HOTTING UP THE WAR
By agreeing to let Connie Hawkins end his long exile and jump from the ABA's Minnesota Pipers to its own Phoenix Suns, the National Basketball Association accomplishes the following: 1) it avoids the agony of a $6 million law suit; 2) it gets on the right side of public opinion, which has come to look upon Hawkins as the victim of a bum rap (in being blackballed by the NBA because of alleged links with basketball fixers); 3) it substantially strengthens its weakest team; and 4) it delivers what one ABA official admits is a "terrific blow" to the new league.
Although Hawkins has been accepted by the NBA, he has not yet been legally signed, newspaper reports to the contrary, because the option clause in his ABA contract does not expire until September 30. "And the NBA cannot hide him until then," says an ABA source, defiantly. Before that date Hawkins certainly will be under pressure from his home-town New York Nets to sign with them.
But Hawkins' jump has caused severe friction within the ABA. The other teams in the league are furious at the Pipers and Commissioner George Mikan for letting such a superstar escape. And the incident has added venom to the inter-league war. Oakland's Alex Hannum says, "In the past I've told NBA players who have inquired about jumping to sit tight and wait until things settled down more. But not any longer—not after this. There's going to be a lot of action in the next few months."
Jerry Wolman, who incurred debts of more than $30 million while running, among other things, various sporting enterprises in Philadelphia and who was obliged this spring to sell his Philadelphia Eagles to Leonard Tose for $16,155,000 (SCORECARD, April 7), is trying to pop back into the picture. His sale of the club to Tose was a conditional one, to become final only if Wolman could not raise the money to satisfy his creditors by a specific date, reportedly May 1. But last week, when Wolman appeared at a creditors' hearing in a Baltimore court, he said he had a "telephone commitment" to repurchase the Eagles and added that he had told Tose that he was in a position to buy the team back. Tose, on the other hand, says that the deadline for repurchase has passed.
The crucial question is, if Wolman regains control of the Eagles will he bring back Joe Kuharich?
Some things arc so shattering that they defy comment. We therefore will do no more than report that the Houston Music Theatre has produced what it feels is a contemporary, updated version of Damn Yankees. The title has been changed to Damn Cardinals. And, according to a spokesman, "Where there is a reference to the Washington Senators, we've changed it to the Montreal Expos."
A report is in from Bermuda Naturalist David Wingate (SI, Nov. 4, 1968) on his back-to-the-wall effort to stave off the extinction of one of the rarest birds in the world, the cahow, or Bermuda petrel. Wingate has been providing and protecting the nesting burrows for the few remaining cahows, which breed, and lay their solitary egg, only on several islets off Bermuda. There were, according to Wingate, an estimated 24 nesting pairs observed on the islands last season, but only seven chicks were hatched. One of these died after two weeks, "apparently of starvation," Wingate says, "when one of its parents died. I tried to feed it, but it was too late." Reproductive success was thus only about 29%, which means the predicted rate of decline is indeed continuing. The villain is, of course, DDT—which may have been used on a field as far away as Nebraska or Japan but which the cahow ultimately ingests feeding at sea. DDT causes thin shells and consequent high breakage rates in the birds' eggs. Wingate speculates, too, that unhatched chicks may have such frail bone structure that their efforts to peck their way out of even thin-shelled eggs may result in concussion, failure and death.
And the evidence is clear that the cahow is not the only seabird affected. Win-gate says, "We are noticing the thin egg and high breakage rates with the white-tailed tropic birds. I am starting to have fears for all the world's other sea birds with a similar way of life."
It looks as though Buffalo is going to have a domed stadium, after all (SCORECARD, June 16). The Erie County legislature finally got together last week and agreed on a plan to build an enclosed, air-conditioned structure in suburban Lancaster. Judge Roy Hofheinz, the Houston impresario, and Edward H. Cottrell, a Buffalo auto dealer, are the principal stockholders of the Kenford Co., which will lease the stadium for 40 years and guarantee Erie County a minimum of $63.75 million through cash rentals and tax credits, whatever that means. Cottrell said he hoped that ground would be broken this year and that the second domed stadium ever built would be ready two years from next spring. By that time—if Roy Hofheinz still has his fast ball—Buffalo will have O. J. Simpson to draw crowds and a major league baseball franchise as well.
Pro football promises two fairly radical changes in 1969. The New Orleans Saints will have a netlike "bullpen" on the sideline to warm up kickers. The bullpen is collapsible and ordinarily will remain folded. But on third down and plenty, up will go the net and out will go the word: "There's activity in the Saints' bullpen, folks."
The second change has to do with half-time doings on television. An experimental show-business format, to be prepared by Jule Styne, Broadway producer and composer, will be tested this fall. Its purpose is commercial (hopefully, local stations will not cut away from the network for local programming during the intermission), but if it works out it could be the beginning of the end for all those dreary marching bands.
The same week that James Simon Kunen, the 20-year-old author of The Strawberry Statement, gave his reasons why not to row in college (SI, June 16), the Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta drew the largest number of spectators it has had since it left Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in 1950. And the crowd at Onondaga Lake in Syracuse (18,000, according to newspaper estimates) saw the most crews ever—57 from 24 schools—compete in the traditional row.
OTTOZ ON TRACK
Eddy Ottoz, the Italian high hurdler who won the bronze medal at the Mexico City Olympics, had some pungent remarks to make on track recently at a California meet. For one thing, Ottoz does not think much of European hurdlers. "American hurdlers don't seem to feel that the high hurdles are a particularly difficult event," he said in his excellent English, "but in Europe the hurdlers are preoccupied with technique. So you will find much more refinement in European hurdling styles, while American hurdlers are proving that all you really need is a big, strong body."
Ottoz was talking a day or so before Erv Hall ran 13.2 in the high hurdles to tie the oldest record in the book. But as though in anticipation, the Italian had a comment on that, too. Martin Lauer of Germany was the first to do 13.2, in 1959 at Zurich, Switzerland, and Lee Calhoun, whom Ottoz described as probably the best hurdler who ever competed, equaled that in 1960 at Bern. Since then, only Earl McCulloch, in 1967 at Minneapolis, and Hall, last week in Tennessee, have been able to match the time.
Ottoz cast doubt on the authenticity of the times run by Lauer and Calhoun. Ottoz says, "Martin Lauer was never good enough to run that fast. The Swiss wanted the meet in Zurich to be a big success. Lauer was practically over the first hurdle before the starter's gun went off, and he was not called back for a false start. The next year Bern had a big meet, and the people there also wanted a world record. So in Calhoun's race the timers were a little slow starting their watches.
"Meet directors in Europe compete fiercely with each other," Ottoz went on. "They frequently do sneaky things to put on a bigger, better meet. Before I left for California I was asked by promoters in three Italian towns with meets scheduled this summer to invite top American athletes to these events. They told me I should offer the athletes money, if that would help to get them to Italy. To me, this is disgusting and embarrassing."
MAN YOUR CARTS
Department of Things That Didn't Have to Come but Did: the newly organized U.S. Golf Cart Racing Association will stage its first Golf Cart Grand Prix on July 4, not down the fairways and through the rough, but at Daytona International Speedway. Purses will total $17. Well, it's a beginning.
If you have an alcohol problem, be thankful you are not a snail. W. E. Althauser of Memphis was plagued with snails—or slugs—that came out of hiding at night and ate all the vegetation they could find. Althauser had read someplace that beer would kill snails. So he took a can from a six-pack, poured the amber fluid into a shallow pan and set it out in his yard. The next morning he was astounded to discover almost 500 dead snails in the pan. Althauser says he does not know whether the beer poisons the snails or they get drunk and drown. But it gets them.
THEY SAID IT
•Jim Fregosi, California Angels shortstop, asked what he intended to call the restaurant he and three partners will open shortly in Anaheim: "Obviously it would be best to give it a name that is in tune with these times. Right now we are kicking around the idea of calling it 'Marrieds Four.' "
•Luke Walker, seldom-used Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, sending word to his mother in De Kalb, Texas: "Tell her that I'm alive and well and not pitching in Pittsburgh."
•Robin Roberts, former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher, after shooting 45-33 on a par 35-35 golf course at Huntington Valley Country Club in Abingdon, Pa.: "That's what I like about the game of golf. If this had been baseball, I would have been sent to the showers after the front nine."