MAN AGAINST HIMSELF
There is an uneasy feeling about the fate of Leon Spinks. The new heavyweight champion seems to be on the verge of playing a role in some kind of tragedy. His advisers bicker; he has had differences with his brother Michael; bills are unpaid; the WBC strips him of his title; and then last week there was an AP photograph of Spinks handcuffed, in a St. Louis police station, where he was booked for driving without a license and driving the wrong way on a one-way street. It is scandalous that police would handcuff someone arrested for a driving violation, but somehow—and sadly so—for Spinks it seems to be part of a pattern.
Few know Spinks as well as Rolly Schwartz, the driving force behind the 1976 Olympic boxing team. "Leon was difficult," says Schwartz, "but let's put it in perspective. He was always a little bit suspicious of everyone. Leon's life-style was different. What Leon really lacked was personal discipline. He lost to Pedrozo, the Cuban, for the gold medal in the Pan Am Games because he wasn't in condition. I analyzed Leon and realized that he needed that extra kick in the butt. Once you got Leon in the gym, no one worked harder.
"For the Olympics we had to run a Spartan camp, and we couldn't have one man running off because it would destroy the discipline, the closeness, the family feeling we wanted. His own brother Michael would come to me and say, 'Coach, Leon's getting edgy. You better talk to him and keep an eye on him.' I'd say, 'Leon, you're not going to die on yourself like you did in the Pan Am Games. Leon, we're going to make you a champion in spite of yourself, not because of yourself.' I once worked at the Menninger Clinic, and Karl Menninger wrote a book called Man Against Himself, and I always felt that Leon was a man against himself.
"There are certain types of young men who come out of the slums and who really don't think they're as good as they are. I was an orphan who came out of the slums in Chicago, and I can understand the deep insecurities.
"At one time Leon took off and didn't make bed check. We just told him that if this happened again, he was going home. In all fairness to Leon, he put his act together.
"I have said prayers for this young man. People have taken him left and right. Everybody in the business knows it. I hope there is one person in this world who has a love for this young man, who will take over and be a strong father figure. Leon badly needs handling. His talent is there, but emotionally there's a lot to be desired."
Two months ago Will Grimsley, a sports columnist for the Associated Press, wrote a story reporting that 10 million Americans had stopped playing tennis. His piece was based on a report from the Sports Training Institute in Chicago, which called the enormous decline "very tragic news for the tennis industry." Grimsley's story got huge play across the country. Indeed, he received more letters about it than any he has ever done, and he has covered seven Olympics and heavyweight championship fights since 1949.
That 10 million figure was fantasy. The most recent survey, which was done just this year, by Jack Aldworth of the National Indoor Tennis Association shows that although the growth of tennis has slowed, participation is still increasing. The figure of 10 million ex-players was made up out of thin air by Laurence Korwin, who runs the so-called Sports Training Institute as a one-man band with an answering service. When SI Correspondent Ray Sons caught up with Korwin in his office and got a copy of the report, he was surprised to find no supporting data. Most odd, the number 10 million had been cut from the heading of the report and was mentioned nowhere else. Asked why, Korwin said the figure had caused him trouble and that he would rather not have it used. Asked how he had arrived at 10 million in the first place, Korwin said, "If you're looking for a statistical study, you've come to the wrong place. Everyone knows tennis play is down. This is an estimate." Pressed further, Korwin admitted he did not have any solid figures and said, "If I hadn't used a figure like that, no one would have paid any attention to the report."
Apprised of this, Grimsley defended both the report and his story. "If I made a survey myself, I would have arrived at a figure similar to that," Grimsley insisted. "I quoted them as saying it. It's a legitimate research organization. I'm sure the 10 million figure is out of thin air, but it was done by a legitimate research outfit. Don't say I've been hoodwinked."
Steve Smith, who once held the world indoor record in the pole vault, intends to "break" the world record of 18'8¼" by vaulting 20 feet off a rocketing skateboard. Now the marketing director of Bahne and Co., a skateboard manufacturer in Encinitas, Calif., Smith says, "The only barrier to a greater height in the vault has been the speed of the vaulter. A 10-flat 100-yard man would be running about 20 mph. And at that speed a dead weight could vault 16 feet, without any muscle power.
"My dad, who's an engineer with Hughes Helicopter, figured that at 26 mph, using proper vault technique, a man could go as high as 25 feet."
Smith says he probably could hit a speed of 35 mph going down a ramp on a skateboard, "but I'm not sure I could control the pole and the plant at that speed." For an attempt at 20 feet, he needs a stiffer pole than usual. "The ones I've got now are about 260-pound-test strength, and they may be good enough," he says, "but I may have to go to a 300-pounder."
A skateboarder since he was five. Smith will make his attempt at the Pipeline Skateboard Park in Upland, Calif., where a vault box has been installed. He will go down a 250-foot, 10-degree ramp to reach the desired 26 mph. "I'm really looking forward to it," Smith says. "I'll call you from the hospital with the results."
We've brought you the bat with a bend in the handle (Nov. 28, 1977) and the bat with a hole like a doughnut (Dec. 12, 1977), and now we present the flat-sided baseball. Called the "Major League Breaking Ball," it is the brainchild of Nelson Newcomb, a onetime minor league pitcher, and his son Corky, who dream up unusual items, such as a lighted football, for their company, Pick Point Enterprises in Mirror Lake, N.H. What's unusual about the flat-sided ball is that anyone can throw a curve, screwball, sinker or slider with it. This, in turn, allows those who have trouble hitting breaking balls to get all the practice they need without wearing out a pitching staff. Danny Litwhiler, the old Phillie who coaches at Michigan State and a man who goes for innovations, says, "I never let my pitchers throw the ball, only outfielders and infielders. It's for hitting. The ball moves right and left, up and down, by the way you hold it."
Aerodynamic principles cause the ball always to break opposite the flat side, yet a hitter who connects always hits the ball on the round side, so that it travels through the air without wobbling. To throw a curve one holds the flat side of the ball to the outside; for a screwball the flat side is held to the inside. For a roundhouse curve the ball is thrown full overhand; for a slider a three-quarters delivery is used. Sinkers and risers are thrown sidearm—flat side up for the sinker, flat side down for the riser.
The ball is made of polyurethane, weighs the same as a regular baseball and comes in hard and soft versions. It is not a toy for little children. The breaks can be wicked and can take a batter by surprise. The Newcombs, who sold 15,000 balls last year, hope to sell a million this year at $2.99 each, retail. They have also developed the prototype of a lightweight plastic baseball that lights up only when thrown, rolled or hit. This is a toy, and it's for playing at night. "With us, it's a whole new ball game," says Corky.
NAME THAT TUNE
Nickname fanciers fondly recall a right-handed pitcher named Bob (Ach) Duliba, who broke into the major leagues with the St. Louis Cardinals nearly 20 years ago. Now the Chicago Sting of the NASL has a Polish midfielder named Richie Duda, whose soccer prowess remains to be seen but whose nickname ranks right up there with Duliba's. He's called Zippity.
The oil spill that occurred after the supertanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground off the Brittany coast of France is the worst in history. More than 60 million gallons of crude oil have poured from the ship, now broken up by storms, despoiling more than 100 miles of coastal habitat.
Since the Torrey Canyon was wrecked off the English coast in 1967, releasing 35 million gallons of crude oil, there have been 60 major spills from tankers. Yet in spite of this appalling record, only a few long-term scientific studies have been done on oil spills. The most thorough study, still under way, was begun in September of 1969 by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod after a barge under tow ran aground near West Falmouth, spilling 170,000 gallons of No. 2 home-heating oil.
"In the area with maximum concentration of oil, there was almost a total kill of every kind of animal, including fish," says Dr. Howard Sanders, who has directed the monitoring. Three months after the spill, oil residues had disappeared from the surface water, but oil was still spreading along the sandy and muddy bottom at depths of 30 to 40 feet. By July of 1970, an abundance of invertebrate larvae had moved in, but only in the last year have the invertebrate populations begun to stabilize.
Even today low levels of oil still seep from contaminated marshes, and clam beds in North Falmouth remain closed. Killifish, a small baitfish resident in the area, have lower growth and reproductive rates than other populations of killifish on Cape Cod.
George Hampson, a research associate who has been working on the study since its inception, says, "West Falmouth was a relatively small spill. Almost 10 years have passed and it's still not a productive estuary. This French spill may still be evident in 20 years and probably longer than that. Is anybody there studying it?"
RETURN OF THE NATIVE
Last week's trade that brought him to the 49ers awakened memories for O. J. Simpson, who grew up in the San Francisco area and regularly hustled tickets at 49er home games. "I'd ask people if they had an extra ticket to sell, and when they said 'Yes,' I'd pull out a crumpled dollar bill," O.J. says. "They didn't know I had stuffed some fives down my socks. When I got a dollar ticket, I'd sell it for maybe four or five dollars. Then I'd go into the special kids' section for a dime, or sometimes nothing, and see the game. Things haven't changed. I'll still get in free."
O.J.'s return also awakened memories for Bob Hassing, who in 1961 coached the Les Vogel Power Gliders, a Pop Warner League football team backed by a Chevy dealer. "We had a few hundred applicants for the team," Hassing recalls. "We lined them up by size and kicked the ball to them. Those who hesitated or dropped the ball were out. Simpson, I learned later, was one of them. So now I have a rare distinction: I'm the only coach who ever cut O.J."
Take heart, kids.
THEY SAID IT
•Whitey Herzog, Kansas City manager, after George Brett and Clint Hurdle turned a golf cart over on themselves: "I was mad at them, but then I remembered the time that Darrell Johnson, Don Larsen, Billy Hunter and myself were in golf carts and ran off a bridge. Now three of us are managing."
•Jud Heathcote, coach of Michigan State's Big Ten championship basketball team: "In the preseason someone said there's no way Michigan State can win the Big Ten title playing zone defense, playing a small center and playing two freshmen in the starting lineup. Only trouble was, that person was me."