THE ODD WAR
This is an article from the Aug. 23, 1976 issue
Through no fault of her own, last week Chris Evert, president of the Women's Tennis Association, was going two ways at once. At a press conference, she confirmed her long-standing opinion that the women's purse at Wimbledon should equal the men's. The afternoon that she came out for parity at the pay window, she had no choice but to admit the disparity of the sexes on the playing court.
Specifically, she was concerned that Dr. Renee Richards, the transsexual, was planning to enter major women's tournaments, including the U.S. Open at Forest Hills. Speaking as an individual in a television interview, Chris said that Dr. Richards should take the chromosome test to prove her femininity. Under her previous name, Dr. Richard Raskind, the present Dr. Richards had played quite good tennis as a male. It is doubtful if Dr. Richards could pass the chromosome test. Even if she did, some medical men feel she would carry over to women's tennis residual advantages from having been a male.
Chris Evert's ambivalence in this odd circumstance is understandable. Dr. Renee Richards is the one we feel is at fault. After insisting two weeks ago that she had the "same right to play as any other woman," Dr. Richards turned the matter over to a lawyer (who is negotiating an agent contract for her upcoming book). Because of Dr. Richards' insistence, the USTA decreed last Saturday that she and every other woman competitor—all 184 of them—will have to take the chromosome test to determine their eligibility for the U.S. Open a week hence.
Boiling it down to the simplicities that transcend legality, Dr. Richards played as a man for 25 years. Although she occasionally gave a few like Ham Richardson a scare in early rounds, she never got to the top. Now 41, she wants to go against the best women. If she should master them, will she have truly won, or will it be part of the he still in her?
Dr. Richards has the right to choose her sex and name. And, indeed, she has a right to play the game, but should she muck it up for the other ladies? Is she an egocentric or just ignorantly selfish? Gene Scott, the director who is allowing her to play in the women's division of the South Orange Tournament this week, has described her as a "terrific sportsman." Perhaps once she was, but what is she now?
EIGHT THE HARD WAY
Last week we suggested that in the field of 2,655 golfers trying to qualify for this week's U.S. Amateur, incurable hunch players might be attracted to a real long shot, a little-known entrant named Monte Carlo Money from Las Vegas.
This week we present the sort of hunch player we had in mind: Stan Gilberts, a service-station owner in Glendale, Calif. Two Sundays ago—on the eighth day of the eighth month of the year—Gilberts' daughter, Mrs. Kristi Harper, bore an eight-pound, eight-ounce baby boy. That afternoon at the Del Mar track Gilberts bet $8 across the board on the No. 8 horse in the eighth race, the La Jolla Mile (or, if you will, the La Jolla Eight Furlongs). The horse, aptly named Today and Tomorrow, won, netting Gilberts $80.80.
THE BOOMER NEVER LIES
His blazing slap shot, his zest for scuffling with rivals and officials, his unfettered use of four letter words on and off the ice are all part of the past, but the Canuck charisma and the lovely fractured English of Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion live on. After finishing his coaching career with the Atlanta Flames, Geoffrion, the Boomer from Montreal, did a TV commercial for Miller's Lite Beer. As you may recall, after making a specific pitch for the beer, Geoffrion says, "When you play hockey the way I play hockey, you make a lot of enemies." Whereupon a pack of irate players comes through the bar door after him. A lot of Canadian viewers objected to the ad because it suggested that hockey was a violent game.
Perish the thought.
In his present job as marketing vice-president for the Flames, the Boomer has made two more 30-second commercials, which few Canadians will have the opportunity to find objectionable—they are broadcast only around Atlanta to attract fans to the Flames' games. In both ads Geoffrion looks more out of place than Joe Namath does plugging cologne and corn poppers, and therein lies the charm.
One ad has a Bicentennial theme. It opens with the Boomer dressed as an adult George Washington, complete with wig and Continental uniform, hacking away at a cherry tree. An off-camera voice says, "A message from one of our founding fathers...." Geoffrion turns from his chopping to urge viewers to watch the Flames play "da best game in da whole world." As he finishes the spiel, the cherry tree topples behind him, and the Boomer exclaims, "I didn't do dot."
THE GREENING OF AMERICA
As anyone who has traveled with them knows, family pets that are not house-broken can be a nuisance on the road. The larger the pet, the greater the problem. Because the elephants, llamas and camels in its retinue are not house trained and its jungle cats are far from fastidious, the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus used to have quite a problem on tour, until one employee, Charles Fox, had a bright idea.
Last summer Fox suggested the circus people could simplify the task of leaving each town as clean as they found it by informing home gardeners through local newspapers and radio that exotic manure was available at no cost. When the first public offering was made in Houston last July, the circus exhausted a one-day supply in two hours and had to turn 20 gardeners away. This year in their travels across the land, from Jacksonville to Boston to San Diego, Ringling's two troupes are finding that the demand for exotic manure is exceeding production capacity. Indeed, the circus is thinking about packaging and marketing the byproduct, using the sales pitch "pachyderm powered," because elephants are the major source.
Old P.T. Barnum, who was famous for his ability to turn problems into profits, is no doubt smiling proudly down on his successors.
BY ANY NAME
Call them what you will, Chinese Nationalists or Taiwanese, two teams of inscrutable, almost unbeatable baseball boys from the island once called Formosa are back on our shores, taking on the best of the rest of the world's Little Leaguers. The Taiwanese first made news in 1969 when they won the World Series of the Little League's most popular division, the one for 11- and 12-year-olds. By the time the Taiwanese kids had won four more World Series, racking up football scores and pitching no-hitters, the press was describing their opposition as "token resistance." The dominance of the Taiwanese has been such that they made still bigger news last week (and rocked their home island) by losing to a Japanese team, thereby failing to make the World Series for the first time in seven tries.
Although the littlest Taiwanese have gotten the most ink, their fellow islanders competing in the two older divisions of Little League have better records. Taiwan has won every World Series it has entered in the Little League's Senior division for 13- to 15-year-olds and in the so-called Big League division for ages 16 through 18. In the Senior tournament now under way at Gary, Ind. they are favored to win for the fifth time. Taiwan is also even money to take a third straight World Series in Big League competition at Fort Lauderdale this week. Two years ago at Lauderdale the Taiwanese shut out all four opponents, giving up a total of six honest hits and one fluky blooper. Last year they allowed three hits, shutting out three rivals and beating San Antonio 2-1 in the championship game.
Because their records are the sort that would make even a dry manager like Walter Alston salivate, why are there no Taiwanese on major league rosters, or at least down on the farm somewhere? Well, in the spring of 1975 the Cincinnati Reds did sign Catcher Lee Lai-fa and Pitcher Kao Ying-chieh, who were battery mates in four shutouts at Lauderdale two years ago. The contracts include sweet bonus money, but no one knows when Lee or Kao will see a cent of it. They are now in college but dare not leave because if they do they will lose their student deferment; they are of draft age and have not fulfilled their required two-year military service.
OPEN AND SHUT CASE
Because people tend to get emotional about animals, when a mongrel German shepherd owned by Emily Robbins of Rockland, Maine was brought before District Judge Paul MacDonald on charges of viciousness, he instructed the witnesses, pro and con, to wait in separate rooms. Before they had all left the courtroom, the accused dog, lying peaceably at its mistress' feet in a hall, bit assistant prosecutor Paul Eggert as he passed by. Judge MacDonald straightway ruled out further testimony and ordered that the dog thereafter be leashed.
The third-place New York Mets are not nearly as bad as they were in the sad, mad years under Casey Stengel. But Casey's ghost seemed to be in the park when the Mets last played the Phillies. New York Manager Joe Frazier walked by the rival dugout and asked Philly Coach Billy DeMars, "Underwood going today? Right?"
As Bruce Keidan of the Philadelphia Inquirer recalls the rest of the exchange, Coach DeMars assured Frazier that Underwood was starting for Philly.
"He's a righthander, isn't he?" Frazier asked.
"No, he's left-handed," Demars replied, wondering where Frazier's mind was, because Underwood had faced the Mets just five days earlier.
In Stengel's day, of course, the confusion was worse. Joe Pignatano, once a reserve catcher and now a Met coach, remembers an exchange with Stengel after being traded to the Mets by San Francisco midway in his last active year. In his first week in a Met uniform, the bullpen phone rang and Stengel barked at him, "Tell Blanchard to come to the dugout."
"Blanchard?" Pignatano replied. "He's with the Yankees. You want me to send across the river for him?"
That made Stengel very mad, and he had little to say to Pignatano thereafter except over the phone to the bullpen. During a subsequent game, calling from the dugout, Stengel said coldly, "Mr. Pignatano, get Nelson up." Pignatano looked around. There was nobody in the bullpen with the first or last name of Nelson. Rather than risk more wrath. Pignatano said, "O.K.," and turning half away from the phone, he shouted, "Nelson!"
Reliever Bob Miller straightway got to his feet and started warming up. Why? Because Miller knew Stengel always called him Nelson. Why did Stengel call him Nelson? Miller had no idea. And probably neither did Stengel.
NIPPED IN THE BUD
Two years after he made half a million by going plunk into the Snake River, Evel Knievel has been judged liable to pay Twin Falls, Idaho nearly $8,000 for the mess he left behind. Meanwhile, a daredevil manqué, Steve McPeak of Las Vegas, has been having a progressively rougher time of it. A year and a half ago he was fined $10 for trying to do a high-wire act on one of the suspension cables of the Golden Gate bridge. For attempting similar stunts at Hoover Dam and on the Vincent Thomas bridge in San Pedro, Calif., he was fined $50 twice and then $130.50.
Last month, on a cable he rigged himself, McPeak rode a unicycle across upper Yosemite Falls. This cost him $500, 10 days in jail and a three-year probation, during which he is forbidden to perform on high wires or to give interviews about his earlier antics. At the pace he is setting in the courts, it is possible that McPeak may be put away permanently.
THEY SAID IT
•LaVell Edwards, BYU football coach, noting that he had 20 Mormon missionaries on his squad: "If we don't win our first few games, we might start looking for some hell raisers."
•Bob Lemon, at his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame: "I had my bad days on the field, but I didn't take them home with me. I left them in a bar along the way."