Professional tennis is the most fragmented and chaotic of sports. But perhaps not for long. Come January, the Men's International Professional Tennis Council will try to aim its members in a sensible direction. Good luck, MIPTC, both on the courts and, probably, in them.
The MIPTC is now insisting that during the 35-week, 100-tournament Grand Prix circuit, players must appear in a minimum of three tournaments worth $175,000 and up, as well as in three with prize money of either $50,000 or $75,000. The purpose is to ensure that star players will indeed play after people have bought tickets to watch them do just that.
Every player will have to list, by preference, 10 tournaments from each grouping, and the Council says it will try to accommodate their wishes. During the 35-week Grand Prix circuit, a player may miss three $175,000 events to play in round robins, TV tournaments or whatever, but if he misses a fourth $175,000 event he will be suspended from four straight $175,000-plus Grand Prix events and will be subject to even more severe penalties.
December 25, 1978
"The players can't have the best of both worlds," says MIPTC Chairman Bob Briner. "They can't say, 'We want to play in the World Series, but we don't want to go on the road in June and July.' "
Each week the NBA press releases include statistics covering nearly every phase of the game—minutes played, shots taken, rebounds grabbed, shots blocked, points scored, personal fouls committed, etc., etc.—but one important statistic is missing. Although technical fouls are considered to be of enough importance to be carried in box scores, they don't make the weekly release.
Harvey Pollack, the publicity director of the Philadelphia '76ers, nobly, if unofficially, fills the gap by keeping track of T's. According to Pollack, in each of the last two seasons Kevin Loughery, the coach of the New Jersey Nets, has led the league with 42 technicals. By comparison, the Lakers' Jerry West was a perfect gentleman, being hit with none. Among the players, the 1977-78 leaders by position and total number of technicals are Center Sam Lacey, Kansas City (13); Forward Maurice Lucas, Portland (12); and Guard Eric Money, then of Detroit (15). Al Bianchi of Phoenix led the assistant coaches with nine.
With one-third of this season over, it looks as if Loughery is a lock to break his own record, having already been hit with 23 technicals. Lacey, on the other hand, has only been assessed two T's and his title appears in jeopardy. As of Dec. 15, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Chones and John Gianelli lead the centers with five apiece; George McGinnis is tops among forwards with eight; and Charlie Scott is the worst-behaved guard, having been hit with seven T's.
Next May will mark the 25th anniversary of the historic race in Oxford, England, in which Roger Bannister became the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes. Although more than a thousand sub-four-minute miles have been run since then, it still came as something of a shock when the AAU announced recently that the new, lowered qualifying times for next June's track and field championships included 4:00.0 as the standard in the mile. If a runner hasn't clocked a four-minute mile or the metric equivalent, he cannot enter the 1,500, which has replaced the mile on the championship program in recent years.
Thus in running, as in many other human pursuits, what was once a pinnacle of achievement has become the minimum acceptable level of performance.
BRAVE NEW LEAGUE
Come April, a new Triple A baseball league, the Inter-American, will begin play. It was sanctioned two weeks ago by the National Association of Professional Baseball, and franchises have been approved for Caracas, Maracaibo, Panama City, Santo Domingo, San Juan and Miami. The two most interesting things about the Inter-American League are 1) none of its clubs will be affiliated with a major league team, which means that players will have to be recruited and signed as free agents, and 2) the Miami Amigos are meant to appeal to that city's vast Cuban population, currently estimated at 500,000.
The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area ranks 10th in the nation in metropolitan population but has never been considered a prime market for big league baseball. Should our relations with Cuba further improve, however, a franchise in Havana could quickly turn Miami into the best minor league franchise in the game.
The Toledo Goaldiggers of the International Hockey League were beating the Muskegon Mohawks 4-2 after the second period but Terrible Ted Garvin, their general manager-coach, was enraged because his team was waltzing around instead of checking.
"There's too many guys in this dressing room with all their teeth and too many who aren't laying on the table in the training room getting stitches," he roared. Whereupon he yanked out a denture plate containing 10 teeth and hurled it across the dressing room.
"These are my teeth!" he screamed. "I lost them all playing junior hockey. I don't look bad and I eat well."
Garvin later admitted he held his breath after tossing the plate. "When I saw those teeth flying through the air, I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, what if they hit the floor and break?' "
But the plate was undamaged, and the Goaldiggers, figuring their coach's bite was far worse than his bark, went out and scored five goals to win 9-2. Perhaps more gratifying to-Terrible Ted was the fact that the Goaldiggers got 37 minutes in penalties in the final period compared to two minutes in the first two.
San Francisco's Candlestick Park was the scene last week of an odd sight: the removal of an artificial surface. Candlestick thus became the first stadium housing major league teams in both baseball and football to return to nature—almost. The new surface is called Prescription Athletic Turf and, in essence, is grass growing in pure sand, which enhances drainage. When the AstroTurf was put down in 1970 it was one of the incentives that led the 49ers to move from Kezar Stadium into a refurbished Candlestick. The cost of installing the rug was $399,145, and it will cost an estimated $1,019,600 to convert to PAT, but it seems well worth it.
While the baseball Giants didn't seem to mind the AstroTurf, the football 49ers fought hard to get the stuff taken out because too many serious injuries had occurred on it. For instance, Roman Gabriel of the Rams and Monte Johnson of the Raiders suffered well-publicized concussions at Candlestick, and 49er Wide Receiver Willie McGee had a double leg-break in 1976.
It would be a blessing if more stadiums followed suit. Dr. Robert Kerlan, the renowned orthopedic surgeon who has specialized in treating athletes, was recently asked about artificial turf. "I've grown to hate it," he said. "I don't see how any doctor can like it. Basically, it's an abrasive, hard surface and, in its present state, it's a nightmare for both the athlete and doctor."
THE WAY THE COACH BOUNCES
In the last year 15 NFL coaches were fired, eight baseball managers bit the dust, and NBA teams slam-dunked seven coaches. But a record for speed in firing in a new league was set last week by the Women's Professional Basketball League.
George Nicodemus lasted just two exhibition games with the Iowa Cornets, oddly enough both of them victories. In preseason play the Cornets defeated the Chicago Hustle 114-105 and 101-100, but last week Iowa management claimed Nicodemus was lazy and not working the "girls" hard enough. General Manager Rod Lein took over and Nicodemus was unemployed—for all of 48 hours.
Because in Milwaukee events were occurring at an equally startling pace. In the WPBL's first game, Chicago beat the Milwaukee Does 92-87. The Does were coached by Candace Klinzing, who was chosen the "Outstanding Young Woman of America" in 1978 for her ability to coach and direct athletes. The Does' program urged: "Give 'em hell, Coach. We're with you all the way."
Well, it turned out that all the way meant one regular-season game and a new league record, because Klinzing was axed following the Does' loss to Chicago. Her successor? Former record-holder George Nicodemus.
THE RACE TO EXTINCTION
It has been a long while since any sport has been engulfed by the turmoil currently swirling about thoroughbred racing. In Mount Holly, N.J. last week, five jockeys and two trainers were found guilty of fixing, conspiring, or attempting to fix 16 races at Garden State Park in 1974 and 1975.
The prosecution had built much of its case around the testimony of Tony Ciulla, a U.S. government witness and a convicted race fixer who has admitted (SI, Nov. 6) to fixing hundreds of races around the country, mostly from 1970 through 1975, when he was arrested.
Early next year Ciulla will resume testifying in several other cases, and indictments are expected shortly in Boston, where the FBI has been working for two years to put its massive case together. Ciulla also is cooperating with federal authorities in Pennsylvania about rigging races at Keystone Race Track in suburban Philadelphia and about a scheme involving the hidden ownership of horses.
Ciulla's testimony, in part, already has led to indictments of eight persons in Detroit, including jockeys Billy Phelps and Larry Kunitake, and the prospect is for a trial date in the spring.
The U.S. Justice Department's Organized Crime Strike Force for the Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn) also has been investigating Ciulla's allegations that such top riders as Angel Cordero Jr. Jorge Velasquez, Jacinto Vasquez, Mike Venezia and retired jockeys Braulio Baeza and Eddie Belmonte took bribes to rig triples and exactas between 1973 and 1975. The New York investigation is expected to get into high gear in January, after Ciulla fulfills commitments in Boston and Pennsylvania. Several other states, including Illinois, Florida, Maryland and Delaware, also are seeking Ciulla's testimony. But rigged races aren't the only problem. The FBI and the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau are investigating alleged ringer cases in Illinois, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Although the "exotic" forms of multiple wagering are involved in virtually every racing scandal these days, the New York State Racing Association last week instituted a change that strains credulity. Despite the fact that the tracks under the NYRA's aegis already offer a daily double, three exactas and a triple, starting in January they will add three quinella betting races and a second daily double!
On Dec. 2 the Seattle Pacific University Falcons beat Alabama A&M 1-0 to win the national Group II soccer championship, which was a mixed blessing for 43-year-old Cliff McCrath, the Falcons' coach. It seems McCrath had promised the student body that if his team won the national championship he would: 1) buy Pepsi-Colas for all 2,400 students; 2) crawl on his hands and knees from the campus to the Seattle Space Needle 2.7 miles away; and 3) shave his mustache, which he had carefully cultivated the past 10 years.
McCrath paid off. Pepsi donated the sodas, saving him more than $500; he crawled to the Space Needle in three hours and 10 minutes; and he shaved off the mustache upon arrival. If the Falcons repeat as champions next year, McCrath maintains he will "grow my eyebrows and comb them over my head to cover my bald spot."
THEY SAID IT
•Bruce Jenner, decathlon champion and now a TV announcer, on the difference between him and Joe Namath: "I spent 12 years training for a career that was over in a week. Joe spent a week training for a career that lasted 12 years."