When Secretariat was beaten by Onion in the Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, most horsemen and bettors chalked off the stunning upset as just one of those things that happen now and then in racing. After all, Man o' War and Citation lost, too. Then it was announced last weekend that the superhorse would not run in the Travers this coming Saturday because of coughing, and people began to wonder. Finally, it came out that before the Whitney, Secretariat had been under the weather for nearly a week, running a slight temperature off and on.
But despite the temperature, which was not made public, the owner and trainer decided to run him in the Whitney anyway. "He is so strong," said a dejected Penny Tweedy, "we felt he was fighting off the fever and could still perform at his best. We didn't think it that important to cancel. After the race we knew that something was wrong."
The something wrong, Whitney Tower points out, was for the stable to have started a horse that was not 100% himself. It was unfair to the public, which bet $192,772 (of a total pool of $279,081) on Secretariat in this win-only race. The bettors were cheated. Nor was it fair to the stockholders in the syndicate that will control Secretariat when he goes to stud. Nor was it fair to the superb horse himself. If this is an example of the paralyzing hold that show biz can have on people in sport, it is a sad commentary on the way sport is going.
August 19, 1973
For, of course, Secretariat had become a TV star. The Whitney was to be the first of four races in which CBS and the New York Racing Association hoped to show him off to millions of viewers. Trainer Lucien Laurin says now he feels the horse will be back to normal in two weeks, or in time for his next performance, the Marlboro Cup at Belmont on Sept. 15. This is the once heralded match race with his stablemate Riva Ridge, a schmaltzy $250,000 piece of business. After that there is the Woodward, possibly The Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Washington D.C. International, maybe even the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Everyone wants the horse, it seems, and perhaps the pressure is too much. Penny Tweedy said the other day, with sad hindsight, "This proves a horse is not a machine." Then why treat him like one?
ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN
In its investigations, the House Select Committee on Crime looked into corruption in horse racing. After a flurry of headlines, nothing more seemed to happen. In the August issue of Hoof Beats, official publication of the U.S. Trotting Association, Executive Editor Stan Bergstein comments:
"The House Select Committee on Crime has expired, its appropriation not renewed, and there will be little mourning at the bar.
"Despite its noble purpose, the committee used methods that were not only embarrassing to racing but to its own members. It listened to 'experts' who weren't; dignified the testimony of hoodlums and creeps of no character and less credibility; apologized in its final report for having never quite gotten around to talking to the leaders of American racing; used as its star witness a minor crook who claimed he could get into any stable area in the country but was arrested, tried and convicted when he attempted to do so; used racing's own security files, including those of the USTA, as if they were original investigative work of the committee; discovered that wiretapping was employed by the staff of one committee member, who stated that he would sanction it again if necessary; and totally omitted any mention of Harness Tracks Security, an autonomous organization that does exactly what the committee recommended, but which the committee apparently never even knew existed, or chose to ignore if it did."
In reply, Committee Chairman Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) said the report had been generally accepted by the racing industry, even though "a very regrettable minority" had been critical. Admitting that the committee had not done all that it had planned to do, he said, "We got involved in hearings on drugs in schools, and we just didn't have time. People in general can have confidence in the integrity of racing."
Reports continue that a concern called Hi-Rise Campsites, Inc., is trying to raise $4 million to construct a 20-story building in downtown New Orleans for indoor camping. The first eight stories of the building will be for parking; the upper 12 will contain 240 campsites, complete with artificial turf and utility hookups for recreational vehicles. There will be a rooftop pool to give that sylvan lake atmosphere.
"This will be unique," said a Hi-Rise man. "People don't want the woodsy bit now; they want to camp in comfort near the city."
The NCAA's decision to split itself into three more or less autonomous divisions is a laudable attempt to bring sense into what has been a ridiculous situation. There are more than 600 colleges in the NCAA, and the 400 or so smaller ones often clashed head on with the major institutions over such matters as entrance requirements, athletic scholarships and recruiting.
Now there will be Division I for big athletic powers, such as Southern California, Nebraska and Alabama; Division II for the next level, North Dakota State and Grambling, for instance; and Division III for Muskingum and that crowd. Each division is free to amend NCAA bylaws as it sees fit, setting rules to suit its own needs, although the three bodies voting together can exercise a kind of veto power over legislative proposals made in the separate divisions.
Requirements for membership in each division can become complex, but all major football schools will be in Division I in all sports. A top basketball school may elect Division I for basketball (and other sports) but be in Division II in football. A school in Division II or III may choose to be in Division I in one sport (except football and basketball); an example: Trinity College in Texas, the 1972 NCAA tennis champion.
A lot of bugs will probably develop, but the new setup is eminently worth trying, if only to get rid of the big vs. small infighting. It is certainly better than the hypocrisy of the "conscience vote," in which delegates were asked not to vote on measures that did not directly affect their schools. The first real test of how the new idea is going to work will come at the annual convention next January.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
Giles, the famous British cartoonist who appears in London's Daily Express, is also an avid sailor. He has named his new boat Cine, after the Greek enchantress who turned men into swine, because, he says, he doesn't know anything that can do that quicker than a boat.
The battle of California ended last week in a peaceful settlement between the Bing Crosby golf tournament and the PGA. Earlier, the PGA had upset the Crosby people by shifting the tournament dates from the traditional mid-January period to mid-February, where the new dates fell spang on the Washington's Birthday weekend, already a big business time for Monterey Peninsula merchants, restaurateurs and hotel operators. Not only would the area be unable to handle the influx of visitors to the Crosby then, it would lose the big January business the tournament always attracted.
The PGA remained adamant for a while but when it became obvious that the Crosby would be canceled if the mid-February dates stood, it rustled around and came up with a solution. The Glen Campbell-Los Angeles Open, traditionally the first of the golf-tour year, was willing to swap dates; a new city storm drain is being built through Riviera Country Club, site of the tournament, and officials decided they could use the extra month to be sure everything is finished. So now the Crosby will have the honor of kicking off the tour the first week of January, the well-drained Campbell-L.A. will be in mid-February and the tourists will have Monterey and Carmel to themselves on George Washington's Birthday.
TWICE THE FUN
The PGA has problems beyond Pebble Beach and George Washington. Disagreeing with Joe Dey's proposal to reduce the tour to 15 super events (SCORECARD, Aug. 13), Bill Clarke, president of the PGA, thinks it should get bigger. He notes that since 1959 pro football, pro basketball and pro hockey have expanded from one league to two, and pro baseball has added teams and split its two leagues into four divisions—while all that time tournament golf has stood still. Clarke wants a second PGA tour.
"At first," he says, "the new tour ought to be a qualifying ground for players who would eventually move up to the major tour. But at the same time it would become an attraction in itself, with young stars like Ben Crenshaw coming along. There are so many good players that in time the second tour would become as strong as the one we have now. Then, instead of having a major tour and a satellite tour, we would have two major golf circuits."
And a real World Series of Golf?
OR A PILLAR OF SALT
Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick of the Miami Dolphins have written a book (co-authored by Dave Anderson of The New York Times) called Always on the Run, in which Kiick complains about having to share playing time last season with Mercury Morris. Kiick says Coach Don Shula took away his primary running back status for disciplinary reasons: he did not finish a 12-minute endurance run (Kiick says he had the flu and "couldn't breathe").
"Shula is the one who stuck it to me," Kiick says in the book, which emphasizes that the authors do not resent Morris. But Kiick does say that rotating with Morris "was a difficult situation for me to accept." And Csonka says, "Jim shouldn't have been subjected to somebody taking his position. The way I saw it, Shula handed Merc the opportunity at Jim's expense, not only handed Merc the opportunity but stepped on Jim's pride with no qualms. Step on Shula's pride and see how he reacts."
Shula's comment was, "If that's their assumption I'm afraid they don't know Don Shula, the man and the coach, as well as they think they know him. Mercury earned the right to play as much as he did with an outstanding preseason." Then Shula added wryly, "They've already alerted me to take everything in their book with a grain of salt."
Atlanta will present its own version of the Bobby Riggs-Billie Jean King match on Sept. 23, when 62-year-old Byron Grant meets 20-year-old Betsy Butler in a winner-take-all match for $500. Miss Butler, from Augusta, is a pro who plays on the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association tour. Grant is the famous Bitsy Grant (he is considerably smaller than Bobby Riggs) who played Davis Cup tennis in the '30s and was called the Giant Killer for his upsets of top-ranked players who towered over him. Bitsy has remained an amateur all these years. Betsy intends to see that he stays that way.
THEY SAID IT
•Warren Spahn, Hall of Fame pitcher who played for Casey Stengel on the 1942 Boston Braves and the 1965 New York Mets: "I'm probably the only guy who worked for Stengel before and after he was a genius."
•Lew Burdette, Spahn's old teammate, who would never admit he threw a spitball: "I showed Whitey Ford how to throw a wet one, and he went four or five years before they caught on to it."
•Gary Player, on the importance of practice: "They say Sam Snead is a natural golfer, but if he didn't practice, he'd be a natural bad golfer."
•Ed Runge, American League umpire, on his career: "It's the only occupation where a man has to be perfect the first day on the job and then improve over the years."