If you accept that the world of sports is a living, evolving
organism, like the amoeba or the Dallas Mavericks, then you
should not fear change but embrace it. Charles (No Relation to
Danny) Darwin was right about the survival of the fittest. The
laws of nature suggest that something must die--the test-pattern
plaid sports jackets favored by college basketball coaches in
the 1970s, the Battle of the Network Stars--for a species to
continue to thrive, and from the compost heap of things that
once seemed like a good idea emerge vibrant, more highly evolved
matter such as an NHL franchise in North Carolina, Olympic beach
volleyball and scoreboard dot races.
Save the wails. Many items on SI's endangered-species
list--wooden woods, for example--soon will be as dead as the
dodo, but we will shed no more tears for proud persimmon than we
did for the slide rule. How good could the good old days have
been if little more than 50 years ago not only were all the
tennis balls white but also all the major league baseball
That said, many of the endangered species on the following pages
strike us as worth preserving, from good ol' boy football
coaches to Fenway Park to basketball shorts that stop at
mid-thigh. We are even pulling for the survival of that
once-sacred but now scorned big league institution, the
doubleheader. Today Ernie Banks would be saying, "It's a
beautiful day for baseball. Let's play one."
Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be.
September 28, 1997
Skilled practitioners of this art have dwindled to just a few:
the Los Angeles Dodgers' Brett Butler and Otis Nixon, the
Seattle Mariners' Joey Cora, the St. Louis Cardinals' Delino
DeShields and the Atlanta Braves' Kenny Lofton. The
hard-carpeted infields in many stadiums have made any kind of
bunting risky, but to carry the ball past the pitcher's mound
with just the right amount of oomph is almost too delicate an
act for anyone playing in the age of smash-ball.
"Everyone wants to see how far he can hit the ball," says Cora.
"Guys who bunt are considered sissies." Major league sluggers,
take note: One such sissy was New York Yankees great Mickey
Mantle, who in between his many skillfully laid-down drag bunts
hit 536 home runs.
When was the last time you heard someone yell "Kill the ump!"?
In the age of political correctness, fans have decided that
umpires deserve to live. Why, paying customers rarely even offer
their glasses to the arbiters. Apparently, "You suck!" is deemed
sufficiently insulting. "You hear little kids say that, with
their parents sitting right beside them," marvels American
League umpire Dan Morrison. The quality of ump baiting has
declined steeply since a mere decade ago, when National League
ump Larry Poncino, then working the Pacific Coast League, heard
a fan cry, "Your mother swims out to meet battleships!"
Underhand Free Throws
They worked superbly for Rick Barry. They worked, sort of, for
Wilt Chamberlain. They would work for the Los Angeles Lakers'
Shaquille O'Neal if the NBA weren't as much a test of manhood as
of which team scores the most points. "Players don't shoot
underhand because it's not a macho thing," says Barry, a career
90% foul-shooter. "You have to put your ego aside."
Shaq should consider taking free throw lessons from Barry or
even from Melanie Wilson, who in 1994, as a 5'1", 83-pound fifth
grader, made 21 of 25 shots underhand in a regional competition
en route to winning a New York State grade-school championship.
Straight-ahead kickers--or "jammers," as they're known in
football circles--have become dinosaurs. Every NFL and Division
I college team now uses a soccer-style kicker.
The straight-on approach began fading on Nov. 26, 1964, when the
Buffalo Bills' Pete Gogolak, a former soccer player from
Hungary, nailed a game-winning 33-yarder soccer-style against
the San Diego Chargers. "I'll never forget the frightful look in
the holder's eyes the first time I kicked," Gogolak says. "He
thought I would kick him right in the gut."
The power and accuracy of the Kansas City Chiefs' Jan Stenerud
steered teams further toward sidewinders in the late '60s and
early '70s. The NFL hasn't had a straight-on kicker since Mark
Moseley retired in 1987. "Soccer-style guys can kick it longer,"
admits Minnesota Vikings special teams coach Gary Zauner, a
former jammer at Wisconsin-LaCrosse. "That's the only way kids
do it now, because that's all they see on TV."
Short Basketball Shorts
Michael Jordan and Michigan's Fab Five turned long shorts into
hot pants, but three NBA players have held out against the
now-standard eight- or nine-inch inseam: John Stockton (left)
and Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz and Mark Price of the Golden
State Warriors still go with a six-inch inseam. Not that Chris
Tripucka, who outfits NBA players for Champion, hasn't tried to
convert the old guards. "At a practice before this year's
All-Star Game, I stuck a pair of long shorts in Stockton's bag
in the locker room," Tripucka says. "He put them on, and the
guys were saying, 'Yeah, John, that's how you should wear them.'
He walked around in them a little bit and then gave them back to
me. 'They're too long,' he said. 'Make an adjustment.'"
Sub-300-Pound Offensive Linemen
There were 34 300-pounders in the NFL in 1990, but by 1996 the
number of blot-out-the-sun types had increased fourfold. Only 56
offensive linemen last season weighed less than 290, and some
teams didn't have a starter under 300. Size is the prize in such
Brobdingnagian characters as 353-pound Korey Stringer of the
"Genetics has a lot to do with it, but so does good nutrition,"
says St. Louis Rams offensive line coach Jim Hanifan, who
coached the Washington Redskins' gargantuan Hogs from 1990 to
'96, back when a 300-pounder was still something of a curio.
"These youngsters are getting into good high school programs
with good weight training."
Hanifan fails to mention that at least some NFL behemoths are
artificially beefed up. Steroids, human growth hormone and other
muscle-building drugs are, alas, not endangered species.
Mom-and-Pop Sporting Goods Stores
Few have survived the onslaught of sporting goods chains. Today,
instead of being doted on by a store owner who measures your
foot with the Brannock if you're buying sneakers, you're greeted
indifferently by teenage minimum-wagers who deign to toss you a
few shoe boxes after you've guessed your size and selected a
Your responsibility is crushing, your minutes drop, your
relationship with your teammates changes, and you never get to
wear Armani on the bench. There is, however, one great thing
about being a player-coach: You get to call your own number.
And so the last of a species--Mark Hughes of the CBA's Grand
Rapids Hoops--called play number 1 with four seconds left in a
playoff game against the Florida Beachdogs last spring. An
inbounds pass, a little drop step and...nothing but net and
accolades for the power forward-coach. Hughes, 30, the former
sixth man on Michigan's Fab Five team, was 12-5 after taking
over the Hoops last February. "I thought I enjoyed the winning a
lot as a player," Hughes says, "but it seems even better as a
Player-coaches are a relic; the NBA hasn't had one since Dave
Cowens did double duty for the egregiously bad Bob McAdoo-Curtis
Rowe Boston Celtics during much of the 1978-79 season. Cowens,
now coach of the Charlotte Hornets, says that even if another
Bill Russell comes along--the goateed one took the Celtics to a
162-83 record and two titles as a player-coach in the late
1960s--no team is going to be so miserly as to try to squeeze a
player into handling clipboard duty too. "Teams have so much
money today that affordability is not a problem," says Cowens.
"It would be ridiculous to try both."
Undisputed Boxing Champions
The last in the heavyweight ranks was Riddick Bowe, who, in a
fit of pique over a World Boxing Council order that he fight
Lennox Lewis, dumped his WBC championship belt into a trash bin
at a London hotel on Dec. 13, 1992, and announced that he was
withdrawing his "recognition of the WBC." With that, the sport
returned to its usual state of chaos, in which 16 governing
bodies recognize various titleholders.
Six-on-Six Girls' Basketball
In 1995 Oklahoma became the last state to abandon the game, once
the only form of girls' hoops in some states. The arcane rules
allowed a player only two dribbles and three seconds of
possession. Iowa's six-on-six high school tournament, last held
in '94, was as glorious an event as Indiana's all-comers boys'
hoops tournament and Minnesota's all-comers hockey event;
neither of those exists anymore, either.
Helmetless Hockey Players
The last one, St. Louis Blues center Craig MacTavish, who was
grandfathered in under the 1979 NHL rule making helmets
mandatory, retired in April, after 16 virtually concussion-free
Western Roll High Jump
When Dick Fosbury used his backward flop to clear 7'4 1/4" and
win gold at the '68 Olympics, he reinvented the event. Most
jumpers soon gave up on the facedown, sideways roll; the last to
set a world record using it was Vladimir Yashchenko, with a
clearance of 7'8" in 1979.
Hall of Famer Earl (Dutch) Clark was the most recent master of
bouncing the ball off the turf and kicking it through the
uprights, and he retired in 1938. No one in the NFL drop-kicks
now. For one thing, the holders' union would never permit it.
Toothless Hockey Players
Chew on this: Except for Doug Gilmour of the New Jersey Devils
and a few others, every pro on the ice these days has teeth in
his mouth. Often his own. "The days of a player missing his four
front teeth are over," says Montreal Canadiens dentist Skip
Kerner. "Even the ones who have lost teeth in accidents--and
maybe 10% of the league can give you that Bobby Clarke smile
(above)--get plates put in. I don't know why Gilmour hasn't."
(Good for you, Dougie. Stick to your gums.)
Although NHLers don't wear full face shields, as youth players
do, many now use mouth-guards. "Really, the only significant
dental problems you see are in players from the old Soviet
bloc," says Pittsburgh Penguins dentist David Donatelli.
"There's not much difference now between hockey players and the
general population." This is encouraging news, though Donatelli
sadly reports that it has significantly cut down on the old
postgame dentures-in-the-beer-glass gag.
One by one, colleges have dropped their tribal sports
monikers--Braves, Indians, Redskins--in favor of inoffensive
alternatives ranging from colors (Dartmouth's Big Green) to
weather (St. John's Red Storm) to birds (Miami of Ohio's
RedHawks). Owners of professional teams have apparently been too
busy doing the tomahawk chop to notice this trend.
Good Ol' Boy Football Coaches
Profit-driven college athletic directors have lost interest in
the Bum Phillips-style good ol' boy coach and now seem to hire
only coaches who are bland and corporate. "No question about
it," says Texas Tech's Spike Dykes, 58, one of the few remaining
good ol' boys coaches, as he props his brown cowboy boots on the
edge of his desk. "A.D.'s in the past were ex-coaches, but now
they're business types who think public perception is the most
important quality for a coach. I can't relate to many new
Every Southern school deserves a good ol' boy running its
football program, yet a Brooklynite, Gerry DiNardo, now roams
the sidelines at LSU, where just three years ago Alabama-born
coach Curley Hallman baffled reporters by describing a
quarterback competition as "wide open as a case knife in a
barroom brawl." At Texas, Darrell Royal--inventor of the cliche,
A tie is like kissing your sister--ran the conservative wishbone
offense and ate barbecue with Willie Nelson. Now the Longhorns
are coached by a buttoned-down Midwesterner, John Mackovic, who
throws long on fourth-and-short and looks as if he would rather
invest in pork than eat it off a rib.
Arkansas's Danny Ford still drives his pickup and feeds the cows
at his South Carolina ranch, and nobody can weave a tale like
Florida State's resident Bubba, Bobby Bowden. But when it comes
to good ol' boy verbiage, Dykes, who grew up in Ballinger, Texas
(pop. 4,207), leads the posse. Spike-isms (with translations)
include: "The hay's in the barn" (Everything's done); "Put on
the hogs" (Roll out the red carpet); and "The chicken plays a
role in eggs-and-bacon, but the pig is committed" (Hard work in
practice pays off in games).
"I'm from around here, and I use a lot of expressions I grew up
with," says Dykes. "You gotta be yourself. If you're not
yourself, you're not anything."
In Title IX-induced free fall; 48 Division I schools have
dropped their programs since 1982. Such a classic sport deserves
better treatment. Besides, you don't see college men in tights
nearly often enough anymore.
Men's fast-pitch softball
In the early 1960s some 25,000 teams were registered with the
American Softball Association; last year, 10,000 were. The game
is losing ground rapidly to slo-pitch, the variety of softball
more suitable for company picnics.
Hoary test of pistol shooting, fencing, swimming, riding and
running--skills used by a Napoleonic courier--is likely to be
the first casualty if the Olympics eliminate any sports. To
boost interest, Robert Marbut of the U.S. Modern Pentathlon
Association proposes a made-for-TV battle among top decathletes
and his sport's finest to determine the world's greatest
athlete. Even the 500-channel universe isn't ready for that.
Indoor track and field
The North American winter circuit is down from 14 meets a decade
ago to seven, none on the West Coast. The sport needs a
charismatic, record-setting men's miler from the U.S. to spark
interest. No such creature has existed since Jim Ryun retired in
Pari-mutuel betting as a whole has dropped by $1 billion in the
last decade, and this sport especially has gone to the dogs;
nine U.S. tracks have closed in the last three years. State
lotteries and casino gambling have inflicted damage, and younger
fans would rather toss a Frisbee to Bowser than bet on him. Says
Richard Winning, vice president of Derby Lane Greyhound Track in
St. Petersburg, Fla., "We're no longer the big circus that's
come to town."
Madison Square Garden organist Ray Castoldi's recurring
nightmare goes like this: He walks into his Enfield, Conn.,
living room, switches on the TV to watch a New York Knicks game
and is hit with a stunning realization. "They are playing at the
Garden, and I can hear music in the background, and I'm not
there," he says.
Castoldi (left) has reason to worry about job security:
Organists have largely disappeared from NBA arenas. Castoldi is
one of only two full-time organists responsible for all the
music at a team's home games. (The other is the Portland Trail
Blazers' Paul Nelson.) Teams now opt for deejays who can crank
up rap and rock with the touch of a button. "There is so much
you can do today with tape and CD players and computer hard
drives that contain hundreds of sounds," says Steve Letson, vice
president of operations for the Mavericks. "It doesn't make
sense to pay someone to play the organ."
Even the 34-year-old Castoldi, perched in his 10-by-12-foot cage
near the Garden ceiling, has to punch up recorded music from a
computer; fans aren't satisfied if they don't hear standbys like
Rock and Roll, Part II (a.k.a. the "Hey!" song) as well as his
organ tunes. All too often a spectator will see him after a game
and say, "I didn't know there was still somebody live playing
the organ up there!" And Castoldi will wince.
The palming call came back from the brink of extinction last
season when the NBA took one look at Philadelphia 76ers rookie
Allen Iverson and figured that if he carried the ball any more
blatantly, he could back up the Eagles' Ricky Watters. The
league instructed its refs to crack down on palming--cradling
the dribble, a traveling violation--although Iverson and other
hot new point guards such as the Minnesota Timberwolves' Stephon
Marbury and the Toronto Raptors' Damon Stoudamire still palm on
virtually every possession. These kids can keep their dribble
suspended in midair for so long, it has a hang time.
The Statue Of Liberty Play
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses--as long as
they aren't huddled at the 35-yard line and considering running
what was once America's favorite sandlot play. The last NFL team
to run a Statue of Liberty for a touchdown was the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers, who flummoxed the Jacksonville Jaguars with this old
chestnut on Nov. 12, 1995. The game was tied 10-10 with eight
minutes left when coach Sam Wyche had Errict Rhett line up in a
split-back set, which for the Bucs was often a throwing
formation. "We did everything but go up to the line and scream,
'We're going to pass!'" says Wyche. At the snap Rhett took one
step to his right, pivoted and crossed back in front of
quarterback Trent Dilfer. Dilfer handed the ball to Rhett, who
scampered into the end zone. The Bucs won 17-16.
The play was popularized by University of Chicago coach Alonzo
Stagg, who ran it 21 times in an 18-0 win over Wisconsin in
1908. Now, alas, it's deemed too risky. "The Statue of Liberty
has a high explosion rate, meaning that if it blows up, it blows
up bad," Wyche says. "Coaches don't use it much, because they
know if something looks tricky and doesn't work, they get
labeled as 'tricky.'"
Bubble Gum with Baseball Cards
The pink sticks disappeared in 1996, because they interfered
with new packaging technology and stained the cards. Long gone
are the days when, seeing yet another Wayne Terwilliger card
with your bubble gum, you would ditch Terwilliger and keep the
If Peter O'Malley completes his planned $350 million sale of the
Dodgers to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, only eight of North
America's 113 major sports teams will serve as the primary
source of income for the families or individuals who own them:
the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati
Bengals, Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Rams
in the NFL and the Milwaukee Brewers in baseball. Though a few
grand old sporting families, such as the Rooneys (Steelers) and
Browns (Bengals) are still in the business, others, such as the
Wrigleys (Chicago Cubs) and Yawkeys (Boston Red Sox) are gone.
Looking around the pro sports landscape at owners such as Paul
Allen (Seattle Seahawks), who has a reported net worth of $11
billion, and Time Warner (Atlanta Braves and Hawks), which has
assets valued at $20 billion, Bengals president Mike Brown says
with no small measure of understatement, "They have a safety net
At its peak of popularity, in 1972, Roller Derby drew 5.5
million fans to U.S. rinks. But the biggest star, Blonde Bomber
Joanie Weston, died in May at 62, and her sport--developed by
impresario Leo Seltzer in Depression-era Chicago--died after
promoters turned it into a WWF-style geek show later in the 1970s.
Independent NASCAR Drivers
Dave Marcis is a throwback to an age when drivers maintained and
raced cars they actually owned and depended on their winnings
for food and gas. Thus, during qualifiers for the NASCAR Jiffy
Lube 300 at New Hampshire International Raceway in July, the
56-year-old Marcis, who has a permanent race-day crew of only
four (most drivers have eight), spent part of his time under the
hood of his Chevrolet Monte Carlo, trying to remove a faulty
shock absorber. "We're definitely behind the times," says
Marcis' assistant, Dwayne Leek. "There's only so much Dave can
Marcis is regarded as the last of the old-time independent
drivers. "Today guys come along, get in a car and don't really
understand it," says Marcis, who has earned a little more than
$5 million in 30 years on the track. I enjoy doing my own thing."
He hasn't won a race in 15 years, however, and he lives a
spartan existence. Most drivers have spacious, air-conditioned
trailers, catered meals and even personal fitness trainers.
Until this season, when Marcis' team was able to borrow a
relatively new van to travel in, it used a rickety hitch-up
trailer that barely had room for the bologna sandwiches Marcis
packs for every race.
What sustains Marcis is his deep love of racing. "I don't want
to quit," he says. "There are times when I wonder if I'll win
again, but it's hard to walk away--very hard."
White Tennis Balls (fig. 1)
These now constitute less than 2% of the market. Yellow balls
were introduced in 1972 and caught on because of their
visibility. Wimbledon, the final holdout on the pro circuit,
switched from white to yellow in '86. "After playing with white
balls at Wimbledon," recalls former pro Pam Shriver, "you'd go
back to yellow balls and they were the brightest things you'd
ever seen--almost fluorescent."
Wooden Tennis Rackets (fig. 2)
They're so out they're in. New York interior decorator Kim
Isaacsohn told House & Garden this year that she keeps wooden
rackets in a walking-stick stand in her front hall. "They're
very Gatsby," she said. The last Wimbledon finalist to use wood
was John McEnroe, in 1982. When Bjorn Borg (above) tried a
comeback in '91, he paid a reported $28,000 for 80 replicas of
his favorite wood racket. After using a replica for one match,
which he lost, he announced he was switching to graphite.
Grass Courts (fig. 3)
A rarer sight than pure tennis whites on Andre Agassi. Only nine
grass-court pro events remain.
Big-time rowing has been wired for almost 20 years. Instead of
bellowing through megaphones, coxes now use the Coxbox, a
headset microphone that broadcasts their commands through
speakers in the shell.
NOWHERE TO CLIMB
Soon this urban monkey will be tougher to spot than a nesting
pair of peregrine falcons. Monkey bars, or jungle gyms,
introduced in the mid-1930s under fabled New York City parks
commissioner Robert Moses, were in trouble even before the
federal government began issuing guidelines about
playground-equipment safety in 1991. Since 1981 more than half
of the city's 862 jungle gyms have been removed. Chicago rid
itself of its last monkey bars in 1994. Tacoma, Wash., was down
to four last year.
Why? Can you say lawsuit, boys and girls? "In today's litigious
world, the children come to the playground with parents, and
parents come with lawyers," New York parks commissioner Henry
Stern told The New York Times last year. "Often, the parents are
We all took Julie Andrews's tuneful advice in The Sound of Music
and climbed ev'ry mountain. There are plenty of bona fide firsts
left in rock climbing, but a been-there-done-that mentality has
crept into mountaineering, and it doesn't appear that the Great
Sherpa in the Sky is creating any new real estate with a view.
Now the emphasis seems to be on doing a climb faster or doing
more climbs in a shorter period of time.
Still unconquered is 23,440-foot Latok I, the north ridge of
Latok in the Karakoram Range of Pakistan, not far from the
renowned K2. Michael Kennedy of Carbondale, Colo., and his
four-man party came within 500 feet of the summit in 1978 before
turning back because of inclement weather. "The worst part of
the climb is the 800-foot vertical ice wall from the glacier to
the summit," Kennedy says. "It's technical climbing the whole
way, with no breaks, so you need the right combination of
weather and timing."
BALL GAME'S OVER
There is hardly a stadium built more than 10 years ago that
isn't on the endangered species list. Fans don't love
plastic-grass, multiuse ballyards like Veterans Stadium in
Philadelphia anymore. We don't want Eighth Wonders of the World
like Houston's Astrodome. We don't even see the need to preserve
old ballparks like Detroit's venerable Tiger Stadium, which will
be replaced in 2000, and Boston's 85-year-old Fenway, which--if
the Red Sox have their way--could be razed soon after the
Instead we want new ballparks that just look like Fenway,
faux-old ballyards like Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards,
urban confections designed to soothe the eye and fatten a
franchise's wallet. Fenway, by contrast, is a classic, replete
with nooks and angles and the Green Monster and a sense of
proximity to the players that no other stadium offers. Despite
players' complaints about the park's old, dingy locker rooms and
weight-training area--"Blow it up. Blow the damned place up,"
says Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn of Fenway--the game will be
forever diminished if the old girl disappears.
This season the San Francisco Giants were the only major league
team to schedule a traditional two-games-for-the-price-of-one
doubleheader at home. Teams say a twin bill can cost them up to
$800,000 in lost ticket, parking and concession revenue--and
that fans don't like two games back-to-back anyway.
That's the dirty secret of the doubleheader: Despite
sportswriters' occasional braying, there is no populist push for
its return. "You look at the length of games, especially the
slow pace of a lot of American League games, and sitting through
one regular nine-inning game is sheer misery for many people,"
says Orioles assistant general manager Kevin Malone.
Bang the drum quickly.
Gone is the day of players like Nellie Fox, who held the bat
high up the handle. Ballplayers today are obsessed with the long
ball and with gripping their lumber down by the knob. The
Giants' Barry Bonds is the only player of note who truly chokes
up (one to two inches), having done so since childhood, when his
dad, big leaguer Bobby Bonds, would bring home bats that were
too heavy for a stripling.
The younger Bonds has averaged 31 home runs a season during his
12-year career, underscoring a point made by Philadelphia
Phillies batting instructor Hal McRae. "Choking up doesn't
affect your power at all," says McRae. "Most guys don't know
Walk, pal. A major league team might be willing to bring back a
car or golf cart if a sponsor dropped some serious dollars, but
otherwise the days of relief pitchers being chauffeured from the
bullpen to the mound have passed.
This is just as well for both relievers' cardiovascular health
and teams' insurance liability. As former big-league catcher and
current Fox broadcaster Jeff Torborg recalls, Dodgers catcher
Tom Haller once got behind the wheel of the team's bullpen golf
cart to give lefty reliever Jim Brewer a lift to the mound when
the grounds-crew driver couldn't be found. Brewer hopped out
near the dugout, tossed his jacket to a teammate and crossed
back in front of the cart--whereupon Haller accidentally rammed
him. This gave new meaning to the baseball expression hit-and-run.
The Brewers were the last team to provide relievers with
pen-to-mound transportation: a Harley-Davidson with a sidecar,
which only the Kansas City Royals' Hipolito Pichardo seemed to
enjoy. Not only did many pitchers find the sidecar embarrassing,
but most were also too hefty to fit in it. No pitcher has
entered a game on the Harley since 1995.
Some current relievers are amused to hear that their
predecessors were ferried to the mound in such luxurious
vehicles as the Yankees' pinstriped Datsuns of the early 1970s
and the oversized baseball on wheels last used in 1989 by the
New York Mets. "If they bring relievers into the game in a cart,
what's next?" wonders Seattle's Norm Charlton. "A barbecue pit
at first base? A lemonade stand at second?"
San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn (below, left) took
flip-downs the other way forever in October 1991, when he
approached Oakley about supplying him with wraparound
sunglasses. They seemed more efficient--who can be expected to
flip and catch a pop fly at the same time?--but Gwynn says, "I
was really nervous about breaking tradition. If I dropped that
first fly ball, I'd look like an idiot." He didn't, and a craze
Though some players have stuck with flip-downs, Montreal Expos
trainer Ron McClain says, "There's been so little interest in
flip-downs in the last two years that the guy who bugs me the
most about getting him some is Joe Jammer, our rock-and-roll
guitarist-groundskeeper, who wears them onstage because he
thinks they make him look cool. Players also like the
wraparounds because they allow them to look in the stands and
check out girls without being caught."
Metal woods might be an oxymoron, like Mighty Ducks, but their
superior distance has killed wood. Nearly 97% of new woods in
America's golf bags are metal, according to a 1996 Darrell
Survey report. Davis Love III was the last wood-driver holdout
on the PGA Tour, but he switched to metal this summer--and
finally won his first major, last month's PGA Championship.
More than 1,300 U.S. courses, including 45 of the top 100,
already have banned metal spikes because they chew up turf,
especially greens. Marlboro, Mass.-based MacNeill Engineering,
the leading maker of metal spikes, took one look at the
Topsy-like growth of Rockville, Md.-based Softspikes, which
produced the first plastic spikes in 1993 and now boasts close
to 70% of the nonmetal market, and made a wise business move: It
signed a joint operating agreement with its upstart rival under
which MacNeill will take over Softspikes' manufacturing and
Softspikes will handle MacNeill's marketing and sales.
Better start shopping, golfers: In 10 years metal spikes will be
as commonplace as smoking in restaurants, and about as socially
In 1982 Jack Nicklaus predicted you wouldn't be able to find a
white golf ball in five years. Well, Jack also thought the
Cayman ball--a ball designed to fly half as far on golf courses
that are half the customary length--was a sure winner, which
proves you can be immortal and wrong at the same time.
Colored balls were approved by the USGA in 1981, and the
following year about 20 PGA and LPGA pros began using them. The
balls achieved their greatest visibility at the 1982 Bing Crosby
National Pro-Am, when Jerry Pate faded a Wilson Optic Orange
into the cup for an ace on Cypress Point's par-3 16th hole. It
was the hackers, however, who adored the orange, yellowish-green
and even pink balls, which captured at least 10% of the market
in the mid-1980s.
Since then the passion has faded. Colored balls make up just
0.5% of the market and are used by exactly zero touring pros.
"The colored ball is now made for the seniors-niche market,
which wants a ball with higher visibility," says George Sine,
Titleist's director of marketing for golf balls. "It was never
perceived as anything more than a novelty. It could go with the
personality of a Tour player if he felt like making a statement."
DOWN THE TUBE
Televised Halftime Shows
Except at halftime of the Super Bowl (above) and a few college
bowls, TV is too consumed with game highlights and studio
punditry to show anything other than a snippet of the tuba solo
from Eye of the Tiger. In case you were wondering, yes, marching
bands still do perform at halftime of regular-season NFL games.
Back in the 1970s, when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier slugged
their way through a trilogy of fistic drama, their fights were
truly marquee events: The names Ali and Frazier were on the
marquees of arenas and movie theaters throughout the U.S.
Closed-circuit was king.
Now pay-per-view and satellite dishes have given promoters more
profitable ways to show fights. Since the Gerry Cooney-Larry
Holmes 1982 heavyweight title bout, the first major fight on
pay-per-view, closed circuit has been, in effect, case closed.
Daytime World Series Games
A casualty of TV's quest for higher ratings. The last matinee was
Game 6 of the Minnesota Twins-St. Louis Cardinals Series in 1987, and even on that occasion there was no sunshine to be found; the game was played in the Metrodome.
FIVE ARTS WE WISH WERE LOST:
2. Gatorade showering
3. Ultimate fighting
4. LeRoy Neiman's
5. Art Modell
IF YOU SEE IT...BUY IT
1. Varsity letter sweater
2. Windup stopwatch
3. Electric football game
4. Solid-wood croquet set
5. Leather tetherball
...PASS IT UP
1. Stuffed Izzy
2. Brown-and-yellow San Diego Padres "taco" jersey from 1980
3. SI sneaker phone
4. Signed copy of Lenny Dykstra's autobiography, Nails
5. Hartford Whalers memorabilia