MOVE THE HAMBO?
This is an article from the April 16, 1973 issue
Bill Hayes of Du Quoin, Ill. has had a contract with the Hambletonian Society since 1957 to stage trotting's most important race. The contract is renewable every few years, and each time the renewal date approaches rival groups and racetracks enter bids for the privilege of putting on the Hambletonian. Apparently the demeaning spectacle of the sport's premier event being offered regularly to interested bidders does not disturb the society's elders, normally a tradition-proud crew. But they would snicker in their bourbon if the thoroughbred people kept putting the Kentucky Derby on the auction block.
The latest and best-financed effort to get the Hambletonian away from Du Quoin is the work of a group of New Yorkers who want to present it at Saratoga, not at harness racing's Saratoga Raceway but on the famous old thoroughbred track after its traditional month of flat racing ends. Naturally, the Du Quoin forces are resisting, and there are solid arguments for both sides. But one point Du Quoin has in its favor is impressive: in Du Quoin, where it has been for the last 15 years, the Hambletonian has put down firm roots in an area that is appropriately rural and American heartland for this traditional countryside sport. Maybe there is a second point, too: How can anyone even think of presenting the Hambo on a track like Saratoga, a fortress of the thoroughbred Establishment? Why, those folks still call the trotters jugheads.
Proprietors of golf driving ranges won't like this, but Betty Burfeindt, winner of $47,500 last year on the women's golf tour, says, "The more practice balls you hit, the less time you have on the tour. The body takes a terrible strain hitting golf balls. The hands and elbows take a real beating, and the older you get the more ailments you're likely to develop. Arthritis, tendinitis and all those other itises will eventually catch up with you."
She says she will hit a few tee shots to loosen up before a round and will occasionally hit a bucket of balls if she has had problems with her swing. But that's it.
"Just getting out and playing is the best practice of all, and it's a lot easier on your body."
When the Indy-type cars rolled off the tracks and into their winter garages last season, auto racing fans had a pretty good idea what was going to come back out this spring: the 200-mph era. All the basics were there: turbochargers, superadhesive tires, airfoils on everything but drivers' helmets and elbows—about the only thing needed was a few chassis touches to bring the hotshots over the 200 mark. Early tests at various tracks indicated that suspicions were correct, but the official season opener at Phoenix was washed out, which brought the gang to a 200-mile race tucked out of the way on a new track at College Station, Texas last weekend. There, as promised, they cut loose.
Not just one or two, but nine cars qualified at 200-plus mph, led by Bobby Unser's Olsonite-Eagle at a blurring 212.766. A.J. Foyt, with a 206.127-mph average, qualified only seventh and said, "I dunno if I want to ride that fast." He hinted he would be in favor of new restrictions to cut everybody back down to saner levels.
The Texas track is a two-mile affair with enough banking—two 22-degree turns that rifle the racers into the straightaway—to make drivers feel they are inside a giant soup bowl. On the more sedate 2½-mile Indy course, starting speeds will be slightly slower. For the record, Al (The Other) Unser won in his Viceroy Special, but now that they're in the 200s the main concern of the drivers is the punishment wreaked on cars at such sustained high speeds. In Texas Bobby Unser led for 30 laps, then fell out with a broken piston. Mario Andretti, who qualified third with 209.607 mph, Gordon Johncock and Foyt dropped out with mechanical troubles, and only 13 cars, half the starters, were running at the end.
Next stop will be Trenton, and then, if there are any cars left, the month-long Indy scene starts. The question won't be whether or not they can hit 200 at The Brickyard but how long they can hold it.
WIRED FOR SOUND
Despite his wired jaw, Muhammad Ali may end up lecturing on poetry at Oxford, beginning next November. His only serious rival for the chair of poetry there is Stephen Spender, who has never been in the ring with a Ken Norton or a Joe Frazier. Spender does have a second named W. H. Auden, possibly a good cut man.
Dr. Duncan MacLeod and Dr. Nicholas Stern, who asked Ali to accept the nomination and run, insisted their bid was serious. "We should like to see him win," said Dr. MacLeod. "It may be time for ephemeral poets like Ali to be recognized. He is not a professional poet. His poetry is incidental to his main work. But it could be that it reflects a true poetic impulse."
Asked if he admired Ali's verse, MacLeod said, "That would be a bit strong. I enjoy it." He admitted, too, that one reason for the nomination is to suggest "there is a certain amount of ridicule attached to this kind of election, anyway."
The vote takes place next month when some, if not all, of 30,000 eligible Oxford M.A.'s will cast their ballots. The position is for five years at an annual salary of about ¬£774. If he wins, Ali would be expected to give one lecture a term, or about three in the course of a year.
SELLOUT OF SELLOUTS
Next year's final round of the UCLA college basketball championships—whoops, make that the NCAA college basketball championships—will be played in Greensboro, N.C. The Greensboro Coliseum seats 15,400. Don't bother writing for tickets. They went on sale April 1, a year ahead of time, and they're all gone. Only 8,800 seats were available for public sale (the other 6,600 are reserved for the competing teams, visiting coaches and the NCAA) and almost 30,000 applications, each presumably asking for the maximum of four tickets, were received. It was estimated that the total value of the checks accompanying the applications was more than $2 million.
The applications with proper postmarks (none before April 1, none after that date) were put together in a bin and a drawing was held to pick the lucky 2,200 who would get tickets. Coliseum Manager Jim Oshust said, "We knew we were in the hotbed of college basketball and we knew we would have an early sellout, but nobody expected anything like this."
CINDERS? WHAT ARE CINDERS?
If you look upon synthetic surfaces as a momentary phenomenon, a fad that will diminish and eventually go away, you are out of touch. They are now the accepted—or at least the preferred—way of life. As evidence listen to the complaint of Burl McCoy, track coach at Abilene Christian, after a recent meet: "I feel that having to compete on a cinder track slowed us down in our running. The men were not used to that type of track and were unable to get their footing."
MORE BASKETBALL BUSINESS
Virginia Tech's National Invitation Tournament victory in New York's Madison Square Garden had clear and welcome repercussions for that institution. Tech's president, Dr. T. Marshall Hahn, said thousands of dollars were pledged to the college treasury in the days following the tournament, and he added that because of the victory, alumni, corporations and the Virginia General Assembly were expected to look more favorably upon the school. Dr. Hahn said the funds Tech received would be used for research and instruction as well as for athletic programs, but he noted that the recognition the athletic program had received "will help not only in recruiting the blue-chip athletes but in putting before the public the image of a successful university." He added that would probably open the door for some industrial grants.
All this is added evidence of the financial impact of big-time sport on the collegiate scene.
Echoing this businesslike approach to college sport, Ara Parseghian of Notre Dame said not long ago that he felt coaches should be allowed to test promising high school athletes before giving them athletic scholarships in somewhat the same way students are tested before being granted academic scholarships.
"You never saw an academic scholarship offered without some sort of examination," Parseghian said. "You get a musician, and you want to hear how he plays. But the football coach can only meet and look at the athlete and say, 'Well, he looks all right.' "
He suggested that the NCAA approve some kind of test of physical ability to help sort out the talent. "If an athlete isn't going to be able to make it in your school, why not tell him before he signs for a scholarship?" Parseghian argued. "Then he could go instead to a smaller school and be a big fish in a little pond."
NO TEA PARTY
John D. (Jock) Semple, the energetic, hot-tempered little Scotsman who is a driving force behind the Boston Marathon, may abandon the affair after the 1973 version is run this Monday. Among other things, Semple handles all the office detail related to applications. Last week he wrote a marathoner friend: "This has become more than a labor of love and I'm afraid I'm going to bow out. The thing is, I'm losing the feeling that I'm doing something for the game. There are well over 1,500 entries, and handling that much mail is just beyond me. Most of the entrants think we have a staff with secretaries, etc., but I handle the whole thing myself, with a little help from my wife and a fellow at the Garden. The mail I have received since January and replied to, including the postcards, must be close to 5,000, and this does not include the mail I get all summer, fall and winter. Strange as it may seem, I also have a clinic to operate [Semple is a registered physiotherapist; the marathon is a hobby].
"We have a great field of class runners and also hundreds of honest runners like yourself, but the rest of the mob is made up of cheats and liars who do not tell the truth on their entry blanks. It is an impossible task to screen them. I threw out some, but the number of cheats is abnormal.
"Enough complaints. It is still the greatest race, and someone can take my place. I hope you can run a satisfactory race without too much suffering."
Golf courses, always in danger of selling out because of the two-way pressure of rising taxes and inviting real-estate prices, found an ally in William Scott, attorney general of Illinois. In a speech at a golf seminar near Chicago, Scott said, "It does not make sense to tax golf courses out of existence and then ask taxpayers to buy them back in order to preserve open spaces." Not so optimistically, he did not see Illinois giving golf courses tax relief for another five or 10 years.
THEY SAID IT
•Mike Kilkenny, Cleveland Indian relief pitcher, after reading that Babe Ruth's salary of $80,000 a year in 1930 was equivalent to a salary of 5307,130 today because of inflation and increased taxes: "If I played then, it would mean I'd have been making about 9¢ a day."
•Jack Kemp, former pro football player, explaining how he went about getting reelected as a Congressman from Buffalo: "I told the people that if they didn't elect me, I'd come back as quarterback of the Bills."
•Darrell Royal, Texas football coach: "Football doesn't build character. It eliminates the weak ones."
•Charles Maher, Los Angeles Times sportswriter, talking to an official of the new professional track association: "When are you guys going to have your first strike?"