A NATIONAL DISGRACE
Last week in Las Vegas a pickup U.S. basketball team was creamed 90-71 by the Soviet Union's national team, the fourth straight defeat the Russians had inflicted on the U.S. during their current tour of this country.
It was a disgrace—not the defeat, but the way the Americans played and, in particular, the U.S. attitude toward the game. The American coaches in Nevada were Johnny Kerr of the Phoenix Suns and Jack McMahon of the San Diego Rockets, neither of whom is thoroughly familiar with the rules used in international competition. The players were mostly rookie professionals who hope to make either the Suns or the Rockets. Most had never played together previously, and in the Las Vegas game it was obvious that they expected to make up for this with brute force and rugged play. As a result, 43 fouls were called on them by the two officials (one a Finn, the other a Puerto Rican). Seven U.S. players fouled out. Two Russians were slugged in the mouth, perhaps unintentionally. The Soviet coach, who knows a few American terms, shouted, "Football! Football!"
Despite the roughness and the slugging, the Russians kept their poise, avoided incidents and controlled the game. Although their coach later praised the Americans, the visitors were reported to have expressed privately surprise and disappointment in the lack of class and teamwork on the U.S. team.
We feel disappointment, too, but hardly surprise. Except for the Olympic Games, the same shoddy approach to international play has been characteristic of U.S. national basketball teams. It is time it stopped.
RUN AND TONIC
Bruce Tulloh, the British distance runner, turned professional this year and, sponsored by Schweppes quinine water, set out to run from Los Angeles all the way across the U.S. Last week he trotted into New York—after taking the Staten Island Ferry as it crossed Upper New York Bay—having completed the 2,876-mile trek across mountain, desert and plain in 64 days and 20 hours, a new record for the event (the old record, 73 days, was set by Don Shepard in 1964).
Tulloh, a small, trim, pleasant man, was accompanied—in his car and trailer—by his wife, his 7-year-old son and his cousin. He ran an average of 44 miles a day, usually in four separate sprints of 10 or 11 miles each, and drank Schweppes for refreshment (the party went through as much as a case a day in the desert). There was no report as to whether Tulloh consumed his share of the tonic in a typically civilized British manner—mixed with gin—but we suppose not. Otherwise he would certainly have claimed two records.
Joe Namath's claim that all he has to do to return to football is sell his share in Bachelors III, the East Side bar that was a hangout for gamblers, bookmakers and mobsters, is not very persuasive. Last week, after an inconclusive meeting with Namath, Commissioner Pete Rozelle said, "Our concern involved the whole matter of associations [with undesirables]. Bachelors III is part of it, because that's where some of the associations started. It [Namath's return] would require a full understanding of all aspects of the associations problem. In other words, the matter is not restricted to Bachelors III."
HUNTING IN NEW MEXXXICO
The New Mexico State Game and Fish Department started importing oryxes and ibexes from Africa in 1963 to see if they could eventually be released for big-game hunting in that state. The original animals have been breeding happily in the Albuquerque zoo, and their offspring have been doing likewise in an experimental holding pasture near Silver City. They have been thriving so well that they need more room, and the game managers, up to their coccyxes in oryxes and ibexes, have worked out a deal with the commander of the White Sands Missile Range. He has agreed to let 10 or 15 oryxes use a fenced-off region near the point where the Army fires tests of Pershing and Athena missiles. The missiles are not expected to bother the animals and may produce one real fringe benefit for the hunters: it is hard to imagine oryxes and ibexes who have become used to missiles being spooked by mere rifles.
Baltimore has the best hitting and the best pitching in the American League, and it has the most spectacular fielder, too. Her name is Mrs. Dorothy Bull, and away from the ball park she is a sixth-grade teacher at the Roland Park Elementary School.
This spring Mrs. Bull, who is 24 and pretty, took her nephews, David, 9, and Danny, 6, to an Oriole game. Sitting in the second tier behind home plate, she achieved something that legions of frustrated fathers would have given their eyeteeth to have done: during the game she caught not one, not two, but three foul balls. "The first one hit the seats and rebounded right at me," Mrs. Bull recalled later. "I fielded it and gave it to Danny. His eyes got so wide...."
Danny, with the fairness and logic of a 6-year-old, said, "Why don't you catch another one for David?"
Mrs. Bull explained that it was the first foul ball she had ever caught and that chances of getting another were extremely slim. But an inning and a half later, here it came: a nice high foul pop right to her. "I got that one on the fly," she said. "It was an easy ball. But after I caught it all these little kids came running over and sat all around us. There were two boys about 11 who were smoking cigarettes, and one of them said to David, "Your mother sure can field.'
"The third one was the toughest. It came in hard, on a line, and it stung. I caught it against the heel of my hand. That was kind of stupid on my part."
Mrs. Bull had received a standing ovation from the fans after her second catch, and after the third one the crowd was howling. An usher told her, "Go down to the front office and they'll sign you up."
Maybe they should. "When I was about 9," she reminisced, "I went out for the Little League in sneakers and pants and a sweatshirt and a hat, and I made the team. I was the catcher. But when it came time to give out uniforms they found out that I was a girl, and they cut me. I cried because I couldn't understand it. I knew I was better than some of the boys."
You still are, Dorothy.
WITH THE OPTION
Bobby Bragan, who as president of the Texas League introduced flashy clothes for umpires (SCORECARD, May 12), has come up with another innovation. Whenever a player or a manager is thumbed out of a game (perhaps for making particularly cutting comments on an umpire's clothing) he is automatically fined $25 by the league. But Bragan this season gave offenders a choice: he would waive the $25 fine if the guilty party would make a public relations talk at a luncheon or a dinner. Ballplayers as a group intensely dislike unpaid appearances, but at the last count the first 10 Texas League players tossed out of a game this year—and the first three managers—had elected to stand up rather than put up.
What with the furor over Namath and all the fuss about the details of pro football's realignment, the imminent merger of the player associations of the two leagues passed relatively unnoticed. But NFL and AFL representatives have met and for all practical purposes, have become lined up defensively as one group.
This is of more than passing interest to the clubowners, since the player representatives reportedly prepared a list which they plan to present to the clubs before Feb. 1, 1970, when present contracts expire. Subjects to be discussed include: 1) the option clause, 2) new TV contracts and how they will affect the players' pension and insurance benefits, 3) shortening of the exhibition season, 4) an AFL-NFL All-Star game, 5) player shares in playoff games.
The option clause is the most volatile point. Technically, a player can become a free agent by "playing out his option." However, recent restrictions—the commissioner can force a team signing a free agent to compensate the club that lost him by giving them "a player of like quality"—have made it difficult for players to make use of the option clause.
"As a practical matter," said John Gordy, head of the NFL players, "no player is free to sign with another club merely by negotiating with that club after his option period has expired, because few clubs will risk the commissioner's judgment of what 'a player of like quality' is. Dave Parks played out his option with the 49ers in 1967. The commissioner finally declared that he could sign with New Orleans, but New Orleans paid a great price. It had to give up Kevin Hardy, its No. 1 draft choice, and its No. 1 draft choice for 1969."
Gordy also criticized what he called a double standard in pro-football contracts. "Vince Lombardi had a five-year contract with the Packers," Gordy said. "While under contract he spoke to other clubs who wished to employ him, eventually negotiated a lucrative contract with Washington and then asked Green Bay to release him from his old contract. A player could never do that."
Never let it be said that Discover America Travel Organizations, Inc. abandons its clients. Soon after issuing its "Top 20 Travel Events for August" bulletin, it followed with an updating postcard: cross off Cheyenne Frontier Days, "Daddy of 'em all in the rodeo world," for Aug. 22-27. Turns out that Frontier Days is July 22-27. But DATO is never at a loss for fun events. As a substitute for the Cheyenne rodeo it offers the Pageland Watermelon Festival in Pageland, S.C., where, it promises, 35,000 people will spit out 35 million seeds.
THEY SAID IT
•Lefty Gomez, ex-New York Yankee pitcher, discussing the spitball: "I'd like to see the spitball legalized. I never threw one, but I used to sweat very easily."
•Larry Rentz, 6'2", 155-pound University of Florida quarterback-flanker-defensive-back, drafted by the San Diego Chargers and told to go on a high-caloric diet, which had no results: "I'll probably be the first player in pro-football history to be fined for reporting to camp underweight."