BIG RED MACHINATIONS
Sparky Anderson was fired last week as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, a move that stunned not only Sparky but also a lot of baseball fans and brought into somewhat sharper focus the blurry picture of 50-year-old Dick Wagner, the Reds' executive vice-president and general manager, the man who pulled the trigger on Sparky. In nine seasons as Red manager, Anderson had averaged 96 victories a year and an overall .596 winning percentage, topped only in baseball's "modern" times by Joe McCarthy with the Yankees (.614) and Frank (The Peerless Leader) Selee, who managed the Chicago Cubs into the 1900s. Selee beat out Anderson for second place by .002.
Sparky's team now becomes new Manager John McNamara's band, but McNamara will probably begin spring training without free agent Pete Rose, whom Wagner could not persuade to remain in Cincinnati. In 1979 the Reds may also lose slugger George Foster and two-time MVP Joe Morgan to free agency.
In each of the last two years the Big Red Machine lost the Western Division to the Los Angeles Dodgers when the Cincy organization was unable to provide the team with adequate pitching. In fact, Red pitchers yielded nearly a run more per game than Dodger pitchers. Wagner has been promotion director for the Ice Capades, a radio-station general manager in Salina, Kans., and manager of the Lincoln Pershing Auditorium in Nebraska; he also put in 11 years in minor league baseball and has been with Cincinnati for the past 11 seasons, mostly as the hatchet man for club President Bob Howsam.
Wagner's detractors (he has already been hanged in effigy in Cincy by a 54-year-old widow) maintain that he fired Anderson because Sparky did not speak out strongly against Rose's defection, and that coaches Ted Kluzewski, Alex Grammas, Larry Shepard and George Scherger were scrapped because they accepted Jeeps from Rose as "expressions of gratitude."
In McNamara, Wagner said, "We now have the man to take us in a new direction." McNamara has hardly been known as a dynamic leader, however, and a lot of folks believe that without Rose, and dependent on aging stars, Cincinnati's new direction will be downward, just like its old one. Probably the most pertinent remark made thus far about Anderson's dismissal came from Rose when he was recalling a recent conversation with Atlanta owner Ted Turner, who tried to get Pete to join the Braves.
"Pete," Turner said, "I just want you to play for the Braves for a couple of years, until they fire Dick Wagner. Then you can go home to Cincinnati where you belong."
Now for the out-of-town college football score of last week: Brigham Young 28, Nevada-Las Vegas 24 at Yokohama. This week's out-of-towner will come from Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, where Temple, with a record of 6-3-1, plays Boston College (0-10). Brigham Young, bound for the Dec. 22 Holiday Bowl in San Diego, where it meets Navy, defeated Nevada-Las Vegas at Yokohama Stadium before 25,500, on a field of AstroTurf. Temple's and BC's meeting in Korakuen, where the capacity is 55,000, is called the Mirage Bowl.
Football in Japan, however, is no longer a mirage. It is becoming a very big business. Odd as it might have seemed a decade ago, America's most publicized team, Notre Dame, will play in the Mirage Bowl on NOV. 24, 1979. Its opponent will be the University of Miami; the Hurricanes switched the site from the Orange Bowl (capacity 80,045) in order to make the trip.
Miami and Notre Dame are expected to receive about $200,000 each for their Mirage Bowl appearances, and perhaps as much as $250,000 more per school from television rights. Naturally, all expenses will be paid, and those will run high in a land where a cup of coffee costs $1.25 and a Coke $1.
Japan's sports boom continues merrily on; the initiation fee at Koganei Club, one of the country's top golf courses, now runs to $175,000, and greens and caddie fees at others are as high as $80.
Recently the Cincinnati Reds played 17 games in Japan before an average of 32,000 spectators so Notre Dame playing in Tokyo certainly seems to make sense. Lou Saban, the coach at Miami, says, "It's a great trip and an opportunity for our kids to see parts of the world they'll probably never see again. It is also a kind of status symbol and will certainly help our recruiting." Football fans should prepare themselves for a wildcard team from Japan making it into the NFL playoffs. Probably call itself the Kamikaze Pilots.
BELIEVE IN WORMS
Until two weeks ago Texas and Baylor had met 61 times in college football, with Texas winning 44 games. Ah, but their 62nd meeting will become the stuff of legend. Texas entered the game with a 7-2 record; Baylor was 2-8 but seemingly snake-bitten, having lost its first five games to Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio State, Houston and SMU by a total of 21 points. Oddsmakers established Texas a 12½-point favorite. But in one of 1978's biggest upsets, Baylor won 38-14.
A strange story has now been unearthed about Baylor's win. Coach Grant Teaff, whose autobiography is titled I Believe, started his game day by driving around Waco searching for a worm. He finally located some in a bait store and "chose one about half as big around as my little finger and four or five inches long." Teaff "washed the worm up real good, then put the worm in a vase and put the vase in my pocket." During warmups Teaff looked into the vase, and discovered "the rascal died on me."
Five minutes before Baylor took the field, Teaff told his players a story about two men fishing. One was catching a lot of fish, the other none. Why? Well, the good fisherman explained to his buddy, "I keep the worms warm in my mouth."
Teaff then pulled the worm from the vase and held it up before his players, saying, "I'll be the toughest coach on the field! I'll be keeping the worm warm!" With that he put the worm in his mouth. His team raced onto the field. Before arriving at the sidelines himself, Teaff spat the dead worm out.
Thus far Teaff has not indicated that he will use his worm trick next season, but should he decide to do so, somebody in the English department might remind him of William Spooner's reason for expelling a student: "You have deliberately tasted two worms...and you can leave Oxford by the next town drain."
Rx FOR SUPER-MEX
Almost without attention, Lee Trevino this year passed Arnold Palmer and moved into second place on golf's all-time money-winning list. While Trevino's Professional Golf Association earnings of $1.8 million are still a long way from Jack Nicklaus' $3.3 million, and while Tom Watson, Hubert Green, Nicklaus, Andy Bean and Dr. Gil Morgan earned more money in 1978, Trevino had his best year in the last seven. Finally recovering from the severe back problems that had plagued him since 1976, he took in $228,723, a healthy sum even considering today's inflated purses.
Trevino competed in 25 tournaments and pocketed checks in 24, missing out only at the Tournament Players Championship at Sawgrass near Jacksonville, Fla. in March. "Sawgrass," he said at the time, "isn't a bad course, considering it's the best one designed by Ray Charles."
The PGA's final statistics for 1978 reveal other things of interest to the millions of mortals who swing a club as if trying to shoo a cat with a broom. These are just a few.
This year five of the 24 players who earned more than $100,000 failed to win a single tournament. Bob Gilder bagged $72,515 and never finished in the top three in his 31 starts. Keith Fergus, a second-year player out of Sugarland, Texas played the most rounds (117); Nicklaus, a 17-year player out of Fort Knox, Ky., the fewest (56). Hale Irwin won none of his 22 tournaments but got a check every time he teed it up, and earned $191,666. Irwin also ran his record to 86 tournament starts without missing a cut, dating back to 1975. Dean Refram, Max Anderson and Jack Sommers won $94, $90 and $43 respectively.
Probably also because of inflation, holes in one in tour tournaments increased from 16 in 1977 to 30 in 1978, with five of them coming at Whitemarsh near Philadelphia. Nearly one-quarter of all tournaments played (10 of 42) resulted in playoffs but only one went beyond two extra holes.
Also unlike mere mortals, the pros managed to get rained out only twice on either a Saturday or a Sunday.
Two weeks from now, Santa Anita will open its 42nd season, offering the best winter thoroughbred racing in the world. Affirmed will run there and so will Exceller, along with a spectacular 3-year-old named Radar Ahead and a highly promising California-bred Kentucky Derby candidate called Flying Paster. But what isn't going to be at Santa Anita may turn out to be the most important news of all.
Santa Anita is dropping exacta betting, in which bettors are required to pick the finish of a race exactly 1-2. Geniuses capable of doing so are often rewarded with huge payoffs, but it is no secret that more than 90% of racing's recent scandals have evolved from races on which exotic wagers of one type or another were allowed. Santa Anita thus became the first major track to drop an exotic form of wagering. The move will be closely watched by tracks everywhere. Management really is saying that it knows what the problem is and is willing to bet that the cure is to eliminate opportunities for chicanery.
This is the time of year when Boston Red Sox fans should be left alone. Nobody should ever remind them of that 14-game lead which went poof. Yet things keep piling on. Bad things. In mid-November Luis Tiant exercised his right to free-agency, flipped a farewell cigar ash at Fenway Park and joined the Damn Yankees. If that wasn't enough to make a fan leap from the tower of the Old North Church, a more recent decision by radio station WITS was. The station has fired its outstanding baseball announcers, Ned Martin and Jim Woods.
WITS is the flagship station for the Sox radio network, and this means that the most popular announcing team in Boston sports history is gone for good. Martin and Lewis they were not, nor were they even Rowan and Martin. Just Martin and Woods, the best day-in, day-out announcers covering the American League, and that was good enough for Red Sox fans.
Obviously it wasn't good enough for Joe Scallan, president of WITS. Scallan said he fired Martin and Woods because they weren't spending enough time mingling with sponsors in the VIP lounges at Fenway "for the constant marketing exposure." WITS is now being bombarded by adverse newspaper comments and irate phone calls, but Scallan is sticking by his decision and has announced that Martin and Woods are being replaced by Ken Coleman and Rico Petrocelli.
"Yaz digs in again. The count is one ball, one strike. Gossage peers in, picks up the sign from Munson. Burleson leads off third, Remy off first. Here's the pitch. Yaz swings and it's...down to you, Rico, in the VIP room."
THEY SAID IT
•Sam Rutigliano, Cleveland Browns coach, on how to stop Seattle's scrambling quarterback, Jim Zorn: "Well, you could give your outside linebackers hand grenades."
•Johnny Walker, disc jockey at Baltimore radio station WSBR: "The University of Maryland football team members all make straight As. Their Bs are a little crooked."
•Senator William Proxmire (D., Wis.), who has been distributing his Golden Fleece awards to perpetrators of what he considers government waste, after giving one to the Interior Department for putting a $145,000 wave-making machine in the Salt Lake City community swimming pool: "It can be said that for the first time federal bureaucrats are making waves. In the meantime, the taxpayers are getting soaked."