After seven months of disgraceful delay, the Kentucky State Racing Commission has handed down its findings in the Kentucky Derby drugging case. It has ruled that Forward Pass, who finished second, will receive the winner's purse. At the same time, it said that its findings do not affect the official order of finish (those who bet on Dancer's Image to win were paid off on Derby Day and now, presumably, the colt's name will appear on souvenir julep glasses and other places of distinction).
We are not satisfied. All that the commission has done is reaffirm what the Churchill Downs stewards did last May—disqualify, in effect, a horse and slap his trainer on the wrist. Neither the stewards then nor the commissioners now have done anything to restore the image of this sadly tarnished race. That a Derby winner was drugged was a stunning blow, but early and decisive action could have nullified the effect of that blow. Yet the world of Kentucky racing—commission, stewards, lawyers, breeders, squint-eyed men leaning on fence rails at the breeding farms—has spent seven months beclouding the central issue, hoping that things would quiet down and pass away. Kentucky racing kept worrying about "the courts," Never mind about the courts, A sport must be able to police itself. Let court proceedings come later, if they must. The much-disputed chemical tests have been supported, which means the commission agrees that the horse was indeed dosed illegally. But who didit? Will the commission try to find out? Or is the commission saying that the 30-day suspensions imposed by the stewards on the trainer and assistant trainer will suffice, that this settles all responsibility in the case? Doesn't Kentucky really care?
As long as we are picking on sports that do not seem able to govern themselves properly, let us jump upon baseball for a while. When the owners abruptly forced General William Eckert into retirement a month ago, the action was publicly criticized for being cruel and heartless but secretly admired for being evidence of a new, refreshing trend. Baseball was finally catching up with the times. It had recognized at last that it needed vigorous leadership, and the often warring owners had united in a search for that leadership. Then, in mid-December, came news that an all-night session of baseball's hierarchy had failed to produce the new leader, and that the 19 fruitless ballots had split along narrow lines of league prejudice. Baseball had gone out and bought a new, modern, slimline suit, but the same old potbelly thinking was ruining the fit.
Maybe baseball can still get lucky and come up with a winner, as the NFL did when it took on Pete Rozelle, who is an owners' man but who runs their business with a ruthless insistence on doing what is right for them, whether they like it or not. Maybe baseball will, but right now it sure doesn't look like it.
EAST IS EAST
Boston University, unexpectedly enough, has a hockey player named Herb Wakabayashi. It is entirely unscientific to blame him—he is of Japanese extraction and has never even visited Hong Kong—but six members of the BU hockey team decided that they had come down with the "Wakabayashi flu."
An award is given to honor the man. Sometimes the man honors the award. Bill Russell, our Sportsman of the Year for 1968, said last week after receiving the Grecian amphora as a symbol of excellence; "I'm really excited about this award, more so than for anything else I've ever received. I knew a long time ago that I was a great athlete—a lot of people knew it—but not many people knew that I was a man. But being a man—that's what this trophy is all about.
"I have tried to do everything I can to make this world a better place for my children by doing what I think is right. Not what is expedient, but what is right. I want to make it possible for my children to succeed or fail on their personal merits. If they fail, they fail; I'll still love them just as much. But if they have what it takes to succeed, then all they have to do is work at it. Now, I have never discussed my trophies with my children. I don't even talk basketball with them. That's my public life, and we have a thing going in our private life. But I will discuss this award with them. I will discuss it with them because it says, 'Your father is recognized as a man. Not as an athlete, a tall guy, a black man. Just a man.' "
LOSE A COUPLE
Here are a few late scores left over from the hunting season. The hunted lost two but did rack up one refreshing upset. The upset occurred in Ontario, where for several years now conservation officials have kept track of wandering moose by utilizing helicopters in the often difficult tagging operation. The chopper pilot locates a moose near a lake and chases it into the water until it is swimming. Then the chopper hovers just over the moose while a conservation officer crawls out on a pontoon and snaps a tag on the helpless animal's ear. At least, that was the procedure until this past year, when the moose markers began to use self-expanding collars with distinctive markings that make it easy to identify individual moose from the air.
Ever try to put a collar on a 1,500-pound moose? It has been reported to us—we regret that we cannot guarantee the accuracy-of fish and moose stories—that one day a chopper crew spotted a big, mean-looking bull moose and dutifully herded it into the lake. The pilot brought the chopper down to hovering position, but as he did the bull found solid footing in the water—maybe a rock, maybe an underwater ridge. He braced himself, heaved his massive antlers upward and flipped the chopper over onto its rotors. The moose, uncollared, swam serenely away while the pilot and conservation man, wet and red-faced, waded ashore.
Returns from other precincts were not as good for antlered folk. Near McCanna, N. Dak., a moose was killed by people shooting nothing more deadly than cameras. Five eager photographer-farmers spotted the moose, who refused to pose, and chased him for three miles in pickup trucks. Now and then the moose faked them out and lost them, but a friend of the photographers, flying in a small plane overhead, kept the ground forces apprised of the moose's location by two-way radio until, finally, the animal fell dead, presumably of exhaustion. "We don't see many moose in these parts," explained the local sheriff ruefully.
And in Rocky Mount, Va., a 22-year-old elementary-school teacher named Dennis Valianos saw a deer wander into the school yard about noon. He and a student went outside and tried to chase the animal back into the woods to keep it from wandering out onto the highway. The deer, instead of running, backed into a fence, and the teacher, instead of chasing it, jumped on it and began to wrestle it. "I don't know what made me do it," Valianos said later, "but about the time I grabbed him I saw his spikes and realized it was a buck. I had thought at first it was a doe."
He let go, and the deer ran around the fence and into a field, where it stopped. Valianos went into the school cafeteria, got a knife and trotted into the field, too. The deer began to run. "He was panting, and I could tell he was tired," Valianos said, "but when he took off running I thought he was gone. So I threw the knife at him." The knife hit the deer in the shoulder and fell off, but the animal stopped. Valianos picked up the knife, jumped on the buck again and, after a few minutes of wrestling, cut its throat. The deer, still not dead, broke away, but Valianos chased it, caught it again and finished the job. It was all legal—even with the knife. It was hunting season, and Valianos had his hunting license in his back pocket.
YELLOW WEDGE, PLEASE
The Bob Hope Desert Classic golf tournament, Feb. 5-9 in Palm Springs, will have red sand traps on par-5 holes, white on par-4 and blue on par-3. For color TV, of course. The greens will remain green.
RUN FOR THE HILLS
KNX radio in Los Angeles currently broadcasts USC football and basketball, Los Angeles Lakers basketball and Los Angeles Kings hockey. But USC, the Lakers and the Kings have been notified that KNX will not renew its contract to do any of their games next season. CBS headquarters in New York has decided that KNX will become a 100% news station. Thus, sports buffs in Southern California have lost an old, familiar radio friend.
Trade rumors say that both KFI and KLAC have expressed interest in picking up the USC two-sport package, but so far broadcasters have not shown much evidence of being interested in either the Lakers or the Kings. It may be a sign of the times. After all, the New York Mets' principal radio outlet is WJRZ, which is a country-music station in Hackensack, New Jersey.
SIMON-PURE AS DRIVEN SNOW
The world of amateur skiing is in ferment, primarily because amateur skiing is big business. Under an experimental Fédération Internationale de Ski rule, an amateur skier can now profit from his sport by capitalizing on his name and reputation via jobs, subsidies, endorsements, signed articles in newspapers and magazines and the like. The result of this experiment will be examined in May at the FIS meeting in Barcelona, at which approval of open skiing may be voted. If it is, the International Olympic Committee, which meets the same month in Warsaw, may have a decision of its own to make: whether or not to throw skiing out of the Olympic Games—though, admittedly, a Winter Olympics without skiing, particularly Alpine skiing, is going to be pretty flat.
The FIS says that regulation of the more liberal rule is up to the individual country. France and Austria, for instance, which subsidize skiing because of its importance to tourism, have no objections to individual skiers receiving direct payments. Other countries, like the U.S., prefer that the money earned by skiing be put into a central fund for the continued support and development of the sport.
The money earned is not inconsiderable. Bob Beattie, ex-U.S. Alpine coach, has worked with Mark McCormack's International Management, Inc., which is the U.S. Ski Association's agent. International Management runs around lining up commercial endorsements and lucrative appearances for the U.S. ski team, like the Dec. 6-7 "races" between France and the U.S., which ABC-TV bought and photographed for a color-television special to be shown late in January. The match had French and U.S. skiers racing mano a mano down parallel courses rather than one after the other on the same course against the clock. Some people argue that this is not ski racing in the accepted sense, but Billy Kidd of the U.S. team said, "The spectators will like it. It will be a good TV show."
The U.S. Ski Association picked up $65,000 for the job, not bad for an amateur, outfit (the French got $10,000 of that, plus expenses). The U.S. ski team operates on an annual budget of $365,000—that breaks down to precisely $1,000 a day—most of which is being raised this year by television and commercial contracts largely obtained through Beattie.
"Things have loosened up in the world of amateurism," Beattie says. "I'm for a realistic approach. Let's take all those advertising dollars."
WAITING FOR GIACOMIN'S FIRST
Perhaps you haven't heard about the goalie who a few weeks back almost became the first of his persuasion in National Hockey League history to score a goal. The New York Rangers' Ed Giacomin was defending against a Montreal power play in the dying seconds of a game when he stopped a shot and moved to clear the puck. He suddenly realized that a clear path lay between him and the empty Montreal goal (the Canadiens, of course, had taken their goalie out of the game for the last-ditch power play). "It was my big chance," Giacomin said. He swung his heavy goalkeeper's stick and more or less shoved the puck up the ice. Slowly, like a determined glacier, the puck made its way from one end of the rink to the other. "Boy, did it go slow," Giacomin said. "I was hoping it would hit a bump. I knew from the time it passed our blue line that it was going to be off."
Unhappily, it was. It sidled past about a. foot to the right side of the cage, thus costing Giacomin a unique place in hockey history.
Victoria Park in Adelaide, Australia has become the first racetrack in history to open a thousand-dollar ($1,120 in U.S. currency) ticket window. Soon horse racing will be in a class with Broadway musicals.
But the window (which had its own armed guard) was open for only one day. The Adelaide Racing Club held one all-totalizator meeting at the track because of a dispute with bookmakers, who usually handle some of the heavier action. The disagreement was settled, and the window has not been used again. Nobody used it, anyway.
Boxing builds you up better than robbery. Not long ago Alex Venettis, a former Golden Gloves champion, emerged from a Detroit bank carrying, with ease, a bag of some $400 in silver. A man with a knife demanded the money. When Venettis handed the bag over, its weight so surprised the robber that he grabbed it with both hands. And Venettis knocked him out with a right.
THEY SAID IT
•Minnesota Coach Murray Warmath, talking about O. J. Simpson's future in pro football: "He should run for the openings. If they try to make a power runner out of him, it would be like putting plumbing tools in the hands of a violinist."
•John Bridgers, ex-Baylor coach, now a Dallas Cowboy scout: "In pro football, it's obvious that you must win. In college football there's sometimes talk of other goals, but when you get right down to it that's what really matters there, too."