There used to be a vaudeville adage: "If you think you're good, play Oakland." Nobody or nothing ever went over there except the other end of the Bay Bridge until Al Davis made the Oakland Raiders a reputable football team. Their success stimulated the city to erect its splendid coliseum, which was also designed, perhaps forlornly, to attract an American League baseball team.
So Oakland's big league now? No, it's still bush. The other day its citizenry voted down, by almost a 2 to 1 margin, Proposition K, a bond issue that would have assured the survival of such extracurricular high school activities as band, drama and athletics.
As a result, the Oakland Athletic League, which produced Bill Russell, Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson, among others, is dead, and Oakland has evidently achieved the distinction of being the only major city in the U.S. without an interscholastic sports program. The athletic budget for 10 sports and some 1,500 participants had been only $170,000 a year.
It makes one wonder what these kids are going to do now when class lets out. Most of them are Negroes, and Oakland had already been tabbed as potentially another Watts. As Mel Caughell, president of the Oakland School Board, put it, "Athletics keep more kids in school than any other phase of our educational program."
To which another school board official bitterly added, "These people may think they saved themselves a few bucks, but just wait until they see the bills for law enforcement."
HOW FAST DOES A POSSUM TROT?
A snail paces at .000361 mph to .03125 mph, tops, but how fast does a possum trot? Considerably slower than a taxiing jet, at any rate.
The way Jim Hammett, the former mayor of Claremore, Okla. tells it, he was returning from New York to Tulsa. His plane touched down on the runway at Tulsa International Airport and was trundling toward the terminal, when suddenly it braked to a stop and then crept slowly ahead.
A minute or two later, Hammett says, a voice came over the cabin loudspeaker: "This is your captain speaking. Some of you may be wondering why we applied the brakes awhile back. Well, there's a big fat possum trotting along the runway right ahead of the plane and he won't get over."
A RISK WELL TAKEN
On June 9 the Sierra Club, the nation's largest and most eminent conservation group, ran full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post importuning readers to protest two proposed dams which the club feels would irrevocably alter and ruin the "essence and excellence" of the Grand Canyon.
Less than 24 hours later the Internal Revenue Service, in a wholly unprecedented move, advised the club that it could no longer be assured that its donations would be tax deductible. The IRS claimed that the club may have violated the section of its code denying tax-exempt status to organizations which devote a "substantial" part of their activities to attempts to influence legislation.
Although it is generally believed that the Sierra Club's "lobbying" amounts to less than 1% of its total activities and expenditures, and although the IRS is unable to come up with any figure or percentage defining "substantial," the club may well lose a good deal of revenue before the IRS gets around to auditing its books, and making some sort of ruling.
Undeniably, tax exemption is a privilege that shouldn't be abused, but it appears, in this instance, that the IRS proceeded with excessive zeal and haste. Furthermore, its action is an intolerable perversion of one of the principles of justice—that one is not punished before guilt is determined.
It also seems unreasonable that the Reclamation Bureau can, with impunity, lobby for the dams at the taxpayers' expense while the Sierra Club is not permitted to combat effectively what it believes to be against the public interest.
"We saw that there was risk," says David Brower, executive secretary of the Sierra Club, "but the risk to our solvency is much less important than the risk to the land. We're going to continue defending Grand Canyon, and we're hoping that enough citizens will care enough to help keep us afloat."
BEST WISHES, TERI, CHET AND CAL
After Teri Kripke and Chet Schwartz of Des Moines, Iowa, had been joined in holy matrimony, one of the wedding guests was reading aloud the congratulatory telegrams. That is, until he came to one which began, "You are suspended indefinitely for your actions...."
"It must be a joke," the bride's father whispered to the guest, and the two of them huddled over the message, which continued "...in last night's game...in which you pushed Umpire Andy Olsen bodily several times and spit tobacco juice in his face and on his uniform...."
Alas, the telegram was no joke to Cal Ermer, the manager of the Denver Bears of the Pacific Coast League, to whom it was addressed.
UP IN THE AIR
The International Olympic Committee has decided to restrict Olympic competitors to four weeks' altitude training during the three months immediately preceding the 1968 games, unless, of course, they happen to reside at great heights. The reason: to assure equal opportunity for all in Mexico City's 7,800-foot atmosphere. To implement this egalitarianism the IOC will allow the Olympic Village to open four weeks ahead of the Games, rather than the customary two.
It is commonly agreed that it takes at least three to four weeks of training at a high altitude for an athlete accustomed to competing in endurance events at sea level to approach his normal performance. It is also reasonable to assume that any benefits derived from high-altitude training in advance would be almost entirely lost during the two months before the Village is opened. This being the case, the IOC hopes that all nations will be satisfied to wait until they get to Mexico before starting any serious altitude work.
But will they? Sir William Osier, the celebrated Canadian physician, once said that the work is "the great equalizer in the world." The Russians are hard at work developing pressure-chamber tests for Olympic candidates to determine their reactions to the atmospheric conditions they will meet in Mexico. The French are building an $8 million training center high in the Pyrenees.
And what is the U.S. Olympic Committee up to? At its meeting in May the USOC turned down a proposed summer training and research program that would have involved some of this country's leading distance runners and swimmers in an effort to determine the best means of preparing them for Mexico City. The USOC also rejected—on the theory that nothing new could be learned—the idea of sending a U.S. team to the second Little Olympics scheduled for Mexico City next October.
Even if Russia, France and others abide by the IOC's decision, they cannot help but have a leg up. Whereas, in the U.S. it looks less like "Be Prepared," more like "Every man for himself."
THE DISAPPOINTING MR. NAWAB
Were you aware that there is an unofficial world record for nonstop cycling? Mr. Syed Nawab, 24, an Indian who has an import-export business in Spain, says there is and that he holds it: 6 days 7 hours 28 minutes.
"The first four days are easy," says Mr. Nawab. "I eat, wash, shave and dress on wheels. My feet are never touching the ground." Nawab further claims that in Teheran 300,000 people paid to watch him ride very slowly around a stadium; that in Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie observed him; and that when he feels like it he rides for charity.
Apparently fans of nonstop cycling turn up in the hope that they will be there when the cyclist falls off his bicycle and, well, stops. Indeed, Mr. Nawab says that many people show up early in the morning in an attempt to surprise him. However, Mr. Nawab adds that he trains very seriously and he usually manages to disappoint them.
The St. Petersburg Cardinals and the Miami Marlins of the Florida State League played the longest game in the history of organized baseball one night last week, and well into the next morning. After six hours and 59 minutes Miami scored a run in the top of the 29th inning to win it 4-3. The record had been a 27-inning Eastern League game in which Elmira defeated Springfield 2-1 in 1965.
•Of the 740 original spectators, some 175 were still in the stands when the game ended at 2:29 a.m.
•At 2 a.m. the two managers negotiated a truce since they were running out of pitchers: if the tie wasn't broken by the end of 30 innings they would call it quits. When the umpire announced this decision the fans booed and chanted, "We want more."
•Free coffee was served after the 18th inning.
•Two of the Miami players had also taken part in the 1965 marathon.
•One fan left the park in the 11th inning, bowled a few games and then came back to see the finish. "I saw the lights on at the field," he said, "and I couldn't believe it was still going on. I had nothing else to do so I dropped in again."
•The batting average of Bob Taylor, St. Pete left fielder, dropped from .368 to .250 during the game. He went 1 for 13.
•St. Pete Manager Sparky Anderson said, "Sure we made history, but can we win?"
•Between the 28th and 29th innings, Miami Pitcher Henry King, who had pitched the seventh and was already in his civvies, marched onto the field with a Polaroid camera borrowed from a fan, had time called, got the managers and the umpires to pose for him at home plate, then went out to the scoreboard and took a picture of that.
•Umpire Lou Benitez, who worked behind the plate, said the game was technically illegal, as he had been unaware of a league rule stating that no inning may begin alter 12:50 a.m. However, the league announced that no action will be taken and that the game will stand.
Fishermen can soon purchase, for about $150, an electric spinning reel called the Old Pal REEL-LECTRIC 1000, which has three speeds—the highest exceeding that of equivalent hand-cranked reels—and power supplied by a rechargeable nickel-cadmium energy cell. Moreover, by skillfully pushing a button an angler will be able to fish with only one hand!
It's a pity the Old Pal cannot as yet be thoroughly tested. Engineers haven't got all the bugs out of the three-speed, electrically powered fish.
Insurance statistics are always being quoted as proof that the unappealing old expression about digging your grave with your teeth is in fact accurate: if you eat too much you don't live too long. Now the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission has announced that fish don't get to have any fun either. Commission Biologists William Weggener and James Clugston have determined that largemouth bass in Lake Okeechobee and points south rarely live longer than a year, whereas bass in north Florida waters may reach six years of age. They theorize that with food more plentiful and the feeding season longer in the south, the bass literally eat themselves to death. The moral would seem to be, eschew that second helping of chocolate mousse and lay off that third worm.
THEY SAID IT
•Shelby Metcalf, Texas A&M basketball coach, on next season's prospects: "We'll be small but nobody will notice because we'll overshadow that with our poor shooting and lack of speed and experience."
•John Uelses, first man to pole-vault 16 feet, on his surprise appearance, after a six-month layoff, in a minor AAU meet at Miami: "I've seen the world from the end of a pole. Now I want to see it from the ground. Before I always felt pressure. Today I can vault the way I dreamed, for fun. All I want to do is soar up there and wave at a few friends on the way down."