BASEBALL SCANDAL (CONT.)
Following the disclosure in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED last week of Denny McLain's involvement in a bookmaking operation, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn conferred with McLain and then announced that because of Denny's admissions to him the pitcher was being indefinitely suspended from baseball. McLain said afterward that he hoped to be reinstated later this season, which in the circumstances seems remarkably optimistic.
McLain's plight has engendered considerable sympathy. It is sad to contemplate the mess he has got himself into, the perhaps irreparable harm he has done to his superb career. But sympathy for McLain should be tempered with sympathy for baseball and for all sport, to which he has done such grave disservice. Despite prevalent cynicism, people generally have a respect for the honesty and integrity of sport that they do not have for other aspects of contemporary society. It is vital to the continued good health of sport that that faith be justified and maintained.
Baseball has taken something of a beating in recent years, mostly from instant sociologists who insist that it is in extremis, but despite all the attacks it is still very close to being the American game, a common ground of experience and interest. To have it besmirched, as in the McLain affair, hurts everyone who has ever experienced the joy of playing the game or the fun of rooting for a team. The blame for this lies not with Commissioner Kuhn for suspending McLain, nor with the investigators for digging out the story, but with McLain for abandoning his responsibilities to the sport that nourished him.
Weston Adams Sr. of the Boston Bruins, whose Ted Green suffered a fractured skull in a stick fight during an exhibition game last fall, suggested to the National Hockey League earlier this season that it make the wearing of helmets mandatory (SCORECARD, Jan. 5). The proposal was rejected out of hand, and the reason given was that the players were adamantly opposed to the idea. Now Alan Eagleson, executive director of the NHL Players' Association, says that during the 1967-68 season NHL players were polled on two questions relating to helmets: 1) Are you in favor of wearing helmets in NHL games? 2) Would you agree to the wearing of helmets if the majority of the members in the association voted in favor? Eagleson says the vote was 85% in favor on the first question, and that only two negative votes were cast on the second. The results of the poll were made known to league officials, Eagleson says. He wonders how they have since discovered that the players are opposed to helmets.
BIGGER THAN BOURBON
It may not have been a typical week for basketball in Kentucky, but never mind. These things happened. Travis Grant of highly rated Kentucky State broke his school's scoring record by 30 points in a 141-93 victory, making 75 points and hitting an impressive 70% of his shots from the floor, and hurt his accuracy average because he went into the game shooting 73% for the season. John Dromo, coach at the University of Louisville, refused to let a 6'6" transfer student named Joe Sigur suit up because of his long hair. Dromo, who conceded that Sigur "maybe could have helped us win a game sometime," said, "I don't mind if my boys let their hair grow a little long in the back or if they wear sideburns, but I'm not going to have them looking like Saint Bernards." Sigur said, "I just don't see any correlation between my hair and how I play basketball. I've always wondered what God said a basketball player was supposed to look like." And, finally, Eastern Kentucky apparently defeated Murray State 79-78, but Murray claimed the clock had flipped at the end of the game and ended 10 seconds too soon. The clock was tested and, by golly, it had swallowed up the last 10 seconds. Commissioner Art Guepe of the Missouri Valley Conference ruled that the missing 10 seconds would have to be played before the game could be called official. And so, on March 5, Murray State will travel 600 miles round trip from Paducah at the western end of the state to Richmond at the eastern end to play 10 seconds worth of basketball. That may appear to be extreme, but you must remember that in Kentucky, tradition to the contrary, basketball is more important than horses or bourbon.
APES AND ICE
If you are a lover of zoos, you might give a moment's thought to a problem that faces some zoos when the weather turns bitter cold and stays there, as it did in so many places this winter. A typical example is what happened at Paignton in England, where delightfully athletic—but nonswimming—apes called gibbons are allowed to run free on an island surrounded by a small artificial lake. When the temperature heads toward zero for an extended visit, the water in the lake freezes and the apes find themselves with a splendid natural bridge to the outside world. To frustrate this, the zoo assigns men to row back and forth, day and night, to keep the water clear and unbridged, the animals confined to their island and neighboring backyards pleasantly free of gibbons.
It is not an easy job. Did you ever row a boat through ice with the temperatures nosing down towards 0°? It makes weather like that at NFL championship games in Green Bay and Minneapolis seem like an afternoon in May. Ask George Washington.
ODD BALL OUT
Among the world's less pressing problems is the question of the three-ball can in tennis. The three-ball can has been as much a part of tennis tradition as white shorts, the rumpled towel hung casually around the neck and muttered oaths after a double fault. Now we are told that Pennsylvania Athletic Products of Akron, which manufactures tennis balls for various sporting-goods companies, is test-marketing a two-ball can. The company wants to meet the challenge of the import market, which is selling what Pennsylvania feels is an inferior tennis ball for a considerably lower price. The company hopes to get the casual player to buy two first-rate balls instead of three cheaper ones. And maybe even get players—casual or serious—to buy two cans at a time (they're trying out a "two-pack," two two-ball cans in a cardboard holder).
How far this experiment in changing a tennis tradition will go, we are not prepared to say. All we hope is that it doesn't give the belligerent world of tennis something else to squabble about.
THE SPRINGBOKS AGAIN
The controversial cricket tour of England and Wales by South Africa's Springbok cricket team is still on, though protests and threats of demonstrations have led to a drastic reduction in the number of matches to be played. British opinion on the tour is divided. James Callaghan, the Home Secretary, argued in criticism of the anticipated demonstrations, "Whatever personal views anyone may hold, it will be interfering with our rights as a people as a whole if a small minority decide to make it impossible to play a particular game." Basil D'Oliveira, a Cape Coloured from South Africa who is one of England's leading cricket players, said. "I am very disappointed that the tour has been shortened."
On the other hand, Prime Minister Wilson, in recalling that one of his youthful ambitions had been to bowl for Yorkshire, his home county, said that if he had achieved that eminence he would not play against the South Africans, "not in the present circumstances." And the Bishop of Woolwich, a former cricket star, warned, "I appreciate that the MCC [cricket authorities] did not want to seem to give in to the threat of violence. But much more than that is at stake. Few, if any, members of the MCC Council live in areas of racial tension, and they do not understand what deep feelings are raised by this tour of a racially selected team. The first thing to suffer may be good race relations in this country."
Perhaps the most interesting comment came from Ali Bacher, a South African doctor who will be captain of the Springboks during their tour. In a phone interview with a London newspaper, he said, "Demonstrators are not noted for their accurate information, and I hope none of them accuses me of racial discrimination. Since I qualified as a doctor over three years ago I have spent all but six months in non-European [non-white] hospital service, and I am still enjoying that work. I am also Jewish, so some folk might wonder if I could win membership in some of your more famous golf clubs in freedom-loving England. Probably not. But the point is, I don't resent it. I accept other people's rules and customs.
"I will play with and against anybody of any race in any sport wherever I can. That is the attitude of all our players. As soon as the South African government decrees that we can develop multiracial sport here, we shall welcome it."
NOT A LOCAL BOY
It probably isn't fair to call UCLA's sports publicity department provincial, but a publicity photograph sent by UCLA to the Portland Oregonian showing two basketball players scrambling for a loose ball had a caption that said one was Steve Patterson of UCLA and the other, who had floppy hair and floppy socks, was an "unidentified" player from Louisiana State.
Really now, UCLA. Pete Maravich—unidentified?
In these days of referring to a 6'3" basketball player as a little man, it is refreshing to hear about Frank Sylvester of Bradley. Sylvester, who started 20 games as a sophomore last season and now, as a junior, is co-captain, is 5'4". Bradley had a famous "little" man 20 years ago in Gene Melchiorre, but the Peoria Journal Star, after granting that technically Sylvester is not as good a player as Melchiorre, adds, "Melchiorre was big. A 20-year-old program lists him at 5'8½", but that was because somebody thought shortening Gene would make him an All-America. He was really about 5'10"—half a foot taller than Sylvester."
Sylvester has scored as many as 16 points in a game, but he is essentially a playmaker and a ball stealer, the sort of player who pulls a team together. According to the Journal Star, "When a substitute goes in for Frankie, some fans figure that [Coach Joe] Stowell has finally found his wits. But when five tall men don't play together as well as Frankie and four tall men do, some fans are happy to see Frankie back in the game."
Sylvester's best performance, admirably, came against UCLA. Bradley lost in the closing minutes 61-56, but it was the first time this season that UCLA had been held to fewer than 70 points. Frank Sylvester, running around down there by everybody else's knees, had a lot to do with that.
23 TIMES 7 EQUALS HEAVEN
Happy echoes of the Super Bowl keep ringing in Kansas City. Nine-year-old Steven Bales, a devoted fan of the Chiefs, has revised the multiplication tables for home review with his parents. Now they go something like this:
4 times 4 equals Len Dawson.
5 times 9 equals Robert Holmes.
7 times 3 equals Mike Garrett.
7 times 6 equals Johnny Robinson.
7 times 11 equals Jim Tyrer.
9 times 7 equals Willie Lanier....
THEY SAID IT
•Joe Brown, Pittsburgh Pirates general manager, asking John Quinn, Philadelphia Phillies general manager, for an hour's delay in starting their exhibition game scheduled for March 7 because of the total eclipse of the sun that will occur that day: "It may interest you to know that the next eclipse in our hemisphere will be on April 8, 2024. Let's try to schedule around it."
•Roman Gabriel, Los Angeles Ram quarterback, on his part in a motion picture called The Undefeated: "The name has been changed to 11 and 3."
•Pete Rose, Cincinnati Red outfielder, on teammate Wayne Granger: "He's so skinny the only place he could have won a college letter was Indiana."