Aug. 20, 1979
Aug. 20, 1979

Table of Contents
Aug. 20, 1979

Motor Sports
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over


Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum


This is an article from the Aug. 20, 1979 issue Original Layout

Bob Arum has been telling people that the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship he is promoting in South Africa Oct. 20 will deal a severe blow to that country's apartheid policies. The fight between black American John Tate and white South African Gerrie Coetzee will be held in Pretoria's Loftus Versveld Stadium, an 88,000-seat facility normally used for rugby. Few nonwhites attend rugby matches there, but those who do are required to use separate restrooms and to sit in a segregated section. The South African government has agreed to suspend racial distinctions for the fight, and Arum has predicted that the event will practically wipe out apartheid in South African sport all by itself.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, the American black leader, disagrees. During a recent 17-day visit to South Africa, Jackson credited international sports boycotts against South Africa with having helped create "psychological and emotional cracks" in apartheid. Dismissing the integration of Loftus Versveld Stadium for the Tate-Coetzee fight as a propaganda gimmick designed to project an image of racial harmony, Jackson vowed on his return to the U.S. to try to force cancellation of the fight.

To spare Tate from being pressured by Jackson and his supporters, Arum whisked the fighter to South Africa two weeks ago and set him up in a training camp—a ranch-style house in a Johannesburg suburb with a boxing ring built on a tennis court. But when Sport Minister Punt Janson told reporters last week that South Africa had no plans to end apartheid in sports, Arum erupted. He declared that he had been duped by the South African government and that "Jesse Jackson is right and I was wrong." He added, "We disassociate ourselves completely from this racist government policy. To hell with this——sports policy." But Arum said the fight would go on, and after a hastily arranged meeting with Janson, he said that he had been misquoted and that he had now been assured that Loftus Versveld Stadium would be permanently integrated. The Northern Transvaal Rugby Union thereupon voted to implement just such a change, subject to final approval by the Pretoria City Council, which exercises control over the stadium.

But what of Arum's expectation that apartheid in sports would disappear generally? After his meeting with the American promoter, Janson said that the government supported "open admission" for spectators and "equal opportunities for all athletes." But he also said that the government recognizes "the autonomy" of sports organizations and stadium owners in deciding racial policies. He seemed to be suggesting that the same government that could suspend all restrictions for the fight was utterly powerless to do much beyond that.

There the situation rests. If Loftus Versveld Stadium is permanently integrated as a result of the fight, Arum will be able to claim at least one breakthrough. But that alone would not conclusively refute Jackson's argument that sports boycotts of South Africa are a valuable tool for combating apartheid.

The first annual C. William Brownfield Award, named in memory of the man who wrote the International Jaycee Creed, was presented Sunday afternoon at the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame in Kings Island, Ohio. The Hall of Fame took pains to point out that it was not conferring the award; the Ohio Jaycees Foundation and the Robert F. Kennedy Scholarship Fund, bestowers of the honor, were merely being allowed to use the building. Although the Hall of Fame doesn't ordinarily mind inviting controversy, witness its refusal to induct Jimmy Brown and Joe Namath for moral reasons and Paul Robeson for political ones, it clearly wanted to dissociate itself from this particular award, which was given for "outstanding contribution to character building in America through college football." The recipient: Woody Hayes.


It has been a long time coming, but someone may have finally beaten a carnival-midway operator at his own game. The clever fellow is Detective Sergeant Don Patterson, who was assigned to keep things honest at the recent Frontier Days festivities in Cheyenne, Colo. Patterson heard reports of tricky doings at the ring-toss and bottle games, so he assigned another detective and his wife to pose as hayseeds. After watching the action for a time, Patterson moved in.

Sure enough, says Patterson, "In the ring-toss game, the rings were too small for the pegs." In the bottle game, he says, "Two of the three bottles were weighted with lead, making them virtually impossible to knock over with a thrown ball." Patterson climbed inside the bottle-game booth, and, standing practically on top of the bottles, threw balls at them. He still couldn't knock them over. And here comes the clincher: "You try it," he told the carny crew. They couldn't do it, either. Five people were charged with obtaining money under false pretenses. All pleaded guilty and each was fined $100 plus $10 court costs.


Walter O'Malley, who died last week at 75, may have been the shrewdest owner baseball ever had, but he was not the most popular, largely a result of his decision to move the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958. O'Malley transplanted a colorful club that had been successful on the field and at the gate, and Brooklyn fans never forgave him. But Ebbets Field's loss was the West's gain. Until O'Malley moved—and persuaded Horace Stoneham and the New York Giants to go to California with him—there was no major league team west of Kansas City; today there are eight.

O'Malley was a step ahead of the parade. He knew how to sell his product, and he made the Los Angeles Dodgers a model franchise. He built Dodger Stadium, an immaculate showplace with fine vistas, good parking and courteous ushers. And despite the reputation for avarice that the westward move gave him, his club held the line on ticket prices for 18 years; though prices finally were raised two years ago, the Dodgers' scale—$1 to $4.50—is still the lowest in baseball. And O'Malley gave Los Angeles fans their money's worth. The Dodgers have won seven National League pennants and three world championships on the West Coast. No wonder they've drawn fans in droves; last season they became the first team to surpass three million in attendance.

O'Malley dominated the inner councils of baseball, and it was probably a good thing that he did. Most owners treat their teams as toys, or as investments that fit in nicely with their tax setups. But baseball was O'Malley's only business and he worked like hell at it. The Dodger boss was also an avid poker player and orchid grower. In addition, he had the rare ability to enjoy golf without taking it all that seriously. He built two golf courses at the Dodgers' spring training compound in Vero Beach, Fla. and one day, on a whim, he played a round polo-style, swinging at the ball while riding in a golf cart. One of the courses included an almost unheard-of par-6 hole. "I wanted a par 6, and since it's my course and my money, I had the thing built," O'Malley said. "Oh, it drives people crazy. They say, 'What idiot built this thing?' I just laugh."


Muhammad Ali saw Rocky II at a private screening in Los Angeles the other day, and Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times' movie critic, was there to record his reactions. When Sylvester Stallone, playing Rocky Balboa, was shown chasing chickens as a way of improving his footwork, Ali said, "You don't see chickens at training camps anymore, except on the table." At the sight of Rocky lifting weights, Ali recoiled in horror. "The worst thing a boxer can do," he said. "It tightens the muscles." Nor was the ex-champion particularly impressed by Stallone's overall impersonation of a prizefighter. "A real boxer can see Stallone's not a boxer," he scoffed. "He's not pronfessional, doesn't have the moves."

Ali also found fault with Rocky's trainer, Mickey, played by Burgess Meredith. When Mickey suddenly decided to have Rocky lead with his right instead of his left, Ali protested that such a fundamental change in style can't be brought about so quickly. He also complained about the fact that Mickey frequently had to urge Rocky to jab ("If you don't want to jab, what are you doing being a fighter?") and that the trainer spent so much time during the movie screaming at his man ("Shouting at the fighter like that makes him look like an animal, like a horse to be trained"). And during the fight, when Rocky's eyes become badly swollen, Ali said, "In a real fight they would never allow the eyes to be closed that much and let the fight keep going. They would stop it."

So Muhammad Ali hated Rocky II—right? Wrong. When the lights went on, he gushed, "A great movie, a big hit. It had all the ingredients: love, violence, emotion." The movie also had a moment during which Apollo Creed, a character unabashedly based on Ali, taunted Rocky by saying, "I'll destroy you! I am the master of disaster." Watching that particular scene, Ali said wistfully, " 'Master of disaster.' I like that. I wish I'd thought of that."


Considered one of the best high school running backs ever to play in Louisiana, Johnny Hector was coveted by Notre Dame, Ohio State and a host of other college football powers. He was coveted too intensely, it seems, in at least one instance. In trying to "help" Hector make up his mind, a would-be recruiter apparently sought to exploit troubles that Hector's older brother, William, has had with the law.

William pleaded guilty to negligent homicide last year after a shooting in a bar in New Iberia, La. and was sentenced to three years in prison. Johnny meanwhile was doing wondrous things on the gridiron and coming under tremendous pressure to attend LSU. And, indeed, last December he agreed to go to that school.

But new circumstances soon arose. On Feb. 5 William was paroled from prison, partly because he was able to tell the parole board that he had a job waiting for him—with a business owned by a Texas A&M alum. Whether by coincidence or not, Johnny was now leaning toward playing for the Aggies. On Feb. 26 a man called William's parole officer, identified himself and asked for William's phone number. He was given the number. William says that later that same day he received an anonymous call from a man who told him that unless Johnny stuck to his decision to attend LSU, "you stand a chance of going back to prison." Despite that threat, the next day Johnny signed a national letter of intent with Texas A&M.

The Louisiana Department of Corrections says it knows the identity of the man who requested William's phone number, but that it cannot prove he is the same one who threatened William. LSU pronounces itself "satisfied" that the man who threatened William has no official connection with the school.

Johnny's case has come under the scrutiny of the NCAA, which, as it happens, had sent a staff member to visit him in May as part of "Operation Intercept." That is a new program designed to monitor the recruiting of top athletes for irregularities, which used to mean only under-the-table payments and the like. Hector's case suggests that recruiting can be even more devious than that.



•Mickey Rivers, Texas Ranger outfielder, on hearing ex-New York Yankee teammate Reggie Jackson brag about having an IQ of 160: "Out of what? A thousand?"

•George Chuvalo, 41, who was stripped of the Canadian heavyweight championship he held for 21 years after a dispute with that country's boxing officials: "I am the best heavyweight fighter in Canada and I'll be the best until I'm dead seven years."

•Walt Frazier, recalling his trade two years ago from the New York Knickerbockers to the Cleveland Cavaliers: "The people who were sorriest were my tailor, my furrier and my shoemaker."