A HORSE OF ANOTHER DOLLAR
The sporting effects of President Nixon's wage-price freeze and floating dollar have reached all the way to New Zealand, to say nothing of the block thrown on players and owners in America's professional leagues.
Consider the case of Alan J. Leavitt, whose burning desire was to own an 8-year-old pacer named James. From his lavishly appointed apartment on New York's Fifth Avenue, Leavitt put through a telephone call to Ashburton, New Zealand, where James was up for auction. There Leavitt's agents relayed his bids to the auctioneer. At $18,000 New Zealand (at the time $16,071.43 U.S.), he got his horse, one which had gone the mile in 1:59[4/5]. But Leavitt won't know what James cost him until he learns what the devaluation rate will be—anywhere from 8% to, at the very worst, 15%. He figures the gelding might cost him as much as $30,000 U.S., including freight, duty, insurance and devaluation. Not to mention phone bills.
Then there is the syndicate of American breeders who bought, for about $2 million, the 10-year-old chestnut stallion Le Fabuleux, winner of the 1964 French Derby and sire of an extraordinary list of foremost French horses. The plan is for him to stand at stud at the Claiborne Farm in Lexington, Ky.
But the new owners were not bothered by the new 10% import charge. There never has been an import tax on breeding stock, else they would have had to lay out another $200,000.
The wage-price freeze has the National Hockey League in a curious position, since most of its players and three of its 14 teams (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) are Canadian. It would seem obvious that players on the three teams are exempt from the freeze, but what about the rest—including ones like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, who are clearly deserving of wage boosts?
As of now the NHL players are continuing their annual salary negotiations as though the U.S. wage freeze never had been announced. Clarence Campbell, league president, and Alan Eagle-son, executive director of the NHL Players Association, have agreed that that is the only sensible approach until it is learned, at some time or other, what exemptions, if any, professional sports will get from the freeze.
Most speculation has been to the effect that athletes who signed their contracts before Aug. 15, when the freeze was announced, would get raises, and the others would have to be paid under 1970 provisions. There is also talk of giving retroactive raises—retroactive from the date the freeze is lifted to the date of signing.
But Dan Devine, coach of the Green Bay Packers, thinks it likely that all players without exception will be stuck with their 1970 salaries.
"The reason is that the new salaries being negotiated don't become operable until the first game, on Sept. 19," he explains. "They aren't getting paid at the new rate yet, and it seems to me that that might be an important point."
It was important for some 2.1 million teachers, whose contract year, in most cases, begins Sept. 1. In ruling on the teachers, the Cost of Living Council said firmly: "If the contract period started before Aug. 15, the salary increase may be granted. If the contract period starts after Aug. 15, the increase is not allowed."
That definition would seem to fit professional football players, too.
And Vida Blue, struggling along on about $13,000 a year.
DON CAMILLO RIDES AGAIN
In the Italian town of Ferrere, famed for its sparkling spumante, the parish priest, Don Eraldo Armosino, 51, and Leopoldo Trichero, 42, an official of the carpenters' union, have long been political antagonists.
But, since they are Italians, political differences have not meant that they could not sit late into the night in warm discussion. Two months ago they were done arguing for the evening when the priest challenged the carpenter to a bicycle race. The loser would keep his mouth shut about politics for a whole year.
Both trained hard, and last week the race was held, over a 3.6-mile course. It had been agreed that, because of the age differential, Don Armosino would be given a head start of 1,500 meters, almost a mile.
All but one of Ferrere's 1,316 citizens turned out for the race. The carpenter appeared togged out in professional cyclist gear. The priest, two hours late because he had to ring the church bells, wore black slacks, a checkered sports shirt and sandals.
Don Armosino crossed the finish line two minutes ahead of Trichero and was carried away in triumph on the shoulders of his parishioners.
Trichero was a good loser.
"It will hurt not talking politics," he said, "but a promise is a promise."
The lone person in the village who did not watch the race was the priest's 82-year-old mother, who locked herself in the parish house to pray for her son. "He'd never ridden a bicycle," she explained. "I was afraid he'd break his collar bone."
RUPP ON RUPP
Approaching his 70th birthday (on Sept. 2), Adolph Rupp, basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, remains pretty much the same old deservedly self-appreciative fellow of a quarter of a century ago who, when asked the reason for the Wildcats' success, replied, "Good coaching."
Now he has some ideas on the reasons for the comparatively poor showing of the U.S. basketball team in the recent Pan-Am Games:
1. It is impossible to get a team ready to adapt to international rules in three weeks.
2. While the Pan-Am Games were going on, some American basketball players were taking part in tournaments in other parts of the world, which diluted the U.S. team.
3. The professionals had signed most of the outstanding players.
4. Many American coaches have been asked to coach South American teams for the Olympics and other similar events, and many of them have accepted.
"I have not, however," Rupp said. Then, reverting to his old braggadocio, he added: "They're using my books, and I think that's enough."
TRY A TANK, ARMY
After some lean years, culminating in last season's 2-9 record, Navy has begun to be serious about its football recruiting program.
So the other day Navy's "bird dog" in Fort Lauderdale rounded up 15 high school coaches and took them for a ride in a nuclear submarine. He grouped them in the officers' wardroom when the sub reached a depth of 120 feet and started out with: "Before we tour the sub, gentlemen, I'd like to tell you a little something about Navy's football program."
It's what is generally known as a captive audience.
POLLUTION CAN BE FUN
A think-tank company which brought out games like Smog and Dirty Water last Christmas, Urban Systems, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. has now developed some adult chemistry sets, including two which can help you to realize, if you would like to, how environmentally awful things really are.
One of the kits is called Can I Drink the Water? And the other, naturally, is Can I Breathe the Air? Both contain fascinating little vials, bottles, droppers and fluids. Following directions, you can check your environment wherever you are.
THE PATIENT'S UP TO PAR
Just 10 days after his appendectomy, Lee Trevino was back on the golf course, not just putting, as his doctors had predicted, but fit enough to shoot a sub-par 18 holes at El Paso Country Club. Lee joined a foursome, walked all 18 holes and shot a 70, only one stroke above the April round in which he won the New Mexico PGA.
Encouraged, he has now moved up the date for his return to the professional tour by a week. He will play in the Hartford Open in Wethersfield, Conn. Sept. 3-6.
It looks as if Lee meant it when, after the operation, he said, "Those other guys better watch out. I've felt a pain in my side for about two years. Now that I've got rid of it, think how I'm going to hit that ball."
It used to be that Grambling College, alma mater of many a topnotch football player, was grandly known as Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute. Football, says Coach Eddie Robinson with a straight face, was responsible for changing the name.
One night, as he tells it, LNNII was playing another school, and the opponents ran the ball downfield close to the goal.
"Before our cheerleaders could say 'Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, hold that line,' the other team had scored.
"Our president [Dr. R.W.E. Jones] then went down to Baton Rouge and got them to change the name to something shorter."
There is an old political saying in New Mexico that the ghosts are locked out of the graveyards on Halloween and not allowed to return home until they have voted in the November elections. Now, it appears, the spooks have had a few ghost horses to ride.
This month's mass campaign to vaccinate horses against a new strain of sleeping sickness (SI, Aug. 16) encouraged New Mexico horsemen to bring more than 75,000 of their animals to the free clinics.
Which was all right except that the state's chief tax assessor noted that only 24,245 of the horses have appeared on the tax rolls.
The horses got the needle. The owners will feel the pain later this year.
THE SPORTING CON
As the car sped down Chicago's Michigan Avenue in the predawn hours, 20 police cars gave chase. One caught up with the speeder and forced him to stop.
The driver got out of his car and advanced on the cop with a warm smile and hand outstretched for a congratulatory shake.
"I used to be a stock-car driver," he said, "and after all the police chases I've been involved in, you were the only one who could catch me."
He turned out to be Edward Smith, 24, a fugitive from the Illinois State Penitentiary, where he had been serving nine to 15 years for aggravated kidnapping, rape and armed robbery. The car was stolen.
A MATTER OF CHOICE
Rather than have their sons follow their footsteps into the coal mines, fathers used to be happy to see their football-playing offspring go away to college.
Something quite like that happened to the Kuechenberg brothers—Bob, a Miami Dolphin guard, and Rudy, a Green Bay Packer linebacker.
"Our father was a human cannonball who used to go around to country fairs and rodeos being shot out of a cannon," explained Bob, who went to Notre Dame. "Usually, to make it more exciting, they'd shoot him over something, like one of the carnival rides. He always used to say, 'Go to college or be a cannonball.' "
THEY SAID IT
•Lefty Gomez, Yankee pitcher from 1930 to 1942, explaining his fame to Babe Ruth Tournament kids: "I am the one that made Joe DiMaggio a famous outfielder. Every time I threw one, there went Joe with his back to the plate after another fly ball."
•Danny Murtaugh, Pittsburgh Pirate manager, after the team, once 11½ games ahead, lost four straight to the Cardinals and saw its lead cut to four games: "One of the funny things about us Irish is we always wait until the patient is dead before we have a wake. If you think the Pirates are dead, you're in for a rude awakening."