AN EXTRAORDINARY MAN
After Jackie Robinson's death last week, one of our baseball writers was moved to observe:
"I met Jack many times, first when he was a ballplayer, later at various sporting and social functions. I had absolute respect for him, but each time I met him he seemed vaguely contemptuous of me. In truth, he almost certainly did not remember me particularly from one meeting to the next and had no special feelings one way or the other. But even when he was quiet he seemed to bristle with truculence, be inwardly steaming with repressed anger that might flare up at any moment. He never gave smooth, easy answers to questions, never resorted to the slick and the obvious. If you asked him something, he looked at you directly as if to challenge the motive behind the question. He had a passion for truth, for what he felt was the truth, and he could be a bit frightening at times. But he was always impressive. And refreshing. I don't remember ever talking to anyone else quite like him.
"He was unique on the ball field, too. In most of what has been written and said about him since his death, his talent as a ballplayer has been curiously obscured. He was the most aggressively exciting player of my experience. Ty Cobb was before my time, but I saw Babe Ruth and DiMaggio, Musial and Willie Mays, Aaron and Ted Williams. Robinson's statistical record seems meager compared with theirs, but if all of them were somehow playing on the same team I have no doubt that Robinson would be the dominating figure. He made things happen. He was an extraordinary man."
November 6, 1972
THERE GOES ANOTHER ONE
Despite—or possibly because of—the unsmiling rigidity of their government, Russians often possess a lively sense of humor. Last week they reported another world record for the Soviet Union. A Russian engineer, they said, had given up smoking 57 times in one year, breaking the old record of 50 held by America's Mark Twain.
Buffalo finally put aside its favorite sport, which is arguing, and got to work building its new 80,000-seat, $126 million stadium. Although the new arena is supposed to be ready for the 1973 football season, Buffalonians watching work progress were uneasy because they just don't feel right unless they are squabbling with one another. Relief came when the question arose as to what the new stadium should be named. In the old days you could settle for calling it after Millard Fillmore or Douglas MacArthur, but nowadays commerce comes into it. The New England Patriots, for instance, play in Schaefer Stadium, which is supposed to remind patrons to buy that brand of beer. In Buffalo, Rich Products Corporation, which has plants in Canada and Europe as well as in the U.S., offered Erie County $1.5 million over 25 years if the facility were named Rich Stadium. Actually, the company wanted the name to be Coffee Rich Stadium, after its best-known product, but opposition to this as maybe an eentsy bit too commercial moved the company to modify it.
Erie County Executive Edward V. Regan said he was against the Rich name in any form and wanted the place called Erie County Stadium. His argument was that "the combination of civic pride, nationwide identification and recognition that would accrue with a civil name" would be worth at least as much as the money the county would receive annually for accepting Rich Stadium as the name. County legislators argued right back that the stadium was a commercial venture and that the name should be considered part of its commercial aspect. In fact, the legislators passed a resolution last May that the sale of the name should be pursued, and during the summer the Chamber of Commerce was asked to round up some companies that might be interested. Merchants Mutual Insurance Company of Buffalo, the Erie County Savings Bank and Schaefer indicated interest, but when formal-bid time came only Rich Products put an offer on the line. Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills said belatedly he would match the bid if the place were called Buffalo Bills Stadium.
If Wilson is bypassed and the original bid accepted, Buffalo should relax and count its blessings. Commercial it may be, but Rich Stadium is a little easier to take than Merchants Mutual Insurance Arena or Erie County Savings Bank Park.
THINGS THAT GO BUMP
The manufacturers of the Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce have agreed to add a warning notice to literature enclosed in cars sold in New York City. The warning states: "Due to the present condition of the streets in the city of New York, particularly the presence of potholes and debris, you are advised to exercise extreme caution when driving in that area and avoid such hazards, as your failure to do so may result in damage to your Alfa Romeo."
IS WINNING THE ONLY THING?
The University of Miami's failure to forfeit that disputed game with Tulane a few weeks ago continues to arouse comment. Through an officiating mistake, Miami, behind 21-17, was allowed a fifth down in Tulane territory late in the fourth quarter. Miami scored on the extra down and won the game 24-21. Game films showed the error. Miami should not have been permitted the extra down. Tulane should have been given the ball and, since there were only 54 seconds to play, presumably would have won 21-17.
The incident revived memories of the Cornell-Dartmouth game of 1940. Ivy League notwithstanding, undefeated Cornell was about the best team in the country at the time (it had beaten Ohio State in a battle of giants earlier). Dartmouth, ahead 3-0 in the fourth quarter, was within minutes of pulling off the upset of the year when Cornell was inadvertently given an extra down by the officials. Cornell scored and won 7-3. When the films were reviewed the mistake was obvious, and on the Monday after the game Cornell forfeited its tainted victory, giving Dartmouth a 3-0 win. A recent Associated Press story claims that Cornell officials were taken aback when Dartmouth accepted the forfeit, but even so, the gesture has resounded to Cornell's credit over the years.
Miami, however, chose not to follow Cornell's lead and cited various reasons why it would not. Most of the arguments seemed to boil down to a rather childish "It doesn't matter how it happened—we won the game. Why should we give it back?"
Well, possibly for reasons of pride and self-respect. If it had given the game to Tulane, Miami would have been applauded for making a gracious, sports-manlike gesture. Instead, it has an empty, pointless victory and a cheap reputation it will take a while to get rid of.
SOUND OF MUSIC
Tom Schill and Jim Petrie Jr. of upstate New York were hunting near a beaver pond in mid-October when they saw a lone black duck come gliding in. They both fired, the duck fell and from the yard of a farmhouse a quarter of a mile away came the mournful sound of a trumpeter playing taps.
The wistful notes had barely faded when a large flock of ducks came in. Schill and Petrie fired away, reloading and shooting as fast as they could. When the sound of their last shots subsided, the mysterious trumpeter played The Baltic Hymn of the Republic.
Read any moral you want into this.
POP GOES THE BASKETBALL
Northwestern State College of Alva, Okla. had a poor basketball season last year, with a 7-20 overall record and a 4-16 mark in the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference. Coach Keith Covey sent a complaint to a conference meeting a couple of weeks ago about the playing conditions his Rangers had to put up with around the league. He mentioned "inadequate lighting at Northeastern and Panhandle and excessive crowd noise at Phillips, Central and Southeastern." He objected to signs that said "Kill the Rangers" and "Blood Makes the Victory Sweeter."
Phillips' faculty representative rejected the charge of excessive crowd noise at his school. "I don't know what Mr. Covey is talking about," he said. "We only have about 200 people come to our games. He must have heard a building swaying in the wind." As for the "kill" and "blood" signs Covey mentioned. Central's athletic director protested, "We will let the students put up signs that say 'Beat the Rangers,' but we won't let them put up one that says 'Beat the Hell Out of the Rangers.' "
However, there was support, if reluctant, for some of Covey's points. Panhandle tried to reject the poor lighting criticism by saying, "We have no problem. Mr. Covey is the one with a problem." But it was reported that before Central went off to play games at Panhandle its players took the precaution of working out in semidarkness, sometimes turning out most of the lights in the field house. And Northeastern's athletic director blamed the inadequacy in his school's lighting on the gym's popcorn popper. "Even with the new wiring in our gymnasium," he said, "we can't turn all our lights on. When we do, it blows a fuse in the concession stand."
COLOSSUS OF CORN
Some Nebraskans recently proposed that Interstate 80, the major east-west route across the state, be bridged by a massive steel beam, a 375-foot span soaring 235 feet above the road. In the middle would be a group of plastic figures representing Nebraska's pioneers. The plastic would be painted bronze.
A second suggestion soon followed. This one was made public by Michael Epps, who said he was "a spokesman for Monument Group, a Lincoln design firm." Epps said his concern had been commissioned to prepare plans for a 150-foot-high figure of a University of Nebraska football player, a center, who would be crouching over the highway. His helmet would house a revolving restaurant, his chest a display area of Nebraska memorabilia, his hips an observation platform and souvenir shop. The football would be a quick-stop restaurant. It was hoped that low-cost housing units could be built into the giant's calves.
Reaction to the steel beam had been mild, but when the Epps plan was publicized, both proposals were condemned as garish and tasteless. Instead of being upset, Epps was delighted. He is a student of architecture at Nebraska, he said, and he had been appalled by the apparent acceptance of the steel beam-and-plastic-bronze thing. He had presented his giant Cornhusker plan as a sardonic put-on. "It made people stop and think about putting a monument over the highway," he said, "and when they did, they realized it was no good. I'm pleased by the public reaction."
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Johnson, 5'9", 165-pound Western Michigan defensive back, asked how he was physically able to make 56 tackles last season: "I'm so small, blockers just run right by me and look for someone bigger to hit."
•Sam Bailey, former Tampa University football coach, discussing a prospect he tried to recruit: "There's this interior lineman. He's big as a gorilla and strong as a gorilla. Now, if he was smart as a gorilla he'd be fine."
•Ed Charters, coach of Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in Pennsylvania, after Back Frank Bingham ran for 316 yards and scored on touchdown runs of six, 17, 22, 46 and 68 yards: "We should never have let him get that short one from the six. It brought his average down."
•Shelby Metcalf, Texas A&M basketball coach, asked if his team was going to run and shoot this year: "Nope, we're going to run and throw."