METS ACROSS THE SEA
Soccer has become a synonym for violence in many of the major soccer-playing countries, including proper old England, the mother of the sport. A few weeks ago 30 fans at a game between Manchester United and Derby County had to watch the game in their stocking feet because the police had confiscated their shoes. The shoes had steel toe caps, or hobnails, or both, and the police, all too familiar with trouble at and after soccer games, said they regarded the shoes as "offensive weapons."
The last evidence of continuing hooliganism brought the following comment from Robin Esser of London's Daily Express: "Contrast this situation with New York. There, in one of the world's most violent cities, a place where the murder rate regularly climbs to over 900 a year—compared to 50 a year in London—60,000 noisy and ebullient fans can cram themselves into the Shea Stadium to watch the Mets baseball team. And, win or lose, there will be no steel boots hacking shins, no bottles cracked over heads, no trains ripped apart.
"I'm sure it isn't just the game. Baseball can sometimes be every bit as violently physical as soccer. Supporters are as vocal, fanatical and one-sided as any follower of Rangers or Celtics.
October 19, 1969
"So why the difference? I believe the explanation is that baseball clubs in the U.S. treat their supporters as people, not as cattle. There is a seat for everyone in the stadium. There are hot dogs, sandwiches, peanuts, even beer—in cardboard cartons, just in case—ready to be served to any paying customer in his or her seat.
"Drum majorettes [sic!] make a pleasing display on the field, the scoreboards are illuminated and illuminating. The fans are encouraged to bring their families with them. All this seems to ensure that violence on the terraces and on the special trains and coaches which bring the crowds is rarely seen.
"So isn't it about time the game of soccer and the clubs which play it put their houses in order instead of blaming everybody else? After all, it's difficult to kick somebody with your steel boots if you are sitting down and your wife is beside you and your small son is on your knee."
THE WORD IS CHUTZPAH
Ken Harrelson, the playboy of the American League, charged in his autobiography (SI, July 14 et seq.) that Gil Hodges, who had been Harrelson's manager when the Hawk played for the Washington Senators, was "unfair, unreasonable, unfeeling, incapable of handling men, stubborn, holier-than-thou and ice cold...a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." But just to show that he had no hard feelings, Harrelson called his old manager after Hodges had won the National League pennant with the New York Mets. The Hawk wanted to know if Gil could get him some World Series tickets.
Nevele Pride, who two months ago trotted the fastest mile ever (1:54 4/5) to break the fabled Greyhound's 31-year-old world record, was retired last week at the age of 4. Trainer-Driver Stanley Dancer had hoped that Nevele Pride, who had won $871,738, would become the first trotter and second harness horse to win $1 million, but when a bone chip in the colt's left foreleg—an affliction he has had since the start of his three-year-old campaign—began to act up, Dancer decided to call it a day.
Now Nevele Pride, syndicated this year for $3 million, will enter the stud (his fee: $10,000), and his owners should make a mint on him if his progeny turn out to be half as good as the old man. While the syndicate was dreaming of the future, Dancer revealed something that almost happened in the past.
"I was thinking of making a gelding out of him," Dancer said. "He was kind of mean and miserable as a 2-year-old. I had three different men give up on trying to take care of him. It was one of those cases where a couple of times I almost picked up the phone to ask to have him gelded."
Happily, Dancer never made the phone call. If he had, perhaps now harness-racing people would be looking upon Nevele Pride with the same rueful regret with which thoroughbred horsemen view a gelding named Kelso.
An Oregonian named Tony Firman went fishing at Howard Prairie Lake with his son and three neighborhood children. They tied a good-sized magnet to a line and went to work. Their catch included five spinning rods with reels, one fly rod and reel, two anchors, some trolling gear and a variety of lures, flashers, sinkers and swivels. No fish, but wait 'til next time.
COST OF LEAVING
Gary Player was bemoaning the life of a professional athlete recently. "People say I earn $500,000 a year," he noted, "and they may be right. But they forget that I have to leave my family and chase all over the world for it. Last week I was walking with my son in Johannesburg and he said he hoped it would rain so that I wouldn't have to go away. What sort of price do you put on that sacrifice?"
Just as a guess, how about $500,000?
MOSES OF WATERLOO
Lew Alcindor was spotted as a basketball superstar when he was still in high school, and now football is beginning to focus in on its own high school phenom. His name is Jerry Moses, he's 17, 6'2" and 195 pounds, and he's a running back for East High in Waterloo, Iowa. East High has been rated the best high school team in Iowa for three straight years while running up a 34-game winning streak, which means that Moses is moving in fairly fast company. He was All-State in 1968 and is a shoo-in this season. In his first five games this year, he made 22 touchdowns, scored 148 points, gained 927 yards in 65 carries and averaged 14.1 yards per carry.
Moses also made second team All-State in basketball last year, won the state championship indoors in both the high and low hurdles, and set a school record outdoors in the high jump. To top it off, he is co-captain of the football team, a B student and—inevitably—president of the senior class.
And where will he go to college? He's not sure, but his choice is wide. Waterloo is having a bull market in room reservations for visiting college coaches.
There were reports a few weeks back that some Tartan and AstroTurf fields had been invaded by grasshoppers. The 'hoppers, not too bright, gnawed on the plastic blades of grass for a while, wondered why in the world everything suddenly tasted so bad, and then either sat there thinking about it until they died or finally got smart and hopped away.
Now another insect has discovered the perils of artificial turf. Late this summer LSU installed a Tartan field, but the football team continued to use an old-fashioned grass-on-dirt area for practice. However, after a five-inch rain one night inundated the area, Coach Charlie McClendon switched practice the next afternoon to the Tartan. It worked fine, too, except that the players soon discovered, to their hopping and itching distress, that the plastic turf was loaded with fire ants. Experts concluded that the ants had moved onto the higher, drier Tartan surface after the rain had flooded their home grounds. They probably would have gone back when everything dried out, but—tough luck, ants—McClendon didn't have time to wait. He had the field sprayed, and practice went on.
Excursions to the moon are still pretty far out on the end of the telescope, but did you know that if you want to climb Mount Everest you can get a group rate? Fifty amateur mountain climbers are leaving England later this month for a tour of the lower slopes of the world's highest mountain—lower slopes in this case meaning up to 17,800 feet. Under the aegis of Thos. Cook & Son Ltd., the travel company, they will fly first to New Delhi and then to Katmandu, and from there they will have the rare privilege of walking 200 miles (at a modest 10 miles per day) until they reach base camp. On the climb itself they will be led by 60-year-old Eric Shipton, a veteran mountaineer. They'll sleep in tents, and Sherpa guides will be along to do the cooking (breakfast at 6, lunch at 11, dinner at 6:30). The price: $1,224.
"We originally planned for a party of 20," said a Cook's representative, "but in the end there were so many we had to arrange for two groups to leave at the same time.
"It won't be all fun," he added. "After all, there's the altitude to contend with, and as for the Sherpas' cooking—no one can vouch for that yet."
NO TROUBLE IN RIVER CITY
Mitchell W. Melton, a Pennsylvania state legislator from Philadelphia, has introduced a bill in the state house of representatives that would lower the minimum legal age for playing pool (or billiards) in a pool hall (or billiard parlor) from 18 to 16.
"Time was," says Melton, "when the pool hall was classified somewhere between a Bowery hotel and a place the Salvation Army sang in front of every Saturday night. Well, those were the times that were—not the times that are. Lowering the age to a more realistic 16 will provide another recreational facility for our young people."
Jim Robertson, sports editor of the Door County Advocate in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., writes a column called "Swami," in which he predicts the scores of local high school football games. A week or so ago he declared that Southern Door High School would beat Manitowoc Lutheran 34-12. With a minute to play and the score 28-12 in its favor, Southern Door pushed over a touchdown. A try for a two-point conversion failed when a reserve end dropped a pass in the end zone, and the game ended with the final score precisely 34-12. The reserve end was Kurt Robertson, Swami's son.
THEY SAID IT
•White House reporters, told that the President had not yet decided whether or not to attend the opening game of the World Series: "If he doesn't go, can we use his tickets?"
•Lee MacPhail, New York Yankees general manager, noting that pro football has been criticized for the number of preseason exhibition games it plays: "If we could get 60,000 people into Yankee Stadium for an exhibition game, don't kid yourself, we'd do it, too."
•John Hadl, San Diego Chargers quarterback, asked if boos bothered him: "No, I'm strictly a beer drinker."