THE HIGH MINORS
That cities like Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego, Dallas and Milwaukee—and the baseball fans in them—should be eager advocates of big-league expansion is certainly understandable. And the enthusiasms of the American and National Leagues for widening their horizons are explainable: the American League will collect $10,900,000 from the franchises it has allotted to Seattle and Kansas City for the 1969 season. Each of the established clubs will sell six cut-rate players to the new teams at the cutthroat price of $175,000 apiece. And the American League office gets a $100,000 fee from the two new clubs.
But is expansion really good for baseball as a business and baseball as a sport? When the leagues expanded from eight to 10 clubs in 1961 and 1962, the talent in the majors was diluted by 20%. Now, if the National League follows the American League's example, as seems likely, and adds two new teams of its own, one out of every three players in the majors will be an athlete who, eight seasons ago, would not have been good enough to compete in the big time.
Baseball purists have complained for years about the death of the minor leagues. The minors aren't dead—they're just disguised.
Those who like to view their sports through a psychedelic prism—to reflect, say, upon the Oedipal drama manifest in Pete Maravich playing basketball for his father—can read the San Francisco Express Times, the only known underground newspaper with a sports column. "I see the game differently from many fans," says Sportswriter Frank Bardacke, who is fresh out of jail following his arrest at an antiwar demonstration. "I think there are things to say to underground people about sport. You know the material is there. So far, half my columns have been political or racial [he saw the Houston-UCLA game last January as a confrontation between "hired hands" and "sophisticated black nationalists"], and the others have been just fun, or maybe psychological. My best column, I think, was commenting on a letter sent by Charles Finley to a million people in the Bay area urging them to buy his mule and his A's. I likened it to a letter from your Congressman—oh, you think that's political satire? Perhaps."
Bardacke, a graduate student in political science at the University of California, says many underground people have "a narrow focus and have never read the sports page. They tell me they are first-timers and enjoying it." Ordinarily, he doesn't burden them with things like scores—it's just the relationships that are important.
IN A VALLEY
The Missouri Valley Conference was for a long time one of the strongest in basketball—Cincinnati won successive national championships in 1961 and 1962—but the conference now appears to be losing its punch. The cause, the MVC coaches complain, is the 1.6 rule, which has been in effect for three seasons. The conference has a tradition of demanding competition, but its colleges have often been less demanding scholastically. As one coach puts it, "Except for St. Louis and maybe Drake, the Valley isn't made up of what you'd call academically oriented schools."
The 1.6 rule and a conference regulation passed in 1966 barring the admission of athletes who score less than 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test have severely restricted recruiting, which is, after all, the whole point. A poor recruiting year in 1966 left four Missouri Valley colleges without any sophomores on their squads this season.
Increasingly, the MVC coaches are turning to junior colleges to fill their rosters. Most of these transfer students did not have a 1.6 prediction when they were admitted into junior college. However, on the basis of their grades in junior college they may be accepted as transfers.
The 1.6 rule is crimping recruiting in other conferences and schools as well, but its true effectiveness is most obvious where athletic excellence, not scholastic aptitude, was once a prime concern.
Are you a golfer afraid of water hazards? Well, the Indian Hills Golf Club in Riverside, Calif. may be just the place to buoy up your confidence. Its driving range consists of seven acres of water. Floating golf balls are used, and targets, similar to lifesavers, serve as distance markers. Indian Hills Pro Jimmy Powell says driving into water, with no roll on the ball, gives a golfer a true measurement of the length of his drive.
You might think of that the next time you hit into a water hazard.
In Shoeburyness, England the price of a bait-digging license has been raised—from 60¢ to $1.20 per year. The inflationary fee so angered a local group of anglers who use lugworms that they protested to Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Roy Jenkins. But the chancellor disclaimed authority and the complaint went to the Prices and Incomes board which said it could make no decision unless requested by the government. The Ministry of Defense took up the matter, since it owns some of the mud in which the worms live, but immediately turned to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for a decision as to whether lugworms were fish or worms. Now the Home Office is involved. Half a dozen letters have passed back and forth between it and the anglers. But so far no ruling has been made.
The effect of large home-town crowds on the officiating at basketball games has now been proved—up to a point. Ronald Polk, a graduate student working toward his Ph. D. in physical education at the University of New Mexico, gathered statistics from 100 college games, the majority of them in the Western Athletic Conference, and he concludes that the bigger the crowd, the greater the number of fouls called on the visiting team. Polk found that in 32 games where the attendance was 4,000 or less, visitors had 19 more fouls called on them than the host team. In 38 games where the attendance was between 4,000 and 8,000, the visitors drew 66 more fouls than their competitors. And in 30 games with crowds of between 8,000 and 12,000, the visitors were charged with 81 more fouls than the home team.
This home-court advantage is not as significant as some coaches would have their fans believe. Polk's statistics show a visiting team playing in front of a large crowd draws, on the average, only 2.7 more fouls per game than the home team. In front of a small crowd, the difference is reduced to less than one foul a game. It hardly seems worth all the shouting.
NO TRUCK WITH THAT
The Olson Transportation Company of Green Bay, Wis. recently sold its truck franchises, 450 trailers, 350 tractors and 100 delivery trucks, to CW Transport, Inc. of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. Olson, however, would not part with some of its assets—40 Green Bay Packer season tickets.
Razzing an opponent is an accepted part of professional sport, from the well-known bench jockeying that goes on between baseball teams to the less publicized taunts of football and ice-hockey players. But there are, or should be, limits. Last week National Hockey League President Clarence Campbell was investigating charges that the Boston Bruins had exceeded decency, provoking Philadelphia Flyer Defenseman Larry Zeidel, the only Jewish player in the league, into a bloody fight. The Boston bench, Zeidel claims, baited him with remarks such as "Jew Boy, we're going to put you in the gas chamber." What made the taunts especially cruel and hard to believe is the fact that Zeidel's grandparents died in concentration camps.
Asked if his team was guilty of such remarks, Boston Coach Harry Sinden replied, "I didn't hear them but I don't think calling Zeidel a Jew s.o.b. is discrimination."
The Bruins' behavior is repulsive. We hope President Campbell will make that plain to the Boston management.
Suppose in the final week of the American League season last year that the California Angels had said, "To hell with it," and lost all four of their games to the Detroit Tigers. Detroit, not the Boston Red Sox, would have won the championship and all baseball fans would have been outraged.
Last week the Boston Celtics did seem to say, "To hell with it." They benched two starters, Bill Russell and Tom Sanders—the announced reason was minor injuries—and watched Detroit, a team they had beaten six of eight times, run up a 24-point lead during the second quarter. This served Boston's cause well, for the Detroit victory resulted in Detroit—not Cincinnati, which has beaten the Celtics five of eight—getting into the NBA playoffs. Not coincidentally, Detroit's first-round playoff opponent is Boston.
The Boston crowd booed the Celtics most of the night for their noneffort against Detroit. We'd like to add a big boo of our own.
FLOATING A POLICY
It should probably come as no surprise that Pontiac, the sponsor of a number of televised ski races, has taken out $80,000 worth of insurance with Lloyd's of London to protect itself in case there is a snow problem at Lake Tahoe for a scheduled World Cup ski race there next week. The $4,200 policy, which will cover 80% of the expenses of moving NBC's cameras and equipment to a higher altitude should there be a lack of snow in Heavenly Valley, is just the latest example in what has become the big-money business of sports insurance.
"The insurance of things related to sports is increasing every year," a Lloyd's executive says. "Because of television coverage, more and more money is involved." And it is not just TV companies and sponsors that take out policies. Frank Sinatra, for instance, took out insurance a few years ago on a heavyweight championship fight. Sinatra had had a closed-circuit TV line hooked up to his apartment and had invited some friends in to watch. England's elite race meeting, Ascot, has often insured itself against postponement. But Lloyd's considers that its most sporting deal was one made with a raftsman who set off from New Zealand in 1965 to circumnavigate the globe. He was skippering an open plank raft, 22 feet square, carrying a crew of five. He figured the round trip would take five or six years, and he persuaded Lloyd's to insure the raft for that period of time. "I guess he is still out there somewhere," the Lloyd's spokesman says, "probably in the South Seas, moored to a palm tree. In any case, we haven't heard from him yet, but he's got another few years to go."
Ewing Kauffman, the pharmaceutical manufacturer who owns the new Kansas City franchise, wanted his team, which will begin play next year, to be called the Stars, the Kings or the Eagles. But earlier Kauffman said that he would leave the running of the team to his board of directors. Last week the board voted 6 to 1 to call the club the Royals. At least, said Kauffman, the name was better than one several fans had suggested—the Kansas City Pills.
THEY SAID IT
•Tim McCarver, Cardinal catcher, (.295), asked why he bats left-handed: "When I was 6 years old, my sister tried to make me bat right-handed. I asked why. 'So you'll conform with the rest of the kids on the block,' she said. 'No,' I told her, 'I'll write right and throw right, but I can't change my batting this late in life.' "
•Clay Dalrymple, Phillie catcher (also left-handed—but .172): "I could be a candidate for comeback-of-the-year honors. The problem is that I've never been any place to come back to."
•A member of the all-Negro Florida A&M football team on hearing that the school had signed its first white football player, Rufus Brown: "Rufus is going to be one of us. Rufus is a real soul name."