No city has been so often tantalized—nor so frequently disappointed—by sports expansion as the Queen City of the Lakes, Buffalo, which last week lost out once again. Buffalo representatives figured they were a cinch for one of the two new National League baseball franchises, along with San Diego, but Montreal turned out to be the dark horse, even though League President Warren Giles was not aware of who backed the Canadian entry. "I don't know their names," he admitted blandly. It was all very reminiscent of the recent National Hockey League expansion when St. Louis won a franchise over Buffalo even though it was not represented at the meeting.
Buffalo has had two major league entries. One was in Branch Rickey's aborted Continental Baseball League, a venture that ranks with Romney for President. Buffalo does still have the AFL Bills, but they arc owned by Ralph Wilson of Detroit. The city wants desperately to keep the Bills, though, so sentiment remains high to go ahead and build a new stadium. It is unlikely now, however, that the proposed $50 million domed stadium will be constructed. Bloodied but unbowed, civic leaders have themselves just switched battle plans and are now already on the prowl, searching for an existing baseball club that looks itchy enough to think about moving.
Buffalo may take some consolation from the harsh economic realities of modern sports peregrination. The new Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots each forked up $5,350,OOO to enter the American League. The Nationals socked it to Montreal and San Diego for $10 million apiece. Already Royals Owner Ewing Kauffman, the drug moneyaire, can be thankful he got in cheap; he has found player-development costs to be so excessive that a $10 million initiation fee would have disrupted his budget to the point that the Royals would have been unable to instigate proper farm and scouting programs. In the unwieldy 12-club, one-division setup that the Nationals are foolishly planning, it may be many, many years before the new teams can achieve parity.
A decade ago, at a time when every college kid absolutely had to wear a crew cut, when the only concern students felt was how to duplicate the norm in every thought and appearance, Gordon Batcheller, an All-Ivy League football tackle, was genuinely his own man. "He wears his hair long and roams the [Princeton] campus dressed in a black leather jacket and a pair of black leather boots," SPORTS ILLUSTRATED noted (Nov. 30, 1959). Those who, then as now, immediately dismiss any young man in shaggy hair as an amoral, un-American instrument of anarchy, nihilism and the devil, regarded Batcheller with scorn. "They call me a hood," he said.
On January 31, in courageous action outside of Hué, career Marine Captain Batcheller, head shaven, in combat issue, was wounded three times. One bullet shattered his thigh. He is now at the military hospital in Quantico, Va. in a body-length cast, facing hospitalization up to a year. When wounded he was, for those who give relevance to such detail, growing a large, bushy mustache.
It is fiddlehead season up North, and now, just like other big-time vegetables, fiddleheads even have their own festival. It was held for the second straight year the other weekend on Savage Island in the St. John River in New Brunswick, and fiddlehead fans made it to the ceremonies on a barge that was passed off as a ferry. Among those in attendance were descendants of the Malecite Indians, who had first harvested fiddleheads three centuries ago. The Fiddlehead Festival featured sports, storytelling, Indian dancing and the crowning of the 1968 fiddlehead princess, but the highlight was a dinner of roast beef and, of course, fiddleheads.
Everybody is getting on the fiddlehead bandwagon, it seems. Fiddleheads are on the verge of becoming the first chichi vegetable since broccoli was so In it was even featured in versions of Cole Porter's You're the Top, along with a symphony by Strauss and Mickey Mouse.
McCain's Foods Ltd. of Florenceville, N.B. packages 110,000 pounds of frozen fiddleheads a year and lets U.S. specialty stores fight over them. The Space Needle Restaurant in Seattle would like to take half of McCain's annual supply just by itself. The Governor General of Canada frequently serves fiddleheads at state dinners; the Canadian ambassador in Washington gets special shipments several times a year. There are not enough fiddleheads to go around.
Fiddleheads, graceful spirals resembling the heads of violins, are the curled-up fronds of the ostrich fern. The earliest of spring greens, they grow in Maine and parts of Canada. They taste like asparagus with mushrooms. A favorite dish is to serve them with poached egg and hot buttered toast, but there are many ways to serve fiddleheads.
Please pass the fiddleheads.
AMBASSADOR AT ODDS
When Sir Ivor, the phenomenal 3-year-old owned by Raymond Guest, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, won the Epsom Derby last week, he brought his owner not only $140,460 in purse money but also ¬£62,500 ($150,000) from William Hill, a leading English bookmaker. Last September the ambassador substantially backed his horse at William Hill's at 100 to 1. By starting time Sir Ivor was 4 to 5 favorite, and Hill had even offered Guest ¬£10,000 to call the bet off. The owner refused, so Hill, who advertises his firm as "The World's Biggest Bookmakers," decided to make some sure mileage out of the potentially huge loss.
He took ads in London papers on Derby Day with the heading "WILL HE WIN ¬£62,500 TO-DAY?" and then pointed out that "like many prominent patrons, Mr. Guest shows his faith in the Hill Organization." The ad included a coupon that bettors could use to establish credit. William Hill lost a total of ¬£113,000 when Sir Ivor won the Derby by a length and a half, but at least he may have gained some new customers from the advertisement.
TAKING A COUNT OF 10
Its power faded in football and basketball, Big Ten prestige will soon be battered in track and field as well. It is almost impossible that any conference athlete will be at the Mexico Olympics, denying the conference representation for the first time since 1896. Big Ten track performances are so poor that they meet minimum Olympic standards in only three of the 19 events, and none of these potential qualifiers are better than 10th best in the U.S.
There is a trend in both basketball and football for coaches to stay in their sector of the game, pro or college. It is unfortunate, because it probably serves to isolate ideas and stunt the sports. The particular theory that only an old pro can coach a pro team goes virtually undisputed in the NBA, so it was a major surprise last week when the Chicago Bulls hired young Dick Motta away from Weber State College. Far from having played in the NBA, Motta had not even been good enough to make his college team—so he went out and earned a letter as a wrestler. He is that kind of guy, and although he is hardly known outside Utah, he just happens to be one of the very best coaches anywhere. The Bulls deserve credit for giving Motta a chance to destroy the bias that an outsider cannot succeed in the coaching club.
For the other NBA coaching job still open, in Philadelphia, Earl Lloyd's name came up again. Earl Lloyd, who played six years with the old Syracuse Nationals, is always being "considered" for coaching jobs. He just lost out at Wisconsin. He is considered because he is unanimously regarded as articulate, perceptive, attractive and thoughtful. He is also unanimously regarded as a Negro.
Oh well, if the pros hired a guy out of Ogden, Utah just because he is a good coach, one has to think that some day very soon somebody is going to stop considering Earl Lloyd and put him to work on the bench.
BEARD OF PREY
Cockfighting has flourished in Cuba for 400 years, and until Castro arbitrarily banned the sport recently, virtually every hamlet had its pits where mains were held each Sunday. "Only a minority of the people who are the backbone of this nation—the working peasants—attend cockfights," Castro declared in a typical distortion of the facts when he outlawed cockfighting. "The fights are places where people gather to spread rumors and commentary against revolution," he went on, probably with more accuracy.
The sudden elimination of the fighting and breeding of the beautiful birds has served as a boon to breeders in Florida, where the sport is legal within certain limits (leather padding must be worn over the cocks' lethal spurs). Puerto Rican and Dominican Republic buyers, formerly dependent on obtaining Cuban birds, have sent prices for a normal purchase unit (one cock and two hens) up 15% in Florida. Enthusiasts there are already seeking strains in Texas to replace any that might be diluted by the heightened Caribbean demand.
As for Castro, no one can really figure out why he decided to deny the people one of their favorite diversions. "Maybe he lost a few pesos in the pits himself one Sunday and got sore," one bewildered refugee suggested.
KEEPING UP WITH THE ROCKETS
Expansion has produced more than 50 new major league teams in the last few years, and an important study just completed shows that nicknames are greatly affected by geography and tradition. For instance, the Midwest is the only section of the country that has a thing about animal names: Bulls, Cougars, Mustangs, Bengals, Muskies (R.I.P.) and most recently Bucks.
In the East there is similarly strong preference for history, patriotism and local identification, maintaining a trend that has given us Yankees, Senators, Dodgers, Orioles, 76ers and Patriots in the past. The East is also the only section that favors alliteration. Thus, while New Jersey Americans, New York Generals and New York Skyliners (also R.I.P.) are certainly acceptable, Boston Beacons, Baltimore Bays and Washington Whips—not buggy whips, but House and Senate whips, of course—are better. Because of Phillies and Pirates, new Pennsylvania teams seem to have no esthetic regard and are concerned only with alliteration: Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers. Phooey.
The historical touch also predominates in Southern river towns, where nicknames seem to have traveled up the river with jazz. Hence: New Orleans Saints and Buccaneers, St. Louis Blues, Kentucky Colonels of Louisville.
The West, having been populated by diverse elements from throughout the country, is the only section to show no pattern. The West has tried everything, even weather (Suns), technology (Super-Sonics), and good neighborism (Toros, Amigos—again R.I.P.) without finding its niche. If all else fails, teams just take the lowest common denominator. It used to be Hawks. Now it is Stars, Rockets and Royals. Vancouver, Kansas City, San Diego, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis—there are Stars, Rockets and Royals everywhere, even two Stars in the same soccer Gulf Division. The next important study, by the way, will examine names of divisions.
THEY SAID IT
•Pedro J. Sànchez, father of three and victor in Colombia's 18-day bicycle race after eight years of trying: "I will not have any more children. I will dedicate myself to bicycles."
•Jimmy Piersall, ex-major league baseball player and father of nine, on the art of diapering: "Spread the diaper in the position of a baseball diamond with you at bat. Then fold second base down to home and set the baby on the pitcher's mound. Put first base and third together, bring up home plate and pin the three together. Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again."