The American League's radical decision to adopt a designated pinch-hitter rule (page 26) has excited a lot of speculation and comment, some of it reasoned and perceptive, some of it hurried and emotional. The possible side effects—on pitching, for example—are fascinating to contemplate, but what statistical impact will the new rule actually have on hitting?
A nuclear engineer and computer scientist named Arthur V. Peterson Jr. thinks he knows. Using a technique called computer simulation, Peterson ran 50 seasons of baseball through a computer, first in the old-fashioned (or National League) way, then with a designated pinch hitter in place of the pitcher. His findings are complex but, boiled down, here are some of the things his study predicts. First, he assumes designated hitters will bat an average of 84 points higher than the pitchers they replace. This means team batting averages will rise nine points, a welcome jump in a declining market. Team on-base averages will go up even more, about 12 points, and slugging averages about 22 points. There will be fewer shutouts (about 22% fewer), and the number of games in which a team is held to one, two or three runs will decline 8.5%. Concomitantly, the number of games in which a team scores four or more runs will go up 12%.
Most important, American League teams should increase their scoring by an average of 70 runs apiece this season, or more than 800 runs for the league, which would bring it to parity with the harder-hitting National.
THE INK IS RED
New Orleans is in the process of building a domed stadium. Seattle and a few other cities have similar domed arenas in the planning stage. But is a domed stadium worth the cost and effort? The experience of Houston's Astrodome, the only existing domed stadium in the U.S. at the moment indicates it is not.
The city of Houston moved recently to pluck an extra $385,000 a year in taxes from the Houston Sports Association, which rents the Astrodome and uses it, among other things, as a playground for the baseball Astros. Officials of the association paled and hurriedly presented financial data that showed the ball club had lost $569,000 in 1971. Astrodome rental is $750,000 a year, highest in major league baseball, and maintenance costs are on top of that. To break even, the HSA said, the stadium would have to be used 250 days a year. In 1972, even including all the days the Astros occupied it, the figure was only 134 days. And that was a record. The city decided not to impose the additional tax.
The question remains. If Houston can't make ends meet in a stadium that cost a modest $31.5 million to build, how can cities who expect to pay double and triple that for newer domed arenas possibly avoid the financial glooms?
CAN BENCH OUTSWIM LAVER?
A Florida development corporation is sponsoring a wild 10-event sports competition in February which, even though it is a promotional thing for a new resort complex, sounds fascinating. Ten top pro athletes will meet in a variety of sports for prizes totaling $122,000, plus a $25,000 bonus for the all-round champion. The 10 are Johnny Bench (baseball), Joe Frazier (boxing), Elvin Hayes (basketball), Jean-Claude Killy (skiing), Rod Laver (tennis), Stan Mikita (hockey), Gary Player (golf), Peter Revson (auto racing), Jim Stefanich (bowling) and Johnny Unitas (football). The 10 events are: 100-yard dash, 880-yard run, 100-meter swim, two-mile bicycle race, nine-hole golf tournament, one-set tennis tournament, one-game Ping-Pong tournament, bowling, weight lifting and baseball hitting. Each man enters seven of the 10 events, although he can't pick one that is his own specialty. Laver will not play tennis or Player golf, and Bench will not hit baseballs. Laver, however, will play Ping-Pong.
The competitive possibilities are fascinating. Joe Frazier, for instance, has already decided to enter the 100-and 880-yard runs, the swim, the bike race, weight lifting, bowling and baseball hitting. ABC-TV, which is always charging around looking for something different in sports, will tape the affair and telecast it a week later.
SWINGING THE OLD BAMBOO
The Kuboto Slugger has made its way into baseball, at least in Hawaii. The Kuboto Slugger is a bamboo baseball bat. The bamboo is laminated and the finished product does not look much different from a Louisville Slugger, but there are those who like it better than the new aluminum bats being produced in the U.S. It does not nick, is guaranteed to last for at least one year and sells in Japan for 1,600 yen, or a little less than $5. Tom Kiyosaki, executive secretary of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, introduced the bat to a group of Honolulu athletic directors last week, all of whom seemed impressed.
The best wood baseball bats are made of mountain ash, but Kiyosaki said the supply of top-grade ash is relatively limited and bats made from it are snapped up by professionals. "We have to check out what others have to offer," he explained. He also showed the athletic directors a rubber baseball used in Japan by junior varsity teams to reduce expenses. "When you use the rubber baseball," he said, "you don't have to have a chest protector or shin guards."
Bamboo bats and rubber baseballs. What next? Paper uniforms?
WORD FROM WOODY
Woody Hayes, the Ohio State football coach who has been accused of alleged roughing up of a photographer before the Rose Bowl game, had something to say last week to a physical-education convention in Pittsburgh.
"If our society goes down the drain," he said, "and there are big signs it might, then historians will report: 'Here is a nation founded on team play that went down because they forgot about it.' If you want to destroy a society, talk down the heroes. You can't have a good physical-education program without a good varsity sports program. Nations are built on the positive approach, just like football teams."
Hayes said the discipline, hard work and pressure of varsity football builds the character a nation needs, and that the battle against decadence in our society is being won on football fields. Football does not brutalize a man through violence, he argued, but strengthens his self-esteem to such a degree that he need not prove himself through violence off the field.
LIFE FOLLOWS ART
Monopoly, the traditional American game long before upstart chess came along, faced a crisis last week. Everyone knows that the street names in Monopoly were inspired by those of Atlantic City, N.J. Think of the consternation last week in Salem, Mass., home of Parker Brothers, manufacturers of Monopoly, when word came that Atlantic City was proposing to change the names of Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues, those cheaply priced but always loved first properties on the board. Arthur W. Ponzio, commissioner of public works, wanted to change Mediterranean to Melrose and make Baltic part of Fairmount.
Edward P. Parker, president of Parker Brothers, fired off an anguished letter to Ponzio. "Baltic and Mediterranean are not just local street names," he wrote, "they belong to America." He mentioned Monopoly addicts who make the pilgrimage to Atlantic City just to see the streets they have, so to speak, played on. "Would you be willing to take the responsibility," Parker asked Ponzio, "for an invasion by hordes of protesting Monopoly players, all demanding that you go directly to jail without even the dignity of passing Go?"
In Atlantic City, Ponzio, who said he had been swamped with mail, graciously reversed himself, and Mediterranean and Baltic yet live. In Salem, Parker said they would have remained in the game in any case. Nor do we intend to change the spelling of Marvin Gardens to Marven Gardens," he said, "although we recently learned we have been misspelling it all these years. Perhaps the real Marven Gardens should consider changing its name."
Pierre (Butch) Bouchard of the Montreal Canadiens tangled with Ivan Boldirev of the California Golden Seals during a recent NHL game and threw a series of punches, several of them connecting. Boldirev wisely clinched but Bouchard continued his attack by using his head, mostly on Boldirev's nose. ("It's nothing much," Boldirev said later. "I've broken it a few times before.")
After the fight the still agitated Bouchard was told that butting with the head was against the Marquis of Queens-berry rules of boxing. "To hell with the Queen of Marksberry," sputtered Bouchard. "The people yell for me to fight, and so I light and then they say, 'That's not hockey.' I'm not listening to them anymore. I'll do what I think is right for Butch, not for the Queen of Marks-berry."
Bouchard hurt his hand in the brawl and had to miss several games. His head was fine.
ALL BY MYSELF
College football is a coaches' game, and the teams are reflections of the coaches' personalities and philosophies. But Boston University President John Silber feels the role of the coach has been overdone, and he recommends it be deemphasized. He contends that during a game the coach belongs in the stands. He says he is not advocating a usurpation of the coach's authority but a return of the quarterback to his original position as team leader, as well as restoration of player dignity in general.
Silber feels that taking the coach off the sidelines, preventing spotters in the stands from having contact with the team during the game and restoring to the quarterback the responsibility of running things would strengthen the development of a footballer's imagination as well as his courage and capacity to make proper decisions quickly.
"After all, this is supposed to be an educational experience for the players," Silber says of the college game, arguing that originally a coach functioned mostly as a teacher who would prepare his players during the week and then stand aside when they underwent the test of competition on Saturday. "We want players who can analyze and react to a situation. We want them to be well coached, but we do not want them run like a bunch of automatons. Football is supposed to be enjoyable. It's supposed to be fun. We have to bring that back."
Seats on the 50-yard line are a coveted prize, but football scouts and other experts often choose seats high up in the end zone. Latest evidence of this seemingly bizarre preference comes from Frank Broyles, Arkansas head coach, who saw his first live professional game when Miami defeated Cleveland in their playoff. Broyles sat directly behind the goalposts and said, "I enjoyed it very much. I could see the holes open up and the reaction of the defense. I always sit about the same place during Arkansas practices so I can see the same thing."
Strange things sometimes happen in sport, the arena of honest effort and the all-out try. For some years now in football it has been accepted custom to mute things a bit in certain postseason all-star games. Once in a while this leads to unfortunate incidents, as in the recent Senior Bowl game at Mobile. There, with less than a minute to play, the South, leading by a field goal, had the ball deep in its own territory on fourth down. Naturally, it chose to punt. A North lineman broke through and blocked the punt. Great play for the North, right? It takes possession of the ball in scoring range, with a good chance to tie or win.
Not at all. A whistle blew and the North was penalized five yards for "illegal procedure" by the kick-blocking lineman. Special rules had been set up for the game, providing for no rushing of the punter. Well, not exactly no rushing. You could rush a little, as long as you flitted past the kicker instead of directly at him.
Can you imagine that? Blocking a punt illegal in a game between college all-stars? Sounds like touch football between kids on a grammar school playground.
A New York Islander fan has bet a Philadelphia 76er fan on the outcome of the season. Since the 76ers play basketball and the Islanders play hockey, and both are in last place, the bet seems pointless. Not so. It is fraught with tension and may go to the wire: the bet is over which will lose more games. Because the NBA plays 82 games and the NHL only 78, the basketball season will end for betting purposes after 78 games are played. And hockey ties count as losses. When the bet was made in midseason the Islanders had won only four of 35 games, the 76ers but three of 41. Seldom have two teams been more evenly matched.
So far the hockey fan is enjoying himself more, even though the 76ers are well ahead in losses. "My team goes out there and gets beat," he explains, "often by a shutout. There is no doubt. But his team runs up 90 or 100 points before losing. That can get pretty hairy."
THEY SAID IT
•Larry Brown, Washington Redskin back, on whether he thinks while he runs: "If you think too much, you'll go nowhere. I just try to decrease the situations that are detrimental to my health."
•Al McGuire, Marquette basketball coach, on his awareness of where pro scouts and general managers sit during his team's games: "I don't like Wayne Embry [general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks] that close to the court. It gives our players peripheral vision."
•Jack Marin, Houston Rocket forward, after his team played five road games in seven days: "This trip must have been planned by the Marquis de Sade Travel Agency."
•Greg Pruitt, nosed out by Johnny Rodgers for Heisman Trophy, after being named Most Valuable Player in the Hula Bowl: "I knew I'd win some more awards."