SAY IT AIN'T SO, JOE
The word from Joe Frazier's lawyer that the ex-heavyweight champion is coming out of retirement to fight Earnie Shavers, most likely in Madison Square Garden, wasn't the happiest news of the week. Frazier wisely retired a year and a half ago after George Foreman, who has also since retired, knocked him out for the second time. It was obvious then that 11 years of boxing had left Smokin' Joe a burnt-out case.
If the New York boxing commission had a capable chairman he would bar Frazier from fighting in the state. But it doesn't even have a chairman, the post having been vacant since James A. Farley Jr. resigned following the scandalous Don King U.S. Boxing Championships hustle on ABC. No one knows when Governor Hugh Carey will appoint a chairman, although the governor, stung by a labor official's criticism that he has been spending too much time in a Third Avenue bar, acknowledged last week he had "work to do." We trust this includes the appointment of a vigorous, effective chairman, not some political hack.
GOING, GOING, GONE!
A stuffed owl has disappeared from an exhibition in Nottingham, England devoted to Britain's vanishing wildlife.
HOLDS NOT BARRED
For months Ohioans had fiercely argued about the pros and cons of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would bar leg-hold traps as cruel to animals (SI, Nov. 7). Last week the voters rejected the amendment by a two-to-one majority.
What's in a name? It all depends on whose, says Charles Hamilton of New York, a leading autograph dealer. If it's Bill Tilden, Bobby Jones or Joe Louis, it's not worth much because, Hamilton says, "they haven't captured the imagination of serious collectors." By contrast, letters from James J. Corbett and John L. Sullivan are in demand. Corbett's bring from $35 to $150 each, depending on content, while Sullivan's go for $150 to $250.
"Corbett wrote a beautiful script," says Hamilton. "He had been a bank teller in San Francisco. Sullivan, whose handwriting was usually sloppy, heard about this, and he started writing a beautifully florid 'John L. Sullivan' that would extend across a page."
Zane Grey's letters on fishing—"real turkeys for a while," says Hamilton—have come back strong, and a particularly informative one on big game fishing is worth $40 to $50. Ernest Hemingway wrote the most valuable fishing letters of all: they command $750 to $1,000 each. "Hemingway's fishing letters are worth more than his others, although he never wrote dull ones," says Hamilton. "His fishing letters are usually to very close friends, and he peppered them with four-letter words."
Hamilton recently sold a handwritten Knute Rockne letter on a football game for $55, and he appraised a letter from Jim Thorpe to Irving Wallace, the author, as being worth $300 to $400. "Wallace is keeping it," Hamilton says. "Although Thorpe lived a long time, he wrote few letters. He did have a beautiful hand. They really taught penmanship at Carlisle."
Babe Ruth letters command the highest prices of any athlete's. "Ruth is it!" exclaims Hamilton. A handwritten Ruth letter goes for $500; a signed typewritten letter, $200; a signed baseball, $150; and a signature, $50. But Hamilton warns collectors to be careful. "Ruth was a very nice guy," he says, "and at the end of every game he'd linger on the field signing autographs. But his wife also signed autographs for him, so have an expert judge."
Spider Martin, Dartmouth '19, tells the following story in his class newsletter:
A dignified English solicitor-widower with a considerable income had long dreamed of playing Sandringham, one of Great Britain's most exclusive golf courses, and one day he made up his mind to chance it when he was traveling in the area.
Entering the clubhouse, he asked at the desk if he might play the course. The club secretary inquired, "Member?" "No, sir." "Guest of a member?" "No, sir." "Sorry."
As he turned to leave, the lawyer spotted a slightly familiar figure seated in the lounge, reading the London Times. It was Lord Parham. He approached and, bowing low, said, "I beg your pardon, your Lordship, but my name is Higginbotham of the London solicitors Higginbotham, Willingby and Barclay. I should like to crave your Lordship's indulgence. Might I play this beautiful course as your guest?"
His Lordship gave Higginbotham a long look, put down his paper and asked, "Church?" "Church of England, sir, as was my late wife." "Education?" "Eton, sir, and Oxford." "Sport?" "Rugby, sir, a spot of tennis and No. 4 on the crew that beat Cambridge." "Service?" "Brigadier, sir, Coldstream Guards, Victoria Cross and Knight of the Garter." "Campaigns?" "Dunkirk, El Alamein and Normandy, sir." "Languages?" "Private tutor in French, fluent German and a bit of Greek."
His Lordship considered briefly, then nodded to the club secretary and said, "Nine holes."
Bobby Fischer, who joined the Worldwide Church of God and disappeared from public view after winning the World Chess Championship from Boris Spassky in 1972, is being sought by police in South Pasadena, Calif. on a warrant charging him with battery, trespassing and disturbing the peace. The charges were brought by Mrs. Holly Ruiz, a former church member, who complained that Fischer struck her after she refused to sign a statement saying she had recorded his remarks about the church without his permission.
In a rare interview in a magazine published by church dissidents, Fischer is quoted as calling Herbert Armstrong, the church president, "an egomaniac," and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong "obnoxious." In the interview Fischer says, "I have to discuss some of the things Herbert has done to me—how he screwed up my mind—just to let people know that this is for real, because if anybody tried to live by the letter of the law, it was me. I truly tried to be obedient. The more I tried, the more crazy I became. The pressure he puts on you! You can't do this, you can't do that, you can't tell your friends this, you can't see unconverted people, you can't eat this, you can't eat that, on the Sabbath you have to rest, you have to listen to the radio program every day, you have to study the correspondence course, and then you're supposed to pray.
"I can remember times coming home from a chess club at four in the morning when I was half asleep and half dead and forcing myself to pray an hour and study an hour. You know, I was half out of my mind—stoned almost.
"And every time you try to think a sane thought you think it's of the devil. They keep pushing that thing. They keep pushing about this tremendous struggle that goes on between God and the devil. And the devil keeps injecting his thoughts into your mind. They really got you coming and going. I don't think they'll ever come up with a better one than this. They'll never come up with a better con than this. They are playing with people's lives like toys."
STANDARD OF SUCCESS
For all the haut ton and purse money of $200,000, the Washington, D.C. International at Laurel still hasn't made it as a really big race. At least not by the standards of the security detail. The International attracts only five or 10 pickpockets. A big race, such as the Preakness at Pimlico, lures around 80.
Last year Promoter Mike O'Hara dissolved his International Track Association when he was unable to sign any of the top competitors from the Montreal Olympics. It seems that remaining amateur was more profitable than competing for the $500 first-place money O'Hara offered.
Now a new group is out to put pro track back in business with promises of piles of cash for contestants in the "world's richest track meet" scheduled for next year, site and date not yet determined. Backed mostly by oil money from the United Arab Emirates, the co-promoters—the Dubai Sports Corporation of Dubai and Falconry Sports Enterprises, Inc. of Chicago—have a letter from Barclays Bank International Limited in Dubai certifying that it is holding $1.6 million in prize money for the meet. The top six finishers in each of the 14 men's and women's events are to get prize money, with $75,000 going to the winners, while the victor in the "Golden Mile" will rake in $300,000.
Skeptical? Well, W. Leonard Evans Jr., the chairman of the meet and of Falconry Sports Enterprises, and his PR man, Andrew T. Hatcher, former White House press aide, are traveling through the U.S. drumming up the meet. "We are not attempting to sign amateur athletes," says Hatcher. "We feel that the lure of the money is enough to make the athletes come to us."
For one, John Walker, the world-record holder in the mile and the 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the 1,500, is tempted, although he said this was the first he had heard of it. "If they got a full list of starters, I would have to think very seriously about it," Walker says. "I could retire on $300,000."
RIGHTS AND A NEW WRONG
Sixteen members of the powerful Mission Viejo (Calif.) swim team arrived in the U.S.S.R. last week for 12 days of meets and unique side-by-side training with members of the Soviet national team. The U.S. squad consists of 15 high school students and Stanford coed Valerie Lee. Missing are four collegians who belong to the club: UCLA's Brian Goodell, double gold-medal winner in the 1976 Olympics, Alabama's Mark Tonelli and Houston's Mike Miles and Simon Gray. They remained at home when the NCAA invoked a rule prohibiting non-collegiate competition during the college season.
Proponents of pending federal legislation that would, among other things, guarantee athletes the right to take part in international competition (SCORECARD, Oct. 31) have seized upon the issue. They say that the four Mission Viejo collegians had permission from their schools to go to the Soviet Union.
NCAA officials admit that although the rule against participating in international competition can be waived for members of a U.S. national team, there is no provision for doing so for a club. Furthermore, the NCAA claims that one reason the colleges involved didn't object to their swimmers going to the U.S.S.R. was that they were reluctant to say no to Mission Viejo Coach Mark Schubert, who churns out swimmers colleges covet, or to the four swimmers, which might endanger future recruiting. "This is the reason the rule was enacted," says William B. Hunt, NCAA assistant executive director. "It's to help schools resist the pressures that can arise."
This is startling. What Hunt is saying is that the colleges were able to hide behind the NCAA instead of dealing with their athletes in forthright fashion. Which is another reason why many people believe athletes need the "bill of rights" now before Congress.
THEY SAID IT
•Woody Hayes, Ohio State football coach, on why he does not build up opponents like other coaches: "I'm regarded as somewhat of an authority. If I build up another team, they're liable to believe me."
•Willie McCovey, 39-year-old San Francisco Giant first baseman, after being named National League Comeback Player of the Year: "Naturally, I'm pleased, but I would have preferred not being in the position of being eligible for such an award."
•Mike Manuche, New York restaurateur and incurable golf fan, on his idol, Arnold Palmer: "I hear he's written another instruction book, How To Make Your Third Putt."