SAME OLD CHARLIE
Charles O. Finley, the manager-a-minute owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, is having familiar problems in his unfamiliar role as an ice hockey baron. When Finley took over the Oakland Seals (which he promptly renamed the California Golden Seals), he indicated that the contracts of club officials were not part of the deal and suggested to General Manager Frank Selke that he accept a new contract. Selke, who thought he was in the fourth year of a four-year contract, took one look at the terms of the new arrangement, said, "No, thanks," and quit. Finley next tried to put Vice-President Bill Torrey into the general manager's job—with a new contract—but Torrey said, "It does not meet the terms or conditions of my present contract...and I am naturally unwilling to accept anything less than that which was agreed to when I first joined the Seals." Then Torrey quit, too, and, like Selke, consulted an attorney.
Rebuffed twice and facing lawsuits, Finley made Coach Fred Glover "temporary general manager." With the Seals firmly entrenched in last place in the NHL's West Division, Glover might as well be called a temporary coach, too.
WAY TO GO, NI! YOU, TOO, MAO!
December 14, 1970
Those of you who want to become sports-writers, pay attention. Early in November, Communist China's Ni Chin-chin high-jumped 7'6¼" to surpass Valery Brumel's seven-year-old world record (SCORECARD, Nov. 30). Technically, it was not a world record because China is not a member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, the world governing body for track and field, but even so it was a superb performance by a distinguished athlete. Now for the sports-writing lesson. Here is how the moment of triumph was reported in The Peking Review, an English-language publication put out by the Chinese:
"When the bar was lifted to 2.29 meters, the 80,000 spectators enthusiastically encouraged him by reciting Chairman Mao's teaching: 'Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory.' Comrade Ni Chih-chin successfully flew over the bar. The whole stadium instantly burst into thunderous applause and the spectators cheered: 'Long live Chairman Mao!' and 'Long live the victory of Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line!' "
Tex Maule ought to learn to write like that.
IT DOES NOT COMPUTE
A legal dispute has ended (temporarily, at any rate) the computerized football game of the week, an artificial pre-enactment of an upcoming NFL game that had been carried on 80 stations this fall. It may be a historical breakthrough. First, no more computerized football, then maybe no more computerized baseball and computerized fights. The ultimate, of course (perhaps too much even to hope for), could be a return to sport as played by real live people, with not so much as a diode to their name.
YOU PAYS YOUR MONEY
Several pro football clubs had angry reactions from fans when they tried to add exhibition games to their season-ticket package. In Baltimore resentment was so loud and insistent that the Colts backed off and continued their longstanding policy of playing no preseason games at home. Now the Colts have reversed themselves again and have announced that they will play three night exhibitions in Memorial Stadium next summer. But season-ticket buyers will have a choice: they can buy a seven-game deal for the regular season only, or a 10-game package that includes regular season and the exhibitions. On the surface, what the Colts have done seems to be simple common sense, but it represents something of a gamble. Preseason games historically have been a bust in Baltimore. The last one, in 1961 against the then inept Minnesota Vikings, drew only about 10,000 people. An even earlier one with the San Francisco 49ers was attended by all of 7,000, and because the 49ers had been guaranteed $20,000, the Colt management took a financial bath. However, the club today has more than 50,000 season-ticket holders and has sold out for 49 straight regular-season home games. It hopes a good part of that enthusiasm will be reflected in exhibition attendance.
WORMS ACROSS THE SEA
First came word from Florida about fiddling for worms. A man named Robert Taylor won the first annual International Worm Fiddling championship before a crowd of 700 by fiddling 21 crawlers out of the ground. There were 58 people in the squirming field, including several ladies, one of whom finished third to Taylor with 19 worms. You fiddle for worms, it was duly explained, by pounding a stick into the ground and rubbing it so that it vibrates. The vibrations bring worms to the surface. Different folks have different strokes, some using an ax handle, others sticks of wood. Taylor himself used an ax head. Each entrant had a 25-foot square surrounding the stake, and all worms that surfaced in that area counted. Taylor's 21 wrigglers gave him possession of a three-foot-high trophy surmounted by—what else?—a six-inch worm.
A few days after the big contest, London's Daily Telegraph ran an item about Taylor's victory in a column called "Around America." In the U.S., when an oddball item like this appears, people chuckle and show it to their neighbors. In England, they write letters. One to the Daily Telegraph said, "Reading your report of America's latest sport, I was reminded of an incident which occurred in 1958.... On August Bank Holiday, British European Airways chartered a helicopter to Cadbury's of Bournville to publicize their products. It landed on the firm's smoothly rolled playing field adjoining the factory. The ground was soft, and as the machine moved across it thousands of worms wriggled up to the surface to greet the pilot. Everyone present was mystified, not to say slightly alarmed, but experts later decided that this Pied Piper act was caused by the vibration set up by the rotor."
In England, letters bring more letters. A few days later the Telegraph printed two more messages. One said, testily, "It is not necessary to call up worms with the aid of a helicopter. Years ago, to our great astonishment, worms came up after we danced eightsome reels on our grass tennis court." And the other: "Worm fiddling? Nothing new. While staying at an hotel in St. Ives, Cornwall, I watched a gull lustily stamping the greensward, collecting the worms and then moving to another patch to repeat the operation."
And that's about it on worm fiddling.
It was a time of extremes for basketball teams from Jacksonville. Jacksonville University went north to New York City and ran up the highest point total ever achieved in Madison Square Garden by a college team (and tied the best ever by the pros) when it beat St. Peter's 152—106. Back home, Country Day School of Jacksonville was having trouble with Callahan Junior High. Country Day was 0 for 20 from the floor, 0 for 7 from the foul line and lost 70-0.
THE LITIGATION HANDICAP
Lester Piggott, the preeminent British jockey (SI, Oct. 26), has instituted a suit against a French racing paper for defaming him in an article that appeared last August, and he is thinking about suits against other publications for similar derogatory comments on his riding. Piggott says of the article, "It was such a load of rubbish I ignored it at the time, but when it was followed last month by more outrageous comment in another French paper, something had to be done."
At first glance, Piggott appears to be surprisingly sensitive for a professional athlete. But he does a great deal of riding in France, and in France a jockey does well to keep his riding tactics above suspicion. The renowned French rider named Roger Poincelet was set down for eight days in April 1966 by racing stewards at Longchamp for a questionable ride on a horse named Scallywag. A man named Luca, who had bet on Scallywag, sued Poincelet for 100,000 francs; after years of hearings and judgments and appeals, Luca last month was awarded 15,000 francs ($3,000). Poincelet is appealing.
The decision seems fraught with significance, not just for Piggott and other jockeys, but for bettors, too. Now when a man with a losing ticket complains, "The boy give him a bad ride," he won't be inclined to let it go at that but will start looking around the clubhouse for a lawyer.
LOT OF HEART
A "football heart team" that stands by during football games at the University of Nebraska stadium in Lincoln has given emergency care to 11 spectators who were stricken at games over the past five years. Dr. Stephen W. Carveth, the heart surgeon who developed the mobile coronary care unit, says he decided to form the team after he learned that three persons had died of heart attacks in the stadium during the 1965 season. "The most ardent football fans are likely to be those in the 40 to 60 age group," he explains. "Usually they've driven a number of miles to the game. They may have had a drink or two before the game, which would reduce their heart-pumping ability. Then they climb up 100 steps to reach their seats. Before the game even starts they are in a very stressful condition and are setups for heart attacks."
Eight of the stadium heart patients collapsed in the stands and were reported by volunteer spotters. The other three walked to the unit and complained of severe chest pains. Examination revealed that they were in the first stages of a heart attack. All survived.
Another fan, a prominent Lincoln attorney named Hymen Rosenberg, had a heart attack last December at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, where he had gone to watch Nebraska play Georgia. This year his doctor told Rosenberg he could not watch Nebraska play unless he wore a telemetric surveillance device, which would allow the heart team to monitor his reactions to the excitement. During the game an alarm sounded via walkie-talkie that Rosenberg's pulse had ceased to register, and a volunteer ran to the attorney's seat in the grandstand. The story had a happy ending. It turns out that when a fan wired for cardiac response enters the heavy concrete enclosure of the men's room, the signal fades out.
IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
Writers and broadcasters around the Big Eight customarily make preseason predictions of the order of finish in conference football play. Picking Nebraska to win this year was no great trick, but the rest of the league was amazingly tangled. Kansas State and Oklahoma ended in a tie for second and third, Colorado and Missouri in a tie for fourth and fifth, and Kansas and Oklahoma State in a tie for sixth and seventh. Iowa State was last. Impossible to predict, but John Brooks of KWTV in Oklahoma City did it, with perfect accuracy. "I never called the race right before," Brooks said, "but this year I decided the teams were mostly so even that there was no way they could play a complete conference schedule without some ties. I took it from there."
One last note, football fans. Brooks' special field is broadcasting hockey.
THEY SAID IT
•Danny Lawson, Minnesota North Stars forward, after a head-on collision with Pat Quinn of the Vancouver Canucks shattered Lawson's jaw: "We've got to stop meeting this way."
•Tom McCauley, after the Atlanta Falcons shifted him from wide receiver to defensive back: "I knocked down so many passes from our quarterback instead of catching them, I guess they figured this was the right position for me."
•George Halas, owner of the Chicago Bears, discussing his 88-year-old brother Frank, who is still active with the Bears: "I wanted him to retire at 70 and I asked him again at 80, but he said, 'Who can do a better job?' I agreed. But I am going to insist he give up the work of traveling secretary when he becomes 90."