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Sylvia Cook and John Fairfax became the first persons to row across the Pacific when they arrived in Australia last week, after an 8,000-mile voyage from San Francisco in their $5,000 rowboat. Sylvia, for one, must be glad it's over. It was bad enough that Fairfax kept getting washed overboard and that they lived on raisins for days on end. On top of that she confessed she isn't much of a swimmer.

The deputy head of the Chinese Ping-Pong team, Li Menghua, avoided the ever-present question of which is better, the penholder or handshake grip, by employing the old-fashioned baseball grip in this workout at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School near Washington, D.C. last week.

The wonder is that their paths had not crossed before. But Muhammad Ali and Bernie Pollack, a Deer Lake, Pa. mink rancher and fight enthusiast, finally met this month, and the friendship seems certain to blossom. Disappointed with his showing against Mac Foster in Tokyo on April 1, Ali decided to accept Pollack's recent invitation to go into semi-seclusion in the mountains of Pennsylvania for some serious training before the George Chuvalo fight. Ali arrived at the Pollack ranch with a horse, buckboard and an $8,000 mobile home to use as headquarters for his new Spartan life. Pollack is delighted. "He's an amazing man, a charming guy," says the rancher. "But, wow, does he spend money."

Another big spender in his day was old Cassius M. Clay, the 19th century Kentucky abolitionist. Last week in Lexington, television station WKYT scheduled a show about Cassius M. Clay's home, White Hall, now a state shrine. Producer Ted Grizzard sent out announcements for the television logs that read in part, "Today, a look at White Hall, the home of Cassius Clay." An overzealous editor at TV Guide saw the entry and changed it to—right—"Today: a look at White Hall, the home of Muhammad Ali."

The baseball strike and attendant hard times have energized several players' wives into helping make ends meet. Jeri Roseboro, wife of California Angel Coach John Roseboro, has organized some 35 wives of athletes into a service and speaking agency. They address luncheons, banquets and television audiences with their accounts of life as an athlete's spouse and are planning a number of community projects. The group calls itself The Supporters and at the moment is slightly weighted toward the baseball contingent, with Mary Grabarkewitz, Jean Lefebvre and Patty Sutton, all wives of Dodgers. But the ladies' auxiliary is also ready for the basketball and football crowds with Ruby (Mrs. Elgin) Baylor, Pam (Mrs. Les) Josephson and Louise (Mrs. Joe) Scibelli on the roster. One could even say they were women for all seasons.

The environmental movement, which has given New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller quite a bit of flak lately, is infiltrating his own household. His 7-year-old son, Nelson Jr., has been beating the bushes for litter in Manhattan's Central Park, the governor reported last week, filling 37 bags on one recent foray with a group from his school. The lad doesn't let up when he gets home, either. "He tells his mother she should stop polluting by stopping smoking," said the Guv.

The St. Louis Cardinals may be fielding a team to throw nostalgiacs into ecstasy one of these days. Down on the farm this spring the Redbirds are bringing along a flock of fledglings that includes no fewer than six scions of ex-major-leaguers. The list includes Dudley Mitchell, son of ex-Dodger Dale (he made the last out in Don Larsen's 1956 Series no-hitter); Tom Zimmer, son of ex-Dodger and Cub Don; Bob Kennedy Jr., whose dad played mostly for the White Sox and Indians in the '40s and '50s; Carl Sawatski Jr., son of the former Cardinal catcher; Tom Heintzelman, son of Ken Heintzelman, the former Pirate and Phillie pitcher; Mark Mueller, whose dad—Don Mueller of the old New York Giants—grandfather and great-uncle all were major-leaguers.

The week's Bread-on-the-Waters Award goes to Corky Calhoun, the Penn basketball star who after completing his fourth year on a scholarship signed with the Phoenix Suns for a substantial bonus. Did Corky rush out and buy a new convertible? He did not. At the school's basketball banquet last month, he said thanks for "four beautiful years of my life," and then pledged part of his bonus to establish a new Penn scholarship fund.

Once he gets rolling, there's no stopping 465-pound John Truden, winner for the third time of the World Heavyweight Ski Race at Sugarloaf Mountain, Me. He finished ahead of 26 other entrants, each of whom donated 3¢ per pound to charity as an entry fee. Contrary to rumor, the descent of all those chubbies did not set off an avalanche—it only seemed like it.

After his team dropped a 5-2 decision to the Orioles in Baltimore, Billy Martin got into an altercation with a supermarket employee named Jack Sears on the way to the team bus. Martin apparently landed a couple of punches—Sears later displayed a bruised cheek and swollen nose—and perhaps took one in return. Sears says he wouldn't think of pressing charges. Turns out he is an avid Tiger fan and plans never to wash the hand he punched Martin with.