Basketball will remember Clyde Lovellette on May 3 when he's inducted into its Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. In at least one other regard, however, the game has forgotten Lovellette, who was an All-America at Kansas and then, in his 11 NBA seasons, played on three championship pro teams. Lovellette, who retired in 1964, does not receive a pension—not one blessed penny—from the organization that he helped to pioneer. And he's not the only NBA old-timer who has been slighted.
When the NBA pension plan was established in 1964, it was decided that benefits would be given only to players with three years' service who retired in 1965 or after. There are 103 pre-1964 players still alive, including such luminaries as Bob Cousy, George Mikan, Paul Arizin, George Yardley and Dolph Schayes. Over the past two years they have formed an organization called the National Basketball Old-Timers Association. It's headquartered in the Foxboro, Mass., home of Katie and Gene Conley, the latter a former center for the Celtics and Knicks, as well as an ex-pitcher for the Braves, Phillies and Red Sox. The Conleys have done an impressive job of contacting the old-timers, educating the media and buttonholing NBA officials. Says Gene, "We aren't interested in charity, only justice."
Fine. Everyone, including executives of both the NBA and the NBA Players' Association, says he recognizes the injustice to the old-timers. Unfortunately, the owners and the active players are not on speaking terms at the moment, and they would have to come to some agreement before the old-timers can be helped, since both groups would share the cost of an expanded pension program. One estimate puts the cost of vesting the old-timers at $6 million, but the NBA is enjoying a period of unprecedented popularity, and it should pay tribute to the pioneers of the game. And the league should do it as soon as possible. As Conley, who is 57, says, "The average age of our group is 62, so we don't have a lot more time to wait."
May 1, 1988
If you overhear players at the Willow-bend Golf Course in Wichita, Kans., talking about form and technique and balance, they may not be discussing their golf swings, but rather the tee markers on the course. At every tee, as well as on the putting green and near the clubhouse, is a museum-quality sculpture. Displaying the works was the idea of George Ablah, a 59-year-old entrepreneur and art collector who is the principal partner in the Willow-bend development, which surrounds a brand-new golf course designed by former pro Tom Weiskopf and architect Jay Moorish.
Ablah chose most of the works, which are valued at a total of $500,000. Among the famous artists represented are Red Grooms (Lumberjack, at the 11th tee), Fernando Botero (Hand, 12th tee) and Chaim Gross (The Juggler, putting green). The only sculpture with a golfing theme is Classic, by Kansas artist Eli Romero, at the 14th tee. This arrangement of chrome-plated steel tubes is a representation of the perfect swing. School and civic groups often tour the course in oversized golf carts to see the sculpture.
As for golfers, they seem to like swinging among the works of art, and they haven't found that they present much of a hazard. "I wouldn't say no one has ever hit one," says Rod Nuckolls, Willowbend's pro, "but it's rare."
Art, in fact, may be the coming thing on golf courses. Several other courses around the country have sculpture, although not to the extent of Willowbend. According to Ablah, the art could help solve one of the sport's great problems. "Golf is notorious for making people wait," he says. "But stopping to look at the statue when you reach the tee is kind of like watching a movie or TV." Well, kind of.
Trevor Denman, the announcer at Santa Anita racetrack, gave this unusual call to start the second race on April 1: "Away they go. God Knows Who breaks on top...." No, Denman didn't say that be cause he couldn't identify the horse. God Knows Who is a 3-year-old gelding owned by Harold Applebaum and Daniel Feldman. Says Applebaum, "A good friend of mine, Jim Burrows, who produces and directs Cheers, always wanted to hear an announcer say, 'God Knows Who is in front,' so that's what we named the horse."
God Knows Who had not won in his three previous career starts, but hunch players should have known to bet him on April Fools' Day. The horse won by 3½ lengths, paying $9.80.
The declining state of U.S. tennis can be seen in the latest rankings of players at U.S. colleges. Of the top 100 men in the Volvo Tennis/Collegiate Men's Singles Rankings, 30 come from countries other than the U.S.: 11 from Sweden, five from South Africa, three each from France and Canada, and one each from Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Greece, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain and Zimbabwe. Even more telling are the men's rankings for NAIA schools: 24 of the top 36 players are from foreign countries.
In the Metrodome on the night of April 20, Claudell Washington hit a ninth-inning blast off Jeff Reardon of the Minnesota Twins for the 10,000th home run in the 86-year history of the New York American League franchise—the most by any modern team (the Giants are second with 9,334). Both the ball and the bat used to hit the homer had been promised by Yankee management to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Washington, however, had not been consulted. He said he was going to take the bat and ball home and display them in his den—unless someone made him an overwhelming offer. "It would have to be a lot of dead presidents," said Washington, the namesake of one.
Shame on Claudell, who receives 480,000 George Washingtons a year for playing on a part-time basis. Of the Yankees' 10,000 homers, he has hit 17, or 0.17%, so he hasn't played anywhere near as significant a role in New York's homering as, say, Babe Ruth, who accounted for 659 of the 10,000, or 6.6%. Washington just happened to connect at the right time. What's more, both the bat and the ball were gifts of a sort to Washington. He swung a Louisville Slugger left behind by released catcher Rick Cerone, and the ball was thrown back on the field by a disgusted—and unknowing—Twins fan.
Didn't he want to be in the Hall of Fame? Washington was asked. "I'm already there," he replied. "Three homers in a game in both leagues: Johnny Mize, Babe Ruth and me." Yes, he had the nerve to mention himself in the same breath with the Big Cat and the Sultan of Swat. He also left out Dave Kingman and Larry Parrish.
If Washington doesn't fork up the bat and ball, we suggest that the Hall of Fame acquire the sign a White Sox fan displayed in rightfield at Comiskey Park in 1981, the year after Claudell was traded from the White Sox: WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE.
In case you're wondering what has happened to British ski jumper Eddie (the Eagle) Edwards, he was recently in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to take part in Disney World's Goofy Games. He has also been named a life member by the Monster Raving Looney Party, a beyond-the-fringe political group in Britain. In the near future, Edwards plans to see a plastic surgeon about correcting his protruding jaw and an eye doctor about getting some contact lenses. "With no chin and no glasses," says the Eagle, "I'll be able to get a job as Robert Red ford's stuntman."
A NEW WURST FOR THE WORST
St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe is credited with introducing the hot dog to ballparks a century ago, and over the years concessionaires have found it hard to improve on his idea. But now hungry fans at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium can buy a double dog, two hot dogs in one bun.
The new wiener is the brainchild of L.A. Garrett, 41, a Columbia, S.C., inventor. Garrett figured out a way to cut a hot dog bun twice, so that there would be a retaining wall of bread in the middle. He says he got the idea while watching a TV commercial for frankfurters a few years ago. "Why just put one hot dog in a bun?" Garrett asked himself.
He brought his idea to the attention of Joseph Costa, the regional general manager of ARA/Martin's, the concessionaire for Memorial Stadium. "It's something different, and at two franks for $1.75, it is probably the best value in the stadium," says Costa.
According to Garrett, the double dog is ideal for people who can't make up their mind about which condiments to apply. "You can put chili and cheese on one dog," he says, "and sauerkraut and relish on the other." Unfortunately, Memorial Stadium only offers mustard, ketchup and onions.
The sad state of the Orioles (page 26) may adversely affect attendance and thus cut into sales of the double dog, but then again, fans may want to flee to the concession stands and eat to forget.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Valvano, North Carolina State basketball coach, on the dental plan at his school: "We either win or the alumni bash our teeth in."
•Pete Rose, Cincinnati Reds manager, on one of his few regrets in life: "I wish there was some way I could have gotten a college education. I'm thinking about buying a college, though."