THE SAME OLD STORY
Boxing, that poor battered sport, can't keep its nose clean. When Don King began his vigorous promotions, notably his U.S. Boxing Championships, the feeling in some circles was that the sport was in a refreshing revival. But several critics, such as John Schulian of the Chicago Daily News and Gary Deeb of the Chicago Tribune, disagreed. They said it was as seedy as ever. They ripped King and The Ring magazine, which supplied the rankings from which tournament pairings were made, alleging that the rankings were arbitrary, that at least one fighter's record was falsified and that fighters not under control of the King organization had difficulty getting fights and winning decisions.
Deeb also jabbed ABC-TV, which has been televising the U.S. Boxing Championships, for unquestioningly supporting King's promotion with television money and implied that the $1.5 million ABC had put up in prize money was being inequitably distributed. Roone Arledge of ABC vigorously defended his network's position and listed the steps it had taken to assure that the fights it telecast were on the up-and-up.
But Dave Brady of The Washington Post wrote that the FBI had made inquiries about the boxing show King staged at the U.S. Naval Academy in February, at which heavyweight Scott LeDoux went almost berserk on camera after losing a decision (you may recall his contretemps with Howard Cosell). LeDoux said that King's employees controlled fighters in the tournament and that officials were biased in their favor.
April 4, 1977
Then last week from Houston came word that featherweight Kenny Weldon said he had given a substantial part of the $7,500 he had earned fighting on the card King staged in an Ohio prison a few weeks ago to intermediary George Kanter (page 46), who had arranged that bout for Weldon. When ABC heard about this, it called for an immediate investigation. Kanter, whom Weldon described as a decent man, said the whole thing was a misunderstanding. "I'm not going to dirty my hands," Kanter told Vic Ziegel of the New York Post, before flying off to Europe. "I'm returning every penny to the fighter."
Nonetheless, criticism of King's operation mounted, although it continued to be looked upon with tolerance by many. Earlier, the Chicago Daily News had quoted Paddy Flood, one of those close to King, as saying, "Let me tell you about boxing. It's the most treacherous, dirtiest, vicious, cheatingest game in the world.... That's the nature of the business. It's a terrible business."
Plus √ßa change, plus c'est la m√™me chose.
HIGH PRICE OF LIABILITY
Six of the 13 companies that manufactured football helmets have stopped making them, and the seven still in business are facing lawsuits of more than $100 million for "product liability." The suits allege that injuries suffered by certain football players, most of them at the high school level, occurred because of inadequacies in the helmets. Similar suits have been filed over injuries in other sports, such as hockey.
The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association says that placing blanket blame for such injuries on "shoddy products" is not justified. It also points out that sales of football helmets to organized teams, from Pee Wee Leagues to professionals, amount to perhaps $15 million per year, and notes, with an eye on the $100 million in pending suits, that total profits to all manufacturers from those sales is less than $1 million.
Because of the surge in product-liability suits involving helmets (a New England sporting-goods dealer who lost a $120,000 suit involving a hockey helmet says he was told by one attorney that "every lawyer in town was following the case because product liability was the big thing, where all the money is"), liability-insurance premiums for the sporting-goods industry are increasing astronomically.
The sporting-goods people warn that the situation is serious. If the threat of legal damages makes it prohibitively expensive to make and sell helmets, they will stop making them. Perhaps one or two manufacturers will continue to produce premium helmets for pro football and the top colleges, but at a very high cost. It will be a price that boys' leagues, high schools and most colleges will not be able to afford. With no helmets, can there be football?
Last summer in the Astrodome the Houston Astros took part in the making of a TV movie tentatively called The Best Four of Seven (SCORECARD, June 7). Now the film, its title rather extravagantly upgraded to Murder at the World Series, has been shown on TV, and the Astros, who were paid $600 each for their work, got to see themselves in action. Sad to relate, they were not overwhelmed.
The film revolves around a young man snubbed in spring training by the Astros who seeks revenge by attempting to kidnap the wife of a rookie who is called up from the minors at the last minute to pitch in the World Series. Under baseball rules a player must be on the club roster before Sept. 1 to be eligible for the Series, but the filmmakers didn't worry about that. Or that Bruce Boxleitner, the actor playing the rookie, needed special coaching because he wasn't able to throw the ball over home plate from the pitcher's rubber 60 feet away ("I worked with him three days on it," says Coach Mel Wright. "He kept throwing off the wrong foot").
If the Astros were movie critics, their comments could appear as follows:
"Mediocre at best"—Bob Watson, First Base.
"I guess it was fairly well done, but it could have been better"—Leon Roberts, Outfield.
"I thought it was——"—Mike Cosgrove, Pitcher.
Bob Lillis, another Astro coach whose nickname in his playing days was "Flea," directed the players on field during the filming of game sequences ("We called him Cecil B. DeFlea," says Wright). Asked his opinion of Murder at the World Series, Lillis said, "I hope no one saw it. That would be the end of my directing career."
NOW THEY TELL US
The following notice appears in tabloid editions of the Daily Racing Form: "To break the perforation in this paper without tearing the paper: Open the paper in the center. Divide the page number on the left-hand side by two. For example, if the number is 24, open the entire paper at page 12 and either tear or cut across and it will open all pages." Helpful instructions, as any bettor who has ever tried to pry open an issue of the elaborately folded paper would agree. Even more helpful in a recent issue of the Form would have been the placement of the instructions somewhere other than on page 26 of a 28-page edition.
On the night CBS-TV showed The Deadliest Season, its fictionalized account of violence in professional hockey, 3,223 fans in Fort Wayne, Ind. missed the telecast because they went to Memorial Coliseum to see their local International Hockey League team play the Kalamazoo Wings. The TV show was pretty graphic, but the Fort Wayne fans didn't miss very much in the way of violent action. Indeed, they helped make their own.
During the game, which their Komets lost 3-2 to the Wings, they hooted and jeered Kalamazoo Defenseman Len Ircandia, a target for Fort Wayne discontent all season. After the final buzzer the Kalamazoo players retaliated by making telling gestures to the crowd. The crowd responded by throwing programs and other items at the Wings as they made their way toward the dressing room. Wing Manager-Coach Bob Lemieux climbed over the rail and went after one fan, and members of his team swung their sticks in the direction of the crowd. One young woman's head was cut, presumably by a stick.
When the players withdrew to the dressing room, some of the angry fans turned on spectators who had come from Kalamazoo to Fort Wayne to root for the Wings. Police with guard dogs were called in. The Kalamazoo team bus, pelted with rocks, bottles and chunks of asphalt, was brought into the basement of the Coliseum so that the players would be safe as they boarded it. A heavy metal garbage can was rolled off a balcony onto the roof of the bus. Finally, escorted by police and trailed by a motorcade of fans, it made its way to Interstate 69 and out of Fort Wayne.
Let's see, what's on the late show?
ONCE IT'S IN YOUR BLOOD
If Danny Kaye, now a part owner of the brand-new Seattle Mariners (page 76), ever feels like rounding up a team of show-biz types for an exhibition baseball game, he shouldn't have too much trouble. There seem to be almost as many actors and entertainers who played baseball as there are ballplayers who want to become actors.
Kaye, as organizer, manager and the kid who owns the baseball, could pitch. At first base would be Chuck Connors (The Rifleman), whose Hollywood career began in the 1950s after the Chicago Cubs sent him down to their Los Angeles farm team, where he caught the eye of an MGM casting director. Second base belongs to Kurt Russell (The Wonderful World of Disney), whose chances to make the major leagues ended in 1973 when he suffered a severe injury to his arm while he was playing for the California Angels' Double-A farm in El Paso. Kevin Dobson (Detective Crocker in Kojak) is the shortstop, his position in 1964 when he was scouted by the San Francisco Giants. Dobson, who also likes to pitch, says he's going to ask Bill Veeck to let him do some relieving for the Chicago White Sox later this season. John Beradino (Dr. Hardy of General Hospital) spent 11 seasons as an American League infielder. He can play third.
Center field would go to Joe Campanula (The Bold Ones), whose spectacular catch in a celebrity game in Dodger Stadium a few years ago caused Leo Durocher to remark, "Boy, I wish I had you when you were younger and I was managing the Giants." "You did," said Campanula. "The Giants offered me a contract to play Class-D ball in Georgia."
Charley Pride, the country and Western singer, once had a tryout with the Mets and this spring spent 10 days working out with the Texas Rangers. He can be another outfielder, although he would like you to know that he once pitched against a Willie Mays All-Star team and struck out 12 men, including Henry Aaron. David Hartman of Good Morning, America, who had offers from the Braves and the Phillies and for several years worked out each spring in Arizona with the Giants, can play the third outfield position. And Joe Garagiola, coming down from the broadcasting booth, wouldn't mind filling in as catcher for a few innings.
As for an opponent, why not the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League? Country singer Roy Clark, who says he had to turn down a chance to go to a St. Louis Brown tryout camp when he was a kid because he didn't have enough money to pay for the trip, bought a part interest in the Drillers early in March.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Sutton, veteran Dodgers pitcher: "It's amazing how fast you grow old in this game. At first you're the rookie righthander; next season you're that promising righthander; then suddenly you're the 'Old Man.' "
•Pete Maravich, New Orleans guard, asked if he would like to play on the same team as Los Angeles' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "I'd be his caddie. I'd take his clothes to the laundry. I'd pick him up and drive him around. Anyone would like to play with the greatest center in the game."
•Glenn Mosley, Seton Hall's star rebounder, on his high school days: "The basketball coach came into the phys ed class one day; and we played a game. He guarded me. I made 10 straight baskets. He asked me why I didn't come out for the team. I told him I had but he cut me."
•Rod Laver, tennis star, asked if he had ever played in West Orange, N.J. before: "I must have. I remember the bar across the street."