BETTER TO GIVE
Leigh Steinberg is a 27-year-old Los Angeles lawyer who, if he combed his hair, put on a tie and sat up straight, could maybe pass for 24. Yet on behalf of his 30 athlete-clients, Steinberg bargains successfully with the corporate giants of sport. His latest contract negotiation was with the Chicago Bears for the services of University of California Offensive Tackle Ted Albrecht. Albrecht signed a five-year contract for $425,000, reportedly the largest sum ever given a Chicago lineman.
Steinberg could be just another lawyer getting rich from making athletes rich, if it were not for an unusual agreement he has with his clients. Each athlete he represents agrees to two things: first, voluntarily to reduce his salary, should his team's owners reduce ticket prices. That idea came to Steinberg while he was negotiating his first contract after law school—Steve Bartkowski's with the Atlanta Falcons in 1975. Steinberg says that in the midst of talk about huge sums of money, it occurred to him that the fan was not being represented in the bargaining. "I love sports," Steinberg says, "and I don't want to see a day when the only tickets sold are corporate boxes." He would like to get the concept into his contracts, but so far no owner will go along.
Second, a Steinberg client agrees to recognize his debt to his high school, college, profession or community by a method of his own devising. Albrecht, for instance, has endowed an annual scholarship at his high school in Vallejo, Calif. Dave Hampton, the Oakland Raider running back, will give $1 for every yard he gains this year to sickle-cell anemia research; Wide Receiver Steve Rivera of the 49ers contributes to the Special Olympics for the handicapped and gives tickets to boys' clubs; Joel (Cowboy) Parrish, the Cincinnati Bengal guard, has set up a high school scholarship back home in Douglas, Ga.; Running Back Mark Bailey of the K. C. Chiefs is planning ways to help the aged in Southern California; Offensive Tackle Alfred Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints will donate to the United Negro College Fund.
August 7, 1977
Steinberg says his most imaginative client is Wide Receiver Pat McInally of Harvard and the Bengals, who, he says, "phones at all hours of the day and night to talk about colonizing a desert island, or establishing a home for starving woodcut artists or whatever."
To Steinberg's unusual mind, such thinking is good for the players, good for sport and useful as an antidote to stories about athletes with three Rolls-Royces and floor-length fur coats.
"What," he asks, "is a guy who makes eight, 10, 12 thousand a year supposed to think when he reads that Roy Jefferson is telling Congress how tough it is to live on $65,000 a year?"
Steinberg, by the way, contributes to Amnesty International, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the United Fund and University of California football.
Saturday at the Del Mar racetrack near San Diego was the kind of day Alec Guinness used to make very funny movies about. It seems that the armored transport company that delivers $2.1 million to the track on weekend racing days showed up last Saturday morning $1.9 million short. A snafu at the San Diego office, involving a new driver and a vault with a time lock, was said to be the cause.
While frantic calls went out from the track to San Diego businesses for assistance and while the transport company attempted, unsuccessfully, to break into its own vault, the public-address announcer tried to explain to 21,000 fans a 15-minute delay in the start of the first race. When racing finally did get under way with the help of $250,000 raised locally, it proceeded slowly, because the cashiers could not pay off on win tickets until the money taken in by the ticket sellers had been counted.
Meanwhile, the transport company appealed to the Union Bank in Los Angeles, which made arrangements to send the missing money to San Diego by helicopter. But before the helicopter could take off, it was commandeered by the Forestry Service, which needed it to fight a fire. So the money was switched to an armored truck which set out on the two-hour trip south, picking up a police escort in San Clemente along the way.
Finally at 5:28 p.m., shortly before the featured seventh race went off with Bold Talent a heavy (2 to 5) favorite, the armored truck reached Del Mar, and the story ended happily for all. The last race was only an hour late, cashiers' windows remained open overtime, the track's mutuel handle was a quarter of a million higher than the same day last year and the sun set prettily over the Pacific, out beyond the first turn.
Almost all, that is. Bold Talent ran out of the money.
Audrey Scruggs, 19, is a left-handed pitcher. He is also a right-handed pitcher. "I was born like that," he says. "I've got a glove that fits either hand." He isn't sure how strong his arms are because he has never pitched a full game with either one. That's because he'd rather switch than be sore.
Except right now he's sore at the Atlanta Braves, the organization that owns him. He thought he was going to pitch for Kingsport, Tenn. of the Appalachian Rookie League this year but the club ordered him instead to Bradenton, Fla. of the Gulf Coast Rookie League, and he considers that a demotion. He refused to go, and the other day he received a letter of suspension.
As only a man can be who pitches with both arms, Scruggs says, "I'm confused." But if Scruggs ever gets straight, it could be the batters with the messed-up heads.
THE HEAT'S ON
For years right-minded sportsmen have been deploring the practice of "soring" show horses, particularly Tennessee walking horses, to add flourish to a gait that ought to be developed through breeding and training solely. The sordid practice, employed by some walking horse trainers, involves a variety of sadistic methods designed to cause a soreness in the horse's forelegs, so that when he reacts reflexively to his pain, he lifts his front feet from the ground quickly and smartly.
Since the passage by Congress in 1970 of the Horse Protection Act, which forbids soring, the Department of Agriculture has been policing shows throughout the country. Last week the department introduced an instrument called Thermovision, a sort of equine lie detector, to aid its inspectors in their work. The device registers the temperature of infra-red rays emitted by the tissue in the horses' feet and forelegs. Soring produces temperature increases in the irritated areas, and the increases register as patterns on a thermal graph that can be interpreted by veterinarians trained in thermography.
Furthermore, and best of all, Thermovision photos can be used as evidence in court.
Traditionally, when the Sons of Italy wanted to do something nice for a city they erected a heroic statue of Christopher Columbus or Leonardo da Vinci. The Baltimore chapter of the fraternal order, looking for something different, settled on a genuine Venetian gondola. The $7,500 craft, upholstered in gold velvet, was delivered on schedule, but it took three months and an exhaustive search up and down the east coast to find a gondolier to go with it. Joe Giordano, who was chief of the search committee, says, "We looked everywhere, but all we could find were guys who could row a boat, and that just wouldn't do."
At last the committee stumbled on Anthony Lumaro, 43, who had worked the Venetian canals for several years before emigrating to Baltimore in 1971 and taking up bricklaying.
Through an interpreter, Lumaro said, "Being a gondolier is a lot different from rowing a boat. You have to be careful and know what you're doing."
From his position at the stern, Lumaro now propels tourists in splendor around Baltimore's restored Inner Harbor, which ain't the Grand Canal, but who cares. It beats another statue.
Disposable plastic mittens at a 100% discount are being advertised by the police of the 50th ward on Chicago's North Side. The mittens, which cost the cops a penny apiece, are available free to dog walkers, who are supposed to use them to clean up after their pets, then to deposit both mitten and litter in the nearest trash can.
Let's hear it for the fuzz.
ONCE MORE, FROM THE BOTTOM
When we left heavyweight Duane Bobick he was both lumpy and rich, having earned about $5,000 for each of the 58 seconds he lasted against Ken Norton. After that May 11 disaster, Bobick allowed that boxing had not seen the last of him and, sure enough, he showed up in a ring again last week.
This time Bobick fought Scott LeDoux, whose only claim to recent fame was fighting more furiously outside the ring than in it, following a bout with Johnny Boudreaux last February in Maryland. In fact, LeDoux is now under suspension in that state.
Last week's encounter took place in Bloomington, Minn., and Bobick was in control from the third round. He knocked LeDoux down twice and TKO'd him in the eighth, and earned $9,500. As Trainer Eddie Futch noted wistfully, "That was the way the Norton fight was supposed to go."
When the Weightman advertising agency in Philadelphia was entrusted with the responsibility of reintroducing to a waiting world the double-decker Gino's Giant cheeseburger, it chose Muhammad Ali to put its message across. The reason, according to agency President Charles Coffey, was "a survey that said he is the most recognized person in the world."
Gino's Giant, you see, was scratched from the menu in favor of Gino's Heroburger in 1976. But the Heroburger bombed, and now, say the brains behind the Gino's fast food chain, it is time for a Giant comeback.
For a sum "well into six figures," Ali, who knows a thing or two about comebacks and a lot of things about huckstering, agreed to join the agency team. "We arrived at the studio at 8:30," says Coffey, "and he worked non-stop until 4 p.m., and during that time he ate 12 Gino's Giants."
A day's work for a day's pay.
SOMETHING FOR SOMETHING
The following ad in the July 18 Wall Street Journal was placed by a bank in Fremont, Calif.:
"Earn 6¼% interest...on one-year Certificates of Deposit. PLUS A BONUS of two season tickets for use at all 1977 Oakland Raider preseason and regular-season games. The tickets are in good locations (all above the 12th row; no end-zone seats). They are available either to individuals or corporations. Two season tickets will be given for each $100,000 increment...."
And if that doesn't grab 'em, the bank can always try toasters.
THEY SAID IT
•Ben Crenshaw, golfer, on the pervasive quality of his current slump: "A couple of weeks ago I went fishing, and on the first cast I missed the lake."
•Michael Parkinson, London Sunday Times columnist, on Don Revie, coach of England's national soccer team, who has resigned to take a job in the United Arab Emirates: "Even now a team of linguists is at work translating his writings on the game from the original gibberish into Arabic."
•Tom Lasorda, Dodger manager, on why he still pitches batting practice: "Did you ever see a batting-practice pitcher drop dead? You hear about men dropping dead shoveling snow or mowing the lawn, but not pitching batting practice."
•Jerry Buss, owner of the Los Angeles Strings of World Team Tennis, on his contract with Ilie Nastase: "It's about 35 pages long, and about 15 of them are devoted to penalties associated with his behavior."