SQUINTING AT THE STARS OF SPORT

It's sometimes hard to see out there, but the fans and fanciers of astrology are convinced that a look into the void will help before the game begins
January 19, 1970

Gone are the days when you could go out and spend an evening under the stars and maybe try to locate the Big Dipper, lying there in your sleeping bag looking up at all those friendly little pinpoints of light. Then there was the moon, round and bright, and beyond it, way off in the opaque velvet known as space, the planets. Mars, Venus, Jupiter, slow-moving Saturn. You couldn't see them on this particular night, but they were there, you took it on faith, traveling their orbits in the sky while you traveled yours on earth. They didn't bother you, you didn't bother them, right? So what happens...?

A friend—nice girl, really, but inclined to go off on tangents—has been bending your ear about astrology. She invites you to dinner and you eat a few unidentifiable roots. You're an Aquarian, she says, and your horoscope says that's what you like to eat—the Sagittarian gets the steak. By the time the evening is over your natal chart has been "erected," which is the word she uses. Frankly, things don't look too good. Uranus (progress) is square Venus (love), which apparently means you might as well go out and drown yourself. Saturn (obstacles) is retrograde in your money house (you did lose a bundle on the Vikings-Browns game, didn't you?). That's only the beginning, though she hesitates to tell you this with that friendly office football game coming up (by this time she's gone through your personal birth data like someone clearing away wet marsh grass with a cleaver) but, she continues, the truth is that when you were born your fifth house—recreation and sport—was as empty as a condemned tenement on the other side of town. Brutal sports are not for you. Besides, this month (with transiting Mars retrograding over a strategic point in your chart) you're extremely accident prone. All in all, it was a lovely evening.

You play anyway, of course. Astrology? What nonsense.

Later when she visits you she brings along some books: Linda Goodman's Sun Signs; Write Your Own Horoscope by Joseph E. Goodavage; The Moon Sign Book; the American Astrology Digest for 1970; Rigel Spica's Astrology and Horse Racing; Stock Market Prediction and Picking Winners by Donald Bradley. Some of the names of the authors look suspect: Astrology: How to Put the Stars to Work for You by Glyn Truly, The Astrological Cookbook by Sybil Leek and an article on gambling astrologically by Linda Lung. It all begins to read like a gigantic put-on, but there you are in traction with nothing much to do, and that cute nurse in the miniskirt uniform says she's an Aries on the cusp of Taurus.

The above story is true. Only the names of the planets have been changed to undermine astrologers. They're getting uppity.

The star watchers these days are as busy as a colony of ants burrowing into a newly turned pile of sand, but who can blame them? For centuries they were booted around, dismissed by solemn scientists as persistent but harmless cranks who huddled over their mysterious charts, poor dears, disseminating information in a variety of publications read largely by themselves. Then suddenly the boom was on. Drugstores that used to hide a few pitiful, cheaply printed horoscopes behind the candy counter now have displays, strategically visible, covered with attractively bound outsize paperbacks, one or more for each sign of the zodiac. No one has to pretend anymore that his horoscope sort of fell into his hand when he reached for Wrigley's Spearmint and, well, since he has it in his hand he might as well buy it. Novelty stores are crammed with zodiac ashtrays, napkins, paperweights, medallions, brooches, rings, wall plaques, needlepoint designs....

When did it all begin? Like most fads there had to be a kickoff point, preceded no doubt by small, unnoticed tremors. Is it, as Garth Allen asks in the American Astrology Digest, "a sort of emotional crutch in this time of spiritual lameness" or "one of the most logical spinoffs from widespread interest in space activities"? Both, says Mr. Allen. But it was astronomers themselves—who bear about the same relation to astrologers as do physicians to naturopaths—who turned on the green light with the announcement in 1962 that in early February a rare phenomenon had occurred, one that had not been recorded for thousands of years. Planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, plus the sun and moon, orbited into near-perfect alignment in the sign of Aquarius. As if that wasn't enough to send astrologers over the brink in a delirium of forecasts, it happened at the exact time of a total solar eclipse.

Therefore, keeping an open mind to the prospect that we are all being force-fed from some kind of heavenly platter, how could the New York Mets—born Feb. 18, 1962—lose once the Age of Aquarius had dawned?

The so-called "miracle" was preordained, with the planets no doubt larking about over Shea Stadium last October. Victory, in fact, was spelled out early on by Astroflash, a giant computer that grinds up individual birth data and spews out the word, within minutes, of a subject's trials, tribulations, defeats and triumphs. Astroflash, a product of the Astrological Research Corporation, is located in New York's Grand Central Station, and you can bet the stars in your eyes that business is brisk. Approximately 1,000 believers, nonbelievers and the merely curious stop by the Astroflash booth each day and allow themselves to be reduced to holes in a card, which is then inserted into the computer's giant maw.

Obviously, during the World Series someone was going to feed the Mets, figuratively speaking, into the machine, and someone did. A day or so before the crucial third game, with Pitcher Gary Gentry scheduled to face Baltimore's ace righthander Jim Palmer, it was reported by Associated Press that:

"The stars favor the Mets over the Orioles in the remainder of the World Series," and after digesting the configurations in the sky at the time of Gary Gentry's birth (Oct. 6, 1946, in Phoenix, Ariz.) Astroflash made this pronouncement: "At this precise moment in life, luck will smile on you. You can assert yourself, conquer and win out." Then it was Jim Palmer's turn, born like Gentry under the sign of Libra, Oct. 15, 1945, in New York City. Palmer's record at the time of the Series was 16-4, and he had a no-hitter to his credit. The computer blinked, whirred and then warned ominously: "Don't let overconfidence lead you astray. Avoid rash generosity and wasteful extravagance, and don't be like those gamblers who, after a sudden windfall, end up losing their pile because they trusted too blindly to their luck."

In predicting the outcome of any sports event the manager must also be taken into consideration, since it is he who directs the progress of the team. Oriole boss Earl Weaver, implied the stars tersely, should have stood in bed. "Your rights will be contested. Power is not on your side at the moment.... Criticism, rivalry and an inability to finish things will exaggerate your aggressive tendencies, and you will be apt to throw yourself into struggles which oftener than not are futile." So much for Weaver, the Lion, born Aug. 14, 1930. The computer was much kinder to Gil Hodges (April 4, 1924), though it called him "morose and serious." It allowed that "Mercury and Venus are in your eighth house, that which governs crisis and change.... If you have been having a rough time lately, this time may bring some relief," which, considering what happened at Shea Stadium, was something of an understatement.

In general, sport and recreation are given short shrift by most popular astrologers, possibly because the fifth house of the zodiac—a crowded one—also rules romance and children. Astrology magazines bulge with advice on those subjects, but rarely suggest what you are to do with your time now that the labor laws have taken you from your loom and given you at least two days a week for fun and games.

Are you a puny Pisces, a jinxed Gemini, a calcified Capricorn? Perhaps you should be watching instead of playing. Your athletic career may be full of sound and fury, signifying nothing but a fracture or two if Mars (the planet that rules warfare, athletics and physical activity) does not form a good aspect with your sun, moon, Jupiter, Ascendant or midheaven. How does one determine what Mars is up to in regard, say, to your chances of having a good day in the stock market or hitting the daily double? Playing the stock market is not, strictly speaking, a sport, though at times it seems to be. Still, it is good to know that your decision to buy that worthless stock in a Nevada silver mine may have been caused by sunspots, not your own bad judgment. The best thing to do if you don't want to get involved with something called the Planetary Barometer is to ask your broker to study the zodiac before he does your buying for you. Writes Donald Bradley in Stock Market Prediction: planetary "conjunctions and trines are bullish influences, while oppositions and squares have decided bearish effects."

What that means, if you've been losing on the market, is that you would probably be better off at Hialeah. All you need to know, according to some astrologers, is the birth date of the horse. Or you can try Rigel Spica's system and deal with the birth date of the jockey,. the place and time zone he is racing in, post time and whether or not the horse is fit. (The latter is frequently difficult to determine, and a cynic might suggest it is the nub of the matter.) Once you have had some practice, assures Mr. Spica, author of Astrology and Horse Racing, you should be able to choose the most likely winner and still make it to the window. Of course, if post time is then delayed for 10 minutes it can ruin everything. Some planets travel faster than horses over the finish line.

Astrology tends to take away the suspense of a game, once you're an expert at sky reading, and if you don't particularly want to know who is going to win until the event is over don't go ferreting about in your favorite team's astrological data.

One look at Alex Webster's horoscope this season, for instance, and the whole plight of the New York Giants becomes clear. Webster happens to be an Aries, with Scorpio rising. The computer at Grand Central transmitted some pretty bad news about Webster and was asked to reconsider. Clickety, clickety, click, began Astroflash again, without the slightest hint of sympathy.

"You were born under a sign of double violence," it tapped out, "which can range from simple touchiness to positive hostility and aggression."

Surely no one could blame Webster for being a bit touchy about seven straight Giant defeats. You would have to be born under a double sign of inertia not to rise to that kind of bait. Right up to December the planets ganged up on Webster. Until mid-October, Mercury, which governs the coordinator of daily events, trivia, etc., was discordantly placed in his 12th house (which symbolizes self-undoing). "Beware of anonymous letters and slanderous denunciations."

From mid-October to mid-November a dissonant Mars rejoined Saturn in the sky of his birth, a meeting that is generally unlucky: "In this period you will plot underhanded maneuvers—or they may be plotted against you—so don't fly off the handle."

Without warning, Astroflash, in dealing with Webster, suddenly switched to the third person, dropping its man-to-man approach and referring to Alex as "he" or, worse still, "the subject," as though what was coming might be a bit embarrassing. "The subject," it began, "can build an entire universe sitting at a table, the table on which he eats, drinks, works, calculates, schemes and builds.... All that is stable, weighty and tangible speaks to his instinct, which feasts on such prosaic joys as swelling furniture [sic], chests, cabinets and wardrobes in which to store and keep things."

Obviously the Giants couldn't be stuffed in a closet, not even after they lost game after game through the period, though the idea may have crossed Webster's mind. In an interview Webster had said, "I'll tell them [the team] that if they want to stay it will be only the good ones. The bad ones will go." (There's that touchiness coming out.) Astroflash, again taking on the paternal tone of a worried father, advised: "Beware of violent outbursts which generate instability, as you are already high-strung and liable to fevers. Beware of any temptation to give up, and avoid bringing havoc to those about you."

Ha! In December the skies cleared. Mercury took leave of the discord in Webster's 12th house and went off to his second house to unite peacefully for a time with the sun and Venus. "During this entire period," glowed Astroflash in a sudden happy turnabout, "your possessiveness and the ardor you put into accumulating assets will come to the fore." Assets accumulated in the form of Giant victories over the Cardinals (49-6), Steelers (21-17) and Browns (27-14).

The man who keeps his eye on the traffic instead of the sky tends to confuse astrology with other less profound parlor games involving Ouija boards, tarot cards, tea-leaf reading and just plain fortune-telling. This upsets astrologers, who insist that they only aim to point out favorable or unfavorable trends. Almost all agree, with varying degrees of intensity, that there is, in spite of other worldly influences, a percentage of free will available with which to avert potential disaster. However, astrologers continue to use words like "predictions" and "forecasts," words that, whatever their semantic shadings, are linked willy-nilly in the public's mind with soothsayers and oracles. A study of your natal chart will not reveal where it was you left your snorkel mask last week or who stole your Head skis or how the Vikings would do in the Super Bowl. Those who don't give a hoot anyway about that big electromagnetic field of space sending its waves and portents to earth probably go with the bookmakers, who liked Minnesota by 13 in Sunday's Super smash.

There are horoscopes other than natal charts to help one plot a course through life. That popular daily squib in newspapers ("This is a good day to have your tooth pulled, so don't be down in the mouth") is based on a "solar" or "tropical" chart, mathematically different from the "sidereal" calculations used by the ancient Greeks. Then there are "progressed" charts, "comparison" charts, "natural catastrophe" charts, "relocation" charts, "gardening" charts, "accident" charts, "medical research" charts and "horary" charts, the latter reputed to be the most useful for the sports buff who wants to pinpoint a particular athletic event. But they won't work unless he really cares.

In a 30-page pamphlet by Donald Bradley (who is highly thought of in astral circles), put out by Llewellyn Publications Ltd. and titled Picking Winners, a detailed system is outlined for determining the victor of anything from a horse race to a ball game to a prizefight.

"A horary chart for the time and place of the occasion—be it football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, boxing or a tennis match—will usually suffice to reveal the winner, independent of the personal fortunes of the players.

"It is our firm conviction, based upon the combined principles of astrology and social psychology, that the outcomes of competitive sports events, publicly attended, are surely more amenable to accurate prediction than are individual affairs. This is true because, psychologically speaking, the 'collective mind' is far more susceptible to planetary influences...than the singular mind of an individual."

The horary chart involves such minutiae as the exact moment of a game's inception, the correct houses and planets to which each team belongs, the fans and odds, the coaches and one's own personal stake in the game. "Unless a personal stake is involved," writes Mr. Bradley, "it would be rather unreasonable to expect the horoscope of an individual's passing curiosity to reflect the fortunes of two opponents or teams, as well as their emotional impacts on two vast throngs of fans." That means you can't be "individual" when everyone else is being "collective."

Now, then, picture Mr. Bradley back in 1948, on a balmy night in June at ringside, horary chart close at hand. The famous rematch between Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott is almost over. To everyone except Mr. Bradley the outcome still hangs in the balance. Smoke fills the air, perspiring radio announcers scream into their microphones, journalists in the press section scribble notes. The fans are hoarse with shouting. Then a sigh, like a shudder, washes over the stadium. Jersey Joe is down for the count after 11 grueling rounds. "Joe Louis is still heavyweight champion of the world," shouts an announcer. Pandemonium reigns. Mr. Bradley looks upward and winks. Later in his hotel room, consulting his own notes on the fight, that is to say, the horary chart, he inserts a sheet of paper in a typewriter and begins his own account, not for those unsophisticated sports pages that will babble tritely about "feints to the left" and "uppercuts to the jaw" but for astrologers, who are still operating, largely underground.

"The Moon was rising in Aquarius when this fight got under way," he begins. "Showing an intense public catharsis as well, the Moon here signified the champion Louis [born with Cancer ascending, incidentally]. The immediately oncoming aspect was a Lunar trine with fifth-house Uranus which also ruled the ascendant. The 'return match' was aptly described by conjoining Mercury and Venus, both retrograde in the fifth house. Because Leo was setting, Walcott was signified by the Sun, also in the fifth and heavily afflicted by Saturn and Neptune. Saturn and Pluto in Leo suitably described the disgruntled Walcott, who claimed that the public, or masses, recognized him as the true titleholder, dubbing himself for publicity purposes as 'the People's Champ.' Walcott's 'game' is shown by the Sagittarian 11th house, occupied by retrograde Jupiter which was being squared by Mars. Every testimony in the chart spoke favorably for Louis. The fight ended suddenly (Moon trine Uranus, Uranus ruling ascendant and in fifth) in the 11th round by a knockout of Walcott. The 11th house in this chart brought the fight to a climax under the pivot of Mars-square-Jupiter in Louis' series, while the 11th sector around the wheel from the 7th in Walcott's series carried the fight to a rapid finish under the four fifth-house planets, which included Walcott's afflicted significator." End of report.

And all these years Walcott thought it was Louis who knocked him out.

Of course, not everyone would take the time to figure out a horary chart or get emotionally involved enough to make one work. There are even some people around who don't care about prizefights, never go to football games, could not care less if the Mets sink or swim and wouldn't recognize a horse unless it had four doors. Some fellows just like to go out and swing a golf club, enter competitions here and there, invest their winnings in a corporation or two. No sweat. Not much, anyway, especially if they happen to be born Sept. 10, 1929 at 5 a.m. in Latrobe, Pa.

An astrologer who looked at Arnold Palmer's natal horoscope rolled her eyes, clasped her hands and said, "Look at all those planets in Mr. Palmer's money house. No wonder money is tight everywhere else." Astroflash was more restrained. "With prudence you will never go wanting."

For those with only an old chipped fragment of a star or two in their money house, it will be comforting to know that Virgo Palmer would be a bust at the racetrack and a pigeon at the poker table.

"Virgo people," writes Linda Lung in the August 1969 issue of Astrology magazine, "do not like to gamble for money." In speculation they, along with Taurus and Capricorn types, "far exceed the other signs, but in gambling for money they are inclined to be sensitive, touchy and critical. On the whole, they are by far the poorest losers of all the signs." Arnie should care.

"It is best not to gamble at all until you hit a day when Venus is transiting over radical Jupiter with the Moon on an auspicious point in your birth chart," chimes in Mr. Bradley, who toys around with the races when nothing is happening in the ring.

Gardening and fishing are less chancy, and you can eat the returns. This is all spelled out in an annual publication called The Moon Sign Book, or in a shorter version called the Star Book Astrological Calendar, which allows you to take a quick daily peek to see if it's time to plant the tubers or if the trout will rise (fish have horoscopes?). Obviously, if an Aries (fire sign) fisherman gets out in the stream with a Pisces (water sign) trout, whammo! It's that old story of fire and water every time.

The Moon Sign people take all the guesswork out of what is going to happen to your tomatoes, provided you plant them with the help of lunar guidance. "Now, unlike common almanacs that are used as planting guides"—astrologers outdo politicians in trying to sabotage other astrologers—"we consider both the Moon's phase and the Moon's sign in making our calculations for the proper timing of our work within nature's rhythm," writes the author of an article on lunar agriculture. The rest is easy, if there's still time for gardening after the astrological facts have been assembled. All you have to do is remember to plant when the moon is in the first-quarter phase and in the sign of Cancer for fruitfulness. Each sign has its own characteristics, and once you sort out what phase the moon is in and which sign is transiting over your garden "you can combine the fruit-fulness of Cancer, the good root growth of Pisces, and the sturdiness and good vine growth of Scorpio." There is a Moon Sign Garden Contest every year to make things competitive, with the Moon Sign people eagerly awaiting photographs of your prize vegetables with enough details of what went on in which phase of the moon and sign of the zodiac to prove that you did your lunar homework. The winner in 1969 was an elderly gentleman from Santa Cruz, Calif. He is pictured squinting into the sun, clutching carrots that look like battering rams.

For those too lazy to work out their own charts, a day-by-day planting guide is provided. Instructions are succinct and precise: "Full moon in Leo—Feb. 2, 4:46 a.m.: gather mushrooms." On the other hand, you may just prefer to go to the supermarket. That way you can avoid a kitchen filled with mushrooms the size of umbrellas and won't get involved with what the Moon Sign book refers to as "related activities," which includes advice on cultivation, fertilizing, harvesting, irrigation and getting rid of weeds and pests. Nor do you have to ponder the wisdom of waiting until the moon is 24 hours past the time of full and in Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius or Pisces before you have the cat spayed, for if the moon is in Virgo, Libra or Scorpio "the animal will not thrive and may die." In the meantime, the cat is out on the back fence, and eventually you'll have a whole litter waiting around for the moon to move into the proper sign.

What it comes down to is this. Are you going to let the stars light your way or are you going to continue your slug-a-bed existence, remaining in the dark about who will win the Super Bowl, the NBA championship or the World Series until some nonastrological, unphased official yells, "Play ball!"

FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

ATHLETIC ASSTROFLASHES

JOE NAMATH: (Gemini) May 31, 1943, 9 p.m.
Sometime Super Bowl quarterback.

"You feel fulfilled in an occupation in which you can use your hands, especially those where your hands improve and enhance an object. Interior decoration, hair dressing.... Be careful of your nerves and arteries. Make a point of getting into the outdoors and fresh air.... You are gifted for social contacts and should succeed brilliantly.... A love of the countryside and the earth may develop. You like to feel your feet on solid ground, for you trust the soil and appreciate its smell, texture and certitudes.

"You cooperate well with a team and remain faithful to it, though you may have your own way of organizing a job.... Enraptured by your own dreams, you refuse all compromise, and if it is required, your indolence leads you to give up the fight. Such an attitude can produce bachelorhood.... You stand the risk of not profiting from your own success as you may become embroiled in company affairs.... You have great trouble extricating yourself from your associates.

"There is a tendency to place too much faith in appearances. You have the habit of inspecting objects only from the standpoint of their utilitarian value—how they can be immediately exploited or consumed.

"The 10th house [toward the end of 1969] will be unfavorably influenced by Venus. It's a dead period for expansion. Seek neither the approval of your superiors nor the votes of the public. This shall pass in good time."

CASSIUS CLAY: (Capricorn) Jan. 17, 1942, 4 a.m.
Sometime world champion.

"You have a wish to surpass yourself, which is helped by your natural gifts.... If you are not well adapted, and particularly if you cannot dominate situations, people or things, you may become overcritical. Age and experience will provide the strength you need to persevere. Avoid acting in spasmodic fits and starts.... Although the program you've set yourself is ambitious, your fine qualities authorize you to follow it through. You have some plan you want to accomplish and it will be your destiny to rise materially, socially, morally and spiritually. The goal you're aiming at is interesting.

"One of your most charming traits is to crown with glory those you think you love. One romantic encounter and your heart takes wings—yet this propensity to idealize, to dream, in itself contains germs of disillusion.... Your ability to rationalize your emotions will free you from the dictates of passion. You will feel no great obligations or restrictions in the depths of your heart. Hence you should not be too surprised if you find that you do not attach large importance to the customary moral standards.

"Regarding work, you should know the limit of your strength. You provide a degree of good humor and contentment for your professional colleagues, being neither envious nor an opportunist.... Your chance of accumulating money may stem from your ability to contribute to the fortunes of others. Possible vocations: missionary, explorer or diplomat."

MARV THRONEBERRY: (Virgo) Sept. 2, 1933, 4:45 a.m.
Sometime New York Met.

"You are sensitive and refined by nature, your reactions unfettered, your behavior deliberate. Yet you may have difficulty integrating yourself into your surroundings. Figuratively and in reality, crowds frighten you, bringing out all your latent uneasiness.... You hate to be pushy and decisions are a burden to you. Thus you are passive and submissive, though sudden emotion may make you stiffen unexpectedly.

"Among your assets: your patient tackling of the most thankless, laborious and tedious tasks.... Your weaknesses come essentially from your deep-seated and undeserved inferiority complex, caused by nervous inhibition. Too much modesty, self-effacement and a too diffident nature will not do in this hard world.... Getting all wrought up is bad for your nerves and could harm your digestion.... The state of grace is an ideal of perfection which lifts you above human misery and allows you to enjoy the contemplation of your own serenity. In this blue heaven most emotions, whether suffering or joy, seem far away, softened and blurred by the distance you have managed to put between them and yourself. This detachment can be experienced as a form of exile. Life seems populated with shadows, appearances, will-o'-the-wisps. It is a dream, a strange landscape where nothing is real, where nothing is stable to which the ego can attach itself—a wearied soul floating where its visions and chimeras lead it.... capable of being lost in the universe if it cannot purify itself."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)