One of the casualties of the tornadoes that scourged the South and Midwest earlier this month was the irreplaceable—and now irretrievable—Kentucky Derby library assembled over a lifetime of research by Brownie Leach (see page 80). When Leach and his wife Frances emerged from their cellar in Louisville after the winds, the den where he had kept a reference file of 500 stallions bred over the last 40 to 50 years and full details of the first 99 years of the Derby was in ruins and his books and papers scattered, for all Leach knows, to the ends of the earth. The 70-year-old thoroughbred historian accepted his loss philosophically. "Racing has been a thing of joy, pleasure and interest all my life," he said. "But I could never again get as involved in it as I was."
SPLIT THE 100TH?
By no means as devastated but nevertheless a mess is the Derby picture this year. With the starting gates able to accommodate only 26 horses and nearly 35 clamoring to join the field, there is speculation that twin derbies might be necessary—the Derby divided into two races, as the Wood Memorial was last week in New York (page 78).
When the owners of 290 horses paid $100 each in nomination fees before Feb. 15 for this year's Derby, they had, in effect, binding contracts with Churchill Downs if they decided to run. The track had already anticipated greater interest in the 100th and raised its entry fee from $2,500 to $4,000 (entries will be taken May 2), and if an owner really wants to go on May 4, Derby Day, he must pay a starting fee that has gone up from $1,500 to $3,500.
April 28, 1974
In the last days before the race some owners may reconsider this final $7,500 expenditure. In addition, the influence of Track President Lynn Stone, his racing secretary, Tommy Trotter, Chairman of the Kentucky State Racing Commission William H. May and Senior State Steward Keene Daingerfield all will be concentrated on reducing the field to a manageable bunch of fewer than 24. They hope too that the three remaining prep races will eliminate some runners. Failing that, Churchill Downs can be expected to press for stricter prerace veterinary inspections to take out unsound eligibles.
The best bet, however, is that Downs officials will siphon off some Derby aspirants by making another race on the card attractive financially. At a mile and a sixteenth, the Twin Spires was run for a purse of $20,000 in 1973. "If it were increased to $50,000, or even $75,000," says Daingerfield, "it would look mighty good to a man who isn't sure his horse will go a mile and a quarter." The price is also right. The Twin Spires has neither entry nor starting fees.
A persistent argument for one Derby, aside from tradition, is an almost unanimous aversion in Kentucky to giving Pimlico General Manager Chick Lang what he has always wanted in order to enhance his Preakness—an inconclusive, divisional Derby. "If we split the Derby," said one Kentucky horseman sourly, "all we would do is make the Preakness the greatest race in the world."
One wonders whether there was anything in Leach's lost papers that might have helped the Kentuckians out of their quandary.
ORGAN STOPS AND DESIST
Being the organist for the Philadelphia Phillies, Paul Richardson has few calls upon his talent for the "Dah dah dah dot de daah, fight" cadenzas that are the stock in trade of fellow practitioners in Baltimore or Cincinnati or Oakland. His contribution to the game—sorry about this—is the outrageous pun. Before the two players were traded away, Richardson performed such haunting renditions when they went to bat as "I'm Joe Lis of the Stars That Shine Above," and "You Got Mike Ryan for You, You Got Me Sighin' for You." He spent last winter working on what he considers one of his alltime greats, "Wayne Twitchell the Sun Shines, Nellie," and now is plumping for the Phils to make a deal with Atlanta for Chuck Goggin. The song: "My Kind of Town, Chuck Goggin Is," natch.
Which leads to the headline writer who got this one off: CLEVELAND DEFEATS INDIANS. That was Reggie Cleveland of the Red Sox, who will hear more of this now that he is an American Leaguer. Sometimes it is not worth being the pitcher of record.
YES, VIRGINIA, FAST WOMEN
The remarkable thing about the 36 women who ran in the Boston Marathon last week was not that half of them finished in under 3½ hours (qualifying time for all runners) or that four went under three hours; it was the way they finished. While most of the men limped into the Prudential Center on tortured muscles and many collapsed, moaning, on the floors or lay semicomatose under blankets on cots, all but two of the women were bouncing around chatting amiably about what seemed to have been a refreshing stroll in the rolling countryside from Hopkinton, 26 miles away. They did not even wince when the 97th joker in a row, recalling the cigarette ad, said, "Baby, you've come a long way."
The fact may be that women are better suited to the marathon than men. Dr. Ernst van Aaken of Waldniel, West Germany, who sent four of the top seven women finishers to Boston, believes that they are. He claims that their lower body weight and smaller muscles enable women to sustain the rigors of such a long race more easily.
"I don't think we can beat many men," tiny Miki Gorman, looking cool and radiant after the race, massively understated. "Men are faster. But we should have the opportunity to try." A 38-year-old Los Angeles housewife who weighs only 84 pounds and stands 5'¼", Miki won the women's section in 2:47:11, which would have placed her 279th among the men, or, to put it another way, ahead of 1,426 other men.
Nina Kuscsik, a 35-year-old mother of two from Long Island, N.Y. who placed third in her section in 2:55:12, thought that one reason the women apparently suffered less was that they had not tried as hard as the men. "We are still treading new ground," she said. "Maybe we can push ourselves much harder. But you can only learn by doing it over and over again and putting in more mileage every day."
Which is the way Kathy Switzer sees it. Kathy started the whole thing for women in 1967 when she entered the race, unofficially, and finished. Now 27, she was fifth among women this year with her best time to date (3:01:39). She said, "Women have become so competitive and the marathon is such a competitive event. In our lifetime we should see women training 150 to 200 miles a week and perhaps placing as high as 20th among the men." Baby, that's smoking.
It now appears that the go-betweens who helped bring together the new World Football League and established National Football League players were the NFL teams themselves. The clubs never give out home addresses of players, but they do forward mail, which secretaries in NFL offices did gladly when letters from the WFL to every active player arrived in plain white envelopes.
Inside was a form from the WFL's R. Steven Arnold inquiring about the player's contract, his interest in hearing further from the WFL and the name of his agent or adviser. Reportedly better than 50% of the players responded. These were broken down into four categories: 1) stars whose presence the new league desperately needed: 2) average players whose options run out in the next two years; 3) average players with long-term contracts; 4) and those who, the WFL believed, didn't stand a chance. The operation saved the WFL a lot of money, money better spent on players. Whatever happened to inefficient secretaries?
With violence on television under intensive study, maybe somebody should tell Evel Knievel to knock it off before he knocks somebody else off.
Grammar school kids in Wilmington, Del. were seen recently rigging up a ramp of planks supported by boxes at the end of a sloping driveway. One after the other they mounted their bicycles, gathered speed down the drive and zoomed into the air to land you know where—on their heads, mostly. Just like Evel, on whose TV program the major suspense seems to be whether he will return to the hospital or this time make it to the morgue. The show rates parental guidance.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has this dilemma: what to do with 1,200 pairs of crocodile shoes valued at $150 each. They cannot be sold, they cannot be given away to welfare cases and museums and schools do not begin to soak up the surplus. So, until somebody comes up with a solution, they will have to sit in one of several warehouses around the country that have been filling rapidly with contraband confiscated primarily under two laws: the Lacey Act of 1900, which makes it illegal to import animal products taken in violation of a foreign country's wildlife regulations, and the Endangered Species Acts of 1969 and 1973, which bar trade in the world's rarest flora and fauna.
The shoes are only the toe of the problem. There are, for example, 20,000 cans of smoked or barbecued sperm-whale meat once bound for gourmet food shops and, as recently discovered in Oklahoma, a cache of feathers taken from thousands of migratory birds, including bald and golden eagles and seven kinds of hawks. These were going to be made into fancy fans or Indian war bonnets with splendid historical anecdotes attached to raise the price. With eagle carcasses selling on the black market for as high as $125 each and 10 eagles required to make one bonnet, the price of an "authentic" headdress can get up there with the Great Father in the Sky.
The department goes mainly after the professional smugglers, who are getting up to $30,000 for a leopard-skin coat and managing to squeeze extra profit out of bits and parts of spotted cats—such as tails, paws and faces—which can be shipped separately and the pieces whipped into an expensive coat by a not-so-fine furrier. But there are the tourists and commercial importers, too, who try to bring into the country something as innocent as tortoiseshell jewelry, unaware that the Hawksbill sea turtle, from which it comes, is as close to disappearing from this mortal coil as the bison once was. The tourist, the wildlife people hope, can be trained, but as long as there are pros making money the warehouses will swell and some species will pass the endangered stage into extinction.
Competition on the uneven parallel bars, a gymnastics discipline normally the exclusive province of females, was invaded recently by a male. Ronald Ayotte, a brave sophomore at Maine's Colby College, reasoned that if women could go out for football and the men's swim team, the process could work in reverse. He made the women's squad as an uneven-bar man and competed against the University of Maine. He did not place, but he gained a wild ovation from the audience and hugs from his teammates. Then he hung up his leotard, having proved, he said, "that a man was capable of competing in this women's sport." He also feels he taught the girls to compete with more daring. Ladies, to your horses. You know what happens: "As Maine goes...."
THEY SAID IT
•Rod Laver, on his contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis: "They made me an offer I could afford to refuse."
•Dave McNally, Oriole pitcher, to Brooks Robinson after he had made three errors in his first eight games: "You have gone from a human vacuum cleaner to a litterbug."
•Bill Russell, explaining why his father refused to retire and let his sons support him: "He said he'd given his employers 30 of the best years of his life. Now he'd give them a few of the bad ones."
•Tommy John, Dodger pitcher: "When they operated on my arm I asked them to put in a Koufax fastball. They did, but it was a Mrs. Koufax fastball."