Admittedly, there are some good things to say about the Denver Rockets' signing of Spencer Haywood, even though he was pulled out of the University of Detroit at the end of his sophomore year. There is the money, a reported $250,000 on a long-term contract, and that is vitally important to a 20-year-old black kid said to be the main support of his mother and nine brothers and sisters. And, of course, college for Haywood was primarily (and understandably) a place to further his basketball career. The Denver contract was thus a most logical and welcome step for him.
As for Denver, it picks up both national publicity and another potential superstar—things the Rockets and the beleaguered ABA can use. The ABA seemed all but dead when Lew Alcindor decided to sign with the NBA but it has been fighting back. Now, with discussions continuing about merger with the NBA, it appears stronger than ever.
Yet the unavoidable fact remains: in defiance of rules and traditions (and completely ignoring the established draft system), a pro basketball team has signed a man in the middle of his college career. Denver argues that Haywood is an exception because he was a "hardship" case. But will that explanation prevent other teams from scrambling onto campuses after other undergraduate prospects? And if they do, what can possibly result except all-out war between the pros and the colleges, with its bitterness, acrimony and chaos? Denver has done well by Spencer Haywood, but it has done the game of basketball a grave disservice.
August 31, 1969
WILT, HANDS DOWN
As for Haywood's elders, Lew Alcindor, whose presence on the roster has really boosted the Milwaukee Bucks' preseason ticket sales ("Our average attendance last year was 6,246," says Publicity Man Jim Foley, "and I'd say that would be a poor crowd this year"), made his debut against Wilt Chamberlain recently in the 11th Annual Maurice Stokes Benefit Game, played at Monticello, N.Y. in the Catskill Mountains. Alcindor performed creditably, scoring 14 points as his team won 80-79, but he was distinctly outplayed by weary old Wilt, who taught him an abrupt lesson on the very first play. Chamberlain wheeled around Alcindor, easily stuffed the ball and in propelling it downward banged it off Lew's hand, which at that point was sticking up through the bottom of the basket. Oscar Robertson, another old pro, said, "Lew will have to watch out for Wilt. He could break his hand that way."
WHAT WOULD AVERY SAY?
Al Franken, the West Coast publicity man who puts on the Los Angeles Invitational Indoor Track Meet each January, has taken a hint from golf and is advertising for a sponsor. Franken says if he can find a company willing to put up the dough in exchange for the publicity value, he'd be happy to change the name of his meet to the Pepsi Games, the Budweiser Games, the Gatorade Games or whatever. It might work, especially if Franken is lucky enough to sign up Olympia beer.
TOUGHER LEAGUE THIS YEAR
A year ago Memphis State played its first season as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference. A conference team is required to play at least five conference games to be eligible for the championship, but because of previous commitments Memphis State was able to schedule only four conference schools. No sweat, said the other conference members amiably. We'll count your game with—oh, let's see—with Southern Mississippi as the required fifth game. So Memphis State won all four of its conference games, knocked off Southern Mississippi, too, and won the MVC title in its first attempt.
This season Memphis State again has only four conference games on its schedule, and again the other teams have agreed to let one nonleague contest count. But this time they bypassed Southern Mississippi, which was 4-6 last year, and instead have designated Florida State, which was 8-2 and which for three straight years has gone on to bowl games.
...BUT A WHYMPER
Ever dreamed of getting away from it all and climbing the Matterhorn, of finding yourself all alone on a silent peak thousands of feet above the clash and clatter of civilization?
Forget it, friends. There are no more silent, lonely places. Less than a century after Edward Whymper first conquered it, the Matterhorn is suffering from a prime malady of our cities: traffic jams. More than 100 tourists climb the storied mountain each weekend during the peak of the season, and because of the crowd the Zermatt guides have had to declare a time limit for silent contemplation at the top. On Saturdays and Sundays, therefore, climbers are permitted only 45 minutes up there before they have to move off to make room for the next party.
You get more time than that from a parking meter.
Sioux Falls, S. Dak. (pop. 52,696) has a beautiful new 15,000-seat arena but just about nothing to put in it. Promoter Worth Christie, who admitted later that he had never seen a professional boxing match, figured that a name fighter might draw a crowd, and he signed up Emile Griffith, the now-and-then middleweight champion, to fight Art Hernandez, a battler out of Omaha who used to be a beet-field worker in Sidney, Neb. Christie guaranteed Griffith $8,000, Hernandez $3,500, scheduled the bout for Friday night, Aug. 15, and set about selling tickets.
He didn't have much luck. Although on the Thursday before the bout he assured Howard Albert, one of Griffith's co-managers, that he had $11,000 in the bank and $3,000 in ticket orders, on Friday afternoon he was obliged to admit to Albert that a bank loan had not come through and all he actually had was $4,000.
No money, no Griffith, threatened Albert and cried, "It's an obvious case of fraud." Edward Poppen, a South Dakota athletic commissioner, was kinder and more accurate. "We are rather naive," he explained.
Less than an hour before fight time the match appeared to be canceled. But just about then Darrell Johnson appeared on the scene. Johnson, a real estate man, had driven over from Rapid City with his wife to see the fight and he was distressed by the developments. After talking with another state athletic commissioner, Burton Wrede, a fellow citizen of Rapid City, Johnson stepped into the breach and agreed to underwrite the guarantee.
This, technically, was not enough under South Dakota rules, which require a certified check. But Griffith's managers conceded the point, a waiver was obtained, the doors were opened and the fight went on. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson had no trouble finding good seats in the sparse gathering of 987 spectators.
Next day things began to come apart. After taxes the gate receipts totaled only $5,306.70—and all but $1,128.34 of that was committed to rent, salaries and other bills. To meet the guarantees to Griffith and Hernandez, Johnson would have to get up more than $10,000, far more than he had anticipated. He talked to a local attorney and was promptly advised to sign no checks. Everybody started screaming, and lawyers began to descend on Sioux Falls like crows on a cornfield.
Governor Frank Farrar of South Dakota, hearing of the mess and feeling that his state's honor was at stake, spoke to Commissioner Wrede and told him to call a meeting and straighten the mess out. Talks went on all through Saturday and Sunday. Finally Johnson announced, "I'll pay what I owe." Griffith settled for $6,400 and Hernandez for $2,800, and things quieted down. After it was all over, Johnson said proudly, "I'd do it again." His wife said, "I wouldn't."
As for the fight itself, Griffith won by a split decision, and even that made no sense. Referee Lew Eskin of New Jersey, looked upon in South Dakota as "Griffith's referee," voted for Hernandez. The two Midwestern judges (one from South Dakota, the other from Nebraska) voted for Griffith. It was that kind of week in Sioux Falls.
When Al McGuire, Marquette University basketball coach, tried to set up a home-and-home series with the University of Dayton, he received a negative reaction from Dayton Coach Don Donoher, who wrote,
"We cannot get together for the following reasons:
1. Marquette is too tough.
2. McGuire is too tough.
3. Milwaukee is too cold.
4. Your gym is too old."
NO NUDES IS GOOD NUDES
This week's flash from the sunshine and health front is sure to shake nudists right down to their, uh, soles. The nudist defense, as everyone knows, is that if sunshine is good at all it is good all over—and now along comes something from Alpencorp, Ltd., the company that distributes the suntan lotion Piz Buin. It is a fabric that incorporates a special weave and a special chemical finishing. The combination permits 40% of the sun's ultraviolet rays to come right on through, which means you can wear a swimsuit and still tan those sections of skin usually untanned. The company will soon market its own bikini made of the new fabric for about $15. There goes nudism's best defense, and it's safe to say this sort of thing will have nudists doing a slow burn.
IN FROM THE COLD
Before you travel-adventure fans get too stirred up about a proposed new "Top Secret" tour of Berlin now being offered around by travel agents, we feel it only fair to warn you that it's a lot of Wurst, as they say over there. "Discover mysterious and thrilling Berlin," the tour offering says, "divided city with the unique isle status, get behind TOP SECRETS yourself." Across the top of the sheet are provocative drawings of a zaftig girl in a bikini, a man in trench coat looking very much like a spy, a revolver and couple of shells and—in the most impeccable taste—a man being shot in the back. Enticing, but any Len Deighton fan who thinks he is going to see any of that sort of thing ought to read the tour schedule. First day: arrive at your hotel and get one welcome cocktail on the house. Second day: stroll in the vicinity of the hotel to discover the area and, that evening, "peek from the dark over the glaringly illuminated [Berlin] wall." Third day you get the good old tour of the antique shops and an early dinner—and fourth day they send you home. That's it, top-secret fans.
Sid Friedman of Cleveland has formed a women's professional football league, composed of lissome creatures ranging from 18 to 46 years of age and from 117 to 285 pounds. He hopes to have four teams—the Cleveland Daredevils, the Pittsburgh All-Stars, the Canadian Belles of Toronto and the Detroit Petticoats. The Josephine Namath who is expected to put the league on the map is Marcella Sanborn of the Daredevils, who can throw a flat pass 35 yards and punt 40.
"They play for keeps," Friedman says. "It's not a setup deal like wrestling. They can block and tackle and run."
Next thing you know, male sports-writers will be trying to get into the press box.
THEY SAID IT
•Jacque MacKinnon, San Diego tight end and physical fitness fan, when asked who was his favorite actress: "Put it this way: if I was to be marooned on a desert island, I would want with me a set of weights, vitamin pills, a color-TV set—and Ursula Andress."
•Bones McKinney, coach of the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association, on his search for a center: "I sure hope I find one. When the season starts, I'll be too busy helping the referees to play the position myself."
•Art Aragon, ex-boxer, on the thieves who broke into his home: "They had no class. They not only didn't take any of my boxing pictures hanging on the wall, they turned them around."