THE WAY THE BALL FLIES
In Kansas City, at least, there is reason to believe that the lively ball is back. The evidence: some fearsome blows struck this season in Kansas City's Municipal Stadium. Since the Athletics moved there in 1955 just 14 balls have been hit onto Brooklyn Avenue, a feat that requires the batter not only to propel the ball more than 400 feet but to send it above a concrete wall that surmounts an embankment behind the regular right-field fence.
With the home season just half over, three players—Don Mincher, Reggie Jackson and Tony Oliva—have hit balls onto Brooklyn. Never before have more than two balls been hit there in any one season. The average per season, for 14 seasons, has been just one.
With some optimism, this department reported last week on the Lake Roberts experiment with a bubblemaking machine that the New Mexico Game and Fish Department hoped would double the capacity of the lake for trout. The machine was designed to raise, via bubbles, the cold, oxygen-free bottom layer of the lake to the top, which in turn would descend, rich in oxygen, to the bottom.
It worked, too, for a few days, and fishing was great. Then the experimenters repeated the test. Once again the bubbles brought the cold bottom water to the top—and also a large amount of bottom nutrients, which normally would have been a plus indeed. The nutrients caused an extensive growth of algae, which would have been fine, also, except that a cold rain fell on the area, and was followed by several days of overcast skies. That cut the sunlight off the algae (it can't happen in your lighted aquarium), causing it to die and decay. In decaying, the algae dissolved the oxygen content of the lake and thus killed the fish. The fish will be replaced, to be sure, and the experimenters have learned to study the weather forecasts before stirring up the lake.
Once in a while you're going to bobble when you should burble.
THE PARTY'S OVER
The ugly expression "tennis bum" seems to be on its way out of the game's lexicon—if Stan Malless, chairman of the National Clay Court Championships, has his way and if chairmen of other tournaments follow his lead.
"There will be no guarantees to any player, and no amateur will get more than $50 in expense money above meals and housing," Malless told the 96 players—64 men, 32 women—entered in the clay court tournament at the Woodstock Club in Indianapolis.
"Some amateurs once were able to get $500 and $600 in expense money," he said, "Not now."
Nancy Richey, seeking her seventh straight title in Indianapolis, was refused a guarantee of $800.
"Nancy's New York agent called me about six times, saying she'd have to have a guarantee to come here," Malless said. "I told him she could possibly win $1,250 if she took the singles and doubles titles and that I couldn't offer a guarantee. Finally I called Nancy, and she agreed to come."
Malless is opposed to guarantees, he explained, because they could destroy incentive.
A magazine for intellectuals, Commentary, has, no surprise here, paid but little attention to sport over the years. Now, in its July issue, the magazine presents some thoughts by William Phillips, co-founder and chairman of the editorial board of Partisan Review, which is still another magazine for intellectuals.
"Football is not only the most popular sport," holds Phillips, "it is the most intellectual one. It is, in fact, the intellectuals' secret vice. Not politics, not sex, not pornography, but football, and not college football but the real thing, pro ball, is the opium of the intellectuals....
"All sports serve as some kind of release, but the rhythm of football is geared particularly to the violence and peculiar combination of order and disorder of modern life. Baseball is too slow, too dependable, too much like a regional drawl. Basketball is too nervous and too tight; hockey too frenzied; boxing too chaotic, too folksy. Only football provides a genuine catharsis."
Commentary said it. We didn't.
Twice an NCAA discus champion at Washington State, John Van Reenen, 6' 5" and 265 pounds, has decided to turn out for football this fall. Though Van Reenen, who is a South African, will be trying to play the first game of his life in one of the nation's toughest conferences, Football Coach Jim Sweeney is delighted. After all, the young man's physical credentials are in excellent order.
Football requires more than physique, of course. Courage, for one thing. Does Van Reenen have courage? His summer job provides an answer. He's a high scaler, which is to say he hangs on a rope slung from a 200-foot cliff over the Snake River Canyon and clears loose rocks that could fall on trains or tracks. Rattlesnakes infest the rocks and take umbrage at being dislodged. One of the rattlers almost got him the other day, Van Reenen concedes, but he shrugs it off.
"When you come from South Africa," he explains, "you don't worry that much about rattlers. We have some real snakes back home. Cobra, you know, and mamba." Of the mamba, Van Reenen says, "When he hits you, you have about three minutes left."
So much for courage.
ROUGHING IT-1969 STYLE
The 30,000 boy scouts encamped at their current Jamboree in Farragut State Park in Idaho will not have to rub sticks together to start a fire. Or do much of anything else.
Arriving, they found 200 tons of charcoal briquettes, 7,912 outdoor grills, 26,034 dozen eggs, 3,514 pounds of sausage and uncounted steaks, chicken, hamburger, hot dogs and pie, plus who knows how many gallons of milk, orange juice, lemonade and grapeade.
Mosquitoes and mice were cleared out of the area before the boys got there. There was a 200-bed mobile hospital, complete with doctors and dentists, and 18 ambulances and two helicopters to whisk away the injured.
Best of all, perhaps, the scouts could fish in Buttonhook Bay, at the southwest tip of Lake Pend Oreille, for 32,000 rainbow trout planted for the occasion and then fenced into the area by a special holding net. Reverent, obedient, helpful fish—presumably.
CLOUDED CRYSTAL BASEBALL
With the restricted free-agent draft coming, the Philadelphia Phillies went around the country in 1964 signing hot young prospects in a beat-the-draft talent hunt. They picked up guys named Joe Middledorf, Jerry Gimapetruzzi, Doug Eiken, and Larry Vogt. They did not sign a youngster who played football and baseball for Cheltenham High School, less than six miles from Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium, though a number of scouts had been sent to investigate his abilities. Their reports were less than enthusiastic:
"Did not impress me as big league prospect.... Average speed, average bat."
"All he lacks is size."
"This boy does everything well with exception of hitting. Not impressed with his bat."
The youngster was Reggie Jackson, as you may have guessed, and when the old scouting reports were brought to the attention of Bob Carpenter, Phillie owner, he sighed.
"Scouts," he said. "The guy who saw Dave Sime told me, 'Good hitter, average speed.' "
As a hitter, Sime couldn't connect with a major league curve. As a runner, he broke world sprint records.
TROUBLE FOR FEATHER MERCHANTS
Since April it has been illegal to import jungle-cock feathers into the U.S., because the bird involved is found exclusively in India and conservationists there believe its survival is endangered. This has been a blow to flytiers, an exacting breed, by whom the jungle cock has been considered essential in forming the "eyes" of such streamer flies as the Mickey Finn, the Grey Ghost and the Green King. Of the 10 most popular streamers, according to a 1949 poll of veteran anglers, only the Lady Ghost lacked jungle-cock eyes. The Lady Ghost has pheasant-feather cheeks instead.
When streamer flies started to win popularity a flytier could get his pick of several necks for $10. Then it became the custom to sell individual feathers rather than the whole neck. Before the ban on imports a good neck could have commanded $50. Now they are all but impossible to come by. Priceless.
To the rescue comes Roger Palmer of Sanford, Maine, who says he has found a good substitute. Palmer has tried guinea-hen feathers and says they work quite satisfactorily. Only a small piece of the feather is needed, because it is polka-dotted and just two dots provide the eyes at the head of a fly.
THE HARD WAY
Paddling down the Mississippi is pretty much a traditional summer stunt for college students. But this summer two University of Minnesota students are attempting to paddle upstream from New Orleans to Minneapolis. Their reason for the turnabout: "because everybody else has already done it the other way."
Paddling down the river is mostly a matter of keeping in the current but John Buettner and Jim White, 20-year-old engineering students, will have to employ several million strokes and overcome several hundred blisters before they reach Minneapolis in mid-August.
The canoeists hit the water at 6:30 each morning and work until nightfall. On an average day they cover 25 miles. Eventually they will have done about 1,300 grueling miles.
Pausing at Memphis one recent evening, they said they planned no more trips.
GOD BLESS ENGLAND
In a hot summer heavy with the threat of confrontations in many cities, the U.S. hardly needed an extra starter. Now, thanks to a gallant and perhaps underestimated British Davis Cup team, we have been spared one that had a lot of nasty potential. The British upset heavily favored South Africa last weekend in a tie marked by anti-apartheid demonstrations.
These displays were mild compared to what might have happened if the Springboks ultimately had won the right to meet the U.S. in Cleveland. As representatives of a country whose government has discouraged Arthur Ashe from entering its tournaments, and in a city governed by a Negro mayor, the South African team—merely by its presence—almost certainly would have provoked a fierce protest.
Sport should be above politics, of course, but in the real world it often isn't, particularly when one of the competitors does not even subscribe to the theory.
THEY SAID IT
•Carl Yarborough, stock car driver, on being told he was a father, for the second time, of a daughter, for the second time, when what he would really like is a son: "Next time it'll be different. I think I've figured out what I'm doing wrong."
•Home run slugger Reggie Jackson of the Oakland Athletics: "I don't let all the publicity get to me because next year if I'm only hitting a dollar eight and change people won't come around."
•Paul Brown, coach and general manager of the Cincinnati Bengals, welcoming his team: "We want you to dress well, conduct yourselves well. We're not interested in youth rebellion or the campus oddballs you see here or elsewhere. People like that have what doctors call a psychosis to be noticed."
•O. J. Simpson: "There is no principle involved in my holdout. Just money."
•Norm Cash, Detroit first baseman, on retiring: "I'm not going to quit a $60,000 to $70,000 job to go to work."