NAMATH AND ROZELLE
The Joe Namath affair is a curious mixture of the comic and the tragic, just as Namath himself is sometimes oaf, sometimes hero, depending on the time and the circumstance. The dramatic impact of his announced retirement was considerably lessened because of the earlier "retirements" this year of Donn Clendenon, Ken Harrelson and Maury Wills. Indeed, Wills' brief fling at private life ended limply the same day that Namath made his emotional announcement.
Much has been made of Namath's insistence that he was acting on principle, always unsteady ground, since one man's principles may be another's declaration of war. Three of Namath's teammates, acting like adolescents, made Pete Rozelle the villain of the piece and naively threatened their own retirements. But a review of the situation makes one wonder how Rozelle can be found at fault. The commissioner is supposed to keep pro football beyond suspicion by nosing out elements that may be detrimental to the game. Rozelle did his duty quietly and efficiently when he warned Namath. The warning was ignored, and so it was a direct challenge: the erring player defying the commissioner.
Rozelle then had no choice but to issue his ultimatum to Namath, and when Joe came in tears to the public he was like a child crying because, for once, he could not have his own way.
June 15, 1969
There was no more joyous or exciting place to be in sport than at Chapultepec in Mexico City when Rafael Osuna won a tennis match before his countrymen. Only three weeks ago—at 30, on shopworn knees too familiar with the surgeon's knife—he won his last and greatest victory there as he led Mexico's Davis Cup team to its historic 3-2 upset of Australia. Osuna won both his singles and shared in the doubles win—those were Mexico's three points—and the crowd carried him from the court on its shoulders. Ten days later he was dead in a plane crash near Monterrey.
Osuna was always a marvelous player to watch, and he was a good one. At his peak, in the early 1960s, he took Mexico all the way to the Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australia, won the U.S. singles championship at Forest Hills and twice shared the Wimbledon doubles title. He had no real power, but he succeeded with quickness, guile and an infectious, resilient spirit. When he first came to the University of Southern California he could hardly speak English, but he soon became a bilingual wit.
Wherever he went, Osuna captivated the crowds and, indeed, everyone he met, but he was always Mexico's. No athlete ever meant more to his country than Osuna did, and it is difficult to realize that no more will deep-throated cheers for him come rolling out of Chapultepec. There is a special sadness when an athlete dies young, though the sadness is usually only personal. By Osuna's death, an entire nation is bereft.
Danny Wolff, an 11-year-old Little Leaguer of Washington, D.C., pitched a no-hitter recently. Unhappily, his team made 33 errors and Danny lost, 23-3.
BETTER THAN NEVER
A good deal of criticism has been directed at colleges for using football players and then letting them go off to professional football without seeing to it that they follow through and get their degrees. But Utah State—with a big assist from Jim Harris, a Utah State graduate who was drafted by the New York Jets in 1965—has started a campaign to do just that, with excellent results. Ocie Austin, cornerback of the Baltimore Colts, Joe Forzani of the Calgary Stampeders and Dewey Czupka of the Vancouver Lions all received their B.S. degrees this month, and Forzani has started studying for his master's. Merlin Olsen, one of the Los Angeles Rams' "fearsome foursome," is working on his master's thesis. Roy Shivers and MacArthur Lane of the St. Louis Cardinals will graduate in July, and Nick Cuccia and Rusty Malone of the Continental League are nearing graduation. Other colleges, please copy.
OH, GIVE ME A DOME
Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Astrodome man, was in Buffalo last week to discuss what role he might play in the development of a domed stadium there. The Erie County legislature had voted earlier to build a $50 million dome, but that is as far as things have gone. The politicians are sharply divided on questions like the site (and Hofheinz' possible influence on its selection). The judge, who says he has rejected overtures from five other cities, indicated that Buffalo was a natural for a successful operation like the Astrodome because of its proximity to Niagara Falls and such populous areas as Toronto, and its location on a major east-west highway complex. The only other thing it really needs is O. J. Simpson.
THE DRAGON IN MAINE
Outdoorsmen who have camped out in northern Maine know that the mosquitoes that go forth to battle there each summer are formidable. The black flies are impressive, but the mosquitoes come in loud, clear and hungry, and their range extends all the way south to the tourist belt along the Atlantic Coast. How do you fight them off, particularly now that DDT is held in such disrepute? Ogunquit, one of the most famous of Maine's vacation hangouts, turned to nature's remedy—the dragonfly. Mrs. David O. Woodbury, president of the Ogunquit Village Improvement Association, which was determined to do something about the mosquito, learned last year that dragonflies could be brought into the state to combat the skeeters. She got in touch with the Carolina Biological Supply Co. of Burlington, N.C., and the company said it was all true. The dragonfly got the mosquito coming and going: the nymph of the fly fed on hatching mosquito larvae in their watery birthplace, and the mature fly actually caught mature mosquitoes on the wing.
Mrs. Woodbury ordered 100 (cost: $18) a year ago and painstakingly planted the embryo dragonflies at strategic watery locations in Ogunquit. Results were gratifying. "It is difficult to make accurate estimates," says Mrs. Woodbury, "but there were encouraging reports that there did indeed seem to be fewer mosquitoes last summer." On this optimistic note, Ogunquit planned to escalate its dragonfly commitment this summer to 200.
What about the risk of being up to your scapulas in dragonflies, which are also called darning needles and which, according to an absolute truth known by all small children, are a threat to sew up your mouth? Well, they have only a one-year life-span, so Ogunquit is not immediately in danger of being overrun. And, despite their fierce reputation, appearance and names, they are harmless.
Except, of course, to mosquitoes.
Last fall a story on Texas A&M referred to its students as "The Proudest Squares," and that sturdy image seems to be paying off for Aggie athletics. It is generally agreed in Texas that A&M landed more blue-chip high school football players than any other Southwest Conference school, and basketball and track recruiting kept pace. The reason appears to be the school's highly disciplined student body, if the comments made by incoming freshmen athletes on a school questionnaire are any indication.
"I like A&M for its reputation for no drugs and campus riots," wrote Linebacker Mike Coy. Tackle Herman Mauch said, "I like the open, clean air of College Station and the small amount of trouble there." Guard Fred Placke said, "I picked A&M because it is one of the few remaining colleges that is not troubled by lousy hippies and SDS and will not tolerate them."
Basketball prospect Ron Eeten declared that "A&M had the neatest, cleanest-cut student body I've seen, and that impressed me." Miler Sammy Skinner said, "It's worth something to me to go to a school where I know I can attend class the next day." Bob Gobin, who plays both football and basketball, declined an invitation to visit Kansas and signed with A&M "because I didn't want to go where they had an SDS chapter and have my education disrupted."
Actually, there is an SDS chapter at A&M, but it has about six members. On the other hand, there are 3,000 members of the Cadet Corps, although military training is no longer compulsory. The Cadet Corps comprises only a fourth of the student body but, says Basketball Coach Shelby Metcalf, it does much to shape university thinking and traditions. "Their dress and behavior set the pace," Metcalf says. "The corps forms the nucleus of our school spirit. Discipline is getting popular again. Mothers and their sons are interested in schools that stress it. It's going to help our recruiting. No doubt about it."
NUTS IN MAY
There is always a lot of talk about the dull, faceless players in major league baseball nowadays, but the talkers apparently have never heard of Moe Drabowsky. Moe, one of the heroes of the Baltimore Orioles' 1966 World Series sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, achieved a special kind of fame earlier that season. Finding himself next to an unattended intrastadium phone, Drabowsky called the rival Kansas City bullpen, pretended to be Kansas City Manager Alvin Dark, and ordered Pitcher Lew Krausse to warm up. A few minutes later the real Dark phoned his bullpen to ask why Krausse was throwing, and the ensuing confusion delighted Drabowsky and practically everyone else who heard the story—with the possible exceptions of Dark and Krausse.
Now a member of the Kansas City Royals, Drabowsky came into Baltimore in mid-May with his new club and appeared in midseason form, funwise. During a Friday night game the shed in which the players sit in the Baltimore bullpen was noisily bombarded by baseballs and stones, all thrown by Moe, who had left the KC bullpen and had stolen along behind the scoreboard to within firing range of the Orioles' area.
Genius inspires imitation. Two days later, during a Sunday afternoon game, a loud explosion suddenly rocked the Kansas City bullpen. The Royals thought at first that some kids in the bleachers had tossed a cherry bomb, but as the smoke cleared sharp-eyed observers in the press box spied two Baltimore players retreating along the invasion route behind the scoreboard to their own bullpen. Later the Orioles' Pete Richert, who visited Vietnam during the off season and is therefore a student of military affairs, issued a communique: "After being bombarded, certain persons in the bullpen decided we would have to find some sort of retaliation. We proceeded to retaliate." His teammate Eddie Watt was more succinct. "We smoked him," he exulted.
Drabowsky was more proud than peeved. "I figured it had to be Watt and Richert," he beamed (Richert had once been his roommate). "They're the only two crazy enough to do stuff like that."
And Moe had the last word. "The best time to go behind the scoreboard," he advised the apprentice bombers, "is at night, when you can't be seen from the press box."
All this brings to mind the letter Drabowsky received in 1966 after the episode of the phone call. An appreciative admirer wrote him and said, "Baseball needs more nuts like you."
Maybe so. The fans certainly enjoyed it. On the other hand, if antics like these are not merely offstage noises but something that baseball desperately needs, then the game itself must be in a sad way.
THEY SAID IT
•Clark Graebner, second-ranking U.S. tennis player, on how to insure the survival and growth of tennis: "We've got to get rid of the girls in major tournaments. If they want to establish separate tournaments for the women as they do in golf, that's all right, but they don't belong in the same tournaments with men. My wife is a good player, but she agrees."
•George Webster, Houston Oiler linebacker, on his off-season job as a car salesman: "I haven't sold any yet, but I've been in field-goal range a couple of times."