JAI ALAI SCANDAL (CONT.)
The jai alai scandal that broke four weeks ago when Connecticut authorities arrested three gamblers and a player on charges of rigging and conspiring to rig games in 1977 at the Milford fronton (SI, June 11) has now spread to Florida, as it was expected it would. Charges that games were fixed over a three-year period at the Dania, Fla. fronton, which like the one at Milford is owned by the Saturday Corporation, were leveled last week by William Irwin, Florida's chief auditor at the Dania fronton.
Interviewed on ABC's 20/20 news magazine, Irwin said that Paul Commonas, one of the gamblers arrested in connection with the alleged fixes in Connecticut, bet on rigged games at Dania from 1975 to 1978. Asked if he witnessed any of the fixes, Irwin replied, "Yes, I did. I could notice from my printout sheets [computer printouts that analyze betting patterns] that somebody was betting large sums, approximately $3,000 in $10 quinellas in a game, and that, invariably, certain players were left out [from among those on whom the bettor wagered]. He [Commonas] never bet these players, and invariably they never won." Irwin alleged that five players were involved in the fixes. Asked if Commonas' pattern of eliminating certain entries from his bets could have been sheer good luck, Irwin replied, "No way. It was too consistent."
Irwin had given similar information to Florida gaming authorities four years ago and again in 1978, but no meaningful action was taken. Apparently Florida officials didn't want to hear bad news about the state's $267 million jai alai industry. Hartford Courant reporter Ted Driscoll recently wrote, "Since at least 1972, Florida state officials have systematically covered up evidence of the same kinds of game-fixing and other jai alai betting improprieties now under investigation by a Connecticut grand jury.... Whether by design or naivetè...jai alai has been protected in Florida by a consistent cover-up by the industry and by state officials."
July 1, 1979
Clearly there has been a notable lack of zeal in past Florida investigations, but things may be changing. Last week, for the first time ever, state action was brought against jai alai management when Arthur Silvester, owner of the West Palm Beach fronton that was destroyed in an $8 million arson last December, and four of his employees were ordered by Florida's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to show cause, in a non-criminal proceeding, why they should not have their licenses revoked or suspended, or be fined. Silvester is charged with allowing the burial of official records in the fronton rubble. Don Roberts, his general manager, is accused of ordering the burial, and both are accused of mishandling "outs tickets"—winning tickets that have not been cashed immediately. More than $200,000 worth of outs tickets seized by the pari-mutuel division were not stamped, a fact that might have made it possible to cash the tickets twice.
The three other West Palm Beach fronton employees are accused of participating in a betting pool that placed wagers on credit—instead of on a cash basis, as pari-mutuel rules require. The pool allegedly bet as much as $3,000 a night and won some $142,000 during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. The total figure wagered on credit is not known. "But regardless of the amount," says Division Director Gary Rutledge, "it was important."
The fact that Florida is at last investigating charges of corruption in jai alai is even more important.
AM I WEIRD?
Terry Anderson, a wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, is a man who keeps unusual company. For instance, he has a pet tarantula that he's planning to bring to training camp. "I used to have a German shepherd," Anderson told John Crittenden of The Miami News, "but you can't take a dog around with you like you can a tarantula. I like its silence and the way it hunts. Sometimes I sit her on the floor and meditate with her." And sometimes he lets her perch on his forehead, like a small tam.
"Maybe some people think I'm weird," he said. "I'm just a different person."
I WANT TO HOLD YOUR SONG
Is it possible that Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was just a warmup group for Indiana University's Marching Hundred? Could Lady Madonna have been the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi?
It develops that former Beatle Paul McCartney now owns the publishing rights to some of the best-known and most popular college songs. Standards such as On, Wisconsin!, Buckeye Battlecry, When Vandy Starts to Fight, USC's Fight On and Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech bring in royalties for McCartney whenever they are played.
Three years ago, in a multimillion-dollar deal, McCartney's company, MPL Communications Inc, purchased from
the Edwin H. Morris Company the publishing rights to some 15,000 songs. In addition to such oldies but goodies as Sentimental Journey and Autumn Leaves, MPL got control of some contemporary titles recorded by Willie Nelson and Linda Ronstadt. But the most unlikely part of the acquisition was the catalog of college-oriented songs that the Morris company had controlled since the '20s. McCartney even owns rights to The Official West Point March, Navy Blue and Gold and the Notre Dame Victory March.
Through a licensing arrangement with ASCAP, colleges pay an annual fee of 60 per student enrolled so that their bands can play any ASCAP songs they choose. ASCAP then distributes royalties to songwriters and publishers on the basis of how often their songs are performed in public. What this means is that if Notre Dame has a good season, and the Victory March is played whenever the Irish score, McCartney hears the music along with the gentle clinking of coins. Talk about a rich trip down Penny Lane.
A sigh of relief went up in the international track and field community last week when word came that Uganda's John Akii-Bua had arrived safely in West Germany. The fate of the 1972 Olympic 400-meter-hurdle champion and former world-record holder had been uncertain since the fall of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in April. Now reunited with his wife, Joyce, and their three children, aged eight, five and 14 months, in Herzogenaurach, Akii-Bua, 29, reflected on his perilous journey to safety.
"Uganda was, in effect, a prison," he said. "Since 1976 there had been a policy under Idi Amin that at first kept me from going abroad to compete, and later allowed me to go only on condition that I'd come back. To make sure I did, Amin kept my wife and children in Uganda. I think he wanted to put me in jail several times [Amin slaughtered thousands of Akii-Bua's tribesmen], but I guess he didn't do it because I was too prominent a person.
"Since 1975 I had been trying to get out with my family, but there was no way for us to leave together. I had a brother among the Tanzanian liberator forces. He told me to get out of Kampala and go to our home village of Abako, but I knew if we did that Amin's people would get us there. It was better to stay in the big city."
Taking advantage of the confusion that developed as the liberators approached Kampala, Akii-Bua arranged for his family to go to the vicinity of Tororo, near Uganda's border with Kenya, and made plans to join them there on March 30.
"I left by car, dressed in my police uniform, trying to look as I usually do," he continued. "Along the way about 30 soldiers suddenly jumped out of the bush, stopped me and demanded I take them to Jinja. I knew if I did that I would never come back, so I told them I was on duty in the police operations room and had to repair a VHF receiver that was out of order. To make them believe my story, I had to head back to Kampala.
"The next day I tried again. This time I joined a West German diplomatic convoy. My uncle was with me, and we spotted three carloads of boys from the State Research Bureau [Amin's security and terror squad]. We jumped into our Peugeot and outran them after 30 kilometers. I knew we couldn't go into Tororo town or we'd be spotted, so we went to where my wife was staying and hid out for three days. Then she walked six miles with the kids from Malaba through the bush and crossed the Kenya border at Amungurha. I drove three miles through the bush to Busia in Kenya, paying local villagers to show me the way."
Kenyan authorities held Akii-Bua and other Ugandans, many of them Amin's aides, there for a month. His wife told the West German newspaper Die Welt that it was only luck that saved her husband from being sent back to Uganda and killed in the bloody days that followed the defeat of Amin's forces.
Upon being released in Kenya, Akii-Bua sent his family to West Germany, and having waited until some order had been restored in Uganda, he briefly visited Kampala to check on other relatives. There he discovered that his home had been looted and that his Olympic gold medal was gone.
Akii-Bua was unable to compete at the 1976 Montreal Olympics because of the boycott by Black African nations and his first international competition since 1975 came last summer in Algiers. But he vows he will resume racing. He soon will decide whether to remain in West Germany or return to Uganda to train for the 1980 Games in Moscow. "So much of Uganda is destroyed that it is hard to train at home," he said, "but I still plan to return to live there. I would like to win a medal for my country."
PEAKS AND VALLEYS
Ah, but life can be confounding. Consider Ronnie Franklin, the controversial 19-year-old rider of Spectacular Bid. Last week Franklin was arrested in California—at Disneyland, no less—for allegedly possessing a small amount of cocaine. It was but the latest in a series of incidents that have had Franklin riding an emotional roller coaster.
Just a month ago, fresh from victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Ronnie was enjoying the acclaim attendant on a jockey who seemed to have the Triple Crown locked up.
But abruptly things went sour. A paternity suit was filed against him the week before the Belmont Stakes. He tangled with Angel Cordero during a race and the two later exchanged blows in the jockeys' room. Then came the Belmont. Spectacular Bid finished third, and Franklin was criticized for giving the colt a bad ride.
One of the few to come to Franklin's defense after the Belmont was Bid's trainer Bud Delp, who said, "Ronnie rode the horse just perfect. Exactly the way I would've rode him.... The best horse [Coastal] won the race, that's all."
After the arrest, Delp immediately suspended Franklin, but then changed his mind and announced that Ronnie would continue riding horses for him. Apparently, though, Delp has changed his mind about other things, too. When he was asked about the pressures Franklin has been under of late, he said, "They definitely affected his performance in the Belmont. I thought he rode a sort of scared race. I think he wanted to eliminate any possible confrontation with Cordero, therefore he didn't ride a well-judged race.... He realized it after he watched the race on videotape a few times. He knew that he made an error." The next day Delp announced that Willie Shoemaker would henceforth ride Spectacular Bid.
As Ernest Hemingway wrote, "Seems like when they get started they don't leave a guy nothing."
FREE FOR ALL
It's one thing to have the gang over after the game, but Mike Pulos, a Phoenix restaurateur, has invited 70,311 football fans for dinner. If Arizona State wins its home opener against California at Sun Devil Stadium on Sept. 8, Pulos says he will give every ticket holder a free spaghetti dinner. Roughly figured, he says, that works out to 10 tons of pasta, 3,375 gallons of meat sauce, 18 tons of sourdough bread and 15½ tons of spumoni. What, no cheese?
THEY SAID IT
•Dave Heaverlo, relief pitcher for the last-place A's, after he got his right arm caught in the door of an Oakland Coliseum elevator: "My gawd, there goes the pennant."
•Gil Clancy, one of the TV commentators for the Howard Davis-Jose Hernandez lightweight bout, when told that Davis is a vegetarian: "I don't care what religion he is. If he doesn't get moving, he's gonna lose this fight."