THE FLOOD CASE
Early testimony at the Curt Flood vs. Baseball suit (Flood is questioning the legality of baseball's famous reserve clause, which binds a player to his contract for life) tended to sound more like something you might get at a congressional hearing than in a court of law. Comment and opinion flowed freely; factual evidence seemed in short supply. The old wheeze about whether baseball is a sport or a business was dragged out and run around, though that is not the issue here (it is not that baseball is a sport rather than a business that supposedly exempts it from the strictures that bind interstate commerce but the "special nature" of the business).
As the case moves on, testimony and evidence will probably be more factual and specific, but the outcome of the lawsuit seems inevitable: the reserve clause in its present form will disappear. Baseball is whistling in the dark if it thinks today's courts—either in hearing the case itself or an appeal—will give that antiquated stricture a blanket endorsement. Yet baseball has got to have some contractual arrangement that will give it a fair continuity of control over its players. Neither football nor basketball has a "reserve clause," at least not like baseball's, and they seem to be getting along fine. Baseball ought to stop dragging its feet and produce a new contract form of its own—and soon.
The U.S. is generally credited with being the worst nation in the world when it comes to polluting the environment, but don't feel too smug about that. The others are catching up. In the April 26 issue of Komsomolskaya Pravda a Soviet conservationist named Vladimir Peskov reported that oats poisoned with zinc phosphide had been spread by airplane in an attempt to kill gophers that were damaging Russian farmlands "The fate of the gophers is not known," said Peskov, "though it is highly probable that they withstood the chemical assault without great losses. But birds died en masse."
In one area 50 cranes and 11 wild geese were found dead. In another, fields were littered with the bodies of 200 great bustards, rare birds with wingspreads up to eight feet that are strictly off limits to Russian hunters. Several dozen foxes were killed, too; the foxes, of course, are the natural enemy of the gophers, but the oat shakers hadn't stopped to think about that.
The farmers responsible for the destruction of the bustards were fined 150 rubles ($166.50), and the Soviet government banned future aerial use of zinc phosphide. But, wrote Peskov, "Do [they] know the real price of the dead birds? The fine could only convince them that nature costs nothing. They would have grieved more if 200 chickens had died.
"It is happening everywhere," the conservationist lamented. "Why do we see almost no flocks of geese and cranes in April? Why can we hear no quail in the fields in June? The partridges have almost disappeared. Our woods, gardens and fields are becoming quieter and quieter." A silent spring, Miss Carson wrote.
Among safety devices being used in some cars in the Indianapolis 500 this weekend are full-strap harnesses, full-face helmets, foam-filled fuel tanks, more internal fire-extinguishing systems...and Gatorade dispensers from which a driver can drink through a tube attached to his helmet. Well, maybe the availability of Gatorade at 160 mph isn't necessarily a safety factor, but the drivers will be a lot less thirsty when the checkered flag comes down.
MAYBE YOU HAD TO BE THERE
Paul Hahn pulled a pretty good one on Gary Player the other day, heh-heh. Hahn, a trick-shot specialist (SI, March 5, 1956), was on the practice tee with Player before the Champions tournament in Houston. Their conversation had been casual—nothing much had been said one way or the other about the threats the harassed Player had been receiving because of his country's apartheid policy—when Hahn suddenly reached into his golf bag, took out a pistol loaded with blanks and fired it at Player. The South African was shaken, and Hahn roared with laughter at the look of shock on his face. Oddly, Gary didn't laugh at all.
MONSTERS WE HAVE KNOWN
By now you've probably forgotten all about the Loch Ness monster, that popular Sunday feature story of decades past, but Robert E. Lee Love Jr. thinks about it all the time. Love, a former engineer, spent a month and a half last year cruising Loch Ness on a sonar-equipped 30-foot motor sailer, and one fine day his sonar screen picked up a blip and tracked it for more than three minutes. The target was about 600 feet down in the long, deep lake, moving smoothly at about two knots. It finally slowed, curved toward the ship, then suddenly looped around and sped out of the sonar's range. "It wasn't a fish or a school of fish," says Love, whose explorations are supported by Field Enterprises. "Biologists tell me that fish don't move in this pattern or stay solidly enough together to form a composite target." Love won't say what he thinks the monster is, but indications are that it is probably an overgrown eel, possibly a family of eels, trapped since time immemorial in the loch. "There have been about 100 valid sightings in the past 30 years," he says, usually of a creature described as serpentine, about 20 to 25 feet long, sometimes with a "mane" (eels do grow dorsal fins).
This August, Love will be back in Scotland with new ideas and equipment, including a one-man submarine equipped with a tissue-sampling dart. "It won't hurt a bit," says Love. The monster's reaction presumably will become known later.
CAN RICK GO HOME AGAIN?
Rick Barry, who jumped from the NBA's San Francisco Warriors to the ABA's Oakland Oaks only to end up with the Washington Capitols when the Oaks moved East and who now wants to jump back to the Warriors again, is not one to keep his feelings inside. When he returned to his California home after the Caps lost to the Denver Rockets in the ABA's Western Division playoff, Barry said, "I can honestly say that when we lost I wasn't really disappointed. I know you should never become complacent about losing, but when we lost I realized I could go home.
"Now that I'm back I'm just hoping that somehow I can stay here next season and play for the Warriors—maybe through the merger, or maybe Franklin Mieuli might talk to Mr. Foreman of the Caps, or I might talk to someone and work it out."
Maybe—but Barry still has a year left, plus a one-year option, on the much litigated contract he negotiated back in 1967 when he left the Warriors in the first place.
Foreign visitors to the World Cup soccer matches in Mexico City in June should be pleased by new regulations governing public transportation. These specify that taxi and bus drivers must be clean, not give offense to passengers, not make sudden stops, not play radios, not allow too many passengers to board and not permit anyone to hang on to the outside of the bus. Musicians (presumably only those actually playing instruments) and street salesmen will not be allowed on buses, nor will drunks.
As for those who drive their own cars in Mexico City, they should be aware that the traffic cops, or tamarindos, can no longer remove the license plate from your illegally parked car and hold it until you pay a mordida (all right, a bribe) to get it back (the alternative was to go through the long legal process of paying the fine). In any case, traffic fines can now be paid with a credit card, though the mordida is still quicker. The well-mannered traffic cop is always ready to settle things courteously, happy to do you the favor. Simple speeding rates a 50-peso ($4) mordida but other infractions can go as high as $40. You may bargain.
HIGH COST OF GEORGE
Even though he has belonged to five teams in four seasons in the NBA, George Wilson, a 6'8" center, should not feel unwanted. In those four seasons he has been drafted three times by optimistic expansion teams. In 1967 the Seattle SuperSonics took him from the Chicago Bulls at a theoretical cost of $116,666.66 (one-eleventh of Seattle's NBA initiation fee, for which the club received its franchise as well as the right to draft 11 players from existing teams). In 1968 the Phoenix Suns picked him up from Seattle for $111,111.11. The Suns traded him to the Philadelphia '76ers, and in 1970 Buffalo drafted him from Philly for $336,363.63. Total cost of George Wilson: $564,141.40. His salary is something less than that.
The following is not for middle-aged joggers but for middle-aged athletes. Dave Pain, meet chairman of the third annual U.S. Masters track and field championships (a full-scale track meet for old boys 40 years and up, with everything from the 100-yard dash to the marathon, including field events), says that plans are in the works for a World Masters track meet in Munich in 1972, right after the Olympic Games. This year's U.S. meet will be held in San Diego early in July, in case you have your eye on Munich and want to start training early.
Except for its soccer teams, which can be pretty good, Oberlin College is not particularly noted for its athletic prowess, which makes the following excerpts from an article entitled Mens Sana in Corpore Sano, from the April issue of the college's alumni magazine, all the more fitting: "[In 1833] Theodore Weld, general agent for the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions, gave the faculty a list of four objections to gymnastic exercise as a system of eduction to replace or compete with manual labor: '1) It is dangerous...Sprains, dislocations, fractures, ruptured blood vessels and death have all been entered upon the records of gymnasiums in our country; 2) It is unnatural...and destroys that equilibrium which is necessary to the perfect performance of all [bodily] functions; 3) It is unphilosophical...gymnastic exercises produce few visible effects and therefore cannot permanently interest the mind; 4) Gymnastic exercises excite aversion and contempt in the public mind. The laboring classes, who make up 9/10s of the community, are disgusted and repelled by the grotesque and ludicrous antics of the gymnasium.... The time spent in them affords no pecuniary advantage; the exercise...makes no contribution to the resources of the country and no addition to the means of human subsistence.' "
The article makes it clear that despite the warning, Oberlin is going ahead with a new $4.5 million gymnasium now under construction.
SHORTEST WAY ROUND
Bird watchers in Switzerland have noted that swallows migrating north from Italy are using a new route. Instead of climbing high over the towering Alps, the little birds have been taking a shortcut. They fly through the 3.7-mile-long Grand St. Bernard road tunnel.
THEY SAID IT
•Paul Wahlberg, Houston Golf Association president, announcing his organization is receiving applications for two four-year college scholarships: "What we're really looking for is another Arnold Palmer who makes straight A's and whose parents are real poor."
•John Madden, Oakland Raider coach: "When the NFL teams meet the AFL in interleague play this year, I predict some high-scoring, lopsided games. It takes years for pro teams to know one another."
•John Luginbuhl, head basketball coach at Kiser High School in Dayton, on why he decided to resign: "Our varsity won 15 games in those seven years and lost 119, our reserves were 13-110 and our freshmen were 9-83. Overall, the program was 37-312. I thought maybe somebody else could do better."