FISTS AND FUSTIAN
As a predictable aftermath of the widely misinterpreted heavyweight title fight between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston, one of those perennial bills to ban prize-fighting was presented to the Senate of the New York legislature. What was not so predictable was that the bill came close to passing. The vote was only 29 to 27 against it.
In the bombast of debate on a subject that few, if any, of the politicians know much about, the issue became confused with the incidence of injury in basketball, the inept play of the New York Mets (if the light was such a fiasco that it called for the abolition of boxing, why not ban baseball because of the Mets?), the repeal of parimutuel betting and capital punishment.
Very little of pertinence was offered by either side. Senator Joseph Zaretzki, Democratic majority leader who introduced the bill, congratulated the state athletic commission because it refused to license Liston. "They realized his ineptness from the very beginning," said Zaretzki. In fact, the commission refused to license Liston because of his underworld connections, not for ineptness. He was considered a veritable killer in those days.
And so on. Prizefighting, which does need reforms, was saved from ignorant destruction in one of its few remaining strongholds by a chillingly narrow margin. Let us hope—with diffidence—that something constructively efficient will come out of the congressional Interstate Commerce Committee hearings scheduled to start next month.
Early Bird crowed proudly last Saturday morning, then laid a big egg in its debut of live sports coverage from abroad. A faulty ground relay blacked out the early phases of the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. But six hours later the 85-pound communications satellite was transmitting Le Mans strong and clear, as fine a justification as a bird ever had. Even so, watching Le Mans at night is like watching fireflies in a coal pit. In broad daylight the next morning, by the end of 2,906 miles, the race was a tepid procession of a handful of lame cars merely trying to finish. All that was significant in the race was not to be discovered in a mere view of it.
This, of course, is like criticizing early radio for making a singer out of Rudy Vallee. The pioneer's errors are significant only when they become established. Early Bird is just a mirror and not responsible for the triviality or ineptitude of the messages it reflects. But it is up to someone in command to think upon the responsibility that is inherent in Early Bird's immense power to affect world culture, as radio has done, as television is doing. As we have seen, two high school classes discussing The Beatles or a view of a bikini hardly justify such a power. Neither did the Le Mans broadcast, thrilling though it was to see the dream of transatlantic sports TV become fact.
In time, Early Bird's manipulators will learn to use their extraordinary power for the common good. Of course they will. Isn't this what CBS, NBC and ABC have done already?
ONE MORE CHAPTER
What is it about the New York Mets that makes them capable of piling one impossible act atop another? Not counting the World Series, the Mets have now played more than 500 games since being formed only four years ago, but last week they were going about their madness once more. They lost 15 of 17 games, scored only 23 runs in 155 innings, yet defeated Jim Maloney of the Cincinnati Reds after he pitched a no-hitter against them for 10 marvelous innings. What next? Who knows? Who ever, ever knows with the Mets?
Simon and Schuster have published a small book entitled Love Letters to the Mets (compiled by Bill Adler with illustrations by George Price). It is, like its subject, good for laughs. The letters were sent to the team and to Manager Casey Stengel. "Dear Casey," one reads, "I wrote to the President. I asked for help for the Mets. I didn't hear yet." Another says, "Dear Sir: Please send me the locations of all the bathrooms in Shea Stadium. I am taking my kid brother to the game next Saturday." One letter, signed Bruce Plante, Team Manager, reads, "Dear Mr. Stengel, Our team is the Hicksville Starlings. We want to trade. We will trade you Mark Hurley, our catcher, for Ron Hunt. Hurley is a .400 hitter, so we want cash and some bats and balls plus Ron Hunt. This is a fair trade. Don't announce this trade to the papers yet because we haven't told Hurley." Another asks a favor for an 86-year-old grandaunt of a young Met fan. "Aunt Tillie doesn't understand English too well. When she listens to the Met games on the radio she has a difficult time following what is going on. Do you think you could hire an announcer that speaks Yiddish? He could call the plays in Yiddish after the regular announcer does in English. There are many old ladies that are Met fans like Aunt Tillie. Open up your heart to them. How much could a Yiddish announcer cost?"
LONG, HARD SUMMER
Remember those old movies in which the football coach is riding along the country road with Ma in the Model A and sees a farm boy throw a watermelon over the barn? The brakes screech, and the old coach leans out and says, "Son, how would you like to...?"
Such a serendipitous scout would be due for an eye-popping summer this year. Now that Mexican farm labor is unavailable, Michigan pickle farmers and California vegetable growers are frantically recruiting domestic workers, and many are hiring entire high school football teams. Sometimes the coach is hired, too, as a crew leader.
The program was originated by the U.S. Department of Labor, which calls the crews A-TEAMS. (Athletes in Temporary Employment as Agricultural Manpower, see?) The boys will earn from $1.15 to $1.40 an hour, plus transportation and housing but minus $2.25 a day for meals. It is suggested that crew leaders supplement the work exercise with fitness drills. The boys are scheduled to return home in time for the start of football practice.
After a summer of stoop labor, scrimmaging will be a pleasure.
Two years ago young Bill Bradley of El Dorado, Ark. was struck by lightning at a Little League game and lost his eyesight. Brought to Houston for surgery, he asked Bob Aspromonte, Astro third baseman, to hit a home run for him the night before his operation. Aspromonte hit the home run. After the operation, his sight still defective, the boy returned to Houston for treatment and made a similar request. This time Aspromonte hit a grand slam that won a game. Bill is now back home, his sight recovered. The other day Aspromonte got a newspaper clipping in the mail which reported that Bill Bradley had pitched a no-run, no-hit game. The note attached said, "This one I pitched for you."
NOT TO THE SWIFT
There were 200 contestants in the 13-mile walking race at Coleraine, Ireland, among them Mrs. Mary Thompson, who apologized for finishing a mere 17th. "I would have done better," she said, "but for the nail I got in my foot." She might also have done better if she had been younger than 75.
Reinstated by the U.S. Golf Association and in use at the U.S. Open last week was one of the four major golf balls that had been banned from tournament play by the USGA a month ago. Approved as now within the maximum velocity allowed by the Rules of Golf was Acushnet's Titleist DT. Acushnet began reducing velocity of the DT two months ago in order to meet specifications, the USGA said. Also approved for tournament use was a special Spalding Black Dot marked with a C. Still too hot to meet the velocity restrictions were the regular Spalding Black Dot, the Spalding Black Dot 100 Compression and the Titleist DT 100.
Now comes a new question for the rulesmakers. Some golfers—though not the touring pros—are playing with balls covered with a liquid hitherto sprayed on the wings and fuselage of airplanes to reduce aerodynamic drag. Called "On The Ball," it is said to add up to 20% more yardage to one's drive.
CHINA GETS IN THE SWIM
The Chinese masses function like the "water in the gully" theory of their philosopher Mencius. You guide it and it flows, having no preference for right or left. But it only works downhill.
The Chinese are exhorted to advance by Great Communal Leaps. They leaped from farms into factories—and then back onto farms. The latest leap is into the swim, a collective plunge for health, stamina and for courage in adversity. Backed by the army general staff, the Sports Commission and the Communist Youth League, the program calls for nationwide participation in swimming under difficult, natural conditions such as mass river crossings. Mere swimming is not enough. It must be a struggle against nature in "big winds and big waves found in big lakes or the open sea."
The leap started last year when Chairman Mao Tse-tung, at 71, jumped into a Peking reservoir and breaststroked across, choosing the route, it was said, where the current was strongest and the water the coldest. This spring a delegate to the National People's Congress found that Mao's bath had been beneficial: "His sturdy stature, broad shoulders and beaming red cheeks are, without a doubt, a testimony that our beloved leader is in the very best of health, a fact that was a supreme joy to all of us."
China's leap into the Fountain of Youth reveals obvious undercurrents of a campaign for combat preparedness. Mao would like all members of the militia and the army to learn to swim. A general directive from Defense Minister Lin Piao requires troops to cut down on mountain climbing and develop "freedom of movement in watery regions."
It is pure fantasy to suggest it, but one wonders if the new Chinese Crawl may not have an unexpected result. What if, while Mao breaststrokes calmly in the reservoir, the people, like lemmings, take to the open sea?
GOODBY TO THE CHINOOK
In the days of Lewis and Clark incoming hordes of salmon surged up the Columbia River in such numbers that, as the cliché has it, you could walk across the river on their backs. Even 10 years ago Washington State's publicity literature never failed to include at least one dramatic photograph of teams of farm horses pulling loaded fish nets at low tide on the sand flats at the mouth of the Columbia. It was the greatest Chinook salmon river in the world.
This month the entire summer commercial salmon fishing season in the Columbia was wiped out by a joint decision of the Oregon Fish Commission and the Washington State Department of Fisheries. It was the first time in the river's long history that a fishing season had been abolished completely. In recent years the commercial season has been a mere token few days. In 1964 just two days' fishing was permitted for Chinook and three days for sockeye salmon. But this year fisheries biologists predicted very small runs and noted that adequate reproduction would require that all the fish, outside of the few taken by sport fishermen, reach the spawning ground.
In terms of commercial pack, salmon runs on the Columbia have been declining since 1900, in part because early cannery operators exploited them mercilessly, but in far greater part because construction of the Grand Coulee and other dams destroyed all upriver runs and in time the river became a series of stagnant half-lakes. Construction of about $100 million in fishways, artificial spawning channels, fish ladders and such did no more than slow the decline.
"The Columbia isn't a fisheries river anymore," a fisheries biologist said "It is a power source, and no river can be both."
THEY SAID IT
•Note on the Fort Worth Boat Club bulletin board, during a regatta: "Billy Jackson, your wife had a baby at Harris Hospital. She would like to hear from you."
•Joan Moore, wife and business manager of Archie Moore, former light heavyweight champion: "Archie hasn't retired at all. He just isn't fighting anymore."