HOME PLATE TO THE GRAVE
The still-famous but aging and destitute ex-athlete long has been a commonplace of professional sport. But the future looks bright for those who can hang on long enough in modern baseball, football and hockey. And it would seem that, from a long-range financial security outlook, the hockey player comes out best.
In the National Hockey League a player with 20 seasons behind him can look forward to a pension of $1,640 a month when he is 65. If he elects to take his pension at age 45 he gets $500 monthly. Baseball's 20-year player would get $550 a month starting at 65, $275 at 50. In the National Football League an ex-player cannot draw on his pension until he is 65. Then, with 15 years service behind him, he can expect $821 a month. The American Football League still is ironing out its pension plan but, "to stay competitive," will strive for a carbon copy of the NFL deal.
In all three sports, players are eligible for pensions if they have had only five years of service. And the pension figures are conservative estimates, since the amount of the pensions depends upon special-game proceeds, rate of return on money invested and such.
An endowment policy for National Basketball Association players goes into operation this season, but not retroactively. Player and team each contribute $500 to $600 a year. When the policy matures in 30 years it will return to the player, "conservatively," $2,000 a year. Not much, but it is an improvement on shining shoes, all that is left to some ex-boxers.
FIGURES FOR FILBERTS
The late-season pennant race in the National League—a race that looked like a placid runaway for the Phillies only a couple of weeks back—astonished fans in St. Louis, in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. But Earnshaw Cook, that mathematician from Baltimore (SI, March 23) who gets his kicks figuring out baseball probabilities ("Don't call them predictions, please!"), said he was not at all surprised.
"According to my charts," he said, "they've all been playing second-place baseball." This opinion was based on Cook's scoring-ratio tables. The scoring ratio is derived by dividing the number of runs scored against a team into the number of runs the team scores itself. Cook has set a ratio of 1.25 for pennant winners, 1.19 for second place and 1.12 for third. The system worked well enough in the American League, where the Yankees' ratio was 1.254 after 155 games and where Cook picked Chicago and Baltimore to follow them in order. But in the National League nobody played well enough to win. After 111 games, the ratios for the four contenders were all between second- and third-place caliber. The Giants were 1.18, the Reds 1.15, the Phillies 1.14 and the Cardinals 1.13. After 125 games the situation was not substantially changed except that the St. Louis Cardinals were playing down at second-division level with a 1.04 ratio.
This might add up to an indictment of Cook's system, but it is really just another indication that the percentages simply cannot provide all the answers for the unpredictable game that baseball is. Cook concedes that "in this business, all you have is a chance to be wrong."
HOW FIDO WON HIS LETTER
A massive uproar has arisen this fall over the sly way football coaches have been taking advantage of the new substitution rule (SI, Aug. 31), under which unlimited substitutions can be made when the clock is stopped. Sometimes it is worth a five-yard penalty to get new players onto the field and so the coaches have been instructing their quarterbacks to stall on a play long enough to draw a penalty for delaying the game.
This strikes Dan Jessee, Trinity College coach, as lacking in imagination. He is thinking of employing the time-honored "dog on the field" situation to do the coach's dirty work. His dog, Jessee says, will be trained to rush onto the field whenever it is necessary for Trinity to get a time-out for substitutions.
"The dog will go right for the ball," Jessee says, "thereby forcing the referee to call time out. Then I'll send in my substitutions."
Some of the Olympic records are already in. Last week Jules Bliss, tailor for the U.S. Olympic team, completed a 12-day ordeal of personally fitting each Olympian—376 male athletes, 110 females "and enough officials to bring the total well over 500"—for the uniforms they will wear in Tokyo. Among the results, according to Bliss:
Shotputter Dallas Long will wear the largest jacket, a 54 extra long. Makato (Doug) Sakamoto, 17-year-old gymnast, will wear the smallest, a 34 extra short. The man with the biggest feet is Mel Counts, the 7-foot basketball player, who needed a size 18 AA.
TAB OF THE MONTH
One of the recurrent dreams of many a sports fan is that he might someday own a Kentucky Derby winner or a heavyweight champion. Let him be advised, as any boxing manager could tell him, that prospective heavyweight champions eat like Derby winners. They have other expenses, too, and the manager is traditionally held to be responsible for them. Just the other day, for instance, millionaire Houston oilman Bud Adams, who owns the contract of heavyweight contender Cleveland Williams, produced the following expense account for a single month:
Dentist $430, automobile repairs $36.04, traffic tickets $60, hospital for wife $554.25, doctor's fees for wife $350, clothing $142.43, and cash advanced $557.81. Total, with other items, $3,119.92.
"That's more than I spent on myself that month," said Adams.
LIKE MOTHER, LIKE SON
Until U.S. Olympic officials took another look at their judgment last week it seemed that Russell (Rusty) Hodge, the decathloner, would not compete in Tokyo, even though he had beaten Don Jeisy and Paul Herman in the final trials in Los Angeles and tied Dick Emberger for first. It was, however, the only serious goof of the new double-tryout system, and it was corrected in time. Hodge replaced Jeisy.
The confusion occurred because Hodge had finished behind Jeisy and Herman in an earlier elimination, the AAU decathlon championship, before he beat both in Los Angeles. The U.S. Olympic Board of Directors, embarrassed because the selection system had given the U.S. AAU winners automatic preference, decided to send all four to Tokyo and let the coaches decide the matter there. Only three could compete. The coaches voted unanimously for Emberger, Herman—and Hodge.
Which recalls how, in 1936, pretty, red-haired Alice Arden qualified for second place in the U.S. high jump, but the Olympic budget that year was only $350,000 and women's track was absolutely at the bottom of the budget. It required a last-minute collection taken up at dockside to get Alice aboard ship for Berlin. She is, of course, the mother of Rusty Hodge.
Anyone who has ever tried to keep a raccoon out of his garbage may well appreciate the achievement of Everglades National Park Ranger Max Holden, who seems to have discovered a way to keep raccoons out of his turtle eggs. Loggerhead and green turtles have been laying their eggs in great quantities from Lost-mans River to Cape Sable, the most southerly part of the vast Florida wild-lands, but until Holden came upon the scene only 10% or 15% of the nests survived the raccoons.
Holden first tried dog repellent. But raccoons are not dogs. Next he tried sprinkling salt water to de-scent the area. Same result. Nothing Ranger Holden used seemed to hide the turtles' scent from probing black noses until he tried moth flakes, sprinkling them along the beaches. The results have been encouraging, and Dr. Archie Carr, the University of Florida professor who is the world's greatest authority on turtles of all sorts, recently shipped 2,000 baby greens from the Caribbean to help restock the area.
Now there seems to be at least a chance that baby green turtles will grow up to be succulent adult turtles, ready to be eaten by people instead of by raccoons.
From the point of view of the turtle it must all seem pretty academic.
TOTE BOARD BLUES
When Jefferson Downs, just outside New Orleans, opened its fall racing season last week, it did so with "music to bet by." Three minutes before each post time the public address system blared forth a recording of the Colonel Bogey March, popularized in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai.
At first opposed to the suggestion, the track management tested it on employees.
"The results were amazing," reports C. Ray Edmonds, president and general manager. "The march music seemed to perk everyone up. They'd throw back their shoulders and walk at a faster gait. Most of them would start humming and whistling the tune."
And, whether or not it was the music, Jefferson Downs enjoyed the heaviest fall opening-night handle in its five-year history, hardily defying the threat of Hurricane Hilda.
LETTER FROM HOME
People who are dirty and funny are much better members of mountain-climbing parties than those who are clean and sad, the Soviet Mountaineering Federation has been advised by Jim Whittaker of Seattle, conqueror of Everest. Asked by the Russian climbers for advice on the selection of members for a try in the Himalayas, Whittaker replied:
"Individuals with exaggerated cleanliness or neatness have created problems living at high altitude, where it is difficult to maintain normal hygiene. Also, hypochondriacs have pulled down morale."
Worst personalities, in Whittaker's opinion: hypochondriacs; fussy, motherly types; and melancholies. Best qualities: "comradeship, egoism (to an extent), responsibility, boldness, persistence, humor and motivation."
Bold, persistent, witty and highly motivated Jim Whittaker last week was awarded his big W from West Seattle High School, from which he was graduated in 1947. Because he worked after school and had no time to participate in athletics, Whittaker never did win a sports letter.
It is more than a month now since Willie Pastrano, the nimble-footed light-heavyweight champion, set out on his grand crusade for The Dairy Council of South Florida. Aim: to encourage milk-drinking. During this period Willie spoke to more than 15,000 potential milk-drinkers and drank some himself. In one of his appearances he refereed a boxing bout between two society matrons. In another he auctioned off two dozen artichokes for $75, benefit of the American Cancer Society. And, addressing a youth center, he found himself momentarily baffled during a question period.
"Why do you eat a chocolate bar at the beginning of every round?" asked a 5-year-old boy.
Pastrano pondered. Then the answer came to him.
"That's not a chocolate bar," he said. "It's my mouthpiece."
THEY SAID IT
•Murray Warmath, Minnesota football coach, assuming the blame when his kicker, Mike Reid, incurred a 15-yard penalty for catching his own windblown kickoff on the fly: "We never practice that play, because we never thought it could happen."
•Tom Hudspeth, football coach at Brigham Young University, on learning that BYU's new stadium would be dedicated with a ceremony involving a torch carried 50 miles by a relay team, 22 bands, folk dancers, a parachutist, a half-time show and a post-game show: "I hope no one thinks I'm intruding when I show up with the football team."
•Sammy Baugh, Houston Oiler coach, on his deeply religious linebacker, Johnny Baker: "Johnny knocks hell outta people, but in a Christian way."
•Tony Cuccinello, Chicago White Sox coach and uncle of Sam Mele, Minnesota manager: "When Sam's playing the Yanks or Orioles, I root for my nephew, naturally. But when it comes down to the big thing, you know how I'm rooting. Money is thicker than blood."