Say what you will about Pennsylvania, but the home of Three Mile Island and Legionnaires' disease has been represented in five straight world championships by five different teams: the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1979 World Series (a win over Baltimore), the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1980 Super Bowl (a win over the Rams), the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers in the '80 NHL and NBA playoff finals, respectively (losses to the Islanders and Lakers), and, of course, the 1980 world champion Phillies. Among other things, this has kept Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz busy making those silly wagers politicians are always placing on big sports events. For example, before the World Series, Heinz and Kansas Senator Robert Dole bet an unspecified quantity of Philadelphia soft pretzels against 25 pounds of Kansas beef.
Is it too much to ask that Senator Bill Bradley (D., N.J.) and Representative Jack Kemp (R., N.Y.) draw up a bipartisan Bradley-Kemp Bill to prohibit elected officials from engaging in this shopworn tomfoolery? That done, our lawmakers could then address themselves to a proposal that Washington Post political columnist David S. Broder advanced last week, with tongue perhaps slightly in cheek, as a way of combating voter apathy. Broder pointed out that general-election campaigns now start building to a climax at a time when voters are distracted by the World Series, midseason high school, college and NFL football games and the start of the NBA and NHL seasons. Hypothesizing that the steady decline in voter turnout over the past two decades has been "inversely proportional to the increase in gate receipts for the four fall sports," Broder urged that presidential campaigns henceforth begin at about the time of the Kentucky Derby in May, with Election Day scheduled for the first Tuesday following the Fourth of July weekend. In this way, Broder suggested, the patriotic fervor associated with the holiday might swell the turnout, after which Americans could "turn with a clear conscience to picnics, summer vacations—and the baseball season."
Remember your priorities now, Washington. First, deal with those silly bets, then move Election Day to July.
November 3, 1980
It wasn't long ago that the ballplayers in a World Series cared what their financial take would be; typically, it was $7,412 for each loser, $10,048 for each winner—numbers like that. The loot for the 1980 Series will be much more substantial: roughly $40,000 for each Phillie and $30,000 for each Royal, depending on how many shares each club votes, but these sums-are often rendered less important, relatively speaking, by today's vastly higher salaries. For instance, Pete Rose, who draws an $800,000 salary, said he didn't give a hoot about his Series share. He probably wasn't putting anyone on, either. A year ago, remember, Rose was awarded $23,000 by Aqua Velva for the longest hitting streak in the majors, and he gave the money to Phillie coaches.
"You know what?" Rose said of his Series take. "Now I like to play the World Series for the little guys—the clubhouse guys, the coaches, the bat boys. In Cincinnati we sent three or four kids to college off the Series."
There's a sort of noblesse oblige to those words that could evaporate the moment some smart lawyer figures out how to turn the Series into a tax shelter for players in Rose's bracket. But it's pleasant to contemplate that a kind of play-for-fun purity might have been present in the World Series and that, moreover, those accursed skyrocketing salaries everybody talks about were responsible.
PAGING DR. DeBAKEY
The heart of Texas, that fabled spot where the stars at night are big and bright, isn't as easy to locate as you might think. The U.S. Interior Department's Geological Survey says the geographical center of the state is 15 miles northeast of Brady, but Chamber of Commerce types in Waco, 100 miles to the east, like to apply the phrase "heart of Texas" to their immediate area. Now comes the golf-course designer, Robert Trent Jones Jr., to confuse the issue further.
Jones has been working on a new course at the Mill Creek Golf and Country Club in Salado (pop. 400), which, if you've got a map handy, you'll see is situated roughly between Waco and Austin. Tired of trying to explain where the Mill Creek course is, Jones began telling people it was in "the heart of Texas." Fancifully, he then designed the 12th green in the shape of a heart. That made the course Jones' most notable creation since one he designed in Egypt dubbed "The Sphinx Links." Inspired by their heart-shaped green, Mill Creek's owners pulled some strings in Governor William P. Clements Jr.'s office, which paid off handsomely when the course was dedicated the other day. A state official was on hand for the ceremony and read a memorandum from Clements officially designating the 12th green, for the occasion, "the heart of Texas." Then everybody went clap-clap-clap.
SOMETHING FOR STAY-AT-HOMES
Under existing off-track betting schemes, horseplayers can do their wagering at neighborhood betting parlors (New York) or in theaters to which races are beamed via closed-circuit TV (Connecticut). Either way, horsemen and racetrack operators complain that OTB hurts both track attendance and pari-mutuel handles. Now William King, president of Louisville Downs harness track, is fighting back. He's offering what may be the ultimate in OTB: a plan under which bettors will be able to watch a full card of races on television at home and place their bets by telephone—with the track handling the action.
King's innovation, called Dial-a-Bet, has been approved by the Kentucky Harness Racing Commission and is due to take effect at the start of Louisville Downs' winter meeting on Feb. 3. Under a deal with Louisville-based Communication Properties Inc., King has leased a cable-TV channel on which he plans to telecast at least 10 races every night, interspersed with instructions on reading the charts, interviews with horsemen and similar features. The stay-at-home horseplayer must open a cash account at Louisville Downs. He then will be assigned a code number. To bet on a race, he'll call the track and give his number to a clerk, who'll approve the transaction after verifying that the caller has sufficient funds on deposit to cover the bet. No credit will be allowed.
The Kentucky attorney general's office says bettors living in the state apparently would be violating no laws by dealing with Dial-a-Bet, though it is less certain about those who might phone in from neighboring states. Confident that Dial-a-Bet will catch on at other tracks. King told the Louisville Courier-Journal's Billy Reed, "This is the answer to OTB. OTB is handled by a bunch of politicians, local yokels who get tremendous salaries. This way the horsemen get their money, the state gets its money, the track gets its money."
TOP O' THE WEEK TO YOU
Congratulations are in order to Notre Dame, which holds down the No. 1 spot in the Midwest in SI's college football rankings for the fourth straight week (page 68). As reader John P. Schmitt of Indianapolis notes, this is the first time in quite a while—since 1971, to be exact—that the Irish have been tops in the Midwest. What's even more surprising about this nine-year hiatus is that only four teams had held down the No. 1 spot during all that time: Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan. Herm Weiskopf, who compiles our weekly rankings, says, "As good as Notre Dame may have been in any given week, one of those four always seemed to be better."
To be sure, the Irish have exhibited an uncanny knack for moving up in the national polls with victories in bowl games, which, as it happens, are played after our weekly ratings are discontinued. It was as a consequence of New Year's Day wins, for example, that the Associated Press named the Irish national champions for both 1973 and 1977. But, never mind...they've already been congratulated for that.
LEAVING HIS MARK
Muhammed Ali didn't become a four-time world champion, but he did make it into the latest edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, that 125-year-old reference work that includes the words of such other oracles as Shakespeare, Milton and Coleridge. Emily Morison Beck, the current editor of the book created by Massachusetts bookseller John Bartlett, found the following Ali-isms worthy of inclusion in the 15th edition, which was published three days before the Las Vegas fight:
"I am the greatest." Slogan, inspired by wrestler Gorgeous George.
"Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Boxing credo devised by aide Drew 'Bundini' Brown.
"Not only do I knock 'em out, I pick the round." Statement (December 1962).
"Keep asking me no matter how long/On the war in Vietnam I sing this song/I ain't got no quarrel with the Viet Cong." On the draft (February 1966).
Ali's utterances aren't the only ones from the world of sport that have found their way into Bartlett's. The 14th edition, published in 1968, included Leo Durocher's observation that "nice guys finish last" and Satchel Paige's admonition, "Don't look back. Something may be gaining on you." The new edition goes further, fairly bursting with sports-related entries. "The general public is very high on sports," says Beck. "We searched around to find popular sayings that have come out of sport." A sampling of other entries:
"The game isn't over till it's over." (Yogi Berra)
"Who's on first, What's on second, I Don't Know is on third." (Abbott and Costello)
"I'll moider de bum." (Tony Galento)
"Show me a good and gracious loser and I'll show you a failure." (Knute Rockne)
"Win this one for the Gipper." (Rockne again)
The book also includes, for the first time, lines by Kipling painted over the main staircase at Wimbledon ("If you can meet Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two impostors just the same"), partial lyrics from Jack Norworth's song Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and Grantland Rice's paean to Notre Dame's 1924 backfield ("Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again..."). Another entry is the anonymous line: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Anonymous? According to a footnote, that famous line is improperly credited to Vince Lombardi. What Lombardi did say: "Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is."
As for Ali, his four entries leave him somewhat behind Shakespeare's 1,917. But he did move ahead of George Orwell and Saul Bellow, who are cited three times apiece, and John Steinbeck, who is quoted twice.
A recent issue of Energy and Resources Newsletter, an interdepartmental publication at the University of California, posed the following questions: 1) How much kinetic energy is in a Nolan Ryan fastball? 2) How many Nolan Ryan fast-balls would it take to meet the nation's annual energy demand? After inadvertently publishing incorrect answers, the newsletter now appears to have straightened things out. When Ryan throws a five-ounce baseball at 100 mph, he generates 140 joules, or, roughly, .13 BTUs. And it would take 5.9 x 10 such pitches to provide 79 quads, enough energy to illuminate our cities, power our factories and keep our automobile engines humming for a year.
It should be pointed out that, like oil and natural gas, Ryan's right arm is, alas, a non-renewable resource.
THEY SAID IT
•Magic Johnson, asked what he had learned in 100 games of playing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "Give him the ball."
•Jim Zorn of the Seattle Seahawks, expounding on the perils of being a running quarterback in the NFL: "You have to know when and how to go down. The key is to have a fervent desire to be in on the next play."