UPPERS IN BASEBALL: A DOWNER FOR THE NATIONAL PASTIME
Authorities in Pennsylvania confirmed last week that they were investigating the possibility that amphetamines had been illegally prescribed for members of the Philadelphia Phillies and their Eastern League farm team, the Reading Phillies. Newspaper accounts said investigators were trying to determine whether Dr. Patrick Mazza, the Reading club's team physician since 1969, had prescribed quantities of the amphetamine Desoxyn to ballplayers without giving them the medical checkups required by law. The drugs purportedly were delivered to the Philadelphia players by one or more "runners." Mazza, 56, who serves as the team doctor apparently in return only for free admission to Phillie games and the chance to be around the ballplayers, denied the allegations.
Published reports said that others involved in the investigation included Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski, Larry Bowa, Larry Christenson and Randy Lerch, all members of the Phillies, and Bowa's wife, Sheena. However, Berks County District Attorney George Yatron subsequently said that Bowa and Schmidt weren't involved in the case, "even innocently." Rose asserted he had never met Mazza and said, "I think they got the wrong guy when they mentioned my name." Christenson and Lerch also denied any wrongdoing and Luzinski declined comment. Carlton was characteristically silent and Phillie broadcaster Tim McCarver chose not to discuss the matter in his story on the pitcher in this magazine (page 22), explaining that as a Phillie employee he wouldn't go beyond a statement by club President Ruly Carpenter acknowledging that unidentified members of the Phillies had been questioned by investigators after having been assured they were "not suspected of any criminal involvement." Carpenter also said that Phillie officials had repeatedly cautioned players about the dangers of drugs.
Such warnings are well advised. In recent months the Dodgers' Bob Welch has received treatment for alcoholism as has the Royals' Darrell Porter for both alcoholism and drug use. Then there is the specific matter of amphetamines, which are frequently prescribed as an aid in losing weight but can also produce an illusion of prowess that conceivably could give athletes a psychological lift. But they can also cause severe mood changes, hallucinations and delusions, impose a strain on the heart and impair hand-eye coordination and judgment, effects that are especially worrisome in a sport beset by beanball incidents and increased violence. Nevertheless, it is an open secret that amphetamines, commonly known as "greenies" or "uppers," are in wide use among ballplayers and other athletes. In his autobiography, Catch You Later, the Cincinnati Reds' Johnny Bench said that in his early years in the majors players used Daprisals and other amphetamines, and that Pitcher Gary Nolan "would get a couple of Daps in him and he'd start chirping away, just sitting in the dugout and talking a blue streak. His eyes would get all googly and he wouldn't answer a question, just stay as high as could be and pitch his head off."
Another athlete who has discussed the use of amphetamines is Bench's former Cincinnati teammate Rose. In an interview with Rose published in Playboy last September, there was this exchange:
Q. Have you taken greenies?
A. Well, I might have taken a greenie last week. I mean, if you want to call it a greenie. I mean, if a doctor gives me a prescription of 30 diet pills, because I want to curb my appetite, so I can lose five pounds before I go to spring training, I mean, is that bad...?
Q. But would you use them for anything other than dieting?
A. There might be some day when you played a doubleheader the night before and you go to the ball park for a Sunday game and you just want to take a diet pill, just to mentally think you are up....
Q. Does that help your game?
A. It won't help the game, but it will help you mentally. When you help yourself mentally, it might help your game.
Q. You keep saying you might take a greenie. Would you? Have you?
A. Yeah, I'd do it. I've done it.
Unfortunately, teams don't always do all they can to curb excessive drug use. Bench wrote that in earlier days the Reds' trainers were well supplied with amphetamines and that "nobody thought twice about passing them out." As for the Phillies, suggestions that Mazza has been similarly free in dispensing amphetamines are by no means his—or the Phillie organization's—first brush with this kind of controversy. There also was the case of Pat Bayless, who had been the Phillies' top minor league pitching prospect until he aggravated a back injury while playing for Reading in 1971. Bayless filed a $4.6 million negligence suit against the Phillies in 1976, charging that he suffered psychiatric problems caused by overdoses of Butazolidin that Mazza and team trainers had allegedly given him for his back problems. The suit was dismissed last fall, but a deposition taken from Mazza is revealing. He said that although he frequently dispensed Butazolidin to players, he didn't always keep records of prescriptions he wrote, a lapse compounded when he also said he didn't consider Butazolidin a dangerous drug. In fact, Physicians' Desk Reference describes Bute as a potent drug that can cause mental problems, bone marrow deficiencies, even death.
In light of Mazza's long association with the Phillies and his central role in the Bayless suit, it was startling to hear Phillie Executive Vice-President Bill Giles say of Mazza last week, "I've never heard his name. I have no knowledge about him." Giles was obviously trying to put some distance between the club and Mazza. But in so doing, he was also conceding, in effect, that Phillie management had been lax in overseeing the organization's medical practices, the sort of failing that can only exacerbate baseball's all too obvious drug problem.
Because of the Olympic boycott, the U.S. won't be winning any gold medals in the Moscow Games. Still, its Olympic team will be reaping at least some honors. The U.S. Olympic Committee says that the American Olympians will gather in Washington next Saturday for a five-day "Olympics Honors Program" culminating in a dinner at the White House with President Carter and an evening of entertainment at the Kennedy Center. Other planned activities include visits to the National Zoo and riverboat cruises down the Potomac to Mount Vernon.
The festivities in Washington will conflict with the U.S. swimming championships in Irvine, Calif., where an Olympic team will be chosen in that sport (SCORECARD, July 14), so no swimmers will participate. But most other Olympians are expected to attend, as are Olympic coaches and managers—an anticipated 500 people in all. In their disappointment over missing the Olympics, which will then be in full swing, few of the athletes figure to be fully consoled by the speeches, the dinner and the chance to see the monkeys and giraffes at the zoo. But it would have been worse if nothing had been planned to honor the boycotting Olympians. Also in store for the athletes in Washington is a ceremony on the Capitol steps during which all of them—and coaches and managers, too—will receive special gold medals recently authorized by Congress. No silver or bronze medals will be awarded.
A lot of racetrack operators, harness and thoroughbred alike, are agog over a new betting wrinkle called Pick Six. So are a lot of racetrack customers. Based on a form of exotic betting popular in Mexico and Europe, Pick Six invites bettors to select the winners of six consecutive races. It has helped produce 25%-plus increases in both attendance and handle since it was introduced at California's Hollywood Park on May 1, and similar increases occurred when it went into effect two weeks ago at two suburban Chicago tracks, Arlington and Sportsman's Park. Last week Pick Six got off to a flying start in Atlantic City, and two other New Jersey tracks, Monmouth and The Meadowlands, were on the verge of introducing it. Tracks in New York will soon follow suit and Maryland is also expected to get into the act.
Racing authorities believe that because it involves so many races, Pick Six is less susceptible to fix attempts than such other forms of exotic betting as trifectas and quinellas. Be that as it may, there's no mistaking Pick Six's appeal: it promises astonishing returns on a $2 bet. Those picking the most winners (usually all six) divide 75% of the total wagering pool, and those selecting the next-highest number of winners (usually five) divvy up the remaining 25%. At Hollywood, where the Pick Six covers the second through the seventh races, there have already been four payoffs exceeding $300,000, the biggest being $375,897.80 won on a $2 bet last month by Howard Pennington, a San Pedro, Calif. gynecologist. In Chicago the payoffs have been smaller but still sizable, notably a $26,083.80 return on one $2 bet at Arlington.
Some track officials worry that Pick Six winners may put their loot into something foolish—like their children's education or a new house—rather than reinvest it at the pari-mutuel windows. Also, they fear other fans may eventually lose interest in Pick Six because there are too few winners. Indeed, one of the most valid criticisms of Pick Six is that the odds against winning are so astronomical that hopes for a big return are a cruel illusion. Sportsman's Park will thus begin experimenting on July 28 with Pick Four betting involving four consecutive races instead of six. Pick Four can be expected to produce smaller payoffs but also a greater number of winners, who presumably will be more inclined to keep their winnings "in circulation," as the racetrack people like to put it.
There are probably some deluded souls who think the job of public-address announcers at sports events is to announce. Nonsense. Much of what they have to say even the most casual fan can figure out for himself. What the PA man actually does is to reaffirm, to sanctify, to suffuse events with a sense of ritual. This helps explain the betrayal Philadelphia 76er fans felt over the departure of their colorful PA announcer, 70-year-old Dave Zinkoff (SCORECARD, June 30), who, it turns out, didn't retire voluntarily but was eased out by 76er President Lou Scheinfeld. Stung by the public outcry over that action, Scheinfeld has been taking pains to say that the Zink will be retained as "goodwill ambassador."
A different sort of reminder of the almost mystical role played by announcers came when Carl Yastrzemski showed up the other night in Harwich, Mass. and watched his 18-year-old son Mike play leftfield and hit a home run for the Harwich Mariners in a 15-10 loss to Cotuit in the Cape Cod amateur league. Although many in the crowd of 350 gaped at Yaz, everybody kept a respectful distance. Then, in the fifth inning, PA man Al Graeber announced that the Boston star was at the game, which most folks already knew. Fans rushed forward for autographs, as though the announcement had constituted a dispensation to molest. Yaz was forced to take refuge in the press box, whereupon Graeber, surprised at the strange forces he had unleashed, had the good grace to apologize.
ON BEATING BJORN
It's a measure of Bjorn Borg's domination of men's tennis that he has lost just four of the 90-odd matches he has played over the past 15 months. Because Vitas Gerulaitis is the only righthander other than Borg currently ranked among the world's top five players, it isn't surprising that three of those losses were to southpaws—John McEnroe in Dallas in May 1979, Roscoe Tanner in the U.S. Open four months later and Guillermo Vilas in the Nation's Cup in Düsseldorf last May. All right, but who was Borg's fourth conqueror?
No, it wasn't Gerulaitis (who, frustratingly, has never beaten the Swede in 17 matches), nor was it Harold Solomon or John Alexander or any of the other righties you might think of. It was 22nd-ranked Eliot Teltscher of Palos Verdes, Calif. But Teltscher's victory over Borg in the 1979 German Open must be considered something less than a smashing accomplishment: Borg was leading Teltscher 4-1 in the first set when he suffered a groin pull and defaulted. So if anybody asks you the trivia question "Who was the last righthander to beat Bjorn Borg?" Teltscher's the answer.
THEY SAID IT
•Ray Mansfield, former Pittsburgh Steeler center, at a roast for Linebacker Jack Lambert: "I taught Jack a lot—how to tie his shoes, how to brush his fangs."
•Elliott Maddox, New York Met third baseman, describing himself as bilingual: "I have an off-season vocabulary and a during-season vocabulary."