Although American promoters confidently expected Tanzania's sensational Filbert Bayi, who broke Jim Ryun's world record for 1,500 meters at the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand three weeks ago, to run the mile at indoor meets in Toronto and San Diego last week, Tanzanian officials squashed the project. In Dar es Salaam, Major General Sarakikya of the Tanzanian Olympic Committee said, "Not all invitations are aimed at improving the standards of our athletes. Some meets are mainly for making big money for capitalists abroad. All further invitations to Bayi and our other top athletes will be very carefully scrutinized before they are accepted, and we will definitely discourage indoor meeting invitations."
Bayi, a sergeant in the army, stayed in Tanzania. While it was accepted that he deserved a rest after his accomplishments in New Zealand (he was given a furlough from his army duties), the question rose whether the arbitrary action by Tanzanian officials might eventually move Bayi to turn professional, as did Kenya's renowned Ben Jipcho (page 20), who grew tired of being constantly chivvied by his country's amateur athletic officials.
Yet Bayi was quoted as saying, "Why should I be for sale? If you turn professional, you come under the mercy of someone who makes business from your sweat. You run for money and nothing else. I don't like the system. I prefer running for my country, and to rest when I am finished."
February 24, 1974
Fans sometimes argue about which sport produces the best athletes, and which is most difficult to play. Whether this contributes anything constructive to such discussions is questionable, but General Manager Phil Seghi of the Cleveland Indians is fuming because three of his baseball players were injured playing basketball this winter. Rookie Outfielder Tommie Smith broke his arm and Infielders Buddy Bell and Frank Duffy both had ankle injuries. From football, pro Quarterback John Reaves broke his arm this winter in a basketball game, and Brad Van Pelt, the All-America safety at Michigan State who was something of a bust as a linebacker with the New York Giants last fall, broke his foot. Van Pelt, a superior pitcher who had turned down a big bonus from baseball's St. Louis Cardinals, had planned to pitch for Michigan State this spring, thus taking advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows a pro in one sport to play another sport in college.
Some years ago Bobby Tolan, then with the Reds, tore his Achilles' tendon playing basketball and missed an entire season. Dick Hall, the old Baltimore Oriole relief pitcher, broke his hand playing the game. Baseball contracts once contained a clause barring players from taking part in other sports during the off-season, but as a concession to the players it was deleted a few years ago. Back in the 1950s, when he was general manager of the Cardinals, Frank Lane invoked the clause to keep Red Schoendienst and Del Rice off the courts
An angry Seghi said, "They're asinine to play basketball. It's stupid, and if I could stop them, I would. They beat their brains out to make the majors, and then risk it all by playing basketball."
Bill Russell always did say it was the toughest game.
DIDN'T BIRDIE CHEW?
You may have read that Cincinnati's historic Crosley Field was torn down a few years ago and is now only a memory. Don't believe it. A real estate broker, motel owner and self-admitted baseball freak by the name of Larry Luebbers is reconstructing part of the held on his 210-acre farm in Union, Ky. Already in place is the familiar old left-field fence, including the terrace that sloped up to it, plus the signs advertising hot dogs and soft drinks. When the wreckers were demolishing Crosley Field, Luebbers went down to purchase a couple of seats and found himself going back time and again, until finally he had bought all the fences, the scoreboard (including the clock), both clubhouses, the foul poles, 400 seats, the bullpen, dugout, benches and much more. Along the way he picked up odd tidbits of information. For instance, the strange hole in one wall of the home dugout. Birdie Tebbetts, it turned out, liked to smoke in the dugout but didn't want smoke drifting out onto the field. Instead, he blew it out the hole. Putting the field together piece by piece, Luebbers hopes to have it complete this year for use by baseball teams. If you're worried about that seating capacity of only 400, well, Union has a population of 250.
Remember Fred Spiller, the Wichita (Kans.) truck driver who was arrested for keeping a baseball hit over the fence in an intracity game (SCORECARD, July 30)? When he was found guilty of petty larceny by a municipal court judge, Spiller decided to appeal. But the other day, in district court, he lost again. His lawyer, Jean Oliver Moore, told the jury that rules for sport differ from those for ordinary conduct; that if, for instance, you are beaned with a baseball, you don't file charges against the pitcher. It was no go. Basing its decision on a strict reading of a city ordinance that forbids taking of property, the jury could find no exception for baseballs.
Judge Robert Stephan fined Spiller $100 (four times the fine imposed in the original trial) plus court costs. Then, indulging in judicial whimsy, the court gave Spiller the option of shagging balls for 10 games at one of two local parks instead of paying the fine. Moore turned this down as an indignity, declaring, "My client based his case on his honest assumption that a ball out of play is a free ball. There is no reason to make a clown out of him." When Moore later estimated that court costs would probably be in excess of $300, the judge agreed that the sentence was too high and said he would reconsider his decision on it sometime this week.
Spiller can still appeal to a higher court but, seeing the way the ball is bouncing, he has decided not to carry his pitch any farther.
A BIKE AND A BARK
Sakti Prosad Potader of Calcutta, India has been touring the world on a bicycle for the past four years. After visiting 58 countries on four continents, he has some interesting observations. The friendliest people he met were Arabs. "There is no way to describe the hospitality of these people," he says. "It is basic to their religion. Next to Allah, the guest is the most sacred thing. They will do anything for you." He did not care for Turks. "They seem not to like tourists in Turkey," he says. "I felt the hostility." The Balkan countries were pleasant, but in the Soviet Union he was not allowed to move about where he pleased. "They don't encourage the kind of contact with ordinary people that I am interested in," Potader says.
But one of the worst annoyances he encountered came in the U.S. What was it? Dogs. A seemingly limitless succession of dogs barking and chasing after his bike made his travel miserable.
A prominent educator in Arizona said the other day that big universities should stop pretending that college football is an aspect of education and, instead, go out and hire professional teams to represent the school. Weldon P. Shofstall, superintendent of public instruction in the state since 1969 and an ex-officio regent of Arizona State University, said, "Let's take the hypocrisy out of college football. Why don't we just make it professional?"
Shofstall spent 10 years at Arizona State working on a scholarship committee. The committee, he said, used scholarships to subsidize athletes. "We were out to get men who would win and gain publicity for the university," he said. "It was public relations, not education—except that some of the players were preparing for pro football jobs. I guess that's as legitimate as preparing doctors and lawyers, but that's not what we say we're doing."
Shofstall's half-mocking proposal was inspired by a fuss going on over proposed use of the university's Sun Devil Stadium by professional football. Pro promoters want to rent the stadium but the board of regents is against it on the grounds that pro football there would undermine the college football program. Shofstall suggested that the university sign a contract with a pro team in much the way that it does with, say, food concessionaires. The concessionaires agree to supply the university with food and other services. The pro team would supply a football team, use the stadium and other facilities and represent Arizona State in competition. Student football would be restricted to intramurals, and coaches would return to physical education duties.
Shofstall says the arrangement would give Arizona State a competitive team, earn more money for the university and get rid of the hypocrisy now inherent in the football program. As for pro football's side of it, it might not be such a farfetched idea. As Lamar Hunt pointed out a week or so ago, Arizona is one of the very few rich markets in the country still waiting for a pro team.
Frank Szymanski, basketball coach of the University of Baltimore, wrote his master's thesis on "A Cinematographical Analysis of the Mechanics of the Jump Shot as Performed by Professional Basketball Players." It's been a few years since Szymanski did his research but he feels his study still holds up. Its basic finding was that the jump shot does not necessarily come naturally to a player, but can be taught. "What I discovered," he said, "is that while players move into position for the shot in many different ways, there is marked similarity in the way they execute it once they are airborne—the way the good ones do it, anyway. In the air each guy's elbow is pointed right at the basket. That's the key, the elbow."
Of the subjects he studied and filmed, the best percentage shooter was Don Ohl, then with the Baltimore Bullets. Szymanski said, "The films showed that Ohl never deviated more than one degree in the angle his elbow, wrist, shoulder and hip joint made with the basket. On the other hand, Wali Jones was an erratic shooter, and I'm convinced the reason was that his shooting position deviated anywhere from two to 15 degrees. Jones never mastered the true mechanics of the shot."
The attention paid to minute details by pro football coaching staffs is remarkable, but sometimes it seems to be carried to infinite extremes. Scouting, for example, the continuing appraisal of players and teams, attempts to be so precise that it masquerades as an exact science. But do you know that scouts are scouted, too? Bobby Beathard, director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins, says, "One scout may be better at grading wide receivers than offensive linemen. We try to learn each scout's strong points and his weak points."
The question is, who scouts the scout scouts?
THEY SAID IT
•Earl Foreman, owner of the Virginia Squires, on claims that he sold top performers at the expense of the team: "It's not a pleasant thing to hear, but I did what I had to do out of necessity. This is not a public utility. I can't ask for a fare increase when things go bad."
•Frank Beard, touring golf pro, on the slowness of the game: "We're on television an hour and a half, but you probably see only five minutes of action. Compared to a sport like hockey, golf can be one of the most boring shows on TV."
•Bill Stoneman, Montreal Expo pitcher, on why he did not use an agent to negotiate his contract this season: "You don't need a lawyer to tell the club you had a lousy year."
•Ned Harkness, looking around for a job after resigning as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings: "I once told my wife that at least I could always pump gas, but now I can't even do that."