JERRY LUCAS DECIDES
Jerry Lucas, that invaluable basketball property from Ohio State, is announcing this week that he will move with the Cleveland Pipers as they shift from the fast-expiring American Basketball League to the National Basketball Association. Lucas' decision to play in the NBA comes at the end of a long session of inter-league bluffing, protesting, claiming and counterclaiming as intricate as the raising of a Billie Sol Estes cotton crop.
The move to get Cleveland into the old league began eight weeks ago, just after George Steinbrenner III jolted the NBA by signing Lucas to play for his ABL Pipers. Behind a facade of indifference, the NBA was hurting from the loss. The league's television ratings were said to have dropped off (the NBA wasn't talking), and television makes the difference between survival and the hock shop in the NBA. The league needed a new star to increase TV interest. To come right out with it, the NBA wanted a new white star.
Steinbrenner, meanwhile, was itching to pull his suddenly strong team out of the floundering ABL and have it become the 10th team in the NBA. Unofficial negotiations began. Cincinnati, of course, didn't want Cleveland in, because it would then be facing the very player it had drafted but lost—and lost bitterly. Two other teams sided with Cincinnati.
But after some stormy private talk among themselves, the NBA owners told Steinbrenner the Pipers could get into the NBA for $450,000. "Nuts," said Steinbrenner. More private sessions "Make it $350,000," said the NBA. "Aw, fellows," said George. Still more private sessions, and finally the terms that Cleveland accepted: a $250,000 payment, of which $100,000 would go to Cincinnati to make the Royals feel better about Lucas.
However, Steinbrenner had been selling a team that included Lucas—and he knew very well he didn't really have Lucas to sell. Lucas' contract didn't bind him to play in the NBA, and as late as last Saturday he wasn't sure he would agree.
"It was settled over the weekend," said Lucas. "George offered me a contract that was better in all respects. I will sign for two years and have agreed to play a full season. And I'll admit I'm excited now about being in the best league there is." It was an awfully involved way to get a reluctant Lucas into the NBA, but the result leaves basketball followers sharing Lucas' excitement.
THE DECENCY OF SHARKS
The principle of giving the quarry a sporting chance is well established among human pursuers of fish and game. But is it possible that the quarry, turned pursuer, would do the same for humans? We quote from the New York Herald Tribune: "Sharks have been sighted off Barnegat Light, signaling a warning to swimmers along the New Jersey coast again."
THE DILEMMA OF STURGEON
A young Russian ichthyologist, Vladimir Protasov of the Institute of Animal Morphology, has been making tape recordings of the sounds fishes make. Protasov says herring sound like sparrows chirping, sprats sound like bumblebees buzzing; but the most versatile diva, he says, is the white sturgeon. It makes an awful fuss: whistles, howls, yells and gnashes its teeth. Well, why not? What if somebody was trying to steal your caviar?
RALPH, BOY, FORGET IT
On Oct. 3, 1951, Bobby Thomson hit a home run that made him an all-time hero of baseball—a three-run ninth-inning blow that beat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 5-4, in the final game of a postseason playoff. It won the pennant for the New York Giants, and turned the Brooklyn pitcher, Ralph Branca, into a one-man disaster area.
Last Saturday Branca and Thomson were among those who returned to the Polo Grounds for a special "Oldtimers Day," a replay of the game that Branca would like to forget and Thomson never will. A photographer asked Branca to pose with Thomson. "No," Branca snapped. "I'm not going to pose with that——. I'm human. It's taken years to live down that hurt. If you want a picture, take one of the guy with the binoculars who was stealing our signs that day. There's your picture." Nearby, Thomson shrugged and walked away.
Later, less heatedly, Branca said to a New York Times sportswriter: "Nobody remembers that at 21 I won 21 games, and at 25 I had 75 wins. All they remember is the homer."
The Oldtimers Game began. Finally, inevitably, Thomson faced Branca again. He worked the count to two-and-two. This time, however, he flied to center field, where Duke Snider caught the ball, held it high in a late, late gesture of retribution, and threw it out of the park.
GROUND RULES FOR WAR GAMES
When the army goes on maneuvers it must necessarily do its enfilading and ambuscading on private property. The Fort Hood (Texas) authorities have been approaching farmers in the vicinity of Fort Polk (La.) to arrange for use of their land in connection with forthcoming training maneuvers. One farmer's permission was encased in stipulations.
"There is in Kisatchie Bayou, which runs through the northwest corner of my land," he said, "a catfish estimated to weigh 30 pounds. The hole in which he resides shall be off limits to servicemen, as I intend to be on the other end of the line when he is reduced to corporeal possession."
A further restriction: "All chiggers and ticks which attach themselves to army personnel while on my land shall be carefully returned to the place from which they came."
And finally he described a spring "from which gushes a large stream of clear cold water especially adapted to the operation of a still."
"One of my neighbors," he advised, "has reserved this spot for use during the summer months."
THE INSIDE TRACK
•A national recruiting agreement among the nation's colleges is a possibility by next January's NCAA meeting. A proposed "letter of intent." to be submitted to all members, would require each conference to recognize the signings of rival conferences, thus ending, on paper at least, the flourishing pastime of raiding.
•A New York Met executive has told friends privately that Casey Stengel will manage this season and through 1963. then resign for good.
•The Baltimore Colts, upon whom old age has been creeping, have another worry; Quarterback John Unitas is still bothered by a swelling of the middle finger of his throwing hand. The finger was injured three times last year.
THE PIGEON HATER
"Francis is not particularly fond of pigeons," Sheila Chichester said when informed that her British yachtsman husband, off on a transatlantic solo crossing, had unexpectedly received a lost pigeon as a passenger after two days at sea (SI, July 2). "I can't quite think what this might lead to."
Well, now she knows. Off the coast of Newfoundland, battered by a three-day gale, the pigeon abandoned ship. "Of course," said Chichester, relating the story upon arrival in New York, "he fell into the water right away, weak as he was, and began thrashing about."
Being a proper Englishman, Chichester put about to attempt a rescue. "Picking up a man at sea is a pretty tricky business," he said, "but rescuing a puking bird is rather frightful. He was so small there in the water that I was hard put to keep him. in sight. I came about again and again, each time having to scramble up amidships, which was the only place I could reach the water.
"But the most nerve-racking thing of all." he said, "was the complete breakdown of communication between me and that bird. We had become friends of a sort, despite his always messing up my cockpit and causing me worry, besides; but there in the water, now, he considered me an enemy. I had my hands on him five times, mind you, but each time he broke away. Then I tried to get him with a bucket. I had him once, but he flopped out again. When I did get him, he really looked dead."
Chichester tried artificial respiration. "I worked on him for about 40 minutes," he said. "I breathed into his mouth and worked his lungs, and suddenly he made a noise in his throat and I felt him stir. But I think now that that's when he really went, you know, because he never moved again.
"I was dreadfully cut up about it," concluded Chichester, the man who is not particularly fond of pigeons.
GRACE AND PIZAZZ
Bullfighting's El Numero Uno, Antonio Ordó√±ez, returned to Tijuana, Mexico last Sunday to avenge, so the promoters insisted, his goring in the same ring three months ago. There to greet him were 21,000 curious tourists, who paid as much as $14.50 to see the greatest living matador. Though he fought creditably (the bulls were poor), the largely California crowd couldn't have been less impressed. Instead, the olés went to a showboating Mexican named Jaime Bravo.
This was no accident. As a regular practitioner of border bullfighting. Bravo knows what the American customers want: lots of the old pizazz. And that's what they got. Strutting, grimacing, taking chances that disgust aficionados, he hounded his two bulls until they died, possibly of embarrassment (his actual kills were pathetic). Although he was upended twice, Bravo somehow remained unhurt, and kept the crowd roaring with antics better suited to professional wrestling. He performed passes that appeared breathtakingly dangerous but were, in fact, not nearly so dangerous as the simple but exacting naturales of Ordó√±ez.
After the light. Bravo was recalled to the ring by insistent applause. Somebody lifted him on his shoulders and the crowd yelled: "Bravo for Bravo!" Ordonez took it all very philosophically. He was leaving the arena of Philistines with sound body and full purse ($25,000). and shortly he would be back in Spain, fighting real bulls before real aficionados.
A TENNIS MANIFESTO
Revolution has never been a threat to the failing health of amateur tennis. On the contrary, as the great majority off those interested in the game are now aware, the disease that has sapped it strength to the point of anemia is a stub born resistance to change of any kind Yet the organizations that govern world tennis shelter themselves under rules de signed only to ward off the danger that never threatens and to prevent any curt for the one that exists.
Last week, in a typical bit of senseless conservatism, the International Lawn Tennis Federation voted for the third time in as many years to disregard the wishes of the majority and to sustain the worldwide ban on open tennis. Ironically, the 28 votes necessary to block the two-thirds majority needed for a change were mustered from the Soviet bloc, where definitions of amateur and pro are pretty fuzzy anyway.
It is difficult to see why the athletic heirs to the revolution of Lenin and Trotsky should fear a change in tennis, Their worry, presumably, is not that Russian amateurs will be contaminated by professionalism, but that they will do poorly as real pros. In any case, it seems a pity that a soggy Bolshevist dud should be the bomb used to preserve one of An most pointless holdovers from capitalism's past.
Thanks to the Russian vote, the whole world must now go on pretending that top tournament tennis is the prerogative only of wealthy young sportsmen frolicking on a country club lawn. At the risk of being labeled revolutionaries, we on this magazine urge the capitalist tennis fathers at Wimbledon and Forest Hills to fashion a revolutionary bomb of their own, toss it into their tournaments and open up tennis with a bang.
THEY SAID IT
•Speedster Maury Wills of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has already stolen half the bases he needs to break Ty Cobb's record of 96 in one season: "It's impossible to steal more than 60 bases in one season without running foolishly.'
•President Kennedy, to Stan Musial at the All-Star Game: "A couple of years ago they told me I was too young to be President and you were too old to be playing baseball. But we fooled them, and we're still fooling them."
•Vice-President Johnson, on the trials of being a devoted Senator baseball fan: "I do all I can for them. I even pray for the team each night. I hope the Supreme Court doesn't declare that unconstitutional."