Bob Short, owner of the Texas Rangers, or whatever he plans to call his refurbished Senators when they move from Washington to Dallas-Fort Worth, was refreshingly candid when he termed himself a failure for the way he ran his baseball operation in the nation's capital. He made one superb move when he hired Ted Williams as manager, but otherwise everything Short did was glaringly inept. He made terrible trades (the Denny McLain thing), spent money foolishly (Curt Flood) and displayed the optimistic naiveté of a gauche owner in trying to achieve instant success on the field with tired old stars instead of building from the bottom with young players, as the Kansas City Royals are doing so brilliantly, and as even the impatient Charlie Finley has done with his A's.
Result: a dying team and a dead franchise. But a dead baseball city? How can you blame Washington fans or visitors to the District for not breaking down the gates of the stadium, particularly since the price scale for tickets to this inept show was the highest in the league? How can you blame radio-TV for not paying premium fees for the privilege of airing a perennial flop?
No, the fault, as Bob Short says, lies with Bob Short.
Lew Alcindor's decision to follow Cassius Clay's lead and change his name is not causing one-tenth the furor and publicity that accompanied the arrival of "Muhammad Ali" in sporting nomenclature. Alcindor, who is changing his name legally (Ali has not yet done that), expects a Chicago court to make it official in a few weeks, and the Milwaukee Bucks have said they will refer to their big center as Kareem Abdul Jabbar (page 20). The player indicated that he would not be too upset if for a time newspapers continued to refer to him as Alcindor. "I imagine they might parenthesize 'Alcindor' after 'Jabbar' until January or so, when people will be getting used to it," he says.
Jabbar also says that his new religion is not the same as Ali's. He is a traditional Moslem, whereas Ali is a Black Muslim, a newer sect. "I have no right to criticize them," he says, "and if they accomplish good, then I'm all for them. I just want to make it plain that I do not follow what they follow. I want to state what I am and not have it confused with anyone or anything else."
Bob Kap, kicking scout for the Dallas Cowboys—yes, Virginia, some football teams have kicking scouts, just as some have offensive coordinators—says the conventional head-on, or toe-on, place-kicker will soon be as extinct as leather nose guards. Kap is a former soccer coach who has made several trips to Europe searching for kickers, and he may be prejudiced, but he says that, "In three or four years there will be no more American-style kickers in the NFL. All will be soccer kickers. When men kick with the toe, too small a part of the foot makes contact with the ball. The soccer kicker meets the ball with his whole instep, and the ball goes much truer."
You won't convince George Blanda, but four of the five leading placekickers in the American Conference last year were sidewinders. Never mind that football, son. Dig a soccer ball out of the closet and let's go out on the side lawn a while.
Billie Jean King, women's U.S. Open tennis champion, is resigned to being ranked second in the world behind Australia's Evonne Goolagong, who defeated her at Wimbledon, but she isn't too happy about it. "Tennis rankings are archaic," says the 27-year-old Mrs. King. "Whoever wins Wimbledon is ranked No. 1. Well, Wimbledon doesn't mean that much anymore. The only two things that should count are a player's won-loss record and her prize money. Still, Evonne won it, so she'll be No. 1 and I'll be No. 2, even though I've won 15 tournaments to her six. And even though I've won $95,000 this year."
Billie Jean also implied that her prize total should have been higher, and she was not thinking of the $4,000 she might have won last Sunday in the Pacific Southwest tournament if she and fellow finalist Rosemary Casals had not stalked off the court together in protest against a lineman's calls. She meant the U.S. Open at Forest Hills, where young Chris Evert was a sensation. "Nine out of every 10 people there came to see the women," argues Mrs. King. "So why didn't the women get nine-tenths of the prize money?" They received about 25%.
Pete Maravich, the stormy petrel of basketball, was either a dismal failure or a gratifying success last year in his rookie season with the Atlanta Hawks, depending on your point of view. The highly publicized Maravich, who signed a $2 million contract, received only four votes for NBA Rookie of the Year out of 192 cast by his fellow players around the league. On the other hand, he finished eighth in the league in scoring and averaged 30 points a game the last month of the season. Not bad.
Maravich resents the meager recognition he has received. "Four votes," he says. "There was a lot of jealousy and envy of me, and that proves it. They didn't respect my ability at all. I didn't have a good year—O.K., they're right about that. But I thought I deserved a little more recognition. Say, maybe 10 votes. But four?
"One writer said I should never throw a behind-the-back pass again. I've worked eight hours a day on that pass for years, thrown a million of those things, and he's telling me to quit. He doesn't have any earthly idea of what I've gone through to get where I am. I've worked for this ever since I was eight years old. Wait till he sees what I've been trying this summer at my clinics. I've got some new things ready."
Maravich's brashness and flamboyant moves on the court were resented by veterans on the Hawks. One of these, Bill Bridges, says, "I had some creative things to do when I was a rookie, but they took them all away. It took me three years to get back to that. I think sometimes the established veterans are so anxious to make rookies fit into the traditional system that they take a lot of creativity away from them. I certainly didn't understand Pete's creativity, didn't understand it at all. We'd been doing all these nice safe things, and here comes this rookie with the new stuff. It took us quite a while to work things out."
"This year will be better," Maravich says. "I know it will. I couldn't be more optimistic. I know I'll be handling the ball more, and that's going to be something I'll really enjoy."
Britain's girl athletes are up in arms against Dr. Ludwig Prokop, who was chief sex tester at the Mexico City Olympics. Sports competition, says the doctor, makes girls ugly. After testing 911 girl athletes he concluded that sports gave them hard, stringy bodies, deep voices and, in some cases, hair on their chests.
Marea Hartman, Britain's outspoken women's team manager, says: "Dr. Prokop is talking poppycock. I completely refute his insinuations. Goodness, I see the girls in the showers often enough, and I can tell you there is not a single hairy chest among them." Dr. Prokop did not indicate where he did his chest research.
Ann Wilson, the staunchly British pentathlon star, says the doctor must have been thinking of Russian girls. Miss Wilson, 22 and shapely, says she has been putting the shot in competition for six years and insists she has no hair on her chest. She adds, as a clincher, that British sports girls do not lack for boyfriends.
One of the more distinguished horse races in this country is the Washington D.C. International at Laurel in Maryland. For almost 20 years it has been run each autumn, usually on what used to be called Armistice Day, with a selected field of international entries—including at times horses from the Soviet Union—racing over the turf. Now the International is in serious trouble because of the epidemic of equine encephalitis that infected horses in the Southwest this past summer. Most countries are very afraid of epidemic disease among animals and have strict quarantine laws. Right now, many are maintaining an absolute ban against the import of horses from the U.S. This means horses could come to Laurel for the International on Oct. 25, but afterward they would not be able to return home.
John D. Schapiro, Laurel's president, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture assured foreign countries that the danger of infection is nil and asked them to ease their restrictions, but without success. "My latest word," Schapiro said last week, "is that they will not even consider lifting the ban until the end of October, which would be too late for our race." So far, only one foreign horse (Trafoi, from Italy) is definitely coming, although Schapiro says he expects three or four entries from Ireland and England. Still, without a truly representative field the International will be just another race, which is a shame.
The toughest ticket in Boston is one for a Bruin hockey game, so much so that 3,000 fans stood in line all night the day after Labor Day for seats to three preseason contests scheduled for early October. Scalpers always do a lively business, and even the new minor league Boston Braves of the American Hockey League have sold 7,000 season tickets.
Now Boston's ever-imaginative politicians are in the act. Bob Crane, hockey fan and close friend of Bobby Orr, is treasurer and principal fund raiser for the state Democratic Party. Casting around for ways to raise money, he came up with legal scalping: buying tickets to the October preseason games at face value and selling them to hockey-hungry fans at inflated prices, the proceeds to be used for voter-registration drives. The Bruins' management agreed to the idea as a public service, which brought the Republicans into the picture, too. Each party was allowed to buy 1,000 seats apiece for each of the three preseason games at the regular prices of $5 and $4.25 each. Then the politicians put the tickets on sale for $25, $20 and $15, and they were snapped up like baked beans, or possibly codfish cakes. The fans, at least those who got tickets, were satisfied, the club was content and the two parties, seeing eye to eye for a change, were delighted with the idea.
THE GAS HOUSE GANG
The Baltimore Orioles have orange uniforms, Charlie Finley's A's have been in "Kelly green and Fort Knox gold" for years and everybody is wearing brightly hued shoes. The next item to join baseball's color parade will be gloves. Spalding, MacGregor, Rawlings and King are planning to market blue gloves, green gloves, red gloves, even a model in red, white and blue, like the ABA basketball. Only Wilson is holding the line for basic brown.
The glittering mitts are primarily for kids and amateurs; professional baseball has not yet indicated acceptance. Still, it can only be a matter of time before public-address systems intone: "And in center field, batting .286, wearing an appealing baby-blue glove and matching shoes to complement his daring daffodil uniform...."
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Reid, Cincinnati Bengal tackle, on the team's front four, Royce Berry, Steve Chomyszak, Ron Carpenter and himself: "We call ourselves Berry, Chomyszak, Carpenter and Reid. It may not be catchy, but it's functional."
•Jackie Stewart, British race driver, commenting on the White House after attending a Presidential reception: "Not quite as big as Buckingham Palace, of course, but rather impressive at that."
•Lamar Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs' owner who moved his team from Texas to Kansas City in 1963 partly because of attendance problems, on the sparse crowd of 17,000 at the Chiefs' exhibition game with the Colts at Baltimore: "I grew misty with nostalgia. It was just like the old days at Dallas."