Pro football did not solve all its current problems when it finally settled the realignment question. The failure to sign top draft choices, particularly O.J. Simpson, was a continuing headache. For instance, the chief appeal of the Coaches All-America Game in Atlanta on June 28 is the anticipated duel between the West's Simpson and the East's Leroy Keyes (of Purdue and, hopefully, the Philadelphia Eagles). But with not much more than six weeks remaining before the game, neither had yet accepted an invitation to play, and apparently neither had yet agreed to play in the traditional College All-Star Game in Chicago on Aug. 1, which this year sends Joe Namath and the New York Jets against the collegians. Their refusal is understandable. An unsigned player is reluctant to play in an all-star game because a serious injury would leave him with no financial recourse, beyond the insurance taken out on each player by the promoters. A signed player, on the other hand, has the guarantee of his season's salary from the club that drafted and signed him.
And the holdouts were not just Simpson and Keyes. Still unsigned, and apparently waiting for O.J. to make his move, were George Kunz (Notre Dame and the Atlanta Falcons), Greg Cook (Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Bengals), Ron Sellers (Florida State and the Boston Patriots), Fred Dryer (San Diego State and the New York Giants) and Ron Johnson (Michigan and the Cleveland Browns).
SUPER HOOPER BOWL
May 18, 1969
It was a fairly obvious thing for him to say after his Oakland Oaks had won the ABA championship, but Coach Alex Hannum asked, "Why not a super bowl in basketball?" Even if it is obvious, in some ways the idea is appealing—the upstart Oaks against the old-line Boston Celtics for the championship of everything.
Hannum's credentials add considerable vigor to the idea. Alex is the only coach to win championships in both the NBA and ABA (as Weeb Ewbank of the Jets is the only coach to win in both the NFL and AFL). Moreover, Hannum won the only two NBA titles that the Celtics did not win in the last 13 seasons.
There is that three-point rule (for goals from beyond 25 feet) in the ABA, but then the AFL had the two-point extra point and that didn't stop the Super Bowl from coming into being. The Super Hoop may soon be with us—which will be fine unless it takes the season into mid-June.
The all-time record for one day's betting at U.S. racetracks is $6,120,631, established at Aqueduct on May 31, 1965. Betting on Churchill Downs on Derby Day this year—$6,106,346—just barely missed topping the Aqueduct total and would have beaten it except for a fluke. Before the start of the first race on Derby Day a horse named—stand back, now—Sweetsie Sweet tossed his jockey and ran away, probably to hide in embarrassment. At any rate, the stewards ordered the horse scratched and all money bet on him refunded. It came to $27,559. If it had not been refunded the total handle at Churchill Downs would have reached $6,133,905, or $13,000 better than Aqueduct's record.
One of the most popular items that America is importing nowadays is tennis players. For instance, Oral Roberts University of Tulsa, Okla. has Peter van Lingen of South Africa, Ivan Mikysa, Cyril Suk and Jirka Medonos of Czechoslovakia and Pekka Saila of Finland. The University of Corpus Christi in Texas has Ramiro Benavidez of Bolivia, Roberto Chavez and Vicente Zarazua of Mexico, Humphrey Hose of Venezuela, Oscar Salas of Curacao and Marc Boulle of France. When Corpus Christi played Oral Roberts recently, there was no U.S. citizen on either team.
A HIT BY WILLIE
Shakespeare, no stranger to fun and games, wrote a good deal of sporting activity and sporting idiom into his plays. Recognizing this, the American Shakespeare Festival at Stratford, Conn., which has put on a representative schedule of the Bard's plays every summer for 15 years now, is pulling out all sporting stops for this year's presentation of Henry V. Tennis balls, for instance, play a major visual role. Tennis balls are, of course, an integral part of the play (France insults Henry with a gift which, when opened, turns out to be nothing but tennis balls—a not too subtle comment on the English king's frivolous past). But later in the Stratford presentation the tennis balls are also used symbolically to represent English musket balls in battle. They bounce wildly about the stage and many of them ricochet into the audience, where there is almost as much excitement about retrieving them as there is in baseball for a batted ball.
The free-wheeling tennis balls are only one aspect of the emphasis on sport. For half an hour before each performance, while the audience is slowly drifting in, more than 40 actors are on stage in Levi's and sweat shirts or T shirts, playing basketball, volleyball and Frisbee, wrestling, dancing, flirting. As performance time nears, the preplay action becomes more and more charged and tense, and just before the stage goes dark for the beginning of Henry V a small riot ensues. This playful-violent half hour sets the tone of the drama—Michael Kahn, the artistic director of the Shakespeare festival, says, "The play is set on a stage which is a playground, an arena, a battleground. The games are the games of war, of conquest, of power, of love"—and the playground-sports motif continues. Instead of armor, soldiers wear football gear, soccer shirts, the padding of a hockey goalie, and the volleyballs and basketballs of the improvisation become large cannon balls in battle scenes.
Unhappily, you can't take a basketball home with you as a souvenir for the kids. Tennis balls are considered expendable, but the ushers have been instructed to request firmly that stray volleyballs and basketballs be returned to the stage.
And in case you're wondering about the final score, Henry V wins.
This is a football story, but on the chance that you did not hear it last fall (we didn't, either) we pass it along. Football games in some sections of the country are preceded by an invocation, and the invocation often includes phrases like "that great Quarterback in the Sky." At last year's Oklahoma-Nebraska game in Norman, Okla., the clergyman concluded by saying, "And, dear Lord, we invite You to take time out from Your busy schedule to watch our game this afternoon." Seconds later a telephone rang in the press box, and a fellow sitting there said, "He wants to know what channel it's on."
Frank Beard, one of the best of the younger golf professionals, has a rather novel idea on the right way to teach youngsters how to play golf.
"I'll have all the mothers of America down on me," he says, "but I think that if a kid has 50¢ he should gamble it on the golf course. That's what I did growing up. You learn more about playing under pressure that way than you will in any tournament. Even now, it's much tougher playing for my own money—my $60 or my $100—than it is for the big tournament purses. In a tournament, say you have to make a putt to win $5,000. If you miss it, you'll make a little less money. But that's not the same as reaching into your pocket and giving your own money away. There are guys on the tour right now who pretty near have a heart attack if you mention playing a 10¢ Nassau."
Bob Goalby, the 1968 Masters champion, agrees with Beard. Goalby says, "If a guy has a bad practice round and he wasn't gambling on it, he's likely to toss his clubs in the bag and say, 'Well, it'll be better tomorrow.' But if he lost $100 out of his own pocket on that round, he'll be on the practice tee working on whatever went wrong."
Well, there it is, kids. Got your woods, your irons, your piggy banks? Let's head for the 1st tee.
That Bill Veeck thinks he's so smart with his race for lady jockeys. The U.S. Trotting Association has sanctioned lady drivers for years and, in fact, 18 are currently licensed in the U.S. and Canada. And on May 23 a three-race series for lady drivers begins at Brandywine Raceway in Delaware. The series moves on to Monticello Raceway in New York on May 31 and concludes at Blue Bonnets Raceway in Montreal on June 8. The races, for the world's ladies harness racing championship, will match eight North Americans against eight Italians. The Italians, who drive at 53 different harness tracks in Italy from March through October, are called Le Amazzoni. As you shrewdly guessed, that means "the Amazons," but before you get a mental image of something hulking and overpowering you should know that in Italian the word also means "horsewomen" and that these drivers are dolls. Sophia Loren in a sulky would be an amazzone.
Let's see, where are those races again?
LONG ARM OF THE AIR
It isn't often that the Arizona Highway Patrol comes to the aid of a boat sinking in Florida, but it happened the other day. L. W. Oehlbeck was breezing along the St. John's River below Jacksonville in his 40-foot cruiser when he ran into a log that tore a substantial hole in the hull of his boat. Realizing that he was sinking, Oehlbeck tried to place a call on his ship's radio to the Jacksonville marine operator, but he could not get through. He switched to a citizen's band in the hope of picking up a nearby fishing camp or boatyard, and before long he got a response. Oehlbeck explained what had happened and said he needed immediate assistance. The fellow on the other end said he would see what he could do, but that it might take a minute or two because he happened to be talking from Mesa, Ariz. He phoned the Arizona Highway Patrol, who sent a teletype to the Florida Highway Patrol, who called the Coast Guard—though by that time Oehlbeck had already run his craft aground to keep it from sinking entirely.
MOUNDS AND SPITTERS
In San Francisco Juan Marichal, pitcher, and Willie McCovey, hitter, disagree about the influence the new lowered mound is having on hitting this season (SI, May 12). Marichal says, "With my high kick, I noticed the difference right away. My foot started hitting the ground early. I now try to raise my left leg higher so it won't hit the ground too soon. I've had to work hard on my timing."
But McCovey says, "The mound looks just as high to me. Even before all this came up, the mounds varied in different parks. There was no conformity, and I'll bet it's the same this season. All they really had to do to improve hitting was to eliminate the spitball. Half the pitchers in the majors throw it at one time or another. It gives the pitcher an unfair advantage, and I'm saying this now, when I'm hitting, to show it isn't sour grapes. The spitter, when thrown by an expert, is practically impossible to hit. It isn't fair to pitchers who abide by the rules. If they had truly banned the spitter this season they wouldn't have to lower the mound or shrink the strike zone."
THEY SAID IT
•Lew Alcindor, appearing at UCLA's basketball banquet wearing a beard, a la Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain: "I guess you're wondering about the beard. The reason it's there is because you need it to tell who the centers are in the NBA."
•Ralph Guglielmi, former Notre Dame All-America quarterback, on student freedom in colleges today: "I was kicked out of school a whole semester for coming in 25 minutes late one night. Nowadays you bust up a school and they beg you to come back."