July 05, 1976
July 05, 1976

Table of Contents
July 5, 1976

Flying Start
The Fight
The Farce
Bronx Boy
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over


Edited by Robert W. Creamer


This is an article from the July 5, 1976 issue

An outspoken opponent of legalized gambling, particularly state-run lotteries, is Virgil W. Peterson, a former director of the Chicago Crime Commission. Peterson says most studies show that typical odds against a person winning a $20 prize in a state lottery are about 200 to 1; his chances of winning $500 are 83,333 to 1; and his chances of winning $1,000 are 166,687 to 1. Chances of winning larger amounts are astronomical.

Peterson thinks the 13 states that now have lotteries should openly declare the odds against winning, just as state and federal laws require businesses and manufacturers to disclose pertinent information about their products and services.

"It's a hell of a situation," Peterson says, "when a state on the one hand tries to protect customers by making legitimate businesses tell exactly what they're selling, and on the other hand engages in an operation whose whole purpose is to get people to throw away money on get-rich-quick schemes that will leave most of them poorer."


The New York Yankees are leading the American League East in the won-lost standings and are running a close second to Charlie Finley for the major league lead in arguments with everybody. There's Owner George Steinbrenner's continuing battle with Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the Yankee part in the Kuhn-Finley tangle, the earlier on-field war with the Boston Red Sox, the dispute with New York City and Boxing Promoter Jerry Perenchio over whether the Foreman-Frazier fight was going to be held in Yankee Stadium (the ball club said no, and won that one).

Last week the Yankees took on Consolidated Edison, the local public-utility company, and the Metropolitan Opera, splitting the doubleheader. The Yankees had been giving Con Ed big blocks of tickets in sparsely used sections of the stands to give away to kids. It was probably no more than coincidence that it was not until this season, with attendance booming for the first time in years, that the Yankees noticed the Con Ed kids were behaving like rowdies. Not only were they using seats that conceivably could be sold, they were bothering patrons in other sections. That's it, the Yanks told Con Ed. No more freebies. Con Ed screamed (it is a powerful company and has a loud scream) and after some give-and-take—Con Ed promised to police its kids—the Yanks gave in.

But when the Metropolitan Opera showed up one Saturday night to put on a scheduled performance of Madama Butterfly while the Yankees were away, club officials were not as amenable. They said the weather prediction was for "rain for 36 consecutive hours." Looking at the opera's 11-truck convoy of equipment (including stage, music stands, instruments, portable dressing rooms, etc.) and deciding that rain cum opera would just about ruin the Stadium's lovely green grass, the Yankees regretfully turned the company away.

Didn't bother the opera people much. They kept driving north until they reached the open spaces of Van Cortlandt Park and let Un bel dì ring out there. But it was a victory for the Yankees. Give George Steinbrenner that.


John Lucas, the University of Maryland basketball star who was the No. 1 selection in the NBA draft, has made an impressive move toward changing the "greedy" image of the big-time professional athlete. Lucas, who signed a $1.9 million contract with the Houston Rockets, has put $25,000 into a John H. Lucas Sr. Scholarship Fund at Hillside High in Durham, N.C., his old school. The fund, which honors Lucas' father, the principal of Hillside High, will also receive a matching grant from the Rockets. The elder Lucas will decide who gets the scholarship each year, and the youngster can use it at any college he chooses.

"Unless he's 6'9"," says the younger Lucas. "Then he has to go to Maryland."

Lucas said he also plans to set up a scholarship at Maryland after discussing details with officials at the university. An exceptional athlete, Lucas has also signed a professional tennis contract with the Golden Gaters of World Team Tennis. Whether he is gifted enough in that sport to make it as a pro while also playing basketball is questionable, but his credentials are impressive. At Maryland, in addition to being a two-time All-America guard in basketball, he won the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tennis singles championship twice and the doubles championship once.


Tennis is a terrific sport—if you don't get hit in the eye, say two tennis-playing ophthalmologists who have just published a report on tennis-related eye injuries in The Journal of the American Medical Association. A tennis ball traveling at 60 mph is capable of causing serious damage, and for that reason the ophthalmologists, Dr. Morton H. Seelenfreund and Dr. Dennis B. Freilich, say that tennis players ought to wear eye protectors or glasses with shock-resistant lenses.

"Anybody can get retinal damage if the eye is hit hard enough," comments Dr. Seelenfreund, who adds that beginning players or those who have not had sufficient instruction in the game are particularly susceptible to being hit. "Many people play close to the net or rush up to it without knowing how to hold the racket in order to protect themselves from a rapidly returning ball," he says.

As for himself, Dr. Seelenfreund says, candidly, "Since I've seen all these eye injuries, when I'm at the net I duck."


Twenty years ago Harold Connolly upset the world's best hammer throwers to win the Olympic gold medal at Melbourne. He later set world records in the event. Since those glory years American fortunes have declined sadly. In 1975, for example, the Soviet Union alone had 45 hammer throwers with marks better than the U.S. best. The winner of the hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials last week did 222'7", well below the Olympic qualifying standard of 226'5". As Connolly says, "When you think that I threw 230 feet in 1960 and 16 years later they can't throw it that far, then something is wrong."

What is wrong, says Connolly, is a lack of coaching. "Most hammer throwers don't have a coach," he says. "They don't know what to do. They're just stumbling around. They're working hard, but they're not doing the right things."

George Frenn, another former Olympian noted for his blunt opinions, says, "I heard that the guy named to coach the Olympic hammer throwers was in Saudi Arabia coaching until the middle of June. That's ridiculous."

Frenn says he wrote to Dr. Leroy Walker, head U.S. Olympic track coach, recommending that Bob Backus, another former star, be asked to help work with the hammer men but was turned down.

Connolly suggests that the five most promising U.S. hammer throwers be taken on a tour of Germany and the Soviet Union to learn up-to-date techniques and modern training methods, but that is a long-range program, designed to pay off in the future. Right now, one of the surest bets at Montreal is that the U.S. won't be anywhere around when they hand out medals in the hammer.


Jokes about the arrival of the metric system ("Baseball is a game of centimeters") are getting stale, and so is the practice of painting on outfield fences the precise distance in meters the fence is from home plate. No one paints "340 feet 11½ inches" on a fence, so why "103.63 meters" instead of "104"?

In motor sports, however, changing the figures from the English to the metric system may have a practical—which is to say, financial—value. "They've been trying to reduce the length of races because of the cost," explains Corky Connors, promoter of the Beltsville, Md. Speedway. "That's where the metric system can help. Take the Daytona 500. If they make that 500 kilometers instead of 500 miles, they'd have the same name—Daytona 500—and the excitement the name creates. But they'd also have a race that would be about half the distance, and that would cut costs in half."


During the U.S. Open, while the demanding Atlanta Athletic Club course was being roundly criticized by some of the pro golfers and just as strongly defended by local people, a USGA official stood at the far left side of the 18th green early Sunday morning, pondering the placement of the pin for the last day's play. As he did, a couple of backwoods types who had been raking a bunker joined him on the putting surface.

"Put it in the lake," one of them advised.

"Make 'em work for it," said t'other.

"Aw," said the first. "What do you know about goff?"

"I know they make $40,000," the second man said, "and I say make 'em work for it."


Some things are going well for the Detroit Tigers this year—for instance, that trade of Pitcher Mickey Lolich (3-9 with the New York Mets) for Outfielder Rusty Staub (.316 with Detroit and a likely American League All-Star)—but others not so well. The Tigers had one of those Bat Days recently at which kids 14 and under were given free bats. The club cautioned that it had only about 17,000 of them to give away, so come early. The kids showed up and were duly given their prizes—among them Nate Colbert bats, Jim Northrup bats, Gates Brown bats. Enthusiasm was restrained, with reason. Colbert, a bust with the Tigers, was sold a year ago. Northrup was traded two years ago. Brown retired at the end of last season.

The Tigers explained that they had been unable to order enough new bats in time and had to give away leftovers from past Bat Days. As it was, they did not even deplete the back stock, which did include some Al Kalines and Norm Cashes. Maybe, later in the season, they could dispose of those at another Bat Day, after throwing in a few Frank House or Charlie Maxwell bats to perk up interest.

In another part of Detroit, things are better—period. The Pistons report that since the merger of the NBA and ABA, ticket sales for next season's games are soaring. Most dramatic evidence of this came one Friday afternoon when a man strode into the Pistons' office, tossed his Ford Motor Co. paycheck for $186.44 on the desk of Assistant General Manager Tom Abbott and said, "Give me all the tickets you can for Dr. J, George Gervin and George McGinnis."

Nelson Bunker Hunt, the Texan who owns millionairess Dahlia and at least 599 other thoroughbreds (SI, June 21), has been had. Really had. Hunt has been victimized by the racing rule which declares that a horse imported to this country must have the Roman numeral II placed after its name if another horse by the same name has raced in the U.S. before. In practice, many racing programs drop the Roman numeral and use the designation "2nd" instead. Hunt had the misfortune of importing such a horse from France at the end of last year. Abroad the horse won $22,637 in 1975 but in five 1976 starts at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park has failed to finish in the money. Obviously the horse knows his new name is the problem. It is now Numero Uno 2nd.



•Carl Erskine, former Dodger pitcher, whose lifetime record was 122-78, speaking at an Oldtimers luncheon: "These Oldtimers games are great. They remind me of a scrapbook my mother kept when I was pitching in the big leagues. In that scrapbook my record was 122 wins and no losses."

•Tom Heinsohn, Boston Celtic coach, talking about the NBA playoffs: "They go on and on and on. It's like a guy telling a bad joke for 15 minutes."

•Ted Turner, Atlanta Braves new owner: "One of my goals in life was to be surrounded by unpretentious, rich young men. Then I bought the Braves and I was surrounded by 25 of them."