WHY SCANDALS AFFLICT SPORT
Tom Niemeier is 6 feet 9, a high school All-America basketball star, an honor student. He has a widowed mother, and he has a girl friend who wants to attend the same college as Tom. In short, Tom Niemeier is fair game. More than 70 colleges tendered him offers, but he pared the number to three. "I want to play close to home," he said. And since home is Evansville, Ind. he narrowed his choices to Notre Dame, Indiana and Purdue.
Last week Big Ten Commissioner Bill Reed sifted reports accusing Purdue and Indiana of illegal recruiting practices after Niemeier had signed a Purdue letter of intent. He was flown by Purdue to its campus and then to Chicago so that he could gel another plane and visit Bob Cousy, the new Boston College coach.
Even in the strange world of recruiting, this was something new and strange. It is legal to pay a prospect's transportation between university and home. Is it legal to pay his transportation to the Chicago airport, which is not home? "Yes," said Purdue Coach Ray Eddy, "but I would appreciate your keeping this out of the paper." Was everything legal at Purdue? "Everything on this end is legitimate," said Eddy, "but I would appreciate your keeping this out of the paper."
Niemeier's girl, Nancy Fisher, said a man from Purdue had assured her that she had a good chance of getting an academic scholarship at Purdue. But Indiana had at least as much to offer, including, of course, the scholarship to Nancy. In addition, said Niemeier, Indiana Coach Branch McCracken told him he could "earn $100 a month in a fraternity kitchen," and Dr. Charles Moehlenkamp, Indiana alumnus, said he would give him "$300 for clothes." McCracken says there is a misunderstanding about the kitchen deal, but Moehlenkamp admits he offered the $300. "With his father being dead, I thought he needed a little help," the doctor said.
Niemeier, confused and upset, says: "Maybe I'll go to Notre Dame, if they'll still have me." And Mrs. Niemeier is praying to St. Jude, patron of lost causes.
GOLF: LEAFY ARMS DIVISION
For the past several years the special nemesis of Fred Crawford, a five-handicapper and All-America tackle at Duke in the early '30s, has been the excruciating, hilly layout of the Capital City Country Club links in Tallahassee, where the branches of live oaks overhang the fairways and crowd the greens. Coming up to the 18th hole the other day, though, he was one under par. For a lilting moment he had visions of reaching the green, 540 yards away, in two. With this in mind he put all his 220 pounds into the drive. The ball hooked, hit one of the oaks, and ricocheted back onto the fairway. His second shot bounced back and forth off no less than three trees, landing in the rough. His third hit two more trees and left him still 200 yards from the green.
His hope of mastering par 72 shattered, Crawford turned to his playing partner, Dr. Don Veller, and observed: "It is obvious that Joyce Kilmer never played golf."
Sadly he took an 8.
MORE MEN, FEWER BOYS
One of the criticisms of Little League baseball—that it sometimes appears to be more of an activity for grown-up men who like to run things than it is for boys who just like to play baseball—may have been borne out in Reno, Nevada. A shortage of playing fields has forced Reno to reduce the number of boys in Little League to 120 less than last year. At the same time the recreation department has hired three additional men to help run the league.
We have a suggestion for the boys who didn't make the cut. Go find an empty lot someplace, choose up sides (even if you end up with six on one team and seven on the other) and play ball. You don't need an umpire, you don't even need a catcher. You can stop in the middle of the game to look at a snake that somebody found in the outfield. You can play two innings or 14 or all day. You really ought to try it. It's lots of fun.
SHIPS OF THE DESERT
Though New Mexico would seem a more natural environment for camels than for boats, there are, nevertheless, close to 8,000 boat owners in the state. These may be classed in two categories: the Quick and the Stranded. The Quick are those lucky enough to find water near their homes or to possess a trailer to haul the boat to wherever the water is. One Albuquerque group calling itself Los Huajolotes (Water Dogs) thinks nothing of traveling 175 miles to Elephant Butte Reservoir or some 500 miles to Lake Mead. A Stranded may be recognized by the lorn boat baking in his driveway.
At this time of year the Quicks and the Strandeds gaze wistfully at the flood-control reservoirs of their arid area, wondering which ones are going to hold water. They are constantly being reminded that these tempting waters were impounded for such purposes as flood control and irrigation—not for play. Thus the tributaries of the Rio Grande are only temporarily held back at flood time. In due course, according to law, all the water must whoosh downriver to the cotton farmers. Another case in point is the big $20-million Abiquiu Dam on the Rio Chama near the Ghost Ranch. (Bill Carr, curator of the conservation museum on the Ghost Ranch, has observed that beavers could have built a better dam cheaper, but that is another story.) Built solely for flood control and silt settling, the dam in the past five years has rarely had enough water for the boatmen.
But unexpectedly last week the Army's Corps of Engineers announced that a one-mile lake (possibly even a three-mile lake) will be impounded behind the dam for a few weeks this spring, maybe a month, while the silt is settling. The announcement was accompanied by a long list of navigation rules, headed by one most appropriate to desert boating.
"Be careful of displaced reptiles," it warned.
ALTARING THE ODDS
The early betting line for the Tournament of Champions at Las Vegas had listed Champagne Tony Lema at 15 to 1, but the odds on him dropped to 6 to 1 after his second-place finish at the Masters. "Don't bet on me in the Vegas tournament," Lema was meanwhile telling his friends. "That's when I'm going to get married." Tony's romantic intentions got back to Vegas the other day, along with word that he had booked the bridal suite at the Desert Inn for the week of the Tournament of Champions. The bookies promptly boosted the odds on him right back to 15 to 1.
JUSTICE IS POPEYED IN NENANA
The trial of two Alaska resort owners accused of allowing gambling in their lodges has been postponed. Why? Because the Nenana courtroom where they were to be tried is filled just now with Nenanans (of whom there are maybe 125 adult Indians and whites) busily compiling book on Nenana's annual gambling pool.
The pool, in which a record $170,000 was won in 1959, requires the bettor to pick the exact minute when the ice will break up in the Tanana River. Since 1917, when the pool was inaugurated, breakup day has varied from April 26 (in 1962) to May 15 (in 1935).
Efforts to dope breakup have involved science, astrology, numerology, mythology and hunch. Old sourdoughs believe firmly in the luck of drunks, will shake one awake and bet on the minute, hour and day he mumbles from his deep inebriation. Once a group of Fairbanks engineers pooled their efforts over more than a year, took daily ice measurements, averaged temperatures, computed the melting time of ice in relation to depth of stream and emerged with a mathematical formula that they kept in a bank vault. They backed their research with $1,000. They were four days off. An Anchorage man determined by astrology that, in 1937, the breakup day had to be May 11. He covered every minute of May 11, at $1 a minute, for $1,440. The ice went out May 12, and the winner was a Fairbanks bus driver who took $70,000 for his SI. In 1945 the winning ticket took $105,000. The joint holders, Miss Rita Harding and Tom Ringen, a miner, got $22,000 apiece after taxes. They fell into each other's arms and got married. After a $10,000-spree honeymoon in California they opened a restaurant in Anchorage. There is sometimes difficulty in finding winners, who must be residents of Alaska or the Yukon Territory. A surprising lot of these sign their tickets with an "X," blandly assuming that "everybody knows my X."
As for those two resort owners accused of gambling, their trial will be resumed immediately after breakup, but right now Nenana can't be bothered. The ice could go out any minute. Yes, the pool is illegal, but it's historical, traditional and fun, too.
LIFT HIGH THE JUG INSURANCE
For the past 18 years the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen has been custodian of a gold and silver wine jug, which is the trophy emblematic of eight-oared supremacy among high school crews at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. It had been presented in 1945 by William B. Cleland in memory of his son, Calder, who was killed over Sicily while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. Club officials knew the jug was something special. They insured it for $1,000. It now turns out that, containing 19 pounds of superbly worked gold and silver, it is probably worth at least 50 times $1,000. It may indeed be the world's most valuable sporting trophy.
The jug's probable value was discerned by John McColl, a Toronto expert in gold and silver. According to McColl, the jug was made in England for presentation to the Empress Eugénie upon her marriage in 1853 to Louis Napoleon of France. With the collapse of The Second Empire in 1870, she fled to England with whatever household treasures she could salvage—among them, the jug.
"People like this sold their treasures one by one to obtain enough money to maintain the kind of life they were used to," McColl says. It is believed that Cleland, who had been in the wine-making business in St. Catharines (Ont.), found the trophy in an antique shop on a trip to England.
In order to get letters of certification to back up his evaluation, McColl has sent photographs of the jug to goldsmiths and silversmiths in England. The oarsmen are not waiting for a reply. They have already increased the insurance.
THE PUPS OF PAN
After 14 years of experimentation, Robert Webster of Gillingham, Dorset, England has produced a dog that never grows up. It is called a Webster terrier, stands about eight inches high and 16 long, has a red-brown coat, dark eyes, a blunt nose and an expression that has been described as combining "the candor of the fox terrier with the cuteness of the dachshund."
Webster's wife is ecstatic about the breed. "They are Peter Pan dogs," she says. "They do grow a little, but just to a convenient size." And as a further indication of their Peter Pan nature, they never lose their puppy playfulness.
Webster, who works for the British Foreign Office, is a seasoned dog judge and is now putting out diplomatic feelers to London's Kennel Club in the hope that the dog can be registered.
Well, the Kennel Club is not exactly sniffy, but it does have doubts that the strain can perpetuate itself.
"We shall, of course, consider the claim," a spokesman said, "but really we feel that a new breed needs to have been developed by more than one individual over a century. The last new breeds we registered were the Pembroke and Cardigan terriers, back in the '30s. And people had been developing them for about 1,000 years."
Mr. Webster, it seems, will have to live to a ripe old age. But perhaps, like Peter Pan, he can learn the knack of making time stand still.
THEY SAID IT
•Ralph Houk, Yankee manager, on the Kansas City Athletics' new green-and-gold uniforms: "It kind of makes them look like grasshoppers."
•Casey Stengel, on complaints by some of his players about being with the Mets: "I told them that maybe they are fortunate in being with the Mets because there must be some flaw in them or they wouldn't have been sold to us by those other clubs."