PLAYTHING OF THE WEST
It is that time of the year again when the National Hockey League devours its young. Last spring, in a dispute over a few thousand dollars in salary, the wealthy Boston Bruins let their esteemed young coach, Harry Sinden, walk away from the game after he led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup championship. Now the St. Louis Blues have pulled the rug out from underneath Scotty Bowman, the team's outstanding coach and general manager.
It was Bowman, 37, who transformed the Blues into the jewels of the West and the very model of an expansion franchise. In 1967 he took over a team that was struggling to escape the cellar and turned it into a civic prize that reached the Stanley Cup finals three years running. In his spare time Bowman dabbled in instructing Sid Salomon III, 33, in the rudiments of the game. Young Salomon's credentials as a hockey authority are otherwise founded on the fact that his father, Sid Salomon Jr., controls the team.
Last week Bowman was finally forced out of the organization he made. "They want me to be a puppet," he said. "I can't let that happen." The toy of a team is now the Salomons' to play with all by themselves.
RENDER UNTO CAESAR
A frequent sight at almost every racetrack in the country are the nuns who sit patiently near the entrances with wicker alms baskets. They are as familiar as Dalmatians around firehouses. The ubiquitous nuns also receive a good bit of attention, as many bettors feel guilty upon arriving at the track and either blessed or cursed upon departure, and are thus moved to make a donation to set things straight.
Last Friday in New York, as special off-track betting windows opened for the Kentucky Derby, the nuns suddenly showed up. It was like the Good Housekeeping stamp of approval. That day, for the first time, off-track betting went into the black.
ELI, ELI, BOW, WOW, WOW
A Broadway musical, Frank Merriwell, based on the mythical Yale athletic hero, closed last week after one performance.
LOCAL OPTION: NO SLEDS
It is already known that much of Denver has regrets about its role as host of the 1976 Winter Olympics (SI, Feb. 15), and now the whole Colorado state legislature is disturbed at the prospect. Closing its latest session, the legislature created a Colorado Olympic Commission, but with an amendment to the bill that declared: "In view of adverse fiscal and environmental impacts that would accompany the holding of the bobsled event within the state of Colorado, the commission shall endeavor to secure elimination of the bobsled event." The whole package passed, 32-1, was accepted by the House and now needs only Governor John Love's signature to become law.
In defense of this rider, Denver Republican Senator John Bermingham maintains that only about 110 people in the world would participate in bobsled competition, and, besides, he says the course itself would be an "ecological monster." He was joined in that stand by Representative Richard Lamm, an active conservationist, who figures that the bobsled and luge runs would cost $1 million each and "there is little possibility they will be used after the Olympics." A key House dissenter, Representative Harrie Hart of Colorado Springs, called the measure "ludicrous...a real intrusion on the international Olympics."
The amendment is all of that, all right. Tradition, not to mention national honor, demands that if you are awarded the Olympics, then you stage the Olympics—and not by lopping off events to suit local fancy. This sort of thing could lead to banning speed skating, say, if someone didn't like the location of the rink, or snuffing out the Olympic torch because it was smoking up the area. The IOC ought to be properly stunned by this action. What Denver must do now is fulfill its pledges to the rest of the world; build the bobsled run—somewhere.
THE DATING GAME
Remember when the batter who hit the local haberdasher's outfield sign won a new suit of clothes? Miss Seher Seniz had a modern version of that arrangement in mind a couple of weeks ago in Istanbul when the Turkish national team met the West Germans in soccer. As a newspaper publicity gimmick, Miss Seniz—a superbly constructed, doe-eyed, sometime belly dancer—promised three Arabian nights of bliss to the Turk who scored the first goal against the Nordic invaders.
Alas, the inspiration was too much for the Turks. They stumbled all over the field and twice flubbed wide-open shots on the goal. In fact, they never scored at all as Germany won 3-0. The German center forward who scored twice took this opportunity to claim free-agent rights to Miss Seniz. She snubbed him, however, and, proving that she was a real homebody, still pined for her defeated countrymen.
THE ALCINDOR STRAIN
We started the pro basketball season last October with the Milwaukee Bucks on the cover and end it the same way. No special clairvoyance or expertise is being claimed; most fans were aware that when Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor joined forces, an NBA championship—possibly a string of them—was in the offing.
It is no knock on either Lew or Oscar, but there were elements of farce about Milwaukee's final-round victory over Baltimore that had nothing to do with the multitude of Bullet injuries. Alcindor, a magnificent athlete, is simply too big for the physical dimensions of the game. He scores too easily and he prevents opponents from scoring with equal efficiency.
It is not just Alcindor who is at issue, either. The whole sport is turning on the axis of the big man. Without a good giant, a team has no chance. Every playoff series this year was won by the club with the better big man. The whole pro sport is seriously threatened, in danger of ceasing to be a team sport. Perhaps it is time at last to raise the basket to 12 feet; in any event, something drastic must be done, and quickly. Basketball is too fine a game and Alcindor too fine an athlete for them to be laughed at as a travesty.
THE SMART MONEY IS IN VASES
Created in 1860 by Tiffany's, buried for much of the Civil War, the famous Woodlawn Vase has been the trophy for the Preakness Stakes since 1917. In 1945 the Woodlawn was appraised at $33,000. Last week a new appraisal figure was announced: $500,000, a 1,400% increase. With that kind of funny inflated figure floating around, the Woodlawn should hire an agent. It could get at least $1.2 million from the American Basketball Association.
STX Rx FOR STICKS
Although it is a fast, rough game, the old Indian sport of lacrosse has exhibited only a moderate growth pattern. One reason is that lacrosse must compete with such traditional spring team sports as baseball and track and field. It is also a relatively expensive game. Few schools can afford to outfit lacrosse teams, and few parents can afford to keep their children in sticks.
A lacrosse stick—carved out of a single piece of wood—costs around $20, and unlike, say, a baseball glove, sticks break easily and are almost impossible to repair. Now a new lacrosse stick has been developed by STX, Inc., a subsidiary of a Baltimore company headed by Dick Tucker, a former All-America player at Johns Hopkins University.
The STX stick features a durable but flexible head of urethane rubber that can be easily and reasonably replaced if broken. The new stick took five years to develop, but it bids fair to be the innovation that might at last lift lacrosse out of its affluent ghettos and into the country's midfield.
TWO WEEKS IN PHILADELPHIA
The Oakland A's may be burning up the American League West but they aren't drawing flies, or fans either. Owner Charlie O. (for IQ) Finley is going to fix that, however. He has begun a drawing at each game, whereby the lucky winner gets two season tickets to another Finley team that doesn't draw, the hockey California Golden Seals. A local sportswriter has inquired: "Is second prize four tickets?"
PEACE IN OUR TIME
Many, many years ago, when we were all children and all peoples of the world played Ping-Pong together, there was brotherhood and love everywhere. You don't have to believe that, of course, but maybe things were a little better then. Here are some of last week's results from around the international league:
African nations threatened to boycott the 1972 Olympics if Rhodesia is permitted to compete. Alpine skiing nations said they would boycott the 1972 Olympics if alleged professionals are not permitted to compete. South Africa sources suggested they had enough votes and were ready to apply in September for readmission to the Olympics. So much for the Olympics.
The three nations challenging for the America's Cup, furious that they have not been informed of the rules concerning construction for 12-meter aluminum boats, have petitioned the New York Yacht Club to postpone the 1973 challenge to 1974. China has withdrawn from the International Lawn Tennis Federation. The United States Justice Department has been given 27 pages of alleged abuses to minor league professional hockey players. The British took away Stirling Moss' driver's license for six months for being "inconsiderate" on the public roadways.
Now we learn that Preston Gomez, manager of the San Diego Padres, wants to take an all-star baseball team to Cuba in the fall after the season ends. Better turn your radios to the Civil Defense frequency.
NCAA JUCO CRACKDOWN
Since the NCAA instituted the rule requiring student-athletes to project a 1.6 scholastic average before they could be declared eligible, many Western schools have turned more and more to junior colleges for their manpower. Sadly, if predictably, there have been gross abuses. Hopeless students would be placed in a junior college, where they would pump up their grades with sports theory and coaching courses and then breeze into a four-year university after a semester or two.
Now, the NCAA has refused relief to those schools which had misinterpreted the complicated transfer rules. This could play havoc with the chances of several Western football teams. Many players who transferred from junior colleges at midyear and participated in spring practice have been declared ineligible for next fall's schedule. In the Big Eight, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Missouri have been hardest hit by the new rules interpretation, and Missouri is ready to appeal, essentially, that it is suffering ex post facto legislation.
Since the schools claim to find the rules confusing and not clearly written, the Missouri suit surely should be considered. But the tighter regulations are certainly welcome. The NCAA should rewrite them with more clarity and then enforce them.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Ferry, Baltimore Bullet assistant coach and scout, discussing Lew Alcindor: "We're not afraid of him. He puts his pants on the same as we do—except four feet higher."
•Cleveland Indian Pitcher Steve Dunning, after throwing a one-hitter: "My college pitching coach, Tom Dunton, taught me to pitch with the three C's—Confidence, Control and Poise. That's the catch. You're thinking three C's and there are only two, and that poise makes you think twice as hard."
•Chicago White Sox Pitcher Tommy John, after losing his fourth of five starts: "Tell Curt Flood I'll join him over there."