Benny Friedman, who was an All-America quarterback at Michigan more than 40 years ago and a star quarterback in the National Football League after that, is in his 60s and has no official connection with football anymore. Yet he stays close to the game, running clinics for high school quarterbacks, and right now he is not happy. He'd like a cut of the pro football pension pie and says he is thinking of starting legal action on behalf of old-time pro players. "Brash and arrogant beyond belief" is Friedman's description of the decision—reportedly the result of actuarial necessity—to leave pre-1958 pro players out of the pension plan. "What gave them the license to draw the line at 1958?" he asks. "How can they exclude the older players? We kept the franchise alive and gave these guys what they have now. I used to travel two days ahead of the team with our publicity man. We'd buy two bottles of whiskey, go to the newspaper in the town where we would be playing and give one bottle to the sports editor and the other to the columnist. We'd sit down and talk, and that's how we got publicity. When I was with the Giants I spoke at every high school in New York. We did things like that to keep the teams going. I don't like the callousness of players today who are getting $50,000 and $100,000 a year plus all those other benefits. They should be thinking about the guys who made it possible. I think they owe us a hell of a debt."
Of course, times have changed. You can't buy publicity from sportswriters and sports editors today. Not for one bottle of whiskey, you can't.
August 16, 1970
The new Portland, Ore. Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association are accepting applications from would-be ball boys. Leo Marty, a young aspirant, may well appeal to owners and coaches. After enumerating his qualifications his letter added:
"But I also have a few things to offer you if I am chosen. First of all, I would promise that I would not try to form a union of ball boys throughout the league. I don't care for a pension and I don't need a loan from the club for a few grand."
Son, you just passed the management test. Now, how do you think you'll get along with the players?
In the last few weeks bad manners have taken over from good tennis on the Pepsi Grand Prix tennis circuit, the sponsored long-green-instead-of-silver-trophies tour. Cliff Richey and Bob Hewitt got into a shouting match at the Western tournament in Cincinnati, and at the National Clay Courts Open in Indianapolis, Brian Fairlie walked off the court and sat down in the grandstand when he decided that Hewitt was "toweling off" too much. Richey won his match in Cincinnati but said (of Hewitt), "This guy is the biggest jerk that ever existed," and (to Hewitt), "Next time you say something I'm going to wrap a racket over your head." When the two players were called into a peace conference Hewitt refused to attend, saying later, "I'll be damned if I was going to go out there when it was my opponent who caused all the trouble. I could knock him over the head with a racket, too, but the way I figure it, don't be gutless and use a racket. Be a man about it and use your fists."
In keeping with the general tenor of things, Ilie Nastase of Rumania got so upset over a call by Umpire Al Buman that he swatted a ball at the umpire's stand. Buman yelled, "Nastase, I'm warning you, don't do that again." After losing a point later in the match, Nastase knocked a ball far out of the arena. Buman shouted, "We're not going to have batted balls in this tournament. Get the referee." The referee and the tournament chairman huddled with Buman and then told Nastase he would be disqualified if there were another incident. Nastase lost the next three games and the match and complained, "It wasn't fair. Everybody else has been hitting balls out."
One veteran tennis follower commented, "I have never seen so much bad sportsmanship as there has been this year. They asked me to be a linesman for the final match, but I wouldn't do that for all the money in the world, not the way the players are abusing everybody in sight."
Arthur Ashe, generally acknowledged to be one of the more gentlemanly players in the game, explained his cohorts' behavior: "People complain about our sportsmanship, but it's only that, with money on the line, we're trying harder than ever. If people today expect the players to be gentlemen they're looking for the wrong thing. All that counts is what goes on inside those white lines. The players will do anything to win short of cheating. They want to win—not please people."
Hank McGraw, 27-year-old brother of the New York Mets' Tug McGraw and a catcher-first baseman with the Philadelphia Phillies' farm team in Eugene, Ore., was suspended by the club July 11 because—here we go again—his hair was longer than the Phillies' management felt it should be. (The Phillies issue A Public Relations Primer for Professional Baseball Players that includes sections on "Handling Yourself," "Handling the Press," "Establishing Commercial Values," "Personal Relations with the Public Directly" and "Personal Appearance.") McGraw, who was batting .305 with 14 homers and 49 runs batted in at the time of suspension, said, "It's thick hair. It's real thick, but the actual length is maybe three inches or so. I would look to the average longhair today just like a straight, regular citizen. I don't really understand it."
Phillie General Manager John Quinn said, "On four occasions Manager Lou Kahn spoke to McGraw about getting a haircut. He gave him time to get one. McGraw didn't. In view of the information we send to our players Lou said there was nothing else he could do."
McGraw commented, "People in baseball are all from the old school. It's always the past. But people change. The public changes. The people they're signing now have changed. I think baseball is losing fans in the 17-to-25 age group, and that isn't right. The peace movement and all, that should fit right in with baseball. It's sort of a nonviolent sport compared with the other major sports. It should fit right in with that age group if they promoted it the right way. I don't know for sure what they could do, but maybe they could start by giving the players themselves a little more in the way of individual personalities rather than make them all look the same when they take the field. They're always talking about the old days. Well, in the old days there seemed to be more color, more personality, more individualism.
"I think the whole thing is a little silly."
$2 IS $2
Bay Meadows Racetrack, near San Francisco, conducted a perilous experiment a week or so ago during a county fair race meeting. The traditional daily-double bet was raised from $2 to $5. Admittedly, it was a trial balloon, but one that was intently watched by racetrack operators all over the country. If Bay Meadows took the $5 double in stride it would indicate the bettors everywhere were ready for inflation at the mutuel windows. Win, place and show windows would probably follow along, and the $2 bet would go the way of the 5¢ cigar and the nickel phone call.
But the trial balloon barely floated out of the starting gate. After one week the daily-double handle was down 32.7% from last year's county fair meeting. Other betting was up 8%, indicating that the money was there. The windows were quickly reconverted to the old $2 bet and, wham, the handle jumped 50% almost immediately, from around $40,000 a day for the $5 bet to $60,000 for the $2 one. These are minuscule sums in racing, yet the track received calls from major tracks—including those in New York and New Jersey, 3,000 miles away—asking how the double was doing.
Observers at the track blamed the failure of the $5 bet on a general resentment that the price had been raised, on a disinclination of people to "wheel" the double (coupling a horse in one race with every horse in the other race) because of the expense and on a falling off in gimmick bets (some bettors always play a perfunctory $2 bet on their age or on their favorite number).
Demurrers pointed out that the experiment was a very brief one, that favorites kept winning and that there had not been any big payoffs to get bettors excited. Nonetheless, the fact remains: the $2 bettor kept his money in his pocket or at the other $2 windows.
Grambling College, the hotbed in which so many pro football players begin their growth, is playing the numbers game and winning. Grambling had its worst record in 10 years (6-4) last fall but still led the NAIA and NCAA college-division teams in total attendance at all games with 277,209, and this year the figure may be higher. The team plays more than half of its games on the road and has dates scheduled in Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, Chicago's Soldier Field, Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, Houston's Astrodome and, tentatively, Detroit's Tiger Stadium. Plans are also under way to send games back home via closed-circuit TV. Grambling may be a small school (4,000 students), but in football it is big time all the way.
Here is a comment from a non-Pittsburgh baseball fan that is guaranteed to outrage followers of the Pirates. He says, "I'm sick and tired of hearing people say that Roberto Clemente is the greatest player in the game. He's a good player, a very good player, but he simply is not on a level with a Henry Aaron or a Willie Mays. Take fielding. Clemente is superb, no doubt about it, and he has a powerful arm. But Mays for years was an even better fielder with a stronger arm. And Aaron, even though he is not spectacular, is just about as good. Clemente is a fine base runner. But as good as Mays was? Never. And have you ever noticed Aaron's percentage of successful steals? In hitting, despite those batting championships, Clemente does not compare. Never mind home runs, where Aaron and Mays leave him far behind. Take runs scored and runs batted in, the key statistics in evaluating a player's offensive value. Clemente has scored 100 runs in a season only three times and batted in 100 runs twice. Aaron has scored 100 or more runs 14 times, Mays 12, and each has had 10 100-RBI seasons. In the 16 years the three have been in the National League together, Clemente has been behind both Mays and Aaron in both categories 13 times, including this season. And he's on the bench so much. Look, from 1955 through 1965, Mays missed only 33 games in 11 seasons. Aaron missed 49. Clemente missed 211, which is the equivalent of a season and a quarter. That doesn't hurt his batting average but it sure doesn't help his team.
"Clemente is a fine ballplayer, but in my book he's terribly overrated."
THEY SAID IT
•Floyd Little, Denver Broncos bow-legged running back, after a visit to Wyoming: "I like the folks up there: they all walk just like I do."
•Dick Gordon, Apollo 12 astronaut: "Preparing for a flight into space is much like an athlete's training, except that it takes a bit longer. We train three years for one ball game and there are only 50 players to begin with, and some don't get in the game."
•Robert Trent Jones, golf architect, whose Hazeltine course, site of the 1970 U.S. Open, was subjected to criticism: "At the British Open at St. Andrews I asked one of the American players why they didn't complain about the conditions, since they were much the same as at Hazeltine. He told me, 'St. Andrews is 400 years old and, besides, we don't know whom to blame.' "
•Mrs. Rick Barry, wife of the basketball star, after hearing that Earl Foreman, owner of the Virginia Squires, would release her husband from his contract for $200,000: "Foreman is asking a lot for Rick to pay $200,000. I don't think any man is worth $200,000."