Former President Gerald Ford, who shows signs of wanting to return to the White House in 1980, ought to check over the press releases sent out by his office. One recently noted that golfer Ford, who made a hole in one last year, made another recently. The release concluded, "The odds of a former President making two holes-in-one within a year are as unlikely as his returning to the White House in 1980."
As the years grind on in Oakland, Charlie Finley's reign over the A's is getting more and more like Ludwig's in Bavaria. Last week Bobby Winkles, who had managed a collection of low-salaried kids and has-beens to first place in the American League West, chucked his job because Finley had become just too much. There were reports that Finley had been considering putting earphones on Winkles so he could communicate with him directly in the dugout. Meanwhile, Finley kept calling him on the phone at home. A typical early-morning call to Winkles would command, "Get up! Only whores make their living in bed." When Winkles recently spent a day off visiting Napa Valley vineyards and was unreachable by phone, Finley raged, "If you ever do that again, you can go someplace else." After Winkles finally phoned (ah, the irony) Charlie to tell him he was quitting, Finley was moved to concede, "Maybe my telephone calls were driving him to the nut house."
The A's have now had 16 managerial changes in the 18 years that Finley has owned the club, counting repeats like Jack McKeon, Winkles' replacement last week, who had been replaced by Winkles last season. Despite its fast start, the club has had dismal attendance, even below last year's, which was the worst in the majors. Last week the A's mimeograph machine broke and members of the press had to forage for statistics. Bob Hofman, the traveling secretary who also serves as team statistician, simply gave up when the A's acquired Glenn Burke from the Dodgers. The Oakland press release was a photostated bio of Burke from the Dodger media guide without updated averages.
Ever since spring training the A's have lacked a lefthander to pitch batting practice and, perhaps as a consequence, seven of their last 10 losses have been to lefties. "I realize Charlie is low on money," says Designated Hitter Gary Alexander, "but I think it would really help us if we could get a lefthander in batting practice." If a hitter such as Mitchell Page wants to check up on his form at the plate, he must repair to Ricky's, an Oakland bistro, which keeps videotapes of the games. The A's don't have the equipment. Tune in next week.
WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
John Ziegler Jr. is paid $230,000 a year to be president of the NHL, but you wouldn't have known he was on the job during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The rival coaches, Scotty Bowman of Montreal and Don Cherry of Boston, were constantly critical of the referees, to say nothing of the outrageous comment of the Bruins' Brad Park, who said, "I thought they only fixed horse races." Bowman termed the officiating a "joke." He also called in the media and played a videotape of alleged Bruin transgressions not whistled in the two games the Canadiens lost in Boston. Cherry repeatedly claimed that the referees had it in for the Bruins and that they were plotting to get him. The players showed up Referee Dave Newell on the ice. In Game 5, Boston's Wayne Cashman skated past Newell and waved his stick under Newell's nose. Boston's Terry O'Reilly drew a misconduct penalty when he fired the puck at Newell but missed by a couple of yards.
No other sports commissioner puts up with such nonsense. The NBA's Larry O'Brien has warned Washington and Seattle that he will deal severely with anyone who criticizes the officiating in the finals. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle fines teams heavily if they dare run films for the press to show up officials. And last week American League President Lee MacPhail suspended Fred Lynn of the Red Sox for three days for bumping Umpire Nick Bremigan.
So what's with Ziegler? As one NHL ref says, "What's happening is absurd. If the league's not going to back up its officials, then maybe what the league really wants is games without officials. Then let everybody kill each other."
O.K., Woody, you can relax now. Ohio State finally showed it can win the big one. Mark Schad and Stuart Ensor, a couple of Buckeye animal science majors, made the point a fortnight ago when they launched Brown Beauty, a Leghorn hen, to the championship of the Seventh Annual International Chicken Flying Meet in Rio Grande, Ohio, with a flight of 113'5".
The event attracted a crowd of 1,200, who watched as each of the 119 entries was nudged into flight, more or less, from a mailbox perched 10 feet above the ground. The world record of 297'2" was set last year by Kung Flewk, a Japanese black-tail Bantam. Kung Flewk died over the winter, but her owner, Gary Wright, a radio executive from Dubuque, Iowa, was there with the old champ's daughter, Kung Flewk Too. Kung Flewk Too flew, too. She flapped 80 feet to the rear and was automatically disqualified. Then there was Charlie Loving of Round Rock, Texas, who trains flying chickens for owner Guich Koock, who plays Harley Puckett on TV's Carter Country. Loving confidently predicted victory for Cocoa Cluck, a Bantam-red rock cross, even though she was late in arriving because the airlines had lost her with Loving's luggage. Cocoa Cluck flew only 10 inches before turning around and being disqualified, prompting Loving to tell Bob Evans, a sausage tycoon who hatched up the contest, "Find her a good home, and if that fails, any old skillet will do."
In case you ever doubted that folks in Kentucky worship basketball players, listen to this. Four seniors—Rick Robey, Jack Givens, James Lee and Mike Phillips—from Kentucky's NCAA championship team drew more than 100,000 emotional fans in 31 towns during a barnstorming tour of the state that ended last week. In Harlan an 85-year-old woman kissed each of the players, and in Carter County 13-year-old LaDonna Griffith broke down and cried when she had Robey autograph her basketball—for the second time.
Using fill-ins for the fifth man, the seniors competed against an AAU team managed by Scotty Baesler, a Lexington lawyer and former Kentucky player who had the foresight to begin scheduling the tour even before the Wildcats won the NCAA title. "Each of the UK players will make about $10,000," says Baesler, who also set up pregame receptions, which fans gladly paid extra to attend.
VAYA CON DIOS
British sportswriters, who are used to violence by soccer fans at home, have been cautioned to watch their steps when they go to Argentina for the World Cup finals later this month. The warning comes from Britain's leftist National Union of Journalists which is opposed to Argentina's ruling military junta for its curbs on press and trade unions. In a Journalist's Guide the union cautions writers covering the Cup not to look subversive, but provides a handy list of Spanish phrases in the event they do. For example, "Dejen de torturarme, por favor," which means, "Please stop torturing me."
"Mi periódico les pagarà bien si me dejen ir," or, "My newspaper will pay you well if you let me go." And if that doesn't work, "Por favor entregen mi cuerpo a mi familia" which means, "Please deliver my body to my family."
GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL
Speaking of soccer violence, British Rail recently ran a special train to carry people away from London during Britain's own Cup Final in Wembley Stadium. Four hundred non-fans went on a 480-mile round trip between London and a remote Yorkshire hamlet, with the excursion taking up 23 hours of circuitous travel on little-used tracks. British Rail billed the trip as "the perfect antidote to the Cup Final in that the train leaves before the morning papers are delivered and gets back after the television has closed down."
The passengers included a honeymoon bride whose husband stayed behind to watch the game, an ex-referee, a group of busmen who had been roughed up by soccer hooligans and a soccer hooligan who had been released from jail the previous day and who was observed in his compartment quietly reading a book called The Gentlemanly Art of Cricket.
Shotputter, U.S. champ, 26, B.A. anthrop., seeks PR job San Jose/ San Fran area that allows time to train for 1980 Olympics. Reply, Maren Seidler. c/o Canteen Corp., Chicago, Ill.
So might run a job-wanted ad placed by the Olympic Job Opportunity Program organized by Howard C. Miller, the go-getter president of the Canteen Corporation and the U.S. Olympic Committee. After watching Soviet, East German and other state-subsidized athletes excel in the 1976 Olympics, Miller wondered why U.S. business couldn't do its share by hiring Olympic hopefuls as full-time employees, but giving them paid time off to train and participate in qualifying meets, as well as in the Games if they made them. He put the idea to the USOC, and the job program came into being.
The USOC approves all genuine applicants and then forwards their applications, giving educational background and type of job desired, to Canteen, where the job seekers are matched up with a job provided by an interested company. So far, 23 companies, including Montgomery Ward, Samsonite, Hilton International, Wilson Sporting Goods and the Continental Bank of Chicago, have hired 23 prospective Olympians full time, and by 1980 about 150 are expected to have been placed. As yet, however, no athlete seeking a job in California has found one. Besides shotputter Seidler, at least eight other athletes are looking. Interested companies should get in touch with Hal Berge at Canteen: 312-751-7676.
THE SHORT END
Carle Jackson, the voice of reason on the Maryland Thoroughbred Racing Commission, has resigned. In his record 19 years on the board, Jackson steadfastly voted against the use of the medication phenylbutazone, or Bute, and fought for aid to horsemen and tracks. "I simply feel frustrated," says Jackson. "Maryland racing is in very bad shape, and nobody is doing anything about it. I can't live with this kind of thing. The breeders need help, some of the tracks need help, but they can't get anyplace with Annapolis [the General Assembly]. It looks like nothing is ever going to be done in the way of relief. Nor is anything going to be done on this medication thing that has gotten out of hand."
A horseman himself, Jackson was irked by the legislature's recent passage of a bill to raise purses more than $20,000 a day starting next month by increasing the percentage of the takeout. "The purse raise was needed, so on that account the bill was fine," he says, "but all the money is coming out of the pockets of the public, the bettors. The fans seem to get the short end every time."
The women's softball team of the senior class of the University of Montana law school is called the Ms. Trials.
THEY SAID IT
•Al Conover, former Rice football coach, on hearing that his team's 1975 loss to Mississippi State was reversed on forfeit ordered by the NCAA: "I always told the team we didn't get beat, we just ran out of time."
•Claudell Washington, explaining why it took him four days to show up after being traded by the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox: "I overslept."
•Ted Turner, denying rumors he was disposing of his floundering Atlanta Braves: "I'm not interested in selling the Braves...but I don't know why not."