TIME TO SIGN
O. J. Simpson's decision to sign, finally, with the Buffalo Bills was welcome news (nobody wanted to see O.J. sit out the season on a movie set), but it somewhat uncomfortably brought to mind a comment Paul Brown made earlier this month. The coach and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals had expressed curiosity about the absence of so many unsigned top draft choices from the All-Star Game in Chicago. Brown wondered whether the players, with the tacit approval of the clubs that had drafted them, were deliberately avoiding the game to eliminate the possibility of injury.
"If you read about a sudden rush to sign over the weekend after the game," said Brown, "then we'll really know."
Well, only Ron Johnson of Michigan, top draft choice of the Cleveland Browns, signed that first weekend, but in the next seven days four other first-round draft choices—Joe Greene of North Texas State and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ted Kwalick of Penn State and the San Francisco 49ers, Ron Sellers of Florida State and the Boston Patriots and, of course, O.J.—followed Johnson's lead.
August 17, 1969
VERY EARLY MORNING LINE
A Thoroughbred racehorse by Social Climber out of Crowding In has been named Joe Namath.
GOODBY TO ALL THAT
The lull in combat action between the Kansas City and Baltimore bullpens (SCORECARD, June 16) was broken in the final game of the Orioles' last scheduled visit of the season to Kansas City. When Moe Drabowsky and the rest of the KC relief crew reported to their bullpen before the game they found four sturdy goldfish cheerfully swimming around in their watercooler. There was no immediate retaliation, but last week correspondents kept a close eye on the situation when, in turn, the Royals paid their last 1969 visit to Baltimore. Drabowsky talked of hiring a plane to fly over Municipal Stadium with a banner reading, MOE WILL STRIKE AGAIN. But, perhaps depressed because Kansas City was able to win only one game all season from the Orioles, Moe didn't fly, didn't strike, didn't do nothing, and the Great Bullpen War of 1969 quietly faded into history.
Al Schallau, the Los Angeles lawyer who headed one of the two (later three) groups that tried and failed to organize a professional track and field operation last winter, is making waves again. 'The idea of pro track is not dead," he says. "We have figured out a new way to make it work."
The "new way" will be less lucrative for the athletes, but Schallau says his group had to work out something that could survive without TV or other major financial support. Last year the idea was to guarantee the athletes an annual salary of $10,000, plus purses of $5,000, $3,000 and $1,000 for the first three finishers in each event at each meet. The new idea has no annual guarantee, and prize money has been reduced to a rather modest $600-$400-$200 pattern, plus a $500 bonus for a world record. Two meets would take place each weekend, with the athletes moving from city to city like professional golfers.
"We can get started on an investment of as little as $250,000," Schallau claims. "Then we will have to average 7,140 persons, paying an average of $5 a ticket, at indoor meets and 10,195 at outdoor meets. We are confident we can draw at least that.
"In the meets themselves we will cut the time between events to no more than two minutes, and any athlete not at the start on time will be fined. In field events an athlete will have to be on deck with his sweatsuit off while the preceding competitor is performing. We can't have someone like Bob Seagren standing on his head and kicking for five minutes while the audience is waiting for his vault."
Schallau claims that 43 athletes have signed up so far, and the first meet, hopefully, will be held at the Astrodome in Houston next January. Maybe so. But, judging from past performances, don't hang by your thumbs.
A brand-new arena being built in Salt Lake City (called, fittingly enough, the Salt Palace) will house the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, newest team in the Western Hockey League. Coach Ray Kinasewich (a brother of Gene Kinasewich, the ex-Harvard star who is now the WHL president) toured the construction site recently with Daniel H. Meyer, owner of the Golden Eagles, and one of the architects. In the area that will be the home-team dressing room the architect proudly announced, "And on this wall, above a built-in table, we'll have a mirror that will go up to the ceiling the full width of the room."
Kinasewich frowned. Then he shook his head.
"No mirror," he said. "There'll be no primping before or during any hockey games. I'm no princess, but I want these guys looking at me. They could be carried into another world, looking into a mirror that big. They've got to be thinking hockey, not hair."
The architect, appalled, turned to Meyer, but the owner shrugged. "If Ray says no mirror, then there will be no mirror."
The architect moaned, "I suppose that goes for the visitors' dressing room, too."
Kinasewich brightened. "Oh, no," he said. "Go ahead with the mirror in the visitors' room. In fact, is there any way you could make it larger?"
Psychologists will join hockey coaches in keeping a close eye on the results from Salt Lake City next winter.
Mineral King, the Southern California winter-summer playground conceived by the late Walt Disney, which aroused the determined opposition of conservation groups (SI, Jan. 8, 1968). has been sidetracked for an indefinite period. U.S. District Judge William T. Sweigert granted a temporary injunction sought by the Sierra Club to stop the Departments of Agriculture and Interior from issuing permits that would allow work to begin in Sequoia National Forest on the Mineral King project.
The Sierra Club also sought a permanent injunction against the $35 million development, and a hearing on that is scheduled later this month in San Francisco. In any case, experts in the field believe that Mineral King will now be delayed a minimum of two years.
THE FINN DOES FINE
Auto racing buffs will be buoyed up to learn that the Round Britain Powerboat Race is over—1,400 miles around that tight little isle—and that it took a celebrated rally driver, Timo Makinen, the Flying Finn, to show all those boaters the way home. Makinen and his co-driver made the run (from Portsmouth, up and around, back down to Portsmouth in 10 stages) in an overall time of 39 hours, nine minutes, 37.7 seconds in a boat called Avenger Too. He was roughly two hours faster than the second-place boat and way over the horizon ahead of anyone else in the race.
Always a clever competitor, Makinen applied that oldtime rallying principle of reliability over horsepower to win. He used three 125-hp outboards on his 28-footer against an array of bigger boats with more power on the theory that if one of his engines conked out he could run along on two. Sure enough, he lost a propeller between the Isle of Man and Scotland, simply pulled up the engine and "managed quite well." In another case, Makinen used a rally strategy of driving fast where he knew the course, cautiously where he did not. In the tricky 185-mile leg between Inverness and Dundee, Makinen, who had built up an edge in time, was content to follow a radar-equipped boat through questionable passages, while his closest rival, running for speed, ran aground and spent several hours on a sandbank.
With all that, it was pretty much a moral victory for Makinen, another thing that also happens to rallyists. The London Daily Telegraph and British Petroleum awarded ¬£10,000 ($24,000) to the winner, but Makinen's boat, designed expressly for the Round Britain, cost ¬£8,500 ($20,400.)
Sports editors around the country (and—good lord!—possibly around the world) recently received a large brown envelope, postmarked Lausanne, Switzerland, from the International Olympic Committee. Enclosed was a 102-page book entitled The Speeches of President Avery Brundage, 1952 to 1968. Attached to page one was a note saying, "In order to complete this work, you will find inserted inside the back cover President Avery Brundage's most recent speeches, made in the IOC sessions at Mexico City and Warsaw."
Well, it's unlikely that you'll see too many sports editors out on the golf course this week. They'll all be at home, curled up with a good speech. At that, the IOC may have missed a good bet by not making recordings of President Brundage's speeches, especially those given in a foreign tongue (it is a tradition for the IOC president to make his welcoming remarks at the Olympic Games in the language of the host country). A non-Spanish-speaking American sportswriter who caught Avery's Spanish act in Mexico City says, "His accent was so bad I understood every word he said."
Nobody has put a beefsteak on a black eye in living memory, except in comic strips, where they're not concerned with the price of meat, and it's just as well, according to a medical report from Great Britain. The real McCoy for a shiner, says Dr. J. L. Blonstein, senior medical officer for England's Amateur Boxing Association, is a new pill called Bromelain that is made from a ferment extract of pineapple.
Seventy-four boxers with bruises or swellings on eyes, faces, lips, ears, arms and chest were treated. In 58 of the 74 all bruises were gone within four days; the rest healed in eight to 10 days. In an untreated control group of 72 boxers only 10 healed within four days; the others took from seven days to two weeks.
ISN'T THIS A KICK?
The National Football League is cracking down on trick shoes for kicking specialists. It says, "All kicking shoes will be of standard production and cannot be modified in any manner.... Steel plates, varying degrees of thickness and tying the shoe back to the ankle or any gimmicking of the standard shoe is prohibited."
This apparently does not outlaw square-toed kicking shoes if the shoe has been a standard model, but it does mean that a kicker can't take his shoe over to the local blacksmith for special refinement.
For instance, Charlie Durkee of the New Orleans Saints has had his kicking shoe, which incorporates an aluminum shank in the sole, made to order in his father's metal plant. When Mark Duncan of the football commissioner's office visited the Saints' training camp recently, Durkee appealed the ruling to him.
"Duncan told me the only kicking shoe that can be worn is a standard shoe, period," complained Durkee. "There can be no modifications, and no shoe can be worn that was not a standard production model before 1969. That means, if a company comes out with a new shoe for kickers, it can't be sold to the pros. Or, at least, we can't use it.
"I think the ruling is illegal, unfair, unconstitutional and in some ways a restraint of trade. With a standard shoe I get a little less distance, I have less accuracy and I find it harder to get my timing. Making me use this shoe is like making Arnold Palmer play golf with a persimmon switch."
THEY SAID IT
•Julie Heldman, U.S. Wightman Cup tennis star who won the women's singles title at the Maccabiah Games in Israel: "Tell 'em I owe my success to eating bagels and lox and kosher pickles."
•The message board at the Oakland Coliseum, making a disastrous one-letter flub as it flashed a quiz question for the fans: "Who holds the record for the most babes in a single season—Hornsby, Musial, Ruth, Cobb?"