Professional tennis' pretensions to the big time were blown to bits once again last week in Houston. Monday's first round for the River Oaks World Championship Tennis tournament was a virtual sellout, mostly because Arthur Ashe and Rod Laver had matches that day. But a few hours before he was to take the court against Fred Stolle, Laver informed World Championship Tennis that a morning promotional appearance at a local store would leave him insufficient time to prepare for play. To accommodate their No. 1 star, WCT postponed the Laver-Stolle match to the following day.
Ashe was to meet Ismail El Shafei, but as El Shafei was dressing to go on the court word came that Ashe was not even in Houston. Rumors said he was in Omaha for a promotional appearance there. Like Laver, Ashe was not obliged to default. His match against El Shafei was merely shifted to another day when it would not conflict with his personal business.
No effort was made to compensate the short-changed paying customers. Instead, side-court matches featuring Owen Davidson and Tom Leonard were moved to the grandstand. As if to add insult to the fans' injury, Laver came out and practiced on a side court.
It becomes increasingly difficult to care who wins the tennis war, especially since it appears that no fans will be left if ever a verdict is reached. In the meantime customers in tour cities might do well to wait at least until Tuesday before digging down for admission money.
George Allen of the Redskins invited Darrell Royal of Texas and Royal's defensive coach, Mike Campbell, to Washington recently to talk about the Wishbone T. Pro teams have shown only slight interest in the Wishbone as a possible offensive formation, and all Allen wanted to know was how to stop it, just in case any of his opponents chance to spring it on him.
After returning to Texas, Campbell suggested that the pros might be wise to adopt the Wishbone. Commenting on the pro scoring drought (100 fewer touchdowns in 1971 than in 1969), he said, "The worst thing the pros do is score from inside the five-yard line. People say that's because the defenses are so much better. Maybe so. But some of it may be poor offense. When they use only two backs the way they do, there's nobody to block."
So the three-back Wishbone may be the answer, no matter how emphatically the professionals dismiss it.
A list of currently popular recordings in Great Britain has something called The Chelsea Football Team, singing Blue Is the Color, in the No. 4 spot. Blue happens to be the color of the stripe in the uniform of London's Chelsea soccer club (SI, May 11, 1970), and the singers on the record turn out to be just what the label says: the Chelsea football team. Thinking of the buying public, a recording executive said: "Let's hope they think Chelsea is a new group, and I might have an international hit. With a bit of luck they'll never realize they're singing through their boots."
A fellow named Mickey Wittman is feeling justifiably nervous these days. Wittman played a lot of basketball for the University of Miami a few years ago. Not to the level of his roommate Rick Barry, of course, but he did score more than 1,300 points as a varsity player. He also had played as a freshman at Loyola of New Orleans before transferring to Miami. Miami gave up basketball last year; Loyola is giving it up this year. Wittman was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks after his college career ended. He was eventually cut but not before he had put his mark on St. Louis: soon after his brief tenure there the franchise left town for Atlanta. Wittman was also drafted by the Anaheim Amigos of the ABA. You don't remember the Amigos, and no wonder. They disappeared the following year.
Wittman reestablished his amateur standing and joined the famous Phillips 66 Oilers of Bartlesville, Okla. The Oilers had been playing as an organized team since 1920. Wittman played one season with them. The day he left, the team disbanded. Undaunted, he joined the crack Goodyear Wingfoots of Akron, who had been a team for half a century. What happened to the Wingfoots? They gave up the sport.
Wittman says he is currently confining his efforts to YMCA basketball. He admits he is worrying about the imminent demise of Christianity. And because he now works for Goodyear in public relations, he is keeping a close eye on the Goodyear blimp.
On picket lines or baselines, major league players are wearing stylish double-knit uniforms this season. Harold Bowman of Wilson Sporting Goods, which makes uniforms for 16 big-league clubs, says almost all of Wilson's customers have ordered what the company calls "warp-knits" instead of traditional flannel. Well, sort of traditional flannel. For the last dozen years or so, baseball flannel had been a blend of synthetics instead of the sturdy wool that used to flap around second basemen's thighs.
"You'd be surprised the way men's styles carry over into the sport uniform field," Bowman says. "Soon after men began wearing flared pants, basketball teams were ordering flared bottoms for their warmup suits. When kids took to hip-hugger pants, we began getting orders for hip-hugger football pants, particularly from schools in the Southwest. Now the same thing is happening to double-knits and baseball.
"The double-knits are ideal for baseball uniforms. For one thing, they feel just beautiful. They give lots of freedom but also have a snug, trim fit—but no matter how snug that fit is, the uniforms have plenty of give.
"The double-knits also let us do a lot more with color. The San Diego Padres have ordered gold knit uniforms and the Chicago White Sox blue. And wait until you see the new Texas Rangers uniforms. They have an elastic waistband, and the players don't need to wear belts. The waistband is 2½" wide and has red, white and blue stripes matching the trim of the cuffs and collars.
"I've been in this business for 30 years, and for a long time I've thought someone ought to do something to dress up baseball uniforms, something that would hit the spectator in the eye. Now we've got it. Even though a team may be playing bad, at least it will look good."
Chess, that creaking old game, is catching on everywhere. The Chicago Tribune hired as a chess columnist Grand Master Larry Evans, whose first appearance in print was accompanied by a chess contest for readers. It was not a very big contest; first prize was a chess book. But hundreds of telephone calls were received that first day, and more than 1,000 responses came in from readers in 20 states and Canada. Sounds as though chess might last as long as the Hula Hoop.
A GOOD STEP BACKWARD
Some people in the state of Michigan are kind of excited, and should be, about a move to permit girls to compete with boys in varsity sports. A girl at Berkley High in suburban Detroit was not allowed to play on her high school tennis team. She appealed to State Senator Daniel Cooper, who introduced a bill that would let girls compete on varsity teams in noncontact sports. The bill passed the state senate and went on to the house of representatives. The Michigan High School Athletic Association fought it because, says MHSAA President John Cotton, "It is strictly illegal for girls to compete on boys' teams. Senate Bill 1082 gives the MHSAA control of high school sports, and the MHSAA handbook says, 'Girls are not to engage in interscholastic athletic contests when part or all of the membership of one or both of the competing teams is composed of boys.' " (This convoluted bit of prose makes one wonder what the "part" of the team would be that is not boy and cannot be girl.)
At about the same time, two girls at Huron High in Ann Arbor who regularly defeated boys in tennis practice but could not play for Huron's team appealed to the local board of education, and the board unanimously agreed that the girls could be on the varsity whether or not the legislature completed passage of the Cooper bill.
Hurrah for Ann Arbor. And Senator Cooper. Opponents argue that sex segregation is necessary to protect the girls' interscholastic athletic program, but that argument seems bureaucratic and contrived, at least to one who recalls the tennis team that represented Gorton High School of Yonkers, N.Y. in the 1930s. Liby Ostruk, a pretty girl and a whale of a tennis player, was No. 3 "man" on the four-player "boys" tennis team. Aside from a slight resentment that a girl could play tennis better than all but two boys in the school, there was not a great deal of fuss and bother. There must have been dozens of similar instances back then. What has happened around the country since to create the problem that Michigan and other states are having so much trouble trying to solve?
From San Francisco comes word that a book has been written on bar dice, that favorite sport of golfers and other drinkers. The book has a title commensurate with its importance: Complete Rules and Strategies For More Than 80 Different Bar Dice...GAMES THEY PLAY IN SAN FRANCISCO...Including Boss, Liars, 4-5-6, Horse, Indian, Turnsies, Ship Captain, Selection-Rejection, Zilch, Yahtzee, Red Dog and Many Others.
The author is Jester Smith, a pseudonym. Smith has put the probability factors of the various games through a computer, but the 105-page book is far from being a dull compendium. Smith says he has played all the games and he analyzes, as they do in poker books, the various types of players and the tricks they use, including the subtle change from strategy to plain old cheating. "A friend of mine did not want me to write this book," the author claims. "He said he spent $5,000 learning to play bar dice, not to mention another $20,000 he'd blown on drinks. Now, for $5, amateurs will have the information it took him 10 years to learn."
Drink up. Wanna roll for the check?
Since cooking ranks as No. 2 sport in France (according to the French, No. 1 is something called belote), it is worth noting that there is a lot of talk about a culinary revolution over there. So much talk in fact that the international press has got into the act, along with France's own newspapers, every last one of which has a dictatorial gastronomy column. It is still difficult to tell what the precise aims of the revolution are, but in general haute cuisine (as exemplified by La Tour d'Argent's pressed duckling) is out and simplicity is in. Even the mighty Guide Michelin is in trouble, with a younger, livelier index to good food, the Guide Richer, listing dozens of small bistros the Michelin would never even give a nod to. This is no doubt a healthy trend, but for those of us who have been accustomed to looking to the French to tell us whether to drink pink or purple with the roast vulture, it is rather a letdown to know that we can now make the gastronomic pilgrimage to Paris for what?—a perfect, pure, pork chop.
THEY SAID IT
•Larry MacPhail, who ran three major league baseball teams: "If Bowie Kuhn had made them select four player representatives and four club owners for each league and made them sit down in the same room and talk, this thing could have been settled in an hour and a half. That's exactly what Judge Landis would have done. He'd have locked them in a room and not opened the door until they reached a settlement."
•Billy Truax, Dallas Cowboy end, on what leg injuries did to his speed last year: "You could have clocked me with a sundial."
•Phil Jackson, New York Knick forward, after his fight with Jack Marin of the Baltimore Bullets: "I don't even remember which hand I hit him with. I've got a poor memory. Like the other night, I stole the ball and I couldn't even remember which hand I had it in."