At a press conference in Los Angeles last Wednesday, the Indiana Pacers announced the signing of four-time UCLA basketball All-America Ann Meyers to a one-year, no-cut contract, at a reported salary of $50,000. With that, Meyers became the first woman to sign as a player with an NBA team.
The 5'9", 140-pound Meyers starred at forward for the Bruins, averaging 17.4 points per game, and was a member of the silver medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1976. Everyone who has watched her in action agrees that she is a player with unusual gifts and finely honed talents. These and all other considerations aside, however, she is simply too small to perform in a league in which the player average is 6'6" and 205 pounds.
At her press conference, Meyers said, "If I didn't think I could compete, I wouldn't be here. I don't want to embarrass anyone, including myself."
September 16, 1979
The signing prompted charges that Pacer owner Sam Nassi was staging a publicity stunt, which Nassi vehemently denied. But Coach Slick Leonard, who has never seen Meyers play, admitted that it was "unusual" to sign a free agent to a guaranteed contract before training camp opened.
At a time when the NBA's image has slipped, the signing of Meyers is the type of hokey move that will hardly add needed luster. As Red Auerbach, that sage of the Celtics, says, "I know Annie and she's a nice girl, but this is reminiscent of Bill Veeck signing that midget."
THE EYES HAVE IT
Results of eye tests done at July's National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs are in, and the findings are interesting, if not surprising. Ice-hockey goalies had the best eyesight, and synchronized swimmers the worst distance vision of the athletes tested.
Ten optometrists, all members of the Sports Vision Section of the American Optometric Association, analyzed the sight of performers in a variety of sports. According to Dr. William Harrison, a Laguna Beach, Calif. eye specialist who coordinated the project, many athletes, whether or not they are aware of it, gravitate to their sports according to the degree of their visual acuity. Swimming doesn't require acute vision, while a fast-paced game such as hockey demands sharp sight and quick hand-eye reflexes. Competition also filters out those whose sight is ill-suited to their sports. A myopic goalie is likely to be a mediocre goalie, too.
Not measured in this study was the sight of the judges, referees and umpires. Too bad. Such tests might have provided the most interesting results of all.
It has been more than a year since Patriot Wide Receiver Darryl Stingley suffered a paralyzing injury during an exhibition game between New England and Oakland. For most of the time since then, Stingley has been undergoing rehabilitative therapy at a Chicago clinic and has shied away from the attentions of the public. That is, until last week.
Arrangements were made by Patriot owner Billy Sullivan to bring Stingley to New England's opener Monday night against Pittsburgh at Foxboro, Mass. Before the game Sullivan announced that he had named Stingley executive director of player personnel, and that the job was his for as long as he wanted it. The team would also continue to pay his sizable medical expenses.
Though no formal ceremony was held, Stingley's presence was announced to the crowd—not before the kickoff or at half-time, as is the practice, but after the second quarter had begun. The ovation by the 60,978 fans lasted seven minutes.
At halftime ABC-TV aired an interview with Stingley in which Howard Cosell asked about Jack Tatum, the Oakland Raider who had hit Stingley on the paralyzing play. Stingley said that he had never heard from Tatum. That exchange led to an interview with Tatum later in the week. He was asked if he had anything he wanted to say to Stingley. Lamely, he wished him a "speedy recovery."
Obviously, neither man was eager to discuss the other. Tatum still plays for Oakland, and Stingley is trying valiantly to meet the challenge of reordering his life. What happened the last time they met should not be forgotten, especially by those charged with regulating conditions under which a violent game is played. But it is time for these two men to be granted surcease from repeated public discussion of a tragic occurrence.
MARS BAR BARRED
After No Bombs, the 2-to-1 favorite, won the Sean Memorial Handicap Hurdle last April at England's Worcester Racecourse, the standard postrace urinalysis revealed trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine, two forbidden substances. No Bombs was disqualified and first place was awarded to Albion Prince, who had finished second by eight lengths. The stewards' decision cost trainer Peter Easterby his share of the winner's purse.
Easterby appealed, claiming that the drugs had been administered unknowingly. It seems that on the way to the start the playful gelding had snatched a Mars bar from his stableboy's pocket, and the trace chemicals were from the chocolate. With the help of scientists, Easterby persuaded Jockey Club officials to waive what might have been a heavy fine, but the final result of the race was unchanged.
There was a lesson in all this, said a Jockey Club spokesman, echoing the sentiments of generations of complexion-conscious teen-agers: "Sugar lumps and peppermints are fine...but anything with chocolate is hell."
Perhaps because everyone was so busy keeping track of the dramatic events surrounding the defection to the U.S. last month of Bolshoi Ballet star Aleksandr Godunov, nobody was paying attention to the whereabouts of Zoltan Toth. Toth, the goalie for the Hungarian national soccer team, mysteriously disappeared while his team was playing in a tournament in Cadiz, Spain. Now Toth has surfaced, just as mysteriously, in an unlikely spot, Allentown, Pa.
Well, not so unlikely, as it turns out. The Pennsylvania Stoners of the American Soccer League are based in Allentown, and Stoner Coach Willie Ehrlich is Hungarian. Although they had never met, Ehrlich knew of Toth's desire to defect, and so the 23-year-old goalie is now working out with the Stoners on a temporary work visa arranged by Ehrlich.
FIFA, the body governing international soccer, will have to decide Toth's status as a player before he can sign with a team, but chances are slim that he'll ever show up in the Stoner lineup. Money, not politics, was Toth's reason for defecting, and the ASL is in no position to outbid the NASL for his services.
PITCH AND PUTT
Gene Mauch of the Minnesota Twins is widely considered to be one of the most astute managers in baseball, not merely because he knows the rule book inside out and is a shrewd strategist, but also because he seems to concentrate on baseball to the exclusion of all else.
Ah, but that's only part of the Mauch method. During the off-season he is all golf. "Between October and February I probably hit more balls than any touring pro," he says. "On an average day I might hit 300 practice balls in the morning, play 36 holes by midafternoon and hit another 300 balls before dinner.
"I've learned a lot about hitting a baseball from studying the golf swing. For instance, it's a mistaken notion that you open your stance if you want to pull the ball. As any golfer knows, an open stance results in a slice, not a hook."
Despite some obvious dissimilarities, baseball and golf have much in common. Both involve hand-eye coordination, intense concentration and the same muscles in the forearm and back. With no time limit and a wide-open playing area, an afternoon of golf or baseball can produce extraordinary predicaments.
Anyone who remains unconvinced of the baseball-golf connection should consider the following. Now that Washington, D.C. lawyer Edward Bennett Williams has purchased the Baltimore Orioles, there is speculation that he will build a new stadium for them between Baltimore and Washington. Bird watchers already have a name for such a relocated franchise: the Bal-Washers.
WORDS OF WISDOM
All-Pro Defensive Lineman Alan Page, who is practicing law in Minneapolis as well as playing for the Chicago Bears, feels compelled to spread the word about the value of an education. "This coming off-season, I am going to speak to schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and talk to the students, mostly minority students, to let them know that there is more to life than athletics," Page told Charley McKenna of The Minneapolis Tribune. "It's better to get an education than to play football.... The number of people who make it as professional athletes is so small it's crazy."
Page admits that his recent decision to play three more seasons was based on the financial security his new contract will give him as he embarks on his legal career. But his devotion to the game is limited. "I went to law school to get away from it. When you remove money from the picture...I would have given up the game a long time ago. What I do as a football player has a challenge in it, to overcome physical limitations...but beyond that there is not much."
The line in the agate type in your paper last Wednesday that read United States 145, Saudi Arabia 21, was no typo. It was the correct score of a men's basketball game played at the World University Games in Mexico City. In fact, the U.S. may have held down the score against the Saudis (more petro-diplomacy?), because earlier it had really romped over Sudan 173-14. Not to be outdone, Yugoslavia, which was favored to win the gold medal, defeated Tanzania 152-20.
With teams from Mali, Morocco, Angola and many other basketball "weak-houses" participating in the Games, it was inevitable that some of the matchups would be ludicrously uneven. Not all of them, however. The U.S. later played Yugoslavia and lost by the more familiar score of 79-73.
Several weeks ago Ashley Whippet seemed well on his way to recovering the crown he lost to Dink in the fifth World K-9 Frisbee Catch & Fetch Championship (SCORECARD, Aug. 27). Alas, it was not to be. The three-time champion didn't even qualify for the finals of this year's tournament in Pasadena's Rose Bowl, where, before a crowd of 35,000, Dink snatched the title again.
Ashley did make a token appearance in the Rose Bowl, in an invitational distance competition, beating four dogs by racing 75 yards to catch a Frisbee.
There was another species represented at the championships. This year's overall winners in the human categories were Scott Zimmerman, a 17-year-old high school senior from McLean, Va., and Teresa Gaman, a 29-year-old secretary at Stanford University, who lives in Menlo Park, Calif.
AGONY OF DUH FEET
It is fine with the Philadelphia Eagles if rookie Tony Franklin sheds his right shoe when he kicks. In fact, they want him to do just that. After all, Franklin starred at Texas A&M for four years by kicking field goals and conversions au naturel. But they prefer that he stay shod the rest of the time.
"They were going to fine me in training camp for going barefoot," says Franklin. "I guess they were afraid I'd step on a nail or glass."
Eagle Player Personnel Director Carl Peterson detailed the penalty Franklin would have incurred had he been caught again going barefoot off the field: "It's a $200 fine—$150 for the right foot and $50 for the left."
THEY SAID IT
•Reggie Williams, Cincinnati Bengal linebacker, assessing his physical talents: "Speed, strength and the ability to recognize pain immediately."
•Joaquin Andujar, Houston Astro pitcher who is a native of the Dominican Republic: "There's one word in America that says everything—'You never know.' "