NO BIGGER THAN A MAN'S HAND
Professional statisticians, except for those who count TV audiences, will argue that you cannot draw far-reaching conclusions from very small samplings. For instance, it is certainly too early to declare that this is a hitter's year simply because in the first week of the season batters who were happy to get two singles a week in 1968 were putting dents in the electronic scoreboards.
Maybe so. But then again, take the New York Mets. You remember the New York Mets: in their seven full seasons in the National League the Mets have produced only four .300 hitters—and their averages were .306, .303, .302 and .300. Yet last Saturday, before their game with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets' statistical sheet listed the following batting averages for 1969: Rod. Gaspar .412, Ken Boswell .467, Cleon Jones .444, Ron Swoboda .500, Ed Kranepool .429, Duffy Dyer .500, Jerry Grote .385 and Amos Otis .333. You mean to say you don't call that a hitter's year?
To those of you who would be unkind enough to point out that the Cardinals promptly shut out the Mets 1-0—despite those batting averages—we say go find your own trend.
When the National Hockey League expanded to the West Coast two years ago, it put franchises in Los Angeles and Oakland in order to establish teams in the two biggest metropolitan areas on the Coast. But attendance figures at this season's playoff games have had fans of the little old Western Hockey League, a minor circuit, asking with ill-concealed glee whether the NHL expanded to the right cities.
The Western League's playoffs began about the same time as the NHL's, and Western officials can't wait to give you comparative attendances for the two leagues in each playoff. In the WHL the first four games between Portland and San Diego drew an average of 8,257 spectators and the first four games between Vancouver and Seattle averaged 7,388. But—ho ho—the first four games in the NHL playoff between Los Angeles and Oakland averaged only 6,483.
What, asks the WHL, has Jack Kent Cooke to say about this?
WORDS MAKE ME CROSS
A new word game, possibly derived from the Tom Swifties fad of several years back, is getting a big play in California. Some sporting examples: hockey puckers my mouth, football is a passing fancy, auto racing is a drag, diving is a splash in the pan, polo players horse around, I love tennis but badminton is for the birds, soccer is a kick, sports car racing is a gas, horseback riding is a cinch, discus throwing is far-flung, skydiving is a letdown, yachting is a fleeting thing. In baseball alone, you find things like home runs are a fourth dimension, base running is a steal, double plays are roundabout, strikes are in swing.
Care to cue in and rack up a few?
OTHER GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
The college sports scene has just played another lively game of musical coaching chairs, that ever popular do-si-do in which, as the old song puts it, first he says he will and then he won't. This one began at the University of Kentucky when Basketball Coach Adolph Rupp's longtime assistant, Harry Lancaster, was made the university's athletic director. That led insiders to assume that Joe Hall, a former Kentucky player and Rupp's No. 2 assistant, would move into the head coach spot when the 67-year-old Rupp gets around to retiring. But Hall—apparently unsettled by rumors that Rupp wanted his son, Herky, currently a high school coach, to succeed him—announced April 2 that he was leaving Kentucky to become head coach at St. Louis University. Since Hall had been credited with recruiting virtually all of Rupp's current stars, this was indeed a blow to Rupp and to Kentucky basketball. Hall signed a five-year contract with St. Louis, supposedly at $20,000 a year, and even held a press conference.
Seven days later Hall reversed his field, resigned as head coach at St. Louis (after what must be the shortest coaching tenure in basketball history) and declared that he was returning to Kentucky. Apparently Rupp got him back by stating publicly that he would recommend Hall as his successor when he, Adolph, finally steps down after two more seasons.
Rupp is happy. Hall is happy. St. Louis is unhappy. No one really knows how Herky Rupp feels.
But, then, that's the way the contract crumbles.
WHOA THERE, UMPLEBY
There has been an equipment breakthrough in mountaineering, though perhaps "breakthrough" is not the mot juste when discussing mountain climbing. A powerful lightweight chrome-molybdenum piton has been produced for several years, but now a couple of men in Lancashire, England, have come up with something new for rock climbers. John Hartley, a mountaineering lawyer, claims, "It's better than chrome-molybdenum. My partner, Jack Umpleby, found the alloy in the aircraft business. You can hang a horse from our pitons."
Apparently so. Britain's National Engineering Laboratory took a Hartley-Umpleby piton less than one-tenth of an inch thick and drove it about three-quarters of an inch into a rock. The piton reportedly withstood 4,200 pounds of pressure.
The only problem now is getting a horse up the side of that mountain.
The National Football League Players' Association surveys its members each year to determine, among other things, how salaries range on the various NFL teams. A list, including items like the mean salary for each team and the mean salary in the league for each of the eight general playing positions, is then sent to all the players in the association as a guideline to consult during salary negotiations. There are no figures available for the 1968 season, but here is the Players' Association rundown for 1966 and 1967:
Statistics like these are devilish things to interpret (why, for instance, should the mean salaries for both the Browns and running backs drop so precipitously between 1966 and 1967 when Jim Brown retired before the 1966 season?). But even so, it is interesting to note that it costs at least $35,000 more in salaries to field an offensive team than it does to field a defensive one.
I NEED TWO VOLUNTEERS
Jean-Claude Killy, the superskier, made an appearance last week at the Windham Mountain Club in Windham, N.Y., where among other things he gave lessons to local kids. Killy said it was the first time he had ever given ski lessons, but he got along swimmingly, or snowingly. About the only person he did not impress was a 4½-year-old girl. When she had finished her lesson, her mother focused a camera and said, "Now, honey, give Mr. Killy a nice big kiss." The child, with the matchless aplomb of her years, said coolly, "I will not." Happily for Killy's morale, two teen-age chicks standing nearby raised their hands. "We'll do it!" they said.
THE PHILOSOPHER HOLZMAN
Red Holzman, the mild-mannered basketball coach who has had such success with the surprising New York Knicks this year, is in his off-court moments an expounder of maxims, of words to live by. Phil Pepe of the New York Daily News recently reported a few samples of Red's practical and perceptive philosophy:
•A broad-beamed bus driver is a good bus driver.
•Never get your hair cut by a bald-headed barber. He has no respect for your hair.
•Never talk about money with your wife at night.
•Never worry about anything you have no control over.
•Never accidentally raise your hand when the check is coming.
•And never take medical advice from a waiter.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Frey, Baltimore Oriole scout, on the pitchers' underground: "Hitters just don't watch pitchers enough. If a hitter would keep a book on pitchers, on who threw what and where, he'd rate a picture and a three-page story in The Sporting News. But pitchers do that all the time and they spread the news. If Max Alvis singles on a low, outside slider on the West Coast Tuesday night, they know it in Boston the next morning."