FOURTH OF JULY NOTE
The Kansas City Royals, who attempted to restore some significance to The Star-Spangled Banner by proposing to play it only on Sundays, holidays and special occasions, have changed their minds, as predicted (SCORECARD, June 19). Their capitulation drew the following reaction from a disappointed citizen:
"I do not agree that indiscriminate flag-waving is evidence of patriotism. When I was a boy in the 1930s the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner and the raising of the flag were thrilling moments. In sport, the anthem and the ceremonial raising of the flag were only for major events, like Opening Day or the World Series.
"Then, during World War II, baseball, self-conscious about continuing business as usual during wartime, began to play the anthem and raise the flag before every game in an attempt to equate baseball with patriotism. The custom continued and spread until now flag and anthem before an athletic event have about as much significance as shaking hands. The magic, the thrill, is gone.
"I have a neighbor who has flag decals on his car and who runs the flag up a pole in his front yard every day. I felt sorry for him on Memorial Day. That morning my little boy and I got our big American flag, which had been on my cousin's coffin, from the moth-balled box it is kept in, and ceremoniously went out on the front porch and hung it from the hooks that are always there for it. The flag on Memorial Day is rich in tradition and significance for my son; for my neighbor up the street it was just another day, same old Hag. We follow the tradition of an older time. Would you say that my father, growing up around the turn of the century, had less feeling for this country because the anthem and the flag were reserved for special occasions rather than every day? I don't think so.
"Obviously, some so-called traditions are not very old. For instance, The Star-Spangled Banner did not officially become the national anthem until 1931. And many loyal, patriotic citizens were distressed that it was chosen instead of the more stirring and significant America the Beautiful.
"I think we need less flag-waving and more attention to the Constitution. Do you know how many times the flag is mentioned in the Constitution? The superpatriots might check and see."
GEORGE IS RIGHT
George Blanda, the hero of the geriatric football fan, is also the most vocal spokesman for pro football's right wing, as opposed to the Dave Meggyesy-Chip Oliver-Joe Namath freethinkers. Blanda has been traveling around the country promoting his new book and firing pungent opinions on almost anything he is asked. He criticized Namath's reported request for a million dollars over a three-year period by saying, "What has he done to make that much? He hasn't played for the last two years." He thought Joe Kapp was wrong to leave football because the NFL would not let him play without signing a standard contract. "I don't know how or why he could do that," said George. "Everybody has to live by some rules."
He does not support players' moves to liberalize the terms of the standard contract. "I am for the reserve or option clause. I am opposed to 90% of the things the Players' Association is for. I am against strikes in sports."
As for charges that NFL players were "racist, drug-taking bums," he declared, "A fellow told me he thought I was a racist when I was with Houston because I wouldn't throw to Charlie Frazier, but now that I'm with Oakland he knew I wasn't a racist because I throw to Warren Wells. The reason I didn't throw to Frazier was he had bad hands. The reason I throw to Wells is he's got great hands. I discriminate against receivers with bad hands.
"And drugs—Oliver claims he once kicked a 75-yard field goal while high on mescaline. Hell, when I was at Kentucky I punted a ball 86 yards against Tennessee. At the time, I was high on Polish sausage." Offering an opposite opinion to that expressed in the previous item, Blanda concluded, "I don't need a thing to stimulate me. All I need to get high for a game is to have somebody play the national anthem."
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
A fellow we know is in love with beaches, bright lovely stretches of warm clean sand that he remembers from his youth. Each year he searches for the beach of his dreams, and this year he thought he had found it at Guincho in Portugal, 20 miles north of Lisbon, hard by Cabo da Roca, continental Europe's westernmost point. Its mile-long sweep of pristine sand, unmarred by so much as a dead jellyfish or a single vinho verde bottle, is sheltered at either end by dramatic headlands. And there is a marvelous inn and restaurant called Estalagem Muchaxo where a room for two, all meals included, costs $25 a day.
Our friend trembled with excitement as he registered at the inn. He almost sprained an ankle as he rushed down barefoot to walk along the beautiful beach. A half hour later he returned to his room, a broken man. His feet were covered with a thick, gluey, yellow-brown mass of tar and oil; an hour's scrubbing did more to stain his bathtub than untar his feet. How could such clean sand be so dirty?
Inquiry at the desk brought out that so much oil is in the water off Guincho that it apparently fragments and insinuates itself between the grains of sand, where it is not noticeable until one's feet go out and collect it. The oil comes from tankers on their way to the huge docks in Lisbon. "They blow their tanks just offshore," the lady at the desk said, "and there is nothing we can do about it." Our man suggested torpedos.
Oldtimers' games are good baseball fun, but they do get a bit repetitious. Now Bill Giles, promotional genius of the Philadelphia Phils, has come up with a refreshing variation on the old theme. The 1952 All-Star Game was held in Philly, but rain drenched the field and the contest was called in the sixth inning with the National League ahead 3-2. It was the only All-Star Game that did not go nine innings or more. Giles has decided to rectify that. He has invited the 1952 All-Stars to take the field, pick up where they left off and—20 years later—play out the four innings that were wiped away by rain. As you will recall, Hank Sauer, the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1952, had hit a two-run homer to put his league ahead. Little Bobby Shantz, all 5'6" and 139 pounds of him, who was to win 24 games and become the American League's MVP, had struck out the side, including Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial, in the bottom of the fifth. Now it is the top of the sixth. Bob Rush has a one-and-one count on Minnie Minoso. All right, places everybody.
The Northwest has been experiencing an extraordinary sports boom despite the economic recession that has ravaged the area since the aerospace industry began laying off workers in 1968 (down from about 105,000 then to an estimated 33,000 today). Boat sales are up. Campgrounds are crowded. Visitors fill national and state parks. Skiers were on local slopes in record numbers. Sales of outdoor equipment have been soaring. True, major league baseball failed in Seattle, but locals say that was because of mismanagement; Tacoma's minor league team is up from 49,000 last year to 68,000 this year for the same number of playing dates.
Hockey was a bust last winter, but again the team was a lemon. On the other hand, the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association are a smash hit. Attendance has climbed impressively from 210,000 in 1968-69 to 440,000 last season, third best in the NBA. Even though ticket prices were raised to a $7 top, 19 games were sellouts.
Thoroughbred racing is thriving, too. In prerecession 1967, the Longacres track drew 368,000 people and had a $26.7 million mutuel handle. These figures rose steadily through the recession years to 1971's 589,000 and $40.7 million, and this year the track is doing about 10% better than that.
Why the boom? A recreational equipment official says, "More and more kids are excited by the outdoors. They simply are turning away from materialistic things. Getting outdoors is relatively inexpensive." The expense factor is apparently the key. A racetrack man says, "All we can figure is that the recession is keeping people at home. They're not traveling. So they come out here more often."
Did someone say sports is the opiate of the people?
Honolulu is building a 50,000-seat stadium with a definite eye on attracting major league baseball into the Pacific, and maybe beyond. Minor league ball has been a success in Hawaii, and according to Jack Quinn, general manager of the Pacific Coast League Islanders, "I think we will have a major league franchise here within 10 years." Not a very startling suggestion, it is true, but Quinn adds, "Once Honolulu is in the majors, you'll see Tokyo following. Teams can come here, then jump off and play in Japan." U.S. big-league baseball in Japan! Seems almost as farfetched as putting a man on the moon.
SIGN RIGHT HERE
The indiscriminate hounding of sports stars for autographs has been criticized on the grounds that such efforts are no more than phatic communion, a sort of symbolic touching, a momentary sharing of the universe. The signed scrap of paper is shown to one or two people and a week or so later disappears. It seems a silly practice and a pointless chore for the athlete, who probably would rather talk with his fans than blindly scribble signature after signature.
Serious gathering of autographs is a different matter, collectors say. Such a one is Irving Rudd, public relations man for New York's Off-Track-Betting Corporation, who treasures an old grammar-school notebook from the early 1930s filled with photos and autographs of major league players of that era. The signatures, which the youthful Rudd got by hanging around Brooklyn's Ebbets Field until the appropriate hero appeared, include those of more than 20 embryonic Hall of Famers (the Hall had not yet been established), including Casey Stengel, then in his early 40s and manager of the Dodgers. Rudd, like a true ball fan, has almost equal affection for those of unremembered players like Watty Clark and Fred Heimach, who between them were in the major leagues for 25 seasons.
The point is that Rudd's collecting efforts were not for the moment but for posterity, so to speak. To young collectors like him today: good luck. To the one-shot pests: go away.
THEY SAID IT
•Pete Rozelle, on the proposed federal sports commission: "It simply would not be possible to establish rules which could be applied fairly and reasonably to sports in general. Anyone who tried to deal authoritatively with the particular and individual problems of each sport would have to have the knowledge of the Almighty, the judgment of Solomon and the vision of Joan of Arc. I don't find these qualities available in anybody, not even in Howard Cosell."
•Muhammad Ali, on the importance of his fights: "A fight is good for everybody. I'll be working. You press people will be working. The peanut and popcorn people will be working, and Jerry Quarry will make some money for his family."
•Alexander MacArthur, chairman of the Illinois Racing Board, on banning gimmick bets such as quinellas and trifectas: "We went back to it, and the mice started coming out. I'm not about to play cat-and-mouse again."
•Doyle Alexander, Baltimore Oriole reliever, after pitching for the first time in two weeks: "When I got to the mound, Catcher Johnny Oates reminded me that the lower mask was his and the upper one was the umpire's. It was so long since I'd seen the two together that I was glad he reminded me."