Alan (The Horse) Ameche, who broke school rushing records at Wisconsin and won the Heisman Trophy in 1954 before going on to a starry pro career with the Colts, may now own this record: shortest career as an agent representing pro football rookies. He lasted five months on the job. Of his short tenure as an agent, Ameche told SI's Bailey Breene, "It's a crummy business, and I was foolish to get involved in it. The guy giving the wholesome side hasn't got a chance. I was rather naive. Friends warned me there was no room for an honest person."
By rights, Ameche, a big football name and successful businessman—he was a cofounder of the Gino's fast-food restaurant chain—should have made it as an agent. But he says he failed because he tried to abide by NCAA rules prohibiting athletes from signing with agents before their college eligibility is completed: "The wheeler-dealers slip and slide. They give kids spending money and cars. They take chances, but they get the kids."
Speaking more in sorrow than anger, Ameche says that his old school is a perfect example. "They had seven pro prospects [last year] on the team. I never got to interview with any of them. Those guys were already signed up." Ameche says of his exit from the agent business. "I got out because I think it's terrible. I was bruised and battered." Not to mention frustrated, disappointed and disillusioned.
The selection of the University of Arizona, Sunday, to an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament came as sweet solace to coach Lute Olson. A fortnight ago, with the Wildcats battling for the Pac-10 title, and an automatic spot in the tourney, two of Olson's starters, all-conference center Pete Williams and forward Morgan Taylor, violated a curfew after a road game against Washington. Olson punished Williams by keeping him on the bench for more than 12 minutes of the first half of the next game, against UCLA, and didn't play Taylor until the second half. Their replacements scored a combined two points and UCLA won 58-54, dashing U of A's title hopes.
Olson defended his sparing use of Williams and Taylor as necessary disciplinary measures. "When there is a violation, there has to be a penalty, and often others wind up paying a price as well." he said. And Williams said of the critical loss to UCLA, "If I hadn't made a stupid mistake, none of this would have happened." College sport is supposed to be a learning experience, and in this case, anyway, it appears it was.
For the first time in 18 years, the all-Southwest Conference basketball team consists of five white players. Asked for his explanation of this development, TCU forward Carven Holcombe, a black, said, "Reaganomics."
TALK, TALK, TALK....
Recently, Tim McCarver, former big league catcher and now a Mets television announcer, had preliminary discussions with the Expos about managing; he had preliminary discussions with a network about broadcasting; he had preliminary discussions with the Cardinals about being G.M. Nothing developed. Reflecting on the negotiations, McCarver considered all the evidence and said. "I think preliminary discussions are my forte."
THE FINAL WORD
At a Philadelphia-Atlanta game, NBA referee Joey Crawford made a call that displeased Philadelphia coach Billy Cunningham. After the game, Crawford found himself seated next to Cunningham on a plane. When Cunningham resumed his tirade, Crawford looked at him icily and said, "I've never had to run someone off a plane, so don't tempt me."
Any athlete who hankers to win some kind of Athlete of the Year award should contemplate passing through Arizona, if only long enough to be photographed next to a cactus. That will probably make him or her eligible for consideration as that state's best. Arizona, it seems, is desperate for a star to call its very own.
Proof comes with the announcement that Seattle Mariners first baseman Alvin Davis, who was born in Riverside, Calif. and still lives there, is this year's—yup—Arizona Professional Athlete of the Year. Asked Davis, "Why me?"
The answer is that, well, Davis did once play for Arizona State University. But even the sponsoring Phoenix Press Box Association understands that a Californian who plays baseball in Washington is a crummy choice as an Arizona hero. "In a couple of years," says Bob Crawford of The Phoenix Gazette, "people will forget that Davis went to Arizona State, and he won't be on the ballot." Oh, good. That presumably will free Davis to be chosen instead as Pro Athlete of, say, Wisconsin, Ohio or Massachusetts, all of which might claim him by virtue of his visiting there on road trips.
When Chicago goalie Darren Pang, all 5'5" of him, skated onto the ice before a game the other evening, 6'3" Montreal defenseman Larry Robinson smirked and asked the Black Hawks' Doug Wilson, "Where's the rest of your goalkeeper?" But be fair. Pang is taller than a lot of things. Like, well, the puck.
Anyway, Pang isn't the shortest goalie in NHL history. That distinction belongs to 5'2" Roy Worters, who played more than half a century ago for the New York Americans.
And there was the time, reports The Globe and Mail in Toronto, that a customs officer went looking for Worters aboard a train at the Canadian border.
"He's in his berth," said the team's coach.
"I've looked there," said the customs agent.
"Well, look again," said the coach. "He's in there someplace."
For Pang's part, he takes the kidding in good glide and says, "Short guys are quicker and more agile." Maybe, but Pang clearly was short on something; the Black Hawks last week shipped him back to the minors.
THEY'RE TOUGH AFTER THE BUZZER
By way of poking fun at the obsession with esoteric statistics in sports, Seattle SuperSonic p.r. man Rick Moxley recently included the following item in the club's pregame media notes: "The Sonics are 19-0 in games they've led after the fourth quarter."
DOING A DOUBLE TAKE ON A HALL OF FAMER'S SINGULAR FEAT
Funny how we get things all bollixed up when it comes to remembering the wondrous feats performed by our heroes. Take the legendary Enos (Country) Slaughter, 68, whose admirers have long believed that he deserves to be in baseball's Hall of Fame. Last week he made it, along with Arky Vaughan, former infielder for Brooklyn and Pittsburgh.
Slaughter was a hustling, down-in-the-dirt kind of player, and it was a hustling, down-in-the-dirt play that pushed Slaughter into Cooperstown. It was Game 7 of the 1946 World Series between Boston and St. Louis, bottom of the eighth, Slaughter on first, two outs, score 3-3. Slaughter then did the unexpected, scoring from first on a single to left center by Harry Walker.
AP retold the miracle last week, carefully pointing out, "Slaughter was on first base when Harry Walker singled." The New York Times recalled that Walker "drilled" the ball into leftfield for a single. New York Post columnist Dick Young remembered it as a "dink single." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recalled it as a "king-sized single." Whatever, it was a single.
No, no, no and no. It was a double. The Times had it exactly right more than 38 years ago when a subhead on its story of the game said WALKER'S DOUBLE DECIDES. But the two-bagger shrank to a single because it made a better story. Life's like that sometimes. Scoring from first base on a double is quite routine, hardly the stuff of legend; scoring from first on a single to win the Series is the stuff of Cooperstown.
What actually happened was that Slaughter was running on the 2-and-1 pitch to Walker. Walker's hit was fielded adequately by weak-armed Leon Culberson, who had just replaced the injured—and rifle-armed—Dom DiMaggio in center. Culberson hit the cutoff man, shortstop Johnny Pesky, but Pesky—never dreaming that Slaughter would try for home—hesitated briefly before relaying the ball. Slaughter slid home safely.
For his part, Slaughter has said that he wouldn't have continued past third if DiMaggio had been in center; DiMaggio has harrumphed that Slaughter probably wouldn't have reached third if he had been in there.
From fact to legend to myth—double play. Nothing is ever the way we heard it. Or remember it.
SPARKY SAID IT
•Sparky Anderson, Detroit Tiger manager, asked by a sportscaster if it would be harder to win the World Series a second time: "Yes, because everybody is gunning for you."
•Sparky Anderson, asked by another sportscaster if it would be easier to win the Series a second time: "Yes, because you know how to do it."