WHEN HE'S BAD, HE'S HORRID
This is an article from the July 4, 1977 issue
For all-round boorishness, few athletes rival Ilie Nastase, the 30-year-old Romanian tennis player who again lived up to his nickname at Wimbledon last week.
On court No. 2 of the 100-year-old tournament, Nasty was just that in an unfairly gained victory over Andrew Pattison of Rhodesia, who for the first time in his career refused to shake his opponent's hand after the match.
Few blamed Pattison. The victim of officials' timidity in dealing with Nastase's churlishness, Pattison had taken the first two sets and led 4-3 off a service break in the fourth when Nastase began behaving like an unruly child—deliberately, one suspects.
During the court changeover which followed the service break, Nastase interrupted the match for 10 minutes. Arguing with the umpire and a linesman about a foot fault called against him and the number of linesmen assigned to the match, he ducked behind a canvas screen and led the crowd in cheers.
Play finally resumed after a referee's warning, but Nastase complained about the crowd noise and the condition of the grass. Pattison, evidently affected by the delay and by Nastase's prolonged protestations, sat down, got up, donned his sweater, took it off again and ultimately lost the set and match.
"I think he behaved abominably," Pattison said afterward. "He was breaking the rules of the game that play must be continuous and insulting and abusing the umpire and linesman. He did it at a very crucial time, when I was leading with a service break. It was no coincidence."
Nastase reportedly defended his tactics by saying, "I would do it every time if I knew I would win the match."
That much seems certain. And he has been able to get away with his unsportsmanlike conduct because, as a gate attraction and a star, he has intimidated officials. But Wimbledon doesn't have to put up with Nastase. It has stars aplenty and has sold out for years. Instead of merely warning Nastase, the referee should have used his authority under the rules to disqualify him.
OH, COME NOW
The John Eggers Award for Verbal Overreach, which SCORECARD inaugurates this week, is hereby given to Billy Martin, manager of the New York Yankees. Commenting last week on the tension he felt when it appeared he would be fired, Martin was quoted as saying, "Now I know how Truman felt when he dropped that bomb."
The award is named for John Eggers, the Oregon State sports information director, who several years ago described how OSU football rivals were reacting in light of the fact that the Beavers had upset a number of them the previous season. "This year," Eggers said, "our opponents have been coming after us like a bunch of Kamikaze pilots in search of the Holy Grail."
When a golfer named Ernest Primeau stepped to the 18th tee during a tournament in St. Jean, Quebec, Rodrique Lasnier was wholly unconcerned.
An automobile dealer, Lasnier was offering a new car to anyone who scored a hole in one on the 170-yard, par-3 hole, and his prize seemed safely out of reach. Primeau, not likely to be mistaken for Hubert Green, had hacked his way through the first 17 holes in 129 strokes.
But the car, parked beside the tee with the keys in the ignition, obviously was a compelling incentive, for Primeau hit a six-iron shot that landed in the cup.
A 35-year-old carpet installer who had played only about a dozen rounds of golf in his life, Primeau let someone else retrieve the ball. He jumped into the car and drove off.
After two top players were ejected from a Delaware high school baseball game for using profanity, the coach and his players (all of whom wish to remain anonymous) held a meeting.
The coach announced that Billy, a third-string rightfielder, henceforth would be the team's "Designated Curser." Whenever a member of the team felt compelled to swear, he would trot down to the end of the bench and whisper well-chosen words into Billy's ear, and then Billy, so to speak, would talk a blue streak. Thus, if the umpire was sufficiently offended, he would give the thumb to expendable Billy.
The team was faring poorly in its next game and there were many glances in Billy's direction. A few strikeout victims even started walking toward him, but each halted before he reached Billy, having cooled off by then. The high school lost the game, but there was no audible cursing and no ejections, and Billy's only comments were cheers for his teammates.
Depending on the year, the starting lineup for baseball's All-Star Game has been determined by a vote of the fans, players or managers. None of the methods has been entirely satisfactory, and this year—the eighth consecutive in which fans have cast the ballots—is no exception.
As a glaring example, with a week of voting to go, Centerfielder Fred Lynn of Boston seems destined for his third straight starting berth, despite a feeble .231 batting average, 26 RBIs, six home runs and subpar defensive play owing to an early-season ankle injury. Far more deserving is the Twins' Larry Hisle, who has a .314 batting average, 18 home runs and a league-leading 70 RBIs, or California's Bobby Bonds, who is batting .297 with 15 homers and 48 RBIs. At present, however, the underpublicized Hisle ranks ninth in the balloting for outfielders, and Bonds is sixth.
Which major league franchise has had the most lasting and widespread effect on major league baseball? As of today, it would seem to be the Dodgers.
Counting Eddie Stanky's one-day stint with the Texas Rangers, no fewer than 10 ex-Dodgers were managing major league teams last week: Roy Hartsfield, Toronto; Jeff Torborg, Cleveland; Don Zimmer, Boston; Danny Ozark, Philadelphia; Norm Sherry, California; Dick Williams, Montreal; Sparky Anderson, Cincinnati; Gene Mauch, Minnesota; and Tom Lasorda, Los Angeles.
The same number of former Dodgers are working as pitching coaches: Rube Walker, Mets: Bob Miller, Toronto; Jim Brewer, Montreal; Roger Craig, San Diego; Stan Williams, White Sox; Larry Sherry, Pittsburgh; Claude Osteen, St. Louis; Larry Shepard, Cincinnati; Red Adams, Los Angeles; and Cal McLish, Milwaukee.
For a team once called "Dem Bums," that's not a bad class of graduates.
In contrast to the professional athletes who complain about too much media attention, Pitcher John (Count) Montefusco of the San Francisco Giants delights in being interviewed. This season, however, a sprained ankle has put the garrulous fastballer on the disabled list, and few reporters have sought out his company or his words of wit and wisdom.
While recuperating, Montefusco often spends time with his racehorse, Silvan Hill. "I lie down with him in the stall and talk to him," the Count says, "because nobody else is talking to me this year."
WANTING AND NEEDING
Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic Marathon champion and the silver medalist last year, recently was asked if he thought that "wanting something badly enough" was sufficient incentive for an athlete.
Shorter replied, "To a certain degree, but wanting it badly enough isn't going to let you know what kind of drugs other people might be taking. Wanting it badly enough isn't going to create a situation in which you can train six hours a day. You have to have some sort of support, if you're going to compete in this day and age.
"Wanting it badly enough sounds too much like football, anyway. It sounds like you've got to beat your head against the locker, you've got to hate your opposition, you've got to bow to the coach because he's God. There are different kinds of athletes in different kinds of sports, and I think that attitude applies in some, but it doesn't apply in ours. In track, you have to have doctors available with whom you can consult to determine your level of fitness, to tell you if you are doing the right thing, to rein you in if you are doing too much. It is a monitoring process. Honestly, if you can't get enough medical backup to feel that you're operating with the same advantage as somebody else, wanting it badly enough just isn't going to be sufficient."
SITTING IN THE JAYBIRD SEAT
As a team, the expansionist Toronto Blue Jays have a firm hold on the American League Eastern Division cellar. As a franchise, however, Toronto may be the most envied club in the majors.
Consider these financial arguments: Toronto is second in American League attendance and should reach the one-million mark this month; the Blue Jays took in more than $4 million on the sale of 8,600 season tickets; licensing and packaging of the Blue Jay logo will bring in another $100,000; a disco record, Blue Jays, was on the Canadian charts last May, and the Exhibition Stadium game program, the largest in baseball at 116 pages, has generated additional revenue.
Says Peter Bavasi, the club's vice-president and general manager, "Montreal is isolated both geographically and politically by the separatist movement, so we think of ourselves not only as a Toronto team, but as Canada's national team. All our marketing is aimed in that direction."
Bavasi also plugs customer service. "We want our fans to leave the ball park with a good feeling," he says. "They realize we don't have any Jim Palmers out there pitching for us, so we try to sell all the sensual aspects of the game—the sights, sounds and touches of baseball.
"We are going to keep a full-court press on the market," says Bavasi. "Five years from now the Blue Jays won't be out begging, like some expansion franchises have had to do."
Culminating an 18-month search, which obviously was less than extensive, the National Hockey League board of governors last week looked inward and picked John Ziegler, 43, to succeed retiring Clarence Campbell, 71, as NHL president.
Ziegler is a Detroit attorney who is both chairman of the NHL board and a vice-president of the Detroit Red Wings—possibly the worst-run franchise in professional sport. The Red Wings, who have had 13 coaching changes in the last 10 years, have not made the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1970. Last season Detroit's 16-55-9 record was the NHL's worst, and the club also managed to lose almost $2 million.
The NHL might have done better had it looked outside its own conference room for a new president. One can only hope Ziegler will run the league better than he ran the Red Wings.
Whether they want to or not, athletes ultimately gain knowledge of bones, which they sometimes break and occasionally dislocate and which often ache after competition. So when Stanford University Medical School graduated three varsity athletes among its new crop of doctors, their area of further study was no surprise. Don Bunce (football), Tom Williams (baseball) and Mike Mann (basketball) all plan to specialize in orthopedics.
THEY SAID IT
•Tony Dorsett, Dallas Cowboy rookie halfback, after a three-day orientation camp: "What did I learn? I learned one thing for sure. You can't be a dummy and play for the Cowboys."
•Julius Boros, 57-year-old golfer, insisting he plans to continue playing occasional tour events: "Retire? Retire to what? I already fish and play golf."
•Sam Bowen, Valdosta State College centerfielder drafted in 1974 by Boston and sent to its Class AAA Pawtucket, R.I. farm team, when asked whether he feels he'll be good enough to make the Red Sox one day: "Right now, I feel like I've got my feet on the ground as far as my head is concerned."