SO LONG, GARY...
Now that others are trying to revive the World Football League, one has to strain to catch even a passing mention of Gary Davidson, the fast-talking lawyer who founded the WFL and was instrumental in launching the WHA and ABA. The league offices, previously located in Davidson's hometown of Newport Beach, Calif., have been moved to New York, and the new operatives seem anxious to disassociate themselves from their predecessor, who has come to symbolize the spectacular failure of the WFL's first year.
A similar purge may be going on in the WHA, which also has been based in Newport Beach. On June 1 the 3-year-old hockey league will transfer its headquarters to Toronto and league officials are said to be considering possible new names for their MVP award, which is now called the Gary Davidson Trophy. At the Manhattan offices of the 7-year-old ABA—one venture that was never based in Newport Beach—Executive Director Thurlo McCrady says of the league's first president: "Gary's been gone a long time. Few of our present owners would recognize him if they saw him on the street."
For better or worse, Gary Davidson has been one of the most influential figures in the history of professional sport. We wanted to get that in before he fades from memory entirely. Or before he tries to start another league.
April 27, 1975
...AND HELLO, JOE?
A key to the WFL's hopes for survival is its $4 million offer to Joe Namath, a gambit that raises the question of how one brittle-kneed quarterback could possibly be worth so much money. Well, Namath isn't worth it—to the NFL, that is. The NFL enjoys sold-out stadiums and a plump TV package and would be foolish to pay so hugely for something it already has. When Namath's contract expires May 1 the New York Jets will probably refuse to go much beyond his present $250,000-plus salary.
But the WFL is up against empty seats, no TV contract and low credibility. This is roughly what the upstart American Football League faced in 1965 when the Jets signed Namath out of college for a then-astonishing $400,000. The Jets believed, correctly, that Namath would help bring respectability, and the WFL's bosses are confident—10 times as confident, to be exact—that he can do it again. Hence their offer: a $500,000 bonus, a $500,000 salary for each of the next three years and an annuity paying $100,000 annually for 20 years after retirement.
The WFL's reasoning is that Namath will pay for himself. He would play for the WFL's Chicago franchise, which would pay the bonus plus half his salary. The club eventually would cover this through a public stock offering and the sale of 3,500 extra season tickets, Joe's presence presumably assuring that Chicagoans would snap up both the stock and the tickets. The remaining $250,000 in yearly salary would be split among the league's other teams, each of which would pick up the requisite cash in added receipts when Namath-led Chicago comes to town. Namath's presence would also be counted on to seal a network TV deal, the proceeds of which would more than cover the cost of his annuity.
Even should Namath be injured, the WFL might be able to recoup most of its money. Television's heavy thinkers have long felt that Namath would be worth as much in the broadcasting booth as he is on the field. It is conceivable that TV would grab his contract for the chance to use Broadway Joe—or is it Midway Joe?—as a telecaster.
Euphoric after his fifth Masters triumph, Jack Nicklaus phoned his Florida home and got son Steve, 12, on the other end. "Hello, Steve," he said, then waited for the boy to gush appropriately about Daddy's stirring win at Augusta. Nothing doing.
"Hi," Steve said matter-of-factly.
"How you doing?"
Pause. "Well, did you watch the tournament on TV?"
"Yeah, but I left early."
Subdued voice. "Where'd you go?"
"To play golf. I shot 44 for nine holes. On the first hole I...."
HE'S BASEBALL'S PREMIUM CATCHER
Currently sidelined by a broken arm, after having previously suffered a shoulder separation, chopped-off fingertip, severe groin injuries and shattered knee, Boston Catcher Carlton Fisk does not go unremembered in the Red Sox program. "We still love you, Carlton," reads the ad placed by Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
Jerry West vs. Jack Kent Cooke. Tony Perez vs. Muhammad Ali. Chuck Wepner vs. Tony Perez. Howard Porter vs. the NCAA. Dale Hackbart vs. Boobie Clark and the Cincinnati Bengals. The Buffalo Braves vs. Eddie Donovan and the New York Knicks. Joe Kapp vs. the NFL. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vs. the NBA. Charlie Finley vs. Catfish Hunter. State of Minnesota vs. Dave Forbes.
Check your local court calendar for further details, but scores of disputes involving your favorite sports personalities and teams are heading for litigation. Some of them—including the Hackbart and Forbes cases—grew out of differences that occurred during the heat of competition. But for the most part the glut of pending or threatened lawsuits reflects the complexities of expansionist, big-money sport as well as an emerging awareness by athletes of their real and imagined rights. No longer does University of Wisconsin Law Professor Robert Skilton urge his students, as he once did, to scour the sports pages for neglected legal issues; the issues are now in the headlines. Skilton says, "As in the consumer area and malpractice held, people in sports are becoming far more litigation-conscious."
No doubt about it. So bogged down are NFL owners in various legal suits that there has been talk about postponing their annual June meeting. Too many of them are scheduled to appear in court around that time.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER
Kids used to aspire to be big-league ballplayers completely on their own, but they now have the added prodding of a slick full-color booklet entitled Baseball: The Now Career. The 28-page publication, distributed by the major leagues to scouts, Little Leagues, college coaches and the like, is worthy of Exxon or IBM, the sort of item you'd expect to find stacked in neat piles in recruiting booths on college campuses and in high school corridors.
The booklet opens with an invitation from Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to "join us in this rewarding, challenging—and historic—profession" and it provides information about average salary ($43,000) as well as pensions, dental insurance and scholarship benefits. Promising "a journey like no ego trip in the world," it notes that ballplayers stay in first-class hotels, play before millions on TV and appear at sports awards banquets. Telecaster Joe Garagiola and investment counselor Hank Greenberg are cited as living proof of postbaseball opportunities and there are encomiums from such diverse figures as Dwight Eisenhower ("Baseball is a wonderful sport for American youth") to Kansas City's 5'4" Fred Patek ("You don't have to be a big man to make it in baseball").
Emphasizing that there is no shortage of ballplayers, Bob Wirz, a publicist in the commissioner's office, says that the booklet is aimed mostly at "the all-around, blue-chip athlete who might also be considering careers in other pro sports." That makes sense, but there is something disconcerting about the campaign. Nowhere in the booklet is there any hint that special skills might be necessary. But then, job seekers aren't told where to send for application blanks, either.
A horse drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes? Anything's possible, of course, but stewards of the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club were naturally suspicious when a routine prerace drug test at Happy Valley track turned up caffeine and nicotine in the urine of a 5-year-old mare named Viking, entered in the 1‚⅛-mile Kwaichung Handicap. They scratched the horse and launched an investigation.
The probe led to stableboy Ho Waicheung, who confessed his misdeed. Seems that Ho, annoyed when Viking proved slow to provide a urine sample, substituted his own instead. Fired by the Jockey Club, Ho sighed, "I didn't have time to wait around all day, you know."
U MUST BE CAREFUL
The University of Louisville last week renamed a residence hall, until now called simply Dormitory No. 4, in honor of old grad Johnny Unitas, a freshman walk-on who wound up having a pretty fair quarterbacking career. The dorm will be known henceforth as Unitas Tower, school officials having considered and rejected Unitas Hall. Reason? Not only is the 11-story building the tallest on campus, but there were fears that students might make the place sound like a vehicle rental firm. "U-Hall," get it?
CAUTION: RADAR AHEAD
Baltimore Pitcher Ross Grimsley's fastball travels 82 mph and his changeup 62 mph. Teammate Ken Singleton rifles the ball from right field at an 86-mph clip. This intelligence comes from Oriole Manager Earl Weaver, who gleaned it in turn from a battery-powered "radar gun" that gauges the speed of a thrown baseball—or almost any other moving object. Weaver believes the gizmo, which he tried out in spring training, could revolutionize the game.
Certainly it is an improvement over the techniques used in the past to measure the high hard ones of Bob Feller and other noted fastballers. Such exercises involved throwing the ball past a stationary electronic "eye," then translating elapsed time into a miles-per-hour figure. The 2½-pound radar gun, an adaptation of the radar units police use to nab speeders, is portable and instantaneous. You just point it and pull the trigger. The ball can be moving either toward the radar beam or away from it, and the speed is registered on a dial.
Weaver welcomes the device as a long-overdue way of grading throwing arms at every position. "You see a ball die on the infield, and everybody thinks the outfielder has a weak arm," he says, "but the radar gun tells you the ball's speed before it hits the ground. Maybe a soft infield was the problem." The Baltimore manager also sees the gun as a potential scouting aid. "A kid throws a fastball at 85 but dips to 80 the next year. If he's losing velocity at an early age, maybe he's not such a good prospect. Also, it's tough to tell a pitcher he's losing his fastball and should start using breaking balls. With this machine, it's right there in black and white."
The manufacturer, Oregon's JoPaul Industries, Inc., is showing the gun—the price is $1,325—to other big-league clubs, and applications in tennis and soccer are possible. The Orioles are checking out other radar units before buying, but the development has already lent a new dimension to Weaver's managerial thinking. "Grimsley has a good change-up," he says. "We could get all our pitchers to try for a 20-mph difference between fastballs and changeups."
THEY SAID IT
•Milt May, Houston catcher, upon stealing a base for the first time in his five-year big-league career: "I thought they'd stop the game and give me second base."
•Carmen Cozza, Yale football coach, on his efforts to recruit highly touted Quarterback Joe Restic, son of Harvard's coach: "If he comes to Yale, I'll be willing to send my daughter to Radcliffe. Fair is fair."
•Phil Johnson, Kansas City Kings coach, on the rough treatment Tiny Archibald was getting from the Chicago Bulls: "We're going to get him a tear-away jersey."
•Catfish Hunter, booed by home fans after losing his first two starts as the New York Yankees' $3.75 million pitcher: "I'd have booed me, too."