It took major league baseball 99 years to score one million runs, which historic event, you may recall, occurred May 4 when the Astros' Bob Watson touched home plate. Now, how soon can we expect Run No. 2,000,000? The Seiko Time Corp. has projected that it will take place on June 12, 2042. What odds would anyone like to give that it will be scored by a woman?
This is an article from the July 28, 1975 issue
Among the 37,000 spectators at last week's two-day U.S.A.-Pan Africa-West Germany track meet in Durham, N.C. were a dozen gimlet-eyed observers from American colleges who had come to recruit from the ranks of the foreigners. Top prospects were Kenyan quarter-milers Stephen Chepkwony and Francis Musyoki (although neither did particularly well in Durham), German hammer thrower Walter Schmidt (who was spectacular) and a woman high jumper from Germany, Ulrike Meyfarth, who won a gold medal at Munich when she was 16.
When Ted Banks, coach of NCAA champion University of Texas at El Paso, was told that one prospect he coveted spoke almost no English, he replied cheerily, "If the kid's good enough, there are always ways of overcoming these little obstacles."
Since parental and official forces are constantly tugging and pushing at the Little League, it is comforting to hear that the pressures of play itself are not as great as many have feared. In fact, tests on kids in action suggest that the games trigger little stress, and whatever minimal tension they produce quickly subsides. So says Dale Hanson, a phys ed teacher from the University of New Mexico, citing studies on the subject and adding a clincher based on his own research. Not only is the emotional stress inconsequential, but the games don't provide much exercise either, Hanson says; except for the pitcher and catcher, not even enough to contribute to the players' overall physical fitness.
Lest we forget, all games are played at all levels. The lowest and the least also perform, and there are standards down there, too, to be revered. Herewith, a tip of the hat to a couple of anti-winners:
The Bellingham (Wash.) Dodgers of the Class A Northwest League have just stumbled through to professional baseball's alltime worst start, with a 0-25 record (the old mark was 23, set in 1937 by Lewiston, Idaho of the Western International League). Another alltime low-water record loomed for the Dodgers last week: Granite Falls of the Western Carolina League dropped 33 games at the end of the 1951 season, the most consecutive losses ever registered in organized baseball. But Bellingham simply didn't have the non-stamina or the anti-talent to last through the long haul to 34 straight defeats: the team won last week, defeating the Eugene Emeralds 5-1 in the first game of a doubleheader.
With the pressure of maintaining a perfect record off, Dodger Manager Bill Berrier, whose club lists a 19-year-old as its oldest player, plus 12 Latins of whom 11 speak no English, sighed with relief between games. "I've never had so much notoriety for a win in my life," he said. "For the first time we've put pitching, hitting and fielding together—in some games we've had one of them, sometimes two. We got that first win, we might win 25 in a row now." Unfortunately not. In the very first inning of the second game of the doubleheader, no fewer than 13 Emeralds went to the plate, scored nine runs and went on to start a new Dodger losing streak by beating Bellingham, 14-5.
Also notably high in the ranks of sport incompetents is one Hotsy Alperstein of Chevy Chase, Md., who runs the recreation-equipment division of his family's business and claims to be America's "high gross golf champion." According to Tom Boswell of The Washington Post, Hotsy has been playing golf once a year for 17 years and has averaged 23 lost balls per round. His first 18-hole score was 137 and he has increased it annually, this year reaching 189, which Hotsy considers his alltime best. On that round he hit 14 balls into one water hazard, and he didn't count whiffs. Hotsy habitually carries five dozen balls with him when he plays. He says he once bought a new set of clubs wholesale, but "the manufacturer made me file the brand name off." He feels certain that the incredible awfulness of his golf scores constitutes a certifiable world record, but Hotsy realizes it could be even more ephemeral than most. "I guess my record could easily be broken by anyone who wasn't really trying."
Bingo III, a female bulldog, will officially become Handsome Dan XII in the fall, ending an 86-year string of male mascots at Yale.
STRANGE AS IT SEAMS
Rocky Bridges, for years a tobacco-chewing shortstop and now in his second season as manager of the Phoenix Giants of the Pacific Coast League, commented recently on the changing ways of ballplayers. "I didn't have any trouble getting used to the castanets when the players started bringing music to the locker room," he said. "It sounded like bad plumbing but it was O.K. with me. And I didn't get too excited when they started bringing hair dryers to the clubhouse. And I didn't mind that six guys on the team use curlers in their hair. But I never thought I'd see the day when a player took a portable sewing machine on road trips to make his own clothes." It's true. First Baseman Tony Pepper tailors his trousers, hemstitches and does appliqués. He is also batting .280. Do his teammates needle him?
JAWS OF YESTERDAY
Beach tourists on Cape Cod are as queasy about their waters this summer as anyone, thanks to Jaws. But to the true salty seasoned Cape Codder, stories of weird and terrible beings in the water are old, old stuff.
Recently, George Moses of the Cope Cod Standard-Times dug up a report published in Provincetown in September 1719: "On the 17th Instant there appeared in Cape Cod Harbour a strange creature. His head like a Lyons with very large Teeth. Ears hanging down, a long Beard with curling hair on his head, his Body about 16 foot long, a round buttock with a short tayle of a yellowish colour; the Whale boats gave him chase. He was very fierce and gnashed his teeth with great rage when they attack him, he was shot three times and Wounded. When he rose out of the Water he always faced the boats in that angry manner; the Harpaniers struck at him but in vaine, for after 5 hours chase he took to sea again. None of the people ever saw his like befor."
Such things were taken in stride in the old days; as the Standard-Times' Moses pointed out, "Back then, Cape Codders had the good sense not to report sea serpents in the summer. They waited until the season was mostly over."
Governor Cecil Andrus of Idaho participated in a celebrity tournament at Sun Valley's Elkhorn golf course recently. Governor Andrus is an abominable golfer but a polished politician who has a perfectly clear understanding of the nuances of executive privilege. Before play began, Andrus ordered a pamphlet containing his definition of the rules of golf for governors distributed to everyone at the course:
"1) The governor always wins, and that's an executive order. 2) The governor cheats. 3) Other players, the gallery and all cart drivers will smile and act natural while rules 1) and 2) are being observed. 4) Play begins only after one truly superior player has volunteered to be the governor's partner. 5) The governor can demand a new partner at any time—even during his former partner's backswing. 6) The governor may change his bets at any time. 7) The governor can settle his bets through IOUs, promotion, pleading poverty, etc., but all other bets are payable in cash on the 18th green, especially those owed the governor. 8) Other rules will be instituted by the governor as needs arise. 9) No complaining, grumbling, arguing, griping or crying about these rules will be tolerated."
Most of the complaining, grumbling, griping and crying came from the governor. He shot 112.
BIRD OF ANOTHER FEATHER
The new Seattle NFL franchise has selected the name Seahawks for its team, which begins play in 1976. The Seattle Seahawks—yes, it would seem logical enough, an image of speed and power, evocative of the Pacific Northwest, alliterative even. However, since the choice was made, certain Seattle critics have been pleased to point out that a seahawk is in reality a skua—or jaeger—a thieving critter specializing in robbing other seabirds of their food. When attacked for said robberies, the seahawk tends to upchuck as a way of showing that it is under stress.
The team's general manager, John Thompson, disagrees, claiming that a seahawk is in fact the dashing, handsome, graceful osprey that swoops out of the sky to snatch fish from the sea.
Who is correct? James Rod of the National Audubon Society says that the seahawk is indeed a thief with impressive capacities for throwing up, that the osprey in Thompson's noble scenario is more likely a fish hawk. The Seattle Fish Hawks? Somehow it seems to go much better with a Super Bowl of bouillabaisse.
In The Merry Widow there is a scene in which Count Danilo receives a desperate message that the Pontevedrinian kingdom is bankrupt and that the count must marry a rich widow to rescue his homeland. It is ordinarily a sentimental moment, but recently in Cincinnati, Baritone Alan Titus, star of the New York City Opera and a renowned baseball fan, gave it a new twist. When the message came, Titus as Count Danilo took it, read it, and cried out, "Do you know what it says here? It says the Reds beat the Mets 3-2!" The crowd roared in delight, and Titus went on to save the kingdom.
RUBBER STAMP POWER
So we are to have seven more years of Bowie Kuhn. To the re-elected baseball commissioner, the new term in office will be worth about a million dollars in salary. To baseball, it will be worth something a lot less tangible, and perhaps something a lot less, period.
Though he resisted—and survived—a cracked-teacup revolt of embittered owners led by that incomparable opportunist and cynic, Charles O. Finley, Kuhn's main saving grace is his patrician bearing. Meeting in Milwaukee, the major league owners returned him to office by a resounding 22-2 vote largely because there has always been a lot more General Eckert than Judge Landis in Kuhn. The owners' overwhelming approval represents a predictable rubber-stamp reaction of a very predictable rubber-stamp commissioner. The lesson from Milwaukee last week was that the closest to real power Bowie Kuhn will ever be allowed to get is the seat he had next to Henry Kissinger at the All-Star Game.
Whatever problems Bowie Kuhn may confront, they won't be half so scary as those facing Obare Asiko, commissioner of the Kenya Football Federation. Not long ago, Asiko felt compelled to warn fans, team officials, players, trainers and practicing witch doctors that anyone found guilty of casting spells with animals during soccer games would be subject to criminal prosecution.
Sorcery is a continuing problem at Kenya's pitches. Sideline medicine men claim they can make the ball disappear or cast spells on opponents with bird and animal charms. Asiko declared, "The. practice of witchcraft is unsettling our efforts to clean up soccer."
We eagerly await a progress report from Mr. Asiko who may, even now, be shrunk to one inch in height.
THEY SAID IT
•Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals' 39-year-old pitcher: "If I was a young kid, they'd look at my stuff and say I was a heck of a prospect."
•Alan Rothenberg, Laker attorney, on how newsmen missed a clue to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar trade: "During the league meetings, when it came time to vote on whether to retain the center jump, the Lakers voted to keep it and Milwaukee voted to get rid of it."