In a week that saw the glittering ascension of Sugar Ray Leonard to the WBC welterweight title and two other exciting championship bouts (page 26), boxing was also saddened by the death of middleweight Willie Classen from injuries suffered in a Nov. 23 fight against Wilford Scypion.
Classen had been taken unconscious from the ring at Madison Square Garden's Felt Forum after he was knocked out 12 seconds into the 10th and final round. Many observers, Scypion among them, felt that referee Lew Eskin should have stopped the fight right after Classen was knocked down in the 9th round. And some ringside onlookers were surprised that Classen's young and somewhat inexperienced manager, Marco Minuto, and the State Athletic Commission's attending physician, Dr. Richard Izquierdo, allowed him to answer the bell for the 10th round. Classen was way behind in the scoring and so dazed he remained seated on his stool several seconds after the bell rang.
A State Athletic Commission review of the fight, conducted immediately after Classen was hospitalized, pronounced everything in order. In the aftermath of Classen's death, however, the commission reopened the investigation, and the labor standards subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee has indicated its interest in the fight by requesting copies of the commission's records on Classen.
December 10, 1979
The point of these investigations, we hope, will not be to assign blame or guilt to individuals, but to reevaluate the commission's licensing and regulatory procedures.
On Oct. 9 Classen was knocked out in a hastily arranged bout in London against Tony Sibson. Because New York automatically suspends a fighter for at least 30 days following a knockout and requires that the boxer apply for reinstatement at the end of that period, Classen had to have the commission's approval to fight Scypion. He told the commission the London bout had been stopped in the second round because of cuts. But referee Harry Gibbs says he stopped it because "Classen showed no inclination to fight." The commission did not follow up Classen's application with an inquiry to London. Had it done so, it would not only have heard Gibbs' account, but would have found that Classen told the London fight physician he was suffering from double vision after the bout.
Another revelation that came to light after the New York fight was that Izquierdo is also the Classen family's regular physician.
Izquierdo probably should have stepped aside because of his personal involvement with one of the fighters, and let another commission doctor oversee the Classen-Scypion bout.
Minuto would not comment on the specifics of the case, but he did say, "I am very upset. I regarded Classen as a friend and almost as a brother. I welcome any investigation that might lead to better rules to protect fighters in the future."
Anyone who cares about boxing must agree.
CANNING BUD IN ST. LOUIS
The catalyst for St. Louis Cardinal President Bill Bidwill's decision to fire Coach Bud Wilkinson last week was Wilkinson's refusal to play third-year Quarterback Steve Pisarkiewicz, a first-draft choice from Missouri in 1977, for the final three games of the season. Bidwill felt that substitution necessary to determine whether Pisarkiewicz can be counted on as the Cardinal quarterback of the future, because veteran Jim Hart will be 36 next season.
The firing leaves Pisarkiewicz in an uncomfortable position. Including Sunday's 13-10 win over the 49ers, in which he completed nine of 16 passes for a total of 91 yards, Pisarkiewicz has now started two games as a pro and can count two NFL coaching scalps under his belt. In fleeing St. Louis, Don Coryell, Wilkinson's predecessor, had blasted the Cardinal management for not giving him enough say in the draft. By inference he was pointing a finger at Pisarkiewicz, whom the Cardinals drafted ahead of Linebacker Robin Cole, now a starter for the Steelers, at a time when Coryell needed defensive help.
Last week Pisarkiewicz insisted that he felt no added pressure because of the circumstances leading to his starting assignment. But the turn of events clearly weighed on him. He said sadly, "All this crisis didn't need to happen."
THE LADY IS A SMITH
Women occasionally have shoed horses on farms and in stables, but now there is one so employed on the Southern California racetrack circuit. The female farrier is Ada Gates, an unlikely pioneer in this particular line of work. The daughter of a retired executive of the Corning Glass Works, Gates, now 36, made her debut at the New York Cotillion, attended a couple of tony secondary schools, Miss Hewitt's Classes in Manhattan and Virginia's Foxcroft School, and graduated from Briarcliff College. So how did somebody with such a rarefied background wind up hunched over a hot forge at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar? How did she become the only woman member of the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers of the United States and Canada, AFL-CIO?
Well, it did take a while. Gates grew up in New York's horsey set—her grandfather, David Dows, served as a member of the New York State Racing Commission—and after stints as an actress and road manager for Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, she settled in Colorado and bought a mare. When she experienced difficulty getting somebody to shoe the animal ("I found a cowboy they said could do it but he was in a bar and drunk"), she took a degree from Oklahoma Farrier College and soon was shoeing for local ranchers. Then she went to California, where she apprenticed by making shoes for hunters and jumpers, and where she met an official in the farriers' union. He encouraged her to get her union card, and in February 1978 she began shoeing for various trainers at Hollywood Park.
Gates has since graduated to bigger barns and expects to earn $30,000 this year. She acknowledges that shoeing horses is tough on the back and admits she cried the time a stallion fell on her. But she says she has no regrets about having traded her coming-out dress for well-worn leathers. "When I became a blacksmith, my mother hit the roof, my father was speechless and my brother, who operates a 20,000-acre ranch in Montana, thought I was out of my mind. But now they tell their friends, 'You know what Ada does...?' And I couldn't be happier. I've always adored horses."
FOG ABOVE CAYUGA'S WATERS
Ithaca (N.Y.) College won its first Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, and with it the NCAA Division III football title, by beating Wittenberg University of Ohio 14-10 on Saturday. But Ithaca's real test had come a week earlier in its semifinal playoff against Carnegie-Mellon.
Ithaca had opened the game by kicking off to the Tartans when South Hill Field was suddenly shrouded by a heavy fog that drifted in from Cayuga Lake. Fans in the stands and those in the press box could see nothing, and on the field, officials were able to discern only the vaguest suggestion of players. Ithaca Sports Information Director Bob Marx, vainly trying to type the play-by-play, gave up, writing in frustration: FOG TOO HEAVY—NOBODY CAN SEE THE FIELD.
The game was suspended until visibility improved, and when play resumed it was discovered that before the interruption Carnegie-Mellon had advanced the ball 18 yards, but no one was quite certain how. Eventually a stiff breeze cleared the air, and Ithaca pulled the game out 15-6 with some last-minute heroics. But the mystery players who had rushed in true obscurity did not step forward to claim their yards, which consequently were credited to TEAM.
A NEW LEAF
A year and a half after "indefinitely" suspending Dwight Stones, the AAU has reinstated the outspoken high jumper, granting him amateur status again and opening the way for him to try to qualify for his third Olympics.
In June 1978, Stones, along with miler Francie Larrieu, javelin-thrower Kate Schmidt and pentathlete Jane Frederick, was stripped of amateur eligibility for "improperly allocating" money won on TV's The Superstars. All four athletes had directed that their prize money, amounts ranging from $3,100 for Larrieu to $33,400-plus for Stones, be paid entirely to their track clubs. According to AAU policy, the money should have been allocated as follows: one-third to the national AAU; one-third to the athlete's local AAU chapter; and one-third to the athlete's favorite charity.
Last winter Larrieu was the first of the group to win reinstatement, by acknowledging that she had violated AAU rules and promising never to commit such a transgression again. Schmidt and Frederick were welcomed back to the fold under similar circumstances.
Meanwhile Stones continued to be an embarrassment for the AAU. He had directed his winnings to the Desert Oasis Track Club, of which he was the sole member. The AAU was not amused by that ploy, or by Stones' subsequent lawsuit charging the organization with involuntary servitude among other things. Further, convinced that his high-jumping career was finished, the former world record holder and two-time Olympic bronze medalist described in detail the under-the-table payments that track and field "amateurs" demand and receive for participating in meets (SI, April 2, 1979).
Appearing with his lawyer before the Board of Governors at the AAU convention in Las Vegas last week, Stones agreed to the following conditions before the board voted 62-18 to reinstate him: the $33,633 in question will be split among the AAU, the Southern Pacific AAU and the U.S. Track and Field Association; Stones will publicly apologize for the nasty things he said about the AAU; he will drop the legal actions he initiated against the AAU, and if he doesn't live up to the last part of the bargain, he will pay the AAU attorneys' fees.
Stones doesn't seem likely to renege. "I'm so hungry to jump I can taste it," he said after the board voted. "At this point, the only things I care about are the Olympic Trials and Moscow."
But he will have to wait for reinstatement by the International Amateur Athletic Federation—the body that will determine if Stones is eligible to participate in the Olympics—and it will not come automatically. According to John Holt, general secretary of the IAAF in London, the Federation generally doesn't approve such reinstatements. But Larrieu, Schmidt and Frederick have received the IAAF's blessings, and if the AAU feels sufficiently mollified after the posturing of its prodigal high jumper, why should the international federation balk at accepting him, too?
BONING UP ON THE WEATHER
Not everyone eats turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Preston J. Shallcross always has goose, and then only a fresh, domestic one, born the previous spring. "A wild goose won't do," the 97-year-old resident of Rock Hall, Md. insists, "because you can't tell how old it is. I have to have a first-year goose."
Shallcross is not as concerned about the tenderness of the flesh as the reliability of the bones. For years he has been "examining" the keel-shaped breastbone of his geese to make long-range weather predictions; folklore has it that only a year-old bone will do the job.
His daughter Helen, 64, says, "He has always been pretty accurate."
Local agricultural agent W. James Milliken confirms that "Shallcross has come pretty close the last couple of years."
So listen up. The nonagenarian forecaster says, "This year's bone was one of the lightest I'd ever seen, except toward the end where it got very dark. It will be a mild winter until February, when there will be an abrupt change to winter weather that will extend into March."
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Zorn, Seattle Seahawk quarterback, whose wife Joy is expecting their first child: "If it's a boy, my neighbors have some friends who want me to name him Bjorn, so the headlines could read, BJORN ZORN BORN.' "