July 01, 1974
July 01, 1974

Table of Contents
July 1, 1974

Singular Hitters


Although fan behavior has become very poor in recent years (Take Me Out to the Brawl Game, June 17), I personally feel it is not entirely the fans' fault. Many of them, including myself, have grown up with teams whose rosters did not change dramatically from season to season. But these days one hesitates even to buy a poster of a so-called star because one doesn't know whether the uniform he has on in the picture will be the same one he will wear the next year. Players no longer feel loyalty to one particular home team or crowd; instead they pay homage only to the team that comes up with the most money.

This is an article from the July 1, 1974 issue Original Layout

We spectators have finally opened our eyes to this widespread commercialism. We are now aware that super teams either do not exist or are quickly disbanded because of the lure of higher salaries elsewhere. But we still want real competition, with real emotion from the players. Being a professional athlete is not just a job, as Dick Allen put it, but an enviable way of life to many Americans and a goal for our young athletes to shoot for.

What are we teaching our youth today? To come out of college as spoiled brats? Athletes used to come from the college ranks begging for a chance to play pro ball. Now they dictate to the pros what they want. Players brought out of slums and made into stars turn around and bite the hands that fed them. Many other players have never had that chance; they spend their lives in minor leagues, hoping for a break. In the end, perhaps these are the true athletes, the true professionals, the ones who play the sport for what it is, not just for what it can do for them. They are the real winners.
McLean, Va.

Not once did you mention the inflated price the fan must pay to get into the ball park. If I must pay half a week's rent to see a second-rate game, I am entitled to some action—on the field or in the stands.
Logan, Utah

Again SPORTS ILLUSTRATED not only hit the nail on the head but drove it through the wood. Your article on unruly fans was all too true. As a sports photographer, I have been a victim of fan stupidity. At a University of Toledo-Central Michigan basketball game at CMU I had to run for cover after being hit squarely with a full can of pop, having my camera kicked out of my hands, being verbally abused and having several articles stolen from my camera bag.

I go to a baseball game to relax, to set everything else aside, but it is getting so bad you can't enjoy a game without having a streaker, a stripper or a jerk running around on the field. These people should be fined heavily and made an example of. And trash should not be thrown on the field. I attended a recent doubleheader at Veterans Stadium and saw a nun get hit on the head twice by soda dropped from the top deck.

Thanks to Ron Fimrite for a fine article. I hope he got his idea across to the "fans": behave!
Ambler, Pa.

As long as Ron Fimrite's statement remains true, i.e., that "violent action and reaction are everyday facts of life," we will be forced to put up with incidents at athletic events such as the one in Cleveland.
Muskegon, Mich.

Why are today's sports fans more hateful and harmful than they used to be? Because of half a century of violence in movies and a quarter of a century of violence on TV.
Odessa, Texas

Ron Fimrite wrote, "There has been beer in the ball parks for years..." The Washington Senators had no beer at their old park until the 1956 season. The Pittsburgh Pirates banned beer at old Forbes Field. It was a pleasure to attend games at those parks. The answer is to ban the beer at all spectator sports. It's as simple as that.

Re Everyone Is Helpless and in Awe (June 17), I am neither. Although Reggie Jackson is off to a good start, two months do not a superduperstar make, nor do they clinch a triple crown. As Stan Bahnsen observed, Reggie Jackson is a prima donna. Jackson's painful hamstring seems to bother him much more when he is trying to come home from second on a single than it does when he has to beat out a throw to first for a hit to help his average. Why has Jackson never hit .300? Because singles and doubles hitters don't get the instant recognition that home-run hitters do. Why did Jackson try to steal third base with the A's leading 4-0 and no outs? To gain the same kind of recognition that Bobby Bonds, the real superduperstar of the Bay Area, has gotten for twice hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases in the same year and just missing a 40-40 season by one home run.
Sunnyvale, Calif.

Congratulations on your thoughtful examination of the brash and confident personality of the American League's most exciting player, Reggie Jackson.

I've had the opportunity to watch Reggie in action since his college days, but I remember him best for an interview he gave me two years ago. I found him to be a gracious and intelligent man with a keen awareness of his natural ability. Certainly he has a high opinion of himself, but what immensely successful athlete does not?

Jackson's greatness is confirmed by the fact that whether he is liked or disliked, people are always talking about him. Only an athlete of the highest stature could generate that type of electricity.
Tempe, Ariz.

O.K., so maybe Reggie Jackson is a "superduperstar." But what about the guy who is leading the majors in batting average, Rod Carew? I hope everybody knows who he is.
Warminster, Pa.

•See page 14.—ED.

How in the world you can label one man a "superduperstar" is beyond me. And as for Reggie Jackson's chance for the triple crown, Rod Carew would have to be bedridden with an injury.
St. Paul

Practically every sport I can think of has enjoyed a substantial expansion during the past several years. In your May 13 issue Jack Nicklaus presented some different views about professional golf's expansion in his article entitled Shorten the Tour and Improve the Game. I believe Jack is sincere when he says that it is not his intention "to rob the younger and less accomplished players of the chance to make a living." I also agree with Jack that "designated tournaments" are unfair and unnecessary. I further agree with Jack that no one can be expected to play in every tournament.

However, I do not agree that shortening the PGA tour will improve the game. The young players certainly will be hurt if some tournaments are eliminated. There are so many good young pros today that we really need two tours. The young players now entering professional golf deserve the same opportunity Jack had when he started out on the tour. Indeed we have more would-be sponsors today than there are dates available. This certainly is a healthy situation.

The tour currently comprises approximately 45 regular tournaments. Each event is a success story in its own right and some of the so-called second-rate tour stops are really very fine events. They may be held in smaller cities, offer less than top money and may not be on TV. Nonetheless, they are successful. Some of these tournaments are unable to offer top purses and consequently are bypassed by Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus, et al.; yet is this any reason to eliminate them? They may not be played on the best courses; but is that a valid reason to eliminate them? How would that improve other tournaments that have everything going for them?

What could be more fair than the way the tour is organized today? A star like Nicklaus plays the tournaments he wants to. Obviously he needs many weeks off for various reasons: rest, family, business ventures, international competition, etc. He therefore enters 20 to 25 events of his own choice and passes up the remainder. Television also picks the events it wants to feature and bypasses the others.

The youngsters and other "hungry" pros play as often as they can. Pensacola sponsors, for instance, know they can afford only a $150,000 tournament. They know they won't attract the big stars. They are like some off-Broadway productions—small but successful, with a lot of talented people eager to perform.

I'm sure the great majority of today's touring pros will agree with me.
PGA of America
Rye, N.Y.

Little Current is surely the best of this year's 3-year-old crop (Flow Swiftly, Little Current, June 17), but let's remember, as all astute racing fans do, that according to his time he would have finished 26 lengths behind Secretariat last year, although his run would have been good enough for second.
Salem, Ore.

•The 26 lengths are arrived at by the rule-of-thumb formula that a fifth of a second is equal to one length. Little Current covered the 1½ miles in 2:29⅕ compared to Secretariat's track record of 2:24.—ED.

How long are we going to maintain this synthetic and farcical line between the so-called amateur and professional athletes? Case 427 (June 10 and 17) illustrates that the smoke of this problem is everywhere, so there must be fire. It is just that only a few flames are now visible.

It is my contention that there are practically no amateurs. It is a matter of definition and the definition is anything but clear. For example, Ben Jipcho earned $500 for each race he won as a professional in this country. By his own admission he was losing money, as he could have made $4,000 per race as an "amateur" in Europe.

All the problems of college athletic elegibility, academic and economic, could be solved by simply abolishing the concept of amateurism and letting each athlete earn whatever his services would bring. A few rules could be made to determine limits of eligibility. But there is really no valid reason why a college can't be represented by a pro team.

Historically the landed gentry could not indulge in "trade" so they took to sports to fulfill their competitive desires. They could not even play on the same fields with "tradesmen." This whole scheme of things, which we are trying to continue, is an anachronism, and the time has come to end it.
Kingston, Tenn.

Re Case 427, it seems to me that you—and nearly everyone else—are missing the real point. The NCAA is in no way, shape or fashion concerned with the welfare of athletes who have the misfortune to fall within its jurisdiction. As a major college economics text has suggested, the NCAA is a cartel whose primary function is to keep the wages of college athletes below their real market price. If good athletes were not in fact worth more—in terms of gate receipts, glory, prestige, alumni support, etc.—to a college than the NCAA's arbitrary limitations allow, there would never be any violations of NCAA rules.

The real crime of such have-nots as Long Beach State was challenging the Establishment; they wanted to become haves. Lacking the championship records, national reputation, alumni assistance and connections, such schools can compete only if they receive the sort of favors and subsidies that the NCAA prohibits. Such regulations were made not to protect the athletes but to protect the Establishment, the second real function of the NCAA. Thus, the ax falls on the Long Beach States but not on the big boys.

Like the AAU, the NCAA must flex its muscles periodically; it must punish dissent, because its third real function—as with any other bureaucracy—is to insure its own existence, to perpetuate its power, to grow. Serving neither the athletes nor its lesser "member institutions," it can keep them in line only by the threat of ostracism, loss of accreditation and bankruptcy.

I am tired of the NCAA and the AAU fighting like two vultures over the carcass of "amateur" sport. I am tired of coaches, administrators, commentators and fans who profess respect for a hulking dinosaur that should long ago have become extinct. If amateurism alone insures nobility of purpose and quality of performance, shouldn't we expect all specialists to serve without pay? Why should we expect an athlete to do what he does better than anyone else in the world, to bring glory to his country and prestige to his school, to thrill us in person or enthrall us on TV without getting the return that any one of us would demand for such effort? If young athletes turning professional seem too often cynical, ungrateful and greedy, could the reason lie in the hypocritical way in which they have been exploited by a system that claims to protect them?

In short, isn't it about time we got rid of the NCAA and amateurism both?
Los Angeles

Having read the article on Long Beach State, I must agree with Ed Ratleff's comment, "Why don't you go over to UCLA or some other school where they have money and talk to them?"

The NCAA should definitely make a change in its investigative procedures. When it takes two of their men more than a year of thorough and exhaustive investigation to clobber Long Beach while it takes Ray Kennedy only a few months to find enough incriminating information to topple many a school from its lofty position, something is wrong. Why doesn't the NCAA go after more serious violators and make them pay their dues? What are they afraid of?

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