The women's softball team for the News-Journal newspapers in Wilmington, Del. is known as the Ms. Prints.
The eccentric Charlie Finley has a 16-year-old high school student serving as an "executive vice-president" of the A's. "That's what Mr. Finley calls me," says Stanley Burrell, a sophomore at McClymonds High School in Oakland. "He phones me every day." Burrell was interviewed by Loel Schrader of the Long Beach Independent Press Telegram last week, and as the youngster told it, he first attracted Finley's attention four years ago when he was "doing a wild dance" in the parking lot. Finley subsequently nicknamed Burrell "the Hammer" because, at least to Charlie O., Burrell looks like Hank Aaron.
The Hammer accompanied Finley to Anaheim for the season opener against the Angels and, according to Schrader, ran notes to Manager Bobby Winkles during the game. Later in the week, when the A's were back in Oakland, the Hammer broke off a press-box interview during the top of the fourth to take a call in Finley's private box. It was the boss phoning from Chicago, and Finley kept his veep on the phone for the rest of the game. When it was over and Oakland had won its fifth straight, the Hammer went to the locker room to speak to Winkles before resuming the interview.
April 24, 1978
Officials on the A's are loath to talk about Burrell because they fear him as the eyes and ears of Finley, but the Hammer is far from loath to praise Charlie O. "He's done nothing but good for me," says the Hammer. "There isn't anything I wouldn't do for Mr. Finley if I could do it."
St. Louis University honored Bob (Doc) Bauman, its athletic trainer for 50 years, by holding the first Bob Bauman Symposium on Sports Medicine last week. The subject was injuries to adolescents, and Dr. Lyle J. Micheli of Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital said the majority of serious injuries come from damage to the growth plates on kids' knees, ankles, shoulders and elbows. Blocking does most of the damage in football, sliding causes the injuries in baseball, and too big or too heavy a ball is the source of trouble in soccer.
Dr. Micheli recommends that soccer players under 11 use a No. 3 ball instead of the standard No. 5, and that flying blocks be barred in football and sliding in baseball until at least the age of 14. "Children's games are all games designed for adults," he said. "I think the rules could be modified for children."
Some of Micheli's other points:
Youngsters should undergo flexibility training to help avoid pulled hamstrings and torn ligaments. "Children outgrow their flexibility every six months," he noted.
One-stitch surgery involving a medical telescope can now be used to correct Os-good-Schlatter's disease, a lump below the knee that often results from growth-plate stress fractures. Cortisone was formerly used, and not always with the desired results.
A study of emotional stress shows that the prime factor in a child's self-esteem as an athlete was not what the child thought of himself, or what his parents or teammates thought. It's coaches' opinions that count most with kids.
Data suggests that throwing a curveball puts excessive stress on a youngster's arm. Little League pitchers should be examined for flexibility and muscle development. "Maybe 10 years from now we can look at each pitcher and prescribe the kind of pitches he ought or ought not throw," Dr. Micheli says.
Bauman, who also served as trainer for the baseball Cardinals and the old Browns, takes exception to Micheli's data on curveballs and chides "those young orthopedic doctors who are advising that kids not throw curves. My view is that the curveball requires a more normal motion than the fastball, which causes most of the injuries." He explains that recoil from a fastball can cause arm injury, whereas the supination required for a curveball is used in everyday life to turn door knobs and screwdrivers. Besides, says Bauman, "If you've never seen a breaking pitch, how are you going to learn to hit it?"
Last week four Harvard track and field men showed up for a meet against favored Northeastern wearing bizarre facial greasepaint modeled on the makeup worn by the Kiss rock 'n' roll group. "We did it to psych them out," says Dave Kinney, a javelin thrower, who won his event although Northeastern won the meet 85-74. "I guess it didn't work. When we came out, everyone was shocked. Then they gasped. Then they roared—except for my father. He wouldn't talk to me for 10 minutes."
The stunt didn't faze Bill McCurdy, the Harvard coach. "I don't think anything surprises me anymore," he says. Indeed, of all Harvard athletes, trackmen have the reputation for being the most individualistic. One time, McCurdy recalls, he told the team to show up for meets in "formal dress," by which he meant the full Harvard track uniform. A pole vaulter arrived at the next meet in a tuxedo. Then there was the time when archrival Yale was on probation because of a jurisdictional dispute with the NCAA. At the 1970 NCAA indoor meet, two Harvard men won their events, then donned Yale shirts to accept their trophies.
Curt Gowdy is out as the top play-by-play banana at NBC, but the network denies that his new role as a "host" of sports telecasts is the result of his botching players' names while announcing the Kansas-UCLA NCAA tournament basketball game (SCORECARD, March 27). Gowdy was taken off play-by-play for the NCAA finals, but an NBC spokesman says the timing was "just unhappy coincidence, believe me," and that the switch to host was part of a long-term plan of which Gowdy was well aware.
TV critic Gary Deeb of the Chicago Tribune, a ranking Gowdyologist, isn't buying. "It's possible that NBC was planning to phase Curt out before the Kansas game," Deeb says, "but if I had to bet my bank account, I'd say the Kansas game was the last straw. Not only was it embarrassing for Curt, it was a black mark for NBC. They have all these directors and assistant directors and go-fers running around, and nobody took Gowdy aside to tell him that he should stop calling Darnell Valentine 'Darrell.' "
GETTING BACK IN THE GAME
The University of Evansville, which lost its entire basketball team in a plane crash last December, has gotten a tentative go-ahead from the NCAA to make transfer students immediately eligible for basketball. Ordinarily, a player who transfers has to sit out a year, but an NCAA provision, adopted after several Wichita State football players were killed in an air crash in 1970, waives the requirement "for institutions which have suffered extraordinary personnel losses." The letter from the NCAA stating that Evansville "would appear to qualify under the provision" arrived last week, just one day after Dick Walters, the new coach, announced the signing of his first five recruits, two of them sophomores from the University of Iowa.
USING YOUR HEAD
When the Fletcher team showed up at the Texas World Speedway for the 200-mile race sponsored by Coors last weekend, there was a bit of a to-do because the Fletcher racer was sponsored by Budweiser. The Texas Liquor Control Board cited a state law that permits rolling beer advertising only on delivery vehicles. Ingenuity prevailed. Bob Fletcher put his racer back on its carrier, bought a case of Bud, put it in the racer and then hauled it to a motel near the speedway where a woman bought the beer to make everything legal.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has fired a fastball at about 7,500 pitching machines manufactured and distributed by Commercial Mechanisms, Inc. of Kansas City. Last week S. John Byington, chairman of the CPSC, displayed one of the machines at a park in Washington and charged that it and others like it can be dangerous. When the pitching arm is cocked, it can, according to Byington, suddenly strike someone standing next to it. "People believe the pitching arm is in a safe position when it is not," Byington says, "and when they are playing with the machine, coaches have been injured, kids have been paralyzed and blinded."
Nine months ago the CPSC filed suit against Commercial Mechanisms, asking that its products be modified by the addition of "a guard around the machine." Byington said he had not held a press conference about the suit earlier than last week because "we thought we could work things out with the manufacturers before the baseball season. At this point, the manufacturers are not willing to enter into the kind of agreement we want, so we are asking people to disconnect the machines until they get fixed."
Byington's case may have merit, but what he did not say is that his sudden decision to hold a press conference now comes at a time when the 5-year-old CPSC is fighting for its bureaucratic life. The CPSC has compiled an appalling record of ineffectiveness and has drawn fire from many quarters, including the General Accounting Office. A study on just what to do with the commission is headed for President Carter's desk. Indeed, Byington, a Michigan Republican appointed by Gerald Ford, admitted to a Senate committee last year, "I do not believe this agency has lived up to the expectations of many."
ON TOP OF OLD SMOKY
It has finally happened. Mars Hill College, a Baptist school 15 miles up in the Smokies from Asheville, N.C., is holding the first intercollegiate skateboard championships on April 29. "At least it's the first as far as we can find out," says John Bennett, a sophomore who is coordinating the meet. Co-sponsored by the Asheville YMCA, the championships will consist of freestyle, slalom, giant slalom, downhill, consecutive 360s and cone-jumping events. "The skateboarding will take place on a closed-off street and in a church parking lot," says Bennett, "and if you know this part of the country, that parking lot has plenty of slope to it." Mars Hill has sent invitations to Furman, Clemson and other schools in the region, but if colleges elsewhere in the country want to compete. Bennett says, "We can handle registrations at the last minute."
At the NCAA convention last January, the delegates voted to split major-college football in two, thereby creating a new Division I-A that supposedly would include only the biggest of big-time schools. Originally 79 colleges were expected to declare themselves ready to meet the Division I-A requirements (e.g., have a stadium seating at least 30,000) within three years. The deadline for declarations came last week, and a total of 139 colleges opted for I-A. That means only seven schools—Grambling, Alcorn State, Jackson State, Southern, Texas Southern, Idaho and Northwestern State—elected to stay back in Division I-AA.
THEY SAID IT
•Roger Erickson, 21-year-old rookie pitcher with the Minnesota Twins, on life in the major leagues: "In the clubhouse they've got a candy rack, just like in the drugstore, and it's all for the players. I couldn't believe it. I stuffed myself on licorice the first night."
•Sonny Allen, SMU basketball coach, asked if he planned to offer his son Billy, an All-State player, an automobile to sign with the Mustangs: "No, but I've considered taking one away if he doesn't."
•Scott Findorff, captain of the swimming team at Southern Cal, after his team lost its first dual meet since 1973 and first home meet in 21 years: "When UCLA beat us, I thought I should tell the guys something, but not having lost before, I didn't know what to say."
•Tim McCarver, veteran Phillie catcher, asked by teammate Larry Bowa why the Tim McCarver Memorial Stadium soon to be dedicated in McCarver's hometown of Memphis is called "Memorial," since Tim is very much alive: "They're naming it after my arm."