever. And owners, don't yield. Don't give in...."
Would it be O.K. if we just played a little catch in the backyard?
Amherst's hockey team lost 15-2 to Middlebury the other day and in so doing established a new Eastern College Athletic Conference Division II record of 14 straight losses over two seasons. Inspired, an anonymous poet wrote the following, which appeared in the college newspaper, The Amherst Student:
Whose stick is this? I think I know.
'Twas new 300 saves ago,
But splintered now beyond repair,
From slapshots fired by skating foe.
My shivering date must think it queer
That none watch with any gnawing fear,
As O'Malley braves those blazing pucks,
Without enough defensemen near.
"Spring will be lovely," hear him weep,
"But I have promises to keep,
Ten games to go before I sleep,
Ten more to go before I sleep."
The poet apologized "to Robert Frost and anyone else who could take offense." The O'Malley of the poem is obviously the Amherst goalie, since elsewhere on the sports page appears the boxed admonition: O'MALLEY SAVES.
Though, apparently, not often enough.
THEY SAID IT
•Press Maravich, LSU basketball coach, after being told to go to the beach and relax from the pressures of the sport: "So I went to the beach. The pretty blue water rolled in and the palm trees swayed in the breeze. Then I looked down and saw that I'd been diagramming basketball plays in the sand."
•Joe Greene, North Texas State defensive tackle, after being the fourth player selected in pro football's draft: "I can't say just what I'll ask for, but it's going to take a $600,000 man to stop O. J. Simpson."