The PGA Tour's decision to ban Severiano Ballesteros from playing in tour events in 1986 is both understandable and petty. Here's the understandable part. Two years ago the PGA Tour changed what was known as the Conflicting Event Rule at Ballesteros's request. He had complained that the rule was unfair in that it required a foreign golfer with membership in the tour to play in at least five U.S. tournaments for every one he played outside his native country. That was difficult for Ballesteros because Spain had only two tournaments and he played in numerous other events on the European Tour. O.K., said the PGA Tour, a foreign golfer who is a member of the tour only has to play in 15 tournaments here to get an unlimited number of releases to play abroad.
Ballesteros said he was happy with the rule change, and in 1984 he played in 15 U.S. tournaments. This year he played in only nine. Most of the time he played in Europe, where he often gets appearance money, a practice barred in the U.S.
The PGA Tour was justified in taking away Ballesteros's membership, but it is being exceptionally petty and shortsighted in ruling that he cannot play in any PGA Tour events at all in 1986, except for the USF & G Classic in New Orleans, where he is defending champion. Foreign golfers who are not tour members can play in six PGA Tour cosponsored or approved events. Why put greater limitations on a lapsed tour member than on those who have never even been tour members? In essence, the PGA Tour has told the best golfer in the world to get lost, and we agree with Ballesteros, who says, "It was a thoughtless decision that can only harm international golf."
HEY, BUDDY, THAT'S MY SPACE
Hold on to your seat belts for the latest in the condo craze. It's a gas. Condo parking is here. Or at least it is outside Williams-Brice Stadium at the University of South Carolina, where 89 fans have bought choice parking spaces for their cars at $7,500 a crack. Each condo buyer gets the right to tailgate with up to seven guests per game, plus the use of a new 7,000-square-foot clubhouse containing space for barbecues, a kitchen for more ambitious dishes and, if things get either dull or cold outside, dance floors and fireplaces.
Condo parking is the brainchild of two Gamecock fans, Ed Robinson and George Flynt, partners in The EnMark Corporation, a real-estate development company in Columbia. Robinson and Flynt were in their office a few days after a game last season having a drink and talking about how inconvenient the setup was, what with thousands of tailgaters and a paucity of Porta-Johns. Then it dawned on Robinson that there was an acre of vacant land on one side of the stadium. Six months and $625,000 later, condo parking, or what Robinson calls an "exclusive tailgate facility," was in business. All available spaces sold immediately, and the resale market looks solid; Robinson says one would-be buyer recently offered him $16,000 for a space.
Robinson has gotten calls from officials or developers interested in pursuing the idea at West Point, Memphis State and Ohio State. He warns, however, that to be successful, condo parking has to have "an elitist atmosphere" that draws the kind of person who might buy a skybox at a ball park. Has his condo parking made outsiders jealous? "Definitely!" Robinson exclaims.
When trainer Vinny Aurigemma began racing a 5-year-old pacer named Division Street last February, he and the horse's new owners were somewhat disappointed. They had paid $320,000 for Division Street, a record for a 4-year-old gelding, but he wasn't racing up to his talent. The horse was obviously a bit of a flake. Very nervous before a race, he would take the lead, but once headed by another horse he would refuse to go for the front again. Last May driver Michel Lachance suggested that Aurigemma put earplugs on Division Street that could be pulled out during races. The plugs would serve a dual purpose: They would relax the horse so he could concentrate on racing and, when they were pulled out, the sudden burst of noise would spur him into an extra burst of speed.
Aurigemma tied string to a pair of Calvin Klein socks packed with cotton, stuffed the socks into Division Street's ears and ran the string back to Lachance in the sulky. The ploy has been successful. In his last 16 races Division Street has 12 wins and four seconds and earned $450,526. One of his biggest wins came at Yonkers Raceway against the alltime money winner, On The Road Again. The two were head and head at the top of the stretch when Lachance pulled the plugs and Division Street won by a nose.
Even around the barn, Division Street has changed. "He doesn't mope around the barn like he used to," Aurigemma says. "He acts like a tough guy, he screams like a stallion."
TIGERS AND BASS
When last we visited Japan (SI, Sept. 9), the country was engulfed in Tigermania as the Hanshin Tigers, the people's choice, battled the Yomiuri Giants and the defending champion Hiroshima Carp for the Central League pennant. Moreover, Tiger first baseman Randy Bass, a U.S. export, was trying to help right the balance of trade by becoming the first player besides Sadaharu Oh to win the Central League's Triple Crown since 1938.
The Tigers did not disappoint. Not only did they win their first pennant in 21 years, but last week they also won their first Japan Series ever, beating the Seibu Lions of the Pacific League four games to two. In the clincher, former major-leaguer Rich Gale pitched a seven-hitter as the Tigers defeated the Lions 9-3.
Bass did not disappoint, either. He won the Triple Crown, batting .350 with 54 homers and 134 RBIs. His home run total was one short of Oh's record. On the last day of the season he had the chance to tie or beat it against the Giants, but the Giants, now managed by Oh, intentionally walked Bass four times.
In the Series, Bass did well. He hit .368 with three homers and nine ribbies and was named the MVP.
AND HE HAS HARDLY EVER LOOKED BACK
The all-Missouri World Series brings to mind an old ballplayer named Mickey Owen, who lives in Springfield, Mo. Contrary to what many fans might think, life didn't end for Owen in Brooklyn on Oct. 5, 1941, when, in the fourth game of the World Series, the Dodger catcher made one of the classic mistakes in baseball history. The game had apparently ended in victory when Dodger pitcher Hugh Casey threw a third strike past the Yankees' Tommy Henrich with two out and none on in the ninth inning. But the pitch got away from Owen, and Henrich reached first base. The Yankees, given new life, scored four runs to win the game and take a 3-1 lead in the Series, which they won the next day. Rumor has had it for years that the pitch that got away was a spitter, but Owen, 69, says, "No, it was a curveball. It was as good a curveball as Casey had ever thrown, and it was my own fault. Casey had two curveballs, a big curve-ball and a short quick one. He'd been throwing the short quick one for five innings. We had just one sign for a curveball, I gave him the sign and he threw the big curveball instead, and I crossed myself up."
Owen has led a fascinating life. He was one of the major league stars who jumped to the Mexican League in 1946, and he was suspended for 3½ years before returning to the majors in 1949. After retiring in 1954, he built a new career in law enforcement and served 16 years as sheriff of Greene County, Mo. He also ran a baseball school. In 1980 he ran for lieutenant governor and finished third in a five-man Democratic primary. To demonstrate his still-youthful energy during the campaign, he jogged the 250 miles from Royals Stadium in Kansas City to Busch Stadium in St. Louis. He credits jogging with alleviating his arthritis and helping reduce his weight from 215 (he played at 190) to 155. Next year, he plans to run in the over-70 division of a marathon.
Although Owen says the Royals-Cardinals Series "caught the imagination of the heartland," he would like to see a major league team back in Brooklyn, where, he fondly recalls, the fans were always behind the players, even when the players were in a slump. He would like to see the San Francisco Giants move there, and as oldtimer Owen says, "If we couldn't call them the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Brooklyn Giants, we could call them the Brooklyn Codgers."
THEY SAID IT
•David Greenwood, on being traded by the Chicago Bulls to the San Antonio Spurs: "Like they say, there are three things a pro basketball player can't control: injuries, knucklehead coaches and being traded. Now I can say I've experienced all three."
•Bum Phillips, coach of the New Orleans Saints, after passing a physical examination: "If I drop dead tomorrow, at least I'll know I died in good health."
•Hank Bullough, new coach of the Buffalo Bills and a fast man with a malapropism, delaying a press conference until the arrival of late-coming reporters: "Wait just a minute. I'll go out and see if any of your common parts are here."