STOP THE MUSIC
The brushback pitch is a time-honored and legitimate weapon in baseball, but trying to hit a batter or pitching close to his head has no place in the game. This truth apparently hasn't been imparted to Chicago Cub Pitcher Dickie Noles. You may remember Noles as the fellow who, as a Phillies reliever, knocked down George Brett on an 0 and 2 count in the fourth game of the 1980 World Series with what is blithely called "chin music." Last week Noles was playing that old song again. In the fourth inning of a 6-2 Cub loss to the Reds, he gave up a solo homer to Paul Householder for the game's first run. The next batter was Clint Hurdle, and Noles got two strikes on him. The next pitch hit Hurdle on the helmet, just above the right eye. For a moment Hurdle lay motionless on the ground. Fortunately, he was only stunned and was able to walk off the field, although not before both dugouts emptied and angry words were exchanged.
Noles denies he deliberately threw at Hurdle's head, just as he denied doing so when he knocked down Brett and when he beaned the Mets' Bob Bailor last season, giving Bailor a mild concussion. "It doesn't make sense that I'd be throwing at Hurdle on an oh-two count," he said. "That pitch just took off and sailed. You're not going to be throwing at a guy's head."
In support of Noles's disavowal of malevolent intent, it might be pointed out that he has only so-so control; he walked four batters in the 5‚Öî innings he worked against the Reds, giving him 107 walks in 235 innings during his three-year career. But it should also be noted that in the same short span Noles has earned a nasty reputation. In 1980 he tossed a bat and helmet at Umpire Joe West and was fined $500 and suspended for three days by National League President Chub Feeney. Last spring he spit tobacco juice—accidentally, he said—on a reporter. In September 1981 he and Phillies General Manager Paul Owens got into a spat in a Chicago hotel that resulted in Owens' arrest for disorderly conduct. The charge was dropped, and Noles, who wasn't arrested, describes the altercation as "a mild argument." Noles also got into a fight last season with a Des Moines, Iowa restaurateur. Noles was found guilty of assault and was fined $25 plus court costs; he's now being sued by the other man.
Noles also has a feud going with his nemesis of last week, Householder. In April 1981, when both were playing in the American Association, Householder and Noles exchanged angry words during a game, then scuffled during pregame warmups the next day. When they faced each other later in the season, Noles hit Householder in the ribs with a pitch and subsequently was ejected by the plate umpire for throwing a curve behind one of Householder's teammates. Householder says that during the fight between the two, Noles jumped him from behind. Although Noles denies that, he told reporters who brought up Householder's name last week, "Bleep him. I decked him before and I'll deck him again if he comes after me."
In determining whether a pitcher might be throwing at batters, one has to judge intent, which isn't always easy to do. But given Noles's history and the circumstances under which he beaned Hurdle, Umpire Dick Stello should have unhesitatingly thumbed him from the game. Further, before someone is seriously hurt, Feeney should take strong measures to put an end to Noles's chin music once and for all.
While gathered in Bloomington, Ind. for the April 3 wedding of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Emily Black, members of the Kennedy clan maintained family tradition by finding time for a game of touch football. But Greg Dawson, a columnist for the Bloomington Herald-Telephone, who also played in the game, came away from the experience convinced that one family member, Stephen Smith Jr., a cousin of the groom, has a poor sense of history. After the game Dawson apologized for being less than Kennedyesque at football, adding, "My game is basketball." In words that had a strange, not to say impolitic, ring in the home state of, to mention a few, John Wooden, Don Schlundt, Slick Leonard, Clyde Lovellette, Oscar Robertson, Terry Dischinger, Rick Mount, George McGinnis and Kent Benson, Smith replied, "Yeah, I guess basketball is the big thing in Indiana since Larry Bird."
DON'T RAIN ON THIS PARADE
When boating enthusiasts in Tucson get a hankering for action, they usually hitch their boats to trailers and undertake an eight-hour drive northwest through the Arizona desert to Lake Mead or a four-hour trip down to the Gulf of California. Making waves on the Rillito River, which passes through their city, is ordinarily out of the question. Note that we said that the Rillito "passes" not "flows." The Rillito can turn into a trickle after a heavy rain or into something resembling a navigable body of water following flash floods, but its wide, sandy-bottomed bed is dry the rest of the time.
This lack of water hasn't prevented a Tucson radio station, KCEE, from sponsoring the first annual Rillito River Regatta, on May 30. As KCEE envisions it, dune buggies and other desert vehicles will be decorated to look like boats and will be driven in a motorcade down the dry riverbed. Food will be sold, and there will be exhibits on flood control and water conservation. Proceeds from entry fees and program advertising will be earmarked for the Pima County Search and Rescue Council, which answers emergency calls in local mountains. Though the county board of supervisors has given its approval to the event, County Transportation Director Charles Huckelberry, whose surname evokes a certain riparian association, warns of one possible hitch. Owing to the potential danger to participants, the regatta will be canceled if there's any chance of water being in the river that day.
A PERFECT SUNDAY AFTERNOON
For the benefit of fellow runners, SI Reporter Lisa Twyman, a five-mile-a-dayer, notes that the May issue of The Runner contains "a wealth of fascinating stuff." Her memo on some of it:
"A pathologist in L.A. is saying that it's good to be fat—or at least chubby. This fellow has studied the corpses of quite a few dearly departed runners and concludes that the combination of high mileage and eating like a gerbil killed them. Consequently, he's doing his best to shatter the thin-is-healthy myth.
"The magazine also contains the results of a survey it conducted on sex and running. Some of the more intriguing results—aside from the fact that 3,140 thinking human beings stooped to answer the 33-item questionnaire published in an earlier issue—are that 26.5% of the respondents actually say they'd rather give up sex than running, 47.5% spend more time thinking about running than about sex, 82.2% think about sex while running, 18.9% think about running during sex and 62.7% describe a perfect Sunday afternoon as one consisting of a run, a shower with one's mate, a bottle of wine and soft music. By comparison, only 11.1% consider that a run, a shower, a few beers and catching a track meet on TV constitutes perfection.
"Finally, you've no doubt noticed that a lot of runners are listening to music on Walkmans—shouldn't they be Runmans?—and similar tape players. Well, a company called Listening for Pleasure hopes to interest runners in cassettes featuring dramatic readings of works of literature, including Shakespeare. This company also offers a tape of the great bard Sebastian Coe, reading from his biography, Running Free. My hunch is that the Listening for Pleasure people will have trouble persuading the 82.2% of runners who occupy themselves while running by thinking about sex to turn to either Shakespeare or Coe."
CAULKINS, WEISSMULLER & RAWLS
Under happier circumstances, Johnny Weissmuller probably would have been on hand to offer congratulations—and no doubt to let loose with a Tarzan yell or two—when his record of 36 national individual swimming titles was broken in Gainesville, Fla. last week by Tracy Caulkins, whose four victories in the four-day U.S. short-course championships left her with 39 for her career (page 70). But Weissmuller was too ill to make it. Now 77, he has suffered several strokes and lives with his wife, Maria, in Acapulco, Mexico. According to a recent visitor, Buck Dawson, executive director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Weissmuller is confined to a wheelchair, speaks only with difficulty and is under 24-hour nursing care.
Unlike Weissmuller, Katherine Rawls, who died last week in Belle Glade, Fla. at the age of 64, did have a chance to congratulate Caulkins. Rawls was a uniquely versatile athlete who in the 1930s amassed 28 individual swimming titles, which until Caulkins overtook both of them last year was second on the alltime women's list to Ann Curtis' 30, and for good measure also won five national diving titles. Rawls and Caulkins got together when both were honored last Nov. 14 by the University of Florida during halftime of the Gators' 33-12 football win over Kentucky, Rawls because she was a longtime resident of the Sunshine State, Caulkins because she's a freshman on the Gator swim team. It's a tribute to both Weissmuller and Rawls that it took so long for someone to surpass their records, which were compiled in the '20s and '30s, respectively. It's a tribute to Caulkins that she was the one to do it.
LEFT IN THE STARTING BLOCKS
As basketball games go, Athens (Ohio) High School's 72-49 win this past season over Waverly High was a yawner. But what do you expect of a game in which Athens led 7-0 before Waverly even got a chance to touch the ball? It seems that Waverly had entered the wrong uniform numbers in the official scorebook, with the result that one technical foul was assessed against each of its starters before play began. Athens' Steve Bruning made all five of the resulting free throws, and the Bulldogs' Mike Croci then got a basket on the inbounds play that, because of the technicals, replaced the game-opening jump ball. Waverly fans could at least console themselves that Croci hadn't scored a three-point play. That would have put their team eight points down before they even touched the ball, which would have been a world record almost for sure.
A VERY BRIEF DIALOGUE
While broadcasting an 8-6 loss to the California Angels Thursday night, A's radio announcers Bill King and Lon Simmons had an exchange that may have plowed new ground in both linguistics and logic:
King: "...the batter missed three straight breaking balls."
Simmons: "If they were straight breaking balls, maybe that's why he missed them."
THEY SAID IT
•Doug Plank, Chicago Bear safety, promising to heed new Coach Mike Ditka's plea for team unity, something not always apparent on Bear teams in the past: "This year I'm going to learn the names of all the guys who play on offense. This year we might even cheer each other."
•Marvin Miller, executive director of the Major League Players Association, when asked if a series of seminars that his organization was conducting for player agents had been well attended: "Yes, they're free."
•Pat Williams, Philadelphia 76ers general manager, on his business relationship with owner Harold Katz: "He signed me to a multiday contract."
•Juliene Simpson, Arizona State women's basketball coach, after losing 92-54 to Louisiana Tech, the eventual NCAA champions, in the Midwest Regionals: "It's really difficult to talk to a team at halftime when you're behind 50-18."
•Gary Fallon, Washington & Lee football coach, before a drawing to determine which student would get to throw a pie at him for the benefit of charity: "I hope one of my senior quarterbacks gets drawn, so the pie will be intercepted before it gets to my face."