BLAST FROM THE PAST
The Pennsylvania Athletic Commission is now considering granting Frank (Blinky) Palermo, one of the most vicious thugs in the history of boxing, a license to manage. The commission might heed these words from Jackie Leonard, a Los Angeles promoter who was brutally beaten in 1959 after testifying that Palermo and Frankie Carbo, then the underworld boss of boxing, had tried to muscle in on the earnings of welterweight champion Don Jordan.
Leonard writes, "I strongly object to this man being issued a license that is a privilege. I thought and understood when I testified against Carbo, Palermo & Co. that, if convicted, these people would not be allowed back in the fight game.
"I have been looking over my shoulder and living in another country for most of the past 17 years because of having the courage to stand up and be counted.
February 27, 1978
"I was in boxing all of my life and very successful, when overnight I was out and on the run, not from being crooked, but for being honest.
"I can't return to my country, because of fear—let alone return to boxing.... In essence, what I am trying to say [is] that if Mr. Palermo is 'rehabilitated,' he should seek employment elsewhere, not in the sport that he and his group nearly ruined.
"I am 60 years of age and would like more than anything in the world to return to my country...but under the circumstances I will probably never be able to return."
Maybe it has to do with the dreary weather in most of the country, or with something in the air, but the unexpected has become commonplace. Within a day of each other, two heavyweight favorites, Muhammad Ali and Bella Abzug, both got licked. Bob Howsam, president of the Reds, decided not to sue Bowie Kuhn because the baseball commissioner had rejected the Vida Blue deal. Finally, there is Wayne Hill, who returned his paycheck after refereeing the Haskell Indian Junior College-Johnson County Community College game in Overland Park, Kans. On the back of the envelope containing his $40 check, Hill wrote, "I feel I don't deserve this. I called a crappy game tonight."
LOOK BEFORE YOU DUNK
Overexuberance, which cost the University of Miami a swimming meet against Florida when Miami swimmers leaped into the pool to celebrate a last-minute victory while a Florida man was still in the water (SCORECARD, Feb. 20), has struck again, this time costing the Southern Connecticut State Owls a 70-69 win over Springfield in basketball. After the buzzer the ball was rolling down the court and Byron Breland of the Owls picked it up and tried to dunk it. Referee Joe Soskovic called a technical foul, and a Springfield player sank the free throw to tie the score. Coach Ed Brown of Southern Connecticut refused to allow his team back on the floor for the overtime period, and so Soskovic awarded Springfield a 2-0 forfeit victory. The Eastern College Athletic Conference upheld the forfeit, ruling that Soskovic had every right to call the technical because a referee's authority does not end until he approves the final score.
Coach Joe Paterno of Penn State has his own ideas on just how to determine the No. 1 college football team. "I'd come out of the bowl games with four teams," he says. "Then I'd play the semifinals when the pros are playing theirs, maybe the day before and possibly at the same sites. Then we'd play our championship game on Super Saturday, the day before Super Sunday, again at the same place. Make it a Super Weekend.
"I'd give the participating teams a fixed sum, enough to make it worth their while. I think we could get $10 million out of the playoffs...I'd take the bulk of the money and establish an NCAA Bank, just like the World Bank that helps underdeveloped countries. And I wouldn't touch that money for five years, until it reached a certain figure, maybe $50 million. Then if a college wanted, say, to build a field house for women, I'd loan them a million at two percent.
"With all this money building up, we could help schools with financial needs. Think of what we could have done to help in that Evansville basketball tragedy. But nobody wants to buy this idea because they think it's too much, too big to accomplish. We just don't have enough people to think big. But it would be very easy to do."
UPS AND DOWNS
Fifteen runners followed in King Kong's tracks last week in the First Empire State Building Run-Up. The course, from the ground-floor lobby to the 86th floor observatory, was 1,575 steps, approximately a quarter-mile. The entrants, who wore T shirts depicting the big ape climbing the building, included Chloe Foote, a mother of five, and George Spitz, 55, a frequent political candidate. Spitz finished 13th, right behind Mrs. Foote. "She has beautiful legs," said Spitz, "and I just followed them up the last 44 flights."
The winner was Gary Muhrcke, 37, a former New York City fireman, who took the steps two at a time and finished in 12 minutes, 32 seconds. "I used the handrail a lot," said Muhrcke. By elevator, it takes one minute and 30 seconds to reach the 86th floor. Muhrcke, who had never been to the Empire State Building before, entered the race "because it was there." For winning, he received a scale model of the Empire State Building and some unwanted flack, after his picture appeared in the Daily News. Several persons recognized him as a "disabled" fireman who has been collecting a tax-free pension of almost $12,000 a year since he retired in 1973 with a back injury. The Fire Department is investigating.
The name of E. Roland Harriman, the former chairman of Union Pacific and the American Red Cross, who died last week at the age of 82, is not likely to receive instant recognition from this generation of sports fans, but had it not been for Harriman, harness racing would not be the thriving sport it is today.
The son of E. H. Harriman, the "robber baron" who battled J. P. Morgan and James J. Hill for control of Western railroads, and the younger brother of Averell, Harriman grew up near Goshen, N.Y., which is rich in harness-racing tradition. A gifted amateur driver in his teens, he saved trotting from oblivion in 1923 after Wallace's Register and Wallace's Year Book, annual volumes that printed detailed racing and breeding records, ceased publication. Harriman bought them up and presented them to the Trotting Horse Club of America, which he helped found. The club began publishing new volumes annually and issuing breeding certificates. As the president of The Hambletonian Society, Harriman helped make The Hambletonian Stake the most important trotting race in the country. Two of Harriman's standardbreds, Titan Hanover and Flirth, went on to win the Hambletonian.
In 1938, Harriman brought together a number of regional groups as the United States Trotting Association, which became the sport's governing body. Shortly afterward, Harriman received what he called the greatest compliment in his life. An old horseman approached the millionaire Easterner and said, "Mr. Harriman, I can't wait to get back to North Dakota and tell those fellas there that you're not the son of a bitch they think you are."
If nothing else, the first national pinball tournament, held last week in Chicago, shattered stereotypes. Instead of fast-talking wisenheimers who polished their games in seedy bars, the 20 qualifiers were mostly teen-agers who learned to play in suburban shopping malls. Jeff Cohen, 11, of Peoria, who came in fourth, got started two years ago when his mother took him shopping, handed him a couple of bucks and said, "Make it last." Cendra Jahnig of Miami, 18, the only female qualifier and the 10th-place finisher, learned pinball from her boyfriend, and so well that she beat him in the South Florida finals 14 months later.
The machines are also new, with digital scoring, memory banks and names such as Power Play, Mata Hari, Black Jack and Eight Ball. They are fast enough to test the reflexes of the best flipper whackers, and in pinball, skill is about 75% of the scoring and flipper play about 75% of the skill. The winner was Ken Lunceford, 19, a Piggly Wiggly stockroom clerk from Columbus, Ga., who spun 1,303,560 in four games on Eight Ball to take first prize, a sports car.
While all was serene at the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York last week, doggy doings were causing a hubbub in Britain. Crufts in London attracted a record entry (10,075 dogs, as compared to only 3,079 for Westminster), and a lot of suspicious owners guarded their dogs closely in fear of attacks by rival breeders. Winning means money—best-in-show at Crufts is worth about ¬¨¬®¬¨¬£40,000 in stud fees and endorsements—and last fall a chow valued at ¬¨¬®¬¨¬£5,000 was fatally poisoned at a show in Stafford, a nasty bit of business that The Observer called "a particularly drastic but by no means isolated example of skulduggery."
There were jeers at Crufts for a dachshund judge, Edward Crowley, who breeds beagles for medical research but emphatically denies supplying dogs for vivisection. As Crowley left the ring after four hours of heckling, a group surged toward him, shouting "Scum!" Twelve bobbies formed a ring around Crowley and after what the Daily Express termed "a brief outbreak of fierce scuffling," they escorted the pale and shaken judge down a back exit to safety.
Moreover, the Kennel Club is under attack for its men-only administration. Mrs. Florence Nagle, an eightyish lady known as "the Mother of the Modern Irish Wolfhound," is bringing suit under the Sex Discrimination Act. She is a formidable foe. A fine trainer of racehorses, she went after the Jockey Club a decade ago and won the right for women trainers to hold licenses under their own names.
While doggy people are being beastly to one another, anti-dog folk have been gathering forces by focusing on what is genteelly called the "fouled pavements" issue. The newest champion of the anti-dog crowd is Polly Toynbee, granddaughter of the late historian. She caused an uproar a few weeks ago with a biting article in the Manchester Guardian in which she wrote, "I read with glee the stories of the Chinese rounding up city dogs and herding them into electrified fences."
A group called Pro-Dogs is mounting a counterattack. Mrs. Scott Ordish, the founder and a justice of the peace, says of the poisoned chow, "I do wonder if it was anything to do with one of these dog haters. I just can't believe it could be the work of someone showing dogs. No one who loved dogs could do such a wicked thing."
THEY SAID IT
•Robert S. Hillman, chairman of the Baltimore Civic Center Commission, on the longstanding city ordinance banning Sunday boxing: "As far as I am concerned, it doesn't make sense to allow 60,000 people to go out to Memorial Stadium on Sunday and watch 22 men beat the hell out of each other and then stop 10,000 people from watching two men fight."
•Basketball official Jack Manton: "It's true that the ACC is the top league in the country. When you leave a gym in the SEC or Metro 7, they pour Billy Beer on your head. In the ACC, they soak you with Jack Daniel's."
•Jim Bouton on his attempts to make a comeback as a major league pitcher at age 38: "This winter I'm working out every day, throwing at a wall. I'm 11-0 against the wall."
•Debbie Leonard, coach of the Duke women's basketball team, which has no scholarships, after a 103-39 loss to Maryland: "The worst thing our players did was fail to grow taller."
•Frank Robinson, newly appointed coach of the Baltimore Orioles, asked if he is going to be looking over the shoulder of Earl Weaver, the 5'8" manager: "I can look over his head, but I'm not after his job."