THE ARMSTRONG REPORT
Attorney Michael Armstrong, retained by ABC to investigate the stench surrounding promoter Don King's U.S. Championship Boxing Tournament (SI, May 2), has turned in his report. The key findings of the 327-page document, as summarized by the network, are:
•The tournament, suspended by ABC, should not be continued as structured.
•Although no conduct in connection with the tournament warrants criminal prosecution, there was "a good deal of unethical behavior by individuals involved with the administration and organization of the tournament."
September 11, 1977
•None of the fights was "fixed," although in several cases there are grounds to suspect that Ring magazine's ratings of participants or alternates were "improperly or unduly influenced." The Armstrong report notes: "The most disturbing action by King for which we were able to acquire direct evidence of personal involvement was his clearly improper payment of $5,000 to John Ort (associate editor of Ring magazine), which seriously compromised the integrity of the selection process."
•No one at ABC was guilty of misconduct or impropriety, but Armstrong, pursuant to his retention agreement with the network, "refrained from making any judgment, one way or the other, as to whether ABC can be charged with any simple negligence or questionable business judgments."
•The "tournament was disorganized in several material respects and was, on the whole, poorly administered. The responsibility for the failure of [Don King Productions] to assemble the proper staff must rest with King. [He] clearly did not pay sufficient attention to the supervision of his associates."
Michael Armstrong has an excellent reputation as an investigator and attorney. We tend to wonder, however, whether the full story of King's role in this tournament—and boxing—could be laid bare by an investigator who lacked the power to subpoena documents or to compel testimony under oath. One hopes that the full story will come out as the result of a U.S. grand jury probe in Baltimore, or in an impending congressional investigation into the relationship between sports and television.
A "beep" baseball game played with electronic sounders between blind teams from Sioux Falls, S. Dak. and Minneapolis was called last week because of darkness. The umpires and the pitchers, who had normal vision, couldn't see.
All right, you fishermen, let's hear it for Dr. William Childers of the Illinois Natural History Survey in Urbana. While you were out having fun this summer, Dr. Childers was toiling away to help create a kind of superfish that grows faster, spawns earlier and fights harder.
Childers' work began eight years ago, when he succeeded in fertilizing the eggs of a largemouth bass with milt from a smallmouth. The hybrid fry were stocked in a small pond containing no other fish, and by the end of the growing season they were seven inches long. When a year old, they produced second-generation hybrids of their own, unusual because hybrids are often sterile, like mules, and because the largemouth and smallmouth species do not normally reproduce in central Illinois until they are two years old. One hundred of the second-generation hybrids were stocked in another pond, and, when they were two, produced a third generation.
In a scientific paper, Dr. Childers noted that the first two generations of hybrids were "extremely aggressive and exhibited little, if any, fear of man or other animals." Because of this, the fish has been nicknamed Meanmouth. People who swam in the ponds reported the hybrids nipped them. "When the hybrids were small," Childers wrote, "this behavior was merely annoying, but when they grew to one-to two-pound sizes, they occasionally bit a swimmer hard enough to lacerate the skin."
Once Childers watched a woman swimmer in a bright bathing suit get chased around by a bass. "The bass leaped from the water, struck her on the head and chest and drove her from the pond. She reentered the water approximately an hour later, and the bass attacked her again." On another occasion, Childers watched the hybrids attack a dog in shallow water. "Several bass leaped out of the water and struck the dog. The dog repeatedly snapped at the bass, but never caught one, and as the water in the area became muddy, the bass abandoned their attack."
Dr. Childers says more work needs to be done on the hybrids to determine their potential in the wild, and, thanks to a grant from the Bass Research Foundation, Paul Beaty at the University of Illinois is doing his Ph.D. thesis on the fish. Among other things, Beaty is assessing their vulnerability to hook and line. They could be so aggressive that fishermen could clean them all out in no time.
Dazzled by prime-time TV coverage, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn might not have realized what the new playoff and World Series schedule will do to high school football attendance this year. Game 3 of the American League championship is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 8 p.m., and Game 3 of the Series for Oct. 14 at 9 p.m. Those dates are Fridays, and across the land in thousands of towns and cities Friday night belongs to high school football.
In deference to high school football, the NCAA colleges have rarely televised games on Friday nights during the high school season. Federal law prohibits the NFL from televising games on Fridays and Saturdays in this period. Brice Durbin, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which represents 15,500 schools that play football, says the baseball scheduling "will surely affect us very much. It will be very significant as far as high school athletic budgets are concerned because we depend on that revenue to support non-revenue sports. With curtailed budgets, it's a real struggle."
"The mental pressure was so great it was almost physical," said Japan's Sadaharu Oh of the three days between his drawing even with Henry Aaron at 755 home runs and moving ahead with No. 756. "I'm glad it's over."
So were the police, who had grown tired of trying to keep up with scalpers selling outfield bleacher seats to Yomiuri Giants games for $18.75, and the press, which was pretty sick of being driven, during the wait, to such leads as "Sadaharu Oh failed to hit a home run tonight."
Then, during last Saturday's game at Tokyo's Korakuen Stadium, Oh connected with the sixth pitch in the bottom of the third against the Yakult Swallows, and the ball arced into the right-field bleachers 328 feet away. The 55,000 fans leaped to their feet roaring "Banzai!" and millions at home watching on TV shouted "Yatta, yatta!"—he did it. Oh being half Chinese, impromptu dragon dances blossomed in the streets of Yokohama's Chinatown, and at Shimoda City, Ambassador Mike Mansfield was handed a note by an aide and rose to announce to a U.S.-Japan conference, "Oh made it." Startled conferees broke into loud applause.
At the stadium, lights above the center-field scoreboard spelled out THIS IS THE MOMENT THAT HAS BEEN AWAITED. CONGRATULATIONS, OH, and clouds of confetti laced with hundreds of streamers drifted onto the field. At home plate, excited teammates, in their eagerness to pummel him, shoved aside a film actress waiting to hand Oh a plaque of red and white artificial flowers; Oh had to rescue her and the plaque himself. After the game, which the Giants won 8-1, the lights in the stadium were turned off and spotlights focused on the pitcher's mound, revealing a bareheaded Oh. He bowed four times, once to each section of the audience, and thanked them for their support. There were congratulatory messages from Aaron ("Japan has much to be proud of.... I wish you the best of luck and many, many more home runs") and from Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, as well as an announcement that Oh was to be the first recipient of a new national honor created by the government for outstanding achievement.
The medal is to be conferred this week, and Oh will have to shove aside a variety of gifts to make room for it. They include, among other things, art objects, cash, oil paintings, an unlimited pass to any hot-springs spa in Ito City, dinner sets, a Toyota Century sedan, 756 packs of Cherry cigarettes—his favorite brand—and 756 bath towels.
My Juliet, a 5-year-old mare, led from start to finish to take last week's Michigan Mile in Detroit. Romeo, Romeo, wherefore wert thou? Seventh in the field of 10.
TENTING TONIGHT, TOMORROW AND...
What was perhaps the longest line in sports, in duration if not length, ended last week when the University of Missouri put students' season football tickets on sale on a first-come, first-served basis. In past years the line began forming outside Faurot Field as much as a week before the sale; but this year, because of a home schedule that includes USC, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State, the line began on Aug. 11, 20 days before the box office opened.
First in line was senior Mike Doak, who pitched a tent and lived in it for 10 days before being relieved by a substitute. In time, the line extended for more than a quarter of a mile; to fight boredom, the students played cards, booed Coach Al Onofrio when he drove by, or, as Greg Wren put it, "We just drank and passed out for a while." Students who didn't care to stay in line but who wanted tickets did their part by making beer and food runs. At least one student, Marv Pennell, second in line, slept outside the stadium every night. For his stomach's sake, he is glad the wait is over. For breakfast he ate cold cream-of-mush-room soup washed down by orange pop, and for lunch he ate cold Spaghettios. "I can survive anywhere now," says Pennell. "I can go on one of those wilderness adventures anywhere."
Hardly a game remains that a blueblood can call his own. Golf fell to the masses long ago. Court tennis is moribund. The democratization of tennis is almost complete. And now squash. According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, the game that has been played in the right places and by the right people in this country for some 95 years is enjoying a boomlet. As the growth of tennis has slowed over the last couple of years, squash has picked up, and a wholly new phenomenon, the commercial squash club, has appeared in cities from Philadelphia to Seattle.
According to Forbes, the appeal to investors lies in the economics of time and space. A squash court takes up a tenth of the room of an indoor tennis court and costs about one-third as much to build. Because half an hour of squash is a good, hard workout, more players can be accommodated and the court rentals are therefore lower—$5 to $8 for a half hour of squash compared to $15 and up—and up—for an hour of tennis.
New York, where there never seems to be enough of anything to go around, may soon have enough squash courts. Already there are nine commercial clubs in operation, in addition to clubs, such as Racquet & Tennis, where the game has been played all along. A single Manhattan investment group, Town Squash, Inc., has built three clubs in the last three years. Its major facility is a $1.5 million club that advertises, in addition to 14 courts, a bar, a restaurant, a sauna and a day-care center.
Someday, somewhere, some businessman is going to figure out a way to make 12-meter yacht racing a pastime for the masses, and an era will have ended for sure.
THEY SAID IT
•Bum Phillips, Houston Oiler coach, endorsing 5'9", 200-pound Running Back Horace Belton: "He's not small, he's just short."
•Hubert Green, U.S. Open champion who beat Ben Crenshaw by one stroke in the Irish Open, on the runner-up: "He's such a nice guy I'd like to adopt him."