SECOND-GUESSING THE SCRIBES
This is an article from the Jan. 26, 1981 issue
The Baseball Writers' Association of America last week elected Bob Gibson to the Hall of Fame. That's good news, but it doesn't make sense that Gibson should be the only player selected in a year in which Harmon Killebrew, the greatest righthanded home-run hitter in American League history, and Juan Marichal, whose pitching record was comparable to Gibson's, also became eligible for induction.
The incident in which Marichal hit Dodger Catcher John Roseboro over the head with a bat in a moment of rage no doubt cost him votes, but it must also be noted that both Gibson and Don Drysdale, who finished second to Gibson in the voting, were notorious "head hunters." The list of those slighted also includes Hoyt Wilhelm, the game's most accomplished relief pitcher; Nellie Fox, for many years the AL's premier second baseman; and Fox' double-play partner with the White Sox, Luis Aparicio, who was the best shortstop for more than a decade and deserves credit for reviving the lost art of base stealing. But then, shortstops have always been short-changed in the voting. Where have you gone, Phil Rizzuto, Pee Wee Reese and Marty Marion? Alas, not to Cooperstown.
The procedure for election to the Hall of Fame clearly needs reform. Only writers who have held association membership cards for 10 years are eligible to vote, but this doesn't prevent some writers from being wrongheaded or spiteful, witness the fact that such decent but hardly Hall of Fame-caliber performers as Glenn Beckert, Gates Brown, Leo Cardenas, Lindy McDaniel, Jim Northrup and Sonny Siebert received one vote apiece last week. The explanation may lie in the fact that to be eligible for induction, a player must appear on three-fourths of the ballots actually cast by the writers, who may vote for up to 10 players each. The New York Daily News' Bill Madden says, "Some of the older members don't think any players of the modern era are worthy of the Hall of Fame. They may fill out a bullet ballot with only one name, say, Jim Northrup, on it. That way they use up their vote and deny players who should be in Cooperstown."
Siebert is now in real estate in St. Louis. He once pitched a no-hitter but never won more than 16 games in a season. "I was surprised I got a vote," he admits. "But the thing that shocked me the most is that Sam McDowell didn't get a single vote." McDowell, the American League's strikeout king in the late '60s, doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, but he outperformed several other pitchers who received votes. Now an insurance man in Pittsburgh, he says, "The whole thing's a joke anyway. We're talking about the same people who made Early Wynn sweat to get into the Hall of Fame. All he ever did was win 300 games."
One measure the baseball writers can adopt is to make the ballots public, as with the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year voting. That way, voters would be held accountable for slighting worthy candidates. As things now stand, a player may be listed on the ballot for 15 years. If he doesn't make it to Cooperstown in that time, he has to wait another five years before the Veterans Committee can consider him. Because of that rule, Rizzuto and Reese are currently in limbo. Rule changes aside, however, it's the writers' minds that must change if deserving players are to find their way into baseball's shrine. As McDowell says, with some justification, "You can only hope that the next generation of writers will be less self-righteous."
WILL DR. J DELIVER, TOO?
In the spring of 1974, while his wife, Turquoise, was pregnant with their first child, Julius Erving led the New York Nets to the American Basketball Association championship. In the spring of 1976, with Turquoise expecting their second child, Dr. J again led the Nets to the ABA title. We're happy to report that the arrival of the family's sixth member (besides 6-year-old Julius Winfield III and 4-year-old Jazmin, Turquoise has a child by a previous marriage) is expected soon after the conclusion of the 1981 NBA playoffs. Does this mean that Erving, who now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, will lead his team to the NBA title? Philadelphia fans naturally hope so. Since the 76ers acquired Erving just before the 1976-77 season, the team has come close—but no cigar.
Lashed by frigid winds that whip across the campus from high, virtually treeless plains, the University of Wyoming has a history of losing its football coaches to warm-weather schools. The latest coach to depart for more agreeable climes is Pat Dye, who quit last month and went to Auburn after shivering through just one season at Wyoming, during which he guided the Cowboys to a 6-5 record, their first winning season in four years. Forced to hire a new coach for the fourth time in six years, Wyoming earlier this month tapped Georgia-born Al Kincaid, the team's former offensive coordinator, for the job, then took a step calculated to keep him around a while. The school agreed to pay Kincaid a $45,000 salary, but specified that $700 per month from that amount be placed in an interest-bearing escrow account payable to him only upon completion of his full three-year contract. In other words, now even part of the Wyoming coach's pay is frozen.
THE WRONG CLIMATE
The news that two or more members of the 1978-79 Boston College basketball team are under investigation for allegedly accepting bribes from gamblers to shave points is jolting. It particularly disturbs Bill Esposito, the sports-information director at St. John's, whose 85-76 win over B.C. that season—the Redmen were favored by 8½ points—happens to be one of the games that have aroused suspicions. Esposito is a past president of the College Sports Information Directors of America and, with several others in that organization, has been warning for some time now that heavy betting could result in point-shaving scandals like those that rocked college basketball in the 1950s and 1960s. Esposito lamented last week that those warnings have had little effect. "It's like hollering at people that a train is coming, but for some reason they can't get off the track," he said.
Sports information directors have reason to be interested in the problem of gambling because gamblers are interested in them; they're the conduits of injury information and other intelligence of concern to bettors. Esposito and a few like-minded colleagues have repeatedly cited a number of prevalent danger signs, including bookies posing as sportswriters to get inside dope, colleges willingly providing information to tout sheets, the running of point spreads in many daily newspapers and the failure of coaches to be more vigilant about shooing away unsavory characters who hang around practices. Such laxity also concerns Virginia Coach Terry Holland, who says, "Gambling seems to be more and more popular, and we have created a climate where it almost seems legal to bet on games. Anytime you do that, you're asking for trouble." Though still only in the investigation stage, the Boston College situation suggests that real trouble may have arrived.
Jarvis Astaire, who, among other endeavors, puts on closed-circuit soccer and boxing telecasts in Great Britain, was dining in a London restaurant when a couple of Americans approached his table and asked why he didn't arrange to bring the telecast of Super Bowl XV to England. It thereupon occurred to Astaire, who calls himself "a considerable Americanophile," that he wouldn't mind seeing the game himself. The result was Astaire's announcement last week that a closed-circuit telecast of the Super Bowl would be carried in a 2,500-seat London theater, the Odeon Leicester Square. Kickoff will be at 11 p.m. London time, with tickets selling for $24 and $36.
News of the telecast caused confusion among some British reporters, who at first thought Astaire was talking about the North American Soccer League's championship event, the Soccer Bowl. But they soon straightened things out well enough that The Daily Express was able to describe the Super Bowl to its readers as "American gridiron football's glossier version of our Cup final."
Astaire said he hoped the telecast would appeal to Britons as well as Americans living in England. The fact that the William Hill betting shops, of which Astaire is a director, plan to accept action on the game—on both an odds and point-spread basis—undoubtedly will stimulate interest. To convey a bit of the event's flavor, popcorn, hot dogs and U.S. beer will be sold, and team T shirts and official programs will be flown in. Astaire hopes to recruit as cheerleaders American women studying in England. However, he expresses regret that the Cowboys aren't in the Super Bowl. Because of the popularity of the TV series Dallas, he says, that city is now better known in England than Oakland, Philadelphia or, for that matter, New York.
DUTCH VS. THE MOOSE
Reminiscing about his days as a 175-pound football guard at Eureka (Ill.) College, Ronald Reagan has more than once mentioned George Musso, a lineman for a Millikin (Ill.) College team that in 1929 trounced Dutch Reagan's team
45-6. At a time when few football players carried such tonnage, Musso weighed 260-plus pounds and was so potent a force that he later played a dozen years with the Chicago Bears, twice making the all-NFL team. In a recent interview with CBS Sports' Vin Scully, Reagan said of his confrontation with the man known as Moose, "It was a very busy evening." Reagan added that things were particularly "hairy" on defense.
Musso, 70, now retired in Edwardsville, Ill. after having served as sheriff and county treasurer there for two decades, has also professed to remember playing against Reagan. "I had him by about 100 pounds, but it didn't make a heck of a lot of difference when you play against someone else who is much faster," he recently told the Washington Post. "A lot of times he was by me before I could block him." When he and Reagan made contact, Musso continued, "I always got the best of him. If I got him halfway standing up, I'd bowl him over. But he was smart enough most of the time to stay around the ankles. He was a damn nuisance, I'll tell you that." Musso also recounts the following exchange:
Musso: "Why are you around my ankles all the time?"
Reagan: "You take care of your position and I'll take care of mine."
Maybe it's not surprising that Reagan would still remember knocking heads with a bruiser like Musso. But could Musso possibly remember Reagan in such vivid detail? As a matter of fact, in an interview with SI's Bruce Anderson a couple of weeks before his account of their confrontation appeared in the Post, Musso had said, "I remember playing Eureka, but I don't remember playing against Reagan."
Anderson got back to Musso and asked how his memory could possibly have undergone such a vast improvement. Musso was slightly sheepish. He admitted that until being recently set straight on the subject, he thought he'd played against Reagan twice instead of just once. He further said it was difficult for him to distinguish what he remembered firsthand of the 1929 Eureka game from what he had managed to reconstruct over the years through conversations with others, including Reagan, with whom he has chatted during the latter's visits home to Illinois. It may also be that Musso, who said he's "darn proud" that Reagan sees fit to mention him, didn't want not to remember the man who was to be inaugurated this week as the nation's 40th President. At any rate, Musso said that his Post interview did accurately reflect the type of football player Reagan was. "It always happens when you get a smaller man in front of you," Musso said. "He's going to outsmart you by being quicker. It's just normal."
THEY SAID IT
•Gus Grason, coach of Towson (Md.) Catholic's girls' basketball team, following a 74-51 loss to DuVal High of Lanham, Md.: "It was an 'aw' game. We were awful and they were awesome."
•Bob Braghetta, San Francisco soccer promoter, on the failure of the U.S. soccer boom to produce world-class talent: "It's like having a jug full of wine with a tiny spout. It's there but we're not getting it."