THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
There is a new scope to the National Football League race for 1964. The idea is to find out not only which is the best team but, in addition, which is the worst. At stake: first draft choice in the college crop and presumably a chance to pick off Dick Butkus, Illinois linebacker. Two of the league's best teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears, are betting on which will be the worst team in the league—or at least in the Eastern Division. It developed this way:
Last month the Packers suddenly traded away Jim Ringo, center, and Earl Gros, fullback, to Philadelphia for the Eagles' No. 1 draft choice and Linebacker Lee Roy Caffey. Then last week the Bears announced they had picked up Washington's No. 1 draft choice by sending Fred Williams, defensive tackle, and Angelo Coia, offensive end, to the Redskins.
The Bears now have three No. 1 choices in next year's draft—their own, Washington's, and that of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Green Bay has two, and both teams are going to need fresh linebacking help in another year.
Should be an interesting race for the cellar.
STUFFY AND NONSENSICAL
Although it is one of the world's truly international sports, tennis has not been played in the Olympic Games since 1924. Now a move is afoot to restore it to the Olympics during the 1968 Games at Mexico City. A resolution to that effect, with the backing of the U.S., the Soviet Union and others, will be presented to the International Lawn Tennis Federation when it meets in Vienna next month. Indications are that it will have wide support.
This strikes us as a splendid development. Not so splendid is the fact that the U.S. once again will take a stand against open tennis competition and oppose a British resolution permitting any full-member association to conduct open tournaments during the next two years. If they lose that one, and the indications are that they will lose it, the British will ask permission to hold the Wimbledon championships as an open tournament in 1965 and 1966.
It seems absurd that, in the week preceding the always successful and always exciting U.S. Open golf tournament, the United States Lawn Tennis Association should take once more the stand of a fogy. We hope the British get their wish.
At what is roughly midseason, the sport of horse racing—both Thoroughbred and trotting—is enjoying a spectacularly prosperous year. Of 44 Thoroughbred tracks, 31 are up in attendance and 35 are up in their betting handle. The trotting tracks are doing just as well—nine of 12 have increased attendance, 10 have a bigger handle.
Perhaps because of reduced withholding of federal income taxes, a remarkable amount of "free" money is circulating at the big city tracks. At Chicago's Washington Park, for instance, attendance is up 5% but the betting handle is up more than 40%; at Wolverine near Detroit, attendance is up 18%, the handle 27%; and at Roosevelt Raceway in New York, the increases are almost 3% for attendance, 10% for the handle. The same principle applies at other tracks, even at Yakima (Wash.) Meadows, where the average daily attendance is only 2,074, a drop of 1% from last year. The Yakima handle is up 16%.
THE BIG H AND THE BIG A.B.
When Harvard's senior class was graduated last week 679 members of '64 were on the list for academic honors, and 40 of these were varsity athletes, including 10 of the 18 captains in the intercollegiate sports program. Included in the group were two Rhodes scholars—Peter Wood, lacrosse captain, and Bruce Thomas, hockey player. Among the magna cum laude awards, one went to Christian Ohiri of Owerri, Nigeria, who set every Harvard and Ivy League scoring record in soccer and is the IC4A triple-jump champion.
The sight that pleased sportsmen most, though, was Gene Kinasewich leading the procession as first marshal of his class. Kinasewich, hockey team captain and one of 13 orphaned children from Edmonton, Alta., was the center of an eligibility controversy two years ago (SI, Oct. 8, 1962). There was widespread belief that he had been imported from Canada merely to play hockey.
Well, he had not been. Kinasewich was graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in social relations. He won the Ingham Award, Harvard's highest athletic honor, and was granted a Shaw foreign travel fellowship.
REMEMBER THE OLD DODGERS?
The American League, which snoots the National's Mets, has its moments, too. It has just had a whole week of moments. "We've had things that never happened before," muses Cal Hubbard, the league's umpire in chief.
Such as when Ed Lopat, who was Kansas City manager at the time, listed George Alusik at first base in the starting lineup against Washington. The A's took the field, and there was Jim Gentile playing first. That meant, technically, that Alusik was through for the game, but he was used later as a pinch hitter. The matter was put up to the umpire in chief for evaluation. "He didn't deliver, however," Hubbard consoled his sense of justice, "so no real damage was done."
Then, batting against the Boston Red Sox, Relief Pitcher Peter Mikkelsen of the Yankees swung and missed at what appeared to be an inning-ending third strike. Boston Catcher Russ Nixon flipped the ball to Mikkelsen, as a polite catcher does when an inning ends, but, instead of conceding that he was out, Mikkelsen dropped the ball in fair territory and ran safely as far as second base before confusion cleared. It was ruled that Nixon had not caught the ball but trapped it, thus entitling Mikkelsen to try for first, or home if he chose. Even Nixon admitted the faux pas.
"I knew I hadn't caught the ball cleanly," he conceded, "but Mikkelsen turned around and asked for the ball. I gave it to him. The minute I did, I knew I should have tagged him, but what could I do?"
Apply for a job with the Mets, Nixon, that's what you could do.
A BLOW FOR INDEPENDENTS
Moved in part by two deaths in the Indianapolis 500 and a desire for more participation by independent drivers, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing seems about to take a step that will increase both safety and competition. NASCAR's executive committee is expected to announce restrictions for the 1965 season that will cut speeds by 10 or more miles per hour and restore the independent operator to the sport. Anticipated changes in manifolds and exhaust systems and in carburetion (from four barrels to two) would make next year's racing vehicles more like stock cars bought in a salesroom.
This year independent drivers have all but disappeared from the big NASCAR races. In the Dixie 400 in Atlanta only 34 cars started, though 44 were permitted. Other races have had less than capacity fields, too, because independent drivers cannot afford the equipment needed to compete with factory-backed drivers.
"Even if you had a million dollars," one veteran of the track said, "you couldn't walk into a garage and buy the kind of equipment those factory-backed teams are racing with this year."
To some golfers the gallery at the U.S. Open is a distracting nuisance. To Billy Joe Patton, the ebullient North Carolina amateur who has had an occasional spectacular round in the Open, the crowds spell opportunity. After qualifying, he explained to a fellow golfer the basic secret of his Open strategy.
"All you do is give it a full turn," he said, meaning that a full power swing must be used. "Don't look at how narrow those fairways are there or how deep the rough is. All you do is just hit the ball as hard as you can and hope it goes down the fairway.
"If it doesn't, it will fly right over that deep rough and out by the ropes, where the spectators have tramped the rough to death. Out there you don't have any trouble.
"But if you get it just a few feet off the fairway you can't move the ball at all. That's what happens to all the players who try to play pitty-pat in the Open; they all shoot 79 or more and aren't around."
ONLY IN NEW YORK
Ten million tourists are expected to visit New York this summer and fall, some to see the World's Fair, some to see the Mets or Yanks or bet at Aqueduct. The city, already choked with traffic, has met the challenge posed by this influx in a characteristic way. It has blocked off and torn up one whole side of midtown Fifth Avenue, the city's most glamorous roadway, preparatory to repaving. It is doubtful if any visitor will soon forget the look of lovely Fifth—a look somewhat like Omaha Beach on D-Day.
WHERE ONLY MAN IS VILE
The population explosion and the recreation boom have created special problems for operators of federal wildlife refuges, which used to be for birds and animals, and even fish hatcheries, which used to be for fish. Man is taking them over, and in extraordinary numbers. The trouble is that the refuges and the hatcheries are not budgeted for man and his ways. A typical small fish hatchery now has to divert an increasing amount of time to platoons of visitors who picnic in the parking lot. The staff must devote eight hours a day to fish, additional hours to litterbugs.
At Havasu Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the California-Arizona border, the number of visitors has increased twentyfold in the past decade, though the budget has remained the same. On Memorial Day weekend more than 10,000 campers swarmed in. With the few cabins filled, 95% of the visitors camped on the beach. The refuge, established for birds, has practically no sanitary facilities and no extra staff to pick up garbage. At Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, near Lawton, Okla., which was intended primarily for the preservation of buffalo and Longhorn cattle, attendance reached one million last year and may pass that figure by August. Buffalo and Longhorns depend on grass for survival but, as one visitor remarked, "If you don't get staff to handle the people, the acres of grass will be replaced by acres of litter."
There seem to be only two solutions. One would be to get more money out of a reluctant Congress. The other: bar man from the refuges and thus prevent him from despoiling his heritage by denying him access to it. We favor the first.
STROKE OF FATE
While a thunderstorm rumbled outside, Trainer Garland Bradshaw was on the telephone in his Danville, Ky. home selling a horse. Suddenly, lightning struck his main barn. In the inferno that ensued, 29 horses perished and only three were saved. One of these, running frantically from the flames, was struck and injured by an automobile.
The major saddle-horse shows will thereby be the poorer this year. All 11 top show horses entered in Lexington perished, among them two world champions, Mrs. Judson Large's Scarlet Flame and Miss Jolie Richardson's Captain Denmark. Four other losses were suffered by Miss Richardson, including her only son of Captain Denmark, who had just arrived at Bradshaw's after barely surviving a long illness.
Horsemen have nightmares about such catastrophes, and with excellent reason. Insurance premiums on horses, barns, buggies and tack are so high as to be considered prohibitive by most of the fancy. Miss Richardson, for instance, was uninsured. And no insurance ever could compensate for the loss of such superb animals and the years of training and breeding that went into their development.
THEY SAID IT
•Fred Hutchinson, Cincinnati manager, asked which National League club worried him most: "The Reds."
•Yogi Berra, Yankee manager, on the American League situation: "The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
•Homer Snead, explaining why he does not give his brother Sam a chance in his 24th bid for the U.S. Open golf championship: "He uses a putter like it was a crowbar."