WHISTLE BATTLE ROYAL
A low point in international sport was reached earlier this month during a basketball game in Los Angeles between the Soviet Junior National Team and the California High School All-Americans. The American kids won 74-72 when Rich Branning hit a 20-footer at the buzzer, but the competition between the teams was no more intense than that between the officials. The final score: the Soviet Union's Yuri Girgorev called 35 fouls or violations against the Americans, only five against the Soviets; America's Booker Turner called 31 against the Russians, only 10 against the Americans.
Turner said after the game that he was forced to be biased because of what Girgorev was doing. "He wasn't calling them fair," Turner said, "and I had to counter, even though I didn't want to. It took me a little while into the game to see what he was doing. I couldn't let him foul out all our kids. I had to protect them."
The crowd of 4,349 in the Los Angeles Forum booed whenever Girgorev made a call against the U.S. and cheered when Turner whistled down the Soviets. On one play, according to reporters covering the game, an American player went in for a layup and was obviously fouled by a Russian defender. Girgorev blew his whistle and the press-box reaction was, "Oh, oh, the Russian finally got a Russian." Wrong. The call was charging on the American. On Branning's game-winner, most of the writers felt that a U.S. player had controlled the ball on the rim. Girgorev was underneath and could not see the basket. Turner had a clear view but did not blow his whistle.
May 23, 1976
Hue Hollins, an American official who had worked another game in the Soviet-U.S. series the day before, which the U.S. won 76-71, said Girgorev had been one-sided there, too. "Hue told me what to expect," said Turner, "but I still wasn't ready for it. I couldn't communicate with Girgorev because he can't speak English. I hate to work this type of game. I really believe it would be more fair to have two American officials work a game like this."
People who went to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby and to Baltimore for the Preakness noted a marked difference between the two cities beyond the quality of restaurant food (Baltimore wins by several lengths) and the names of the horses that won the big races. Visitors to Louisville on Derby weekend found that a hotel that normally charges $30.50 for a room had upped its rates to roughly $78 a night for a three-night minimum. In Baltimore hotel rates (example: $35 for a double room) stayed the same.
While muted bleats about Olympic ups and downs continue from Montreal, another suggestion on how to reform the Games has surfaced, this one emanating from Buck Dawson of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Dawson asks, "After Moscow, what?" and declares that the International Olympic Committee should take inspiration from the five rings of the Olympic symbol and split the Games into five parts. Others have proposed that the top-heavy Olympic carnival be spread around among different cities (SCORECARD, March 29) in order to ease the awesome burden of expense, but Dawson suggests a more formal division—into Winter, Aquatic, Team, Individual and Cultural Olympics, each to be staged in a different place at a different time of the year.
The Winter Games are already a separate entity, Dawson argues, and the Cultural Olympics have been going on for decades, although they are usually overlooked by press and public alike. Aquatic sports, obviously Dawson's pet, would include swimming, diving, rowing, canoeing, yachting and water polo. Team Olympics would have soccer, basketball and so on, with track and field, gymnastics and the rest in the Individual Olympics.
Dawson's basic idea (divide and survive) might be more palatable if the non-wet sports were not distributed so unevenly (five team, 12 individual). Suppose, instead, they were split into indoor and outdoor categories? The Indoor Olympics would have gymnastics, basketball, boxing, fencing, judo, volleyball, weight lifting, team handball and wrestling, sports that could be run off in any likely city at any convenient period. The Outdoor Olympics, requiring more attention to time and place, would have track and field, cycling, equestrian events, modern pentathlon, shooting, archery, soccer, field hockey.
Artistically, this may not be one of the sublime seasons in baseball history, but from an entertainment standpoint, it's boffo, particularly the comedy turns. The high—or low—point so far, which should be nominated for an Emmy, came last week in Yankee Stadium.
As the show opens we see Jim Mason of the Yankees leading off second, Mickey Rivers off first, Roy White batting. There is one out. White hits a medium-velocity line drive to center field that should be a routine out for Detroit Tiger Centerfielder Ron LeFlore. At this point the comics take over. Mason doesn't wait to see whether or not the ball will be caught but runs blithely toward third. Coach Dick Howser waves frantically at him to stop and go back—but then LeFlore drops the fly. Howser, changing signals, waves Mason on. The thoroughly confused Mason, already around third, falls, gets up and labors on toward home plate. In the outfield Le-Flore picks up the bobbled ball and throws home to Catcher John Wockenfuss, who tags Mason for the second out of the inning.
Now Wockenfuss (comedians love funny names), apparently thinking the tag on Mason was the third out, slowly rolls the ball out toward the mound, as catchers do at the end of an inning. Detroit Pitcher Bill Laxton gasps and leaps toward the rolling ball as Rivers, a straight man in the act who has reached third base by this time, keeps on running and comes in to score. The frustrated Laxton, unable to get Rivers, realizes that White is on his way to third and throws in that direction. Naturally, the ball sails past the third baseman and White scores, too, with what turns out to be the winning run. There are no more Yankee base runners, and several Tigers are able to surround the ball and subdue it. Fade-out. Break for a commercial.
The score-book account of White's progress around the bases on what should have been a fly out is a classic of its type: reached first on the centerfielder's error, went to second on the throw-in, went to third on the catcher's error, scored on the pitcher's error. All on the same play. White wasn't quite sure what had happened until the inning was over and he saw a taped replay of the incident on the huge new Yankee Stadium scoreboard. The crowd of 14,575 dissolved in laughter during the replay. I tell you, Roone, it's a cinch for an Emmy.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
Report from The Department of What Are They Doing Now That We Don't Hear So Much About Them Anymore:
Bill Riordan, who used to be in the headlines all the time when he ran professional tennis because he managed Jimmy Connors, now manages a 17-year-old star named Ty Page. A tennis player? No, no, no. Ty Page is a rising star of skateboarding, and that means Bill Riordan must be running skateboarding now. Just in case you're interested.
In 1970 Ewing Kauffman, the imaginative owner of the Kansas City Royals, founded a baseball "academy" for talented young athletes who were not primarily baseball players (SI, Jan. 4, 1971), the idea being that with expert tutelage, constant attention and a great deal of effort, some of these gifted youngsters could be developed into major-leaguers. All told, the Royals staged nearly 500 tryouts at different sites around the country, looked at more than 30,000 kids and sent about 130 of them to the academy in Sarasota, Fla. There the players were clothed, housed and fed, lived a monastic existence (lights out at 10:30), did some classroom work and underwent intensive daily coaching in baseball.
After four years Kauffman decided to end the experiment, and in 1974 the academy as such was closed. In one sense, Kauffman's theory was proved to be correct. Second Baseman Frank White was developed into a major-leaguer, and is now in his fourth season with Kansas City. But the academy cost the Royals more than $2 million, and White is the only one of its graduates to make it to the big leagues. For all his skills, he is hardly a Two Million Dollar Man. Nine other players are still in the Royals' farm system; all the others are gone.
MOSCOW 8, WARSAW 5
As nearly as can be ascertained, there are only two platform tennis courts in all the vast area between Western Europe and the Pacific Ocean, one at the American Embassy compound in Warsaw, the other behind the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Moscow. The second annual Eastern Hemisphere Platform Tennis Championship, held a week or so ago in Moscow, was thus a decidedly special event. Ambassador Richard Davies led a 39-member traveling squad from the Warsaw embassy, while the Moscow team was spearheaded by Ambassador Walter J. Stoessel Jr. Stoessel and his wife became platform tennis devotees 10 years ago at Washington's Chevy Chase Country Club and have been playing several times a week ever since. Partly because there are few other forms of recreation for Westerners in either Warsaw or Moscow, the caliber of play by both squads was surprisingly good.
A crowd numbering in the dozens braved 35° weather and persistent rain and huddled on bleachers decorated in red, white and blue to watch the action, which was climaxed by a doubles match starring Ambassador Stoessel on one side of the net, Ambassador Davies on the other. Because of reports that the American Embassy in Moscow had been bombarded for years by mysterious microwaves, allegedly from Soviet sources trying to foul sensitive U.S. transmitting equipment, there was concern (and a big diplomatic flap) that the health of Embassy personnel might have been affected. If so, it did not show on the paddle tennis court. Stoessel's doubles team won its match 6-7, 7-5, 6-4, and the Moscows beat the Warsaws in team competition for the second year in a row, eight matches to five.
One of those spectacular bridge hands popped into the news recently in Baltimore, where a man named Alan Behrend, playing with his wife and some friends, was dealt 13 hearts. Bidding was spirited, as you can imagine. Behrend, sitting South, threw in a fake cue-bid in diamonds—so that when he reached seven hearts, West doubled. Behrend promptly redoubled. He then laid down his hand for a memorable Grand Slam.
Those mildly interested in bridge marvel at Behrend's luck, since the odds against holding all 13 cards of one suit are supposedly more than 158 billion to 1. Those intensely interested in bridge ignore the odds and—what else?—criticize the bidding. The double was a bad call, they say, but the redouble was worse, and the subsequent pass as bad as either. After the redouble, West should have realized he had been hoodwinked and sacrificed at seven no trump. He undoubtedly would have gone down, the experts say, but he would have saved a lot of points for his side.
THEY SAID IT
•Elvin Hayes, 6'10" Washington Bullets forward, asked in a hotel lobby if he was a basketball player: "No, I clean giraffe ears."
•Jim Todd, Oakland A's pitcher, who worked for a bank in the off-season: "I don't think I'll continue in banking. There's not enough money in it."
•Alvan Adams, Phoenix Suns center, accepting the NBA Rookie of the Year trophy: "I'd like to thank Coach John MacLeod, my teammates for making me look so good and, mostly, David Thompson for going to the ABA."
•Don Osborn, Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach: "The only thing wrong with our pitchers is they all have to pitch the same night."