Baseball, never quite sure where it stands, seemed to be galloping off in all directions last week. Bad news came from Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers play. Residents of Arlington, a community of 100,000 between Dallas and Fort Worth, are facing an increase in property taxes because of the artistic and financial flop of their ball club, the worst in the major leagues. A nonprofit organization called the Arlington Park Corporation, which runs both Arlington Stadium and the watery Seven Seas Amusement Park, reported an overall loss of $527,994 in 1972. One reason for APC's deficit, says Tom Vandergriff, longtime mayor of Arlington and the man who persuaded Owner Bob Short to shift his club (the former Washington Senators) to Texas, is the $7.5 million, 10-year loan the city obtained to buy radio and TV rights to Ranger games from Short. APC thought it was a wise investment, since it felt sure there was a bundle to be made from broadcasting and telecasting the games to eager Texas fans. But the deficit last year was $576,246, and this year the baseball network has been tightened from 30 radio and 15 TV stations to 10 radio and two TV (this is not all bad: in the Dallas-Fort Worth area the telecasts will shift from a relatively weak UHF channel to powerful KDFW-TV, Channel 4). Also, Ranger attendance was only 663,000 last year, well below what was hoped for, and season-ticket sales this year are down.
Thus, money is not coming in as expected, yet debts have to be paid. "We made our first payment on the loan," said county commissioner Jerry Melbus ($1.2 million was repaid), "but that meant we could not pay the city anything for leasing the stadium or for the amusement park facilities." The city budget anticipated a rent of $1,489,548 from APC; none of it was forthcoming.
Somebody has to get up the money, and Mayor Vandergriff has spoken of a tax increase. Indeed, the tax collector has already sent notices asking property owners to render their holdings for taxation. "We're going to get it good now," predicts political activist Mrs. Jewel Fox. "Our taxes are really going up because of that damn polliwog pond and Little League field."
But consider baseball's good news, the astonishing attraction it can be. One day last week the New York Mets, who had lost four of their previous five games, drew 38,000 people to Shea Stadium—on a muggy, rain-threatened Thursday afternoon. A substantial proportion of those in attendance was youthful—school kids and college kids on spring vacation—which indicates the old game still has a hold on the young crowd. On the previous Sunday, a warm, beautiful day, the immensely popular sport of auto racing drew only 16,100, or 6,400 less than capacity, to USAC championship races at Trenton, N.J., even though the drivers present included A. J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Mario Andretti and Joe Leonard. Thirty miles away the Philadelphia Phillies, one of baseball's joke teams, drew 30,700 people, almost twice what the drivers did.
Bad news on the liberation front. In Great Britain the World Marbles Board of Control decided by a 5-1 vote to re-impose its ban against all women competitors in the annual Good Friday championships at Tinsley Green in Sussex. The reason given, obviously spurious, was that women wasted too much time during last year's championships.
And in Japan, not only women but the young—or at any rate, the relatively young—have been put down. The ingenious Japanese are planning to build a new two-course golf club in Ohtawara, a two-hour ride from Tokyo. It will be called St. Andrews Country Club, and one of the courses, designed with the help of Jack Nicklaus, will be a replica of the Scottish St. Andrews' famous Old Course, even to the bunkers and huge greens. Permission to use the name and to copy the hallowed course was freely granted by St. Andrews, but in appreciation the Japanese have given the Scottish town ¬£50,000 already, will pay another ¬£50,000 this year and thereafter will send an annual stipend of ¬£10,000.
But to the rub: membership, which costs $12,000, is restricted. Women and anyone under 40 cannot join.
Phil Esposito, the Boston Bruin star who ruined his knee early in the playoff series with the New York Rangers, was operated on at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital. After the Bruins were eliminated a few days later, the players dutifully gathered in The Branding Iron restaurant for their annual "breakup" dinner. The party was flat, dull and strained until someone noted that the restaurant was only a long slap shot from Massachusetts General. Almost at once several of the Bruins streamed out the restaurant door and across Charles Plaza to the hospital. It was about seven in the evening, and visitors were coming to and fro. The players went en masse to the fifth floor to Esposito's room and invited him to the party.
Because of the massive cast on his knee, it was impossible for Esposito to use a wheelchair. So the Bruins wheeled his bed out the door, along the corridor, into an elevator, down to ground level, out the door, across the street and into the restaurant. A huge roar went up. After a few speeches, a couple of drinks and a lot of laughter, Esposito was wheeled out again, back across the street and up to his room.
It all took less than an hour, but after it the party was alive.
OUT OF SIGHT
Graphite shafts are the new status symbol in golf. At the Masters Jack Nicklaus borrowed a graphite shaft driver from George Archer and sent six balls out of the practice area, over lofty pines and across a neighboring street. It was estimated that each carried 350 yards. Nicklaus was swinging for distance, not for accuracy, but even so his drives were extraordinary. Credit was given to the graphite shafts.
The novel shafts are lighter and stronger than steel and are said to add 30 yards to a golfer's distance off the tee. The lightness of the shaft allows the manufacturers to add as much as half an ounce more weight to the club head, which means greater force is applied to the ball.
There are some drawbacks. One is that the U.S. Golf Association, uneasy about the clubs, is planning tests to determine their ultimate legality. The other is expense. Where a pro-type wood with a steel shaft might sell for $35, a graphite shaft wood goes for $167.50. A set of four woods and 10 irons, all with graphite shafts, costs $2,020.
"But golfers don't seem to care about the price," says Toney Penna, the old golf pro now associated with a company making the new clubs. "We can't keep up with the demand."
Gary Shaw's book Meat On The Hoof is a bitter, critical memoir of his days as a college football player under Coach Darrell Royal at the University of Texas. Not surprisingly. Royal and Texas in general don't think much of it. Yet Frank Broyles, head coach at the University of Arkansas, has decided to circulate the book among his assistant coaches.
"The book could have been about any coach in America instead of Darrell Royal," says Broyles. "I don't think it depicts the true Darrell. He's a warm, conscientious man. But I believe some of the things Gary Shaw says. When I was in school I might have thought some of the same things about my coach"
Broyles claims that the experiences Shaw depicts, whether real or imagined, make the book valuable. "He was a psychology student and he saw things other kids didn't. Coaches get in the habit of asking a boy how much he weighs or how fast was his last 40, instead of how he is doing in class or how he is getting on with his girl friend. Reading the book has caused me to re-evaluate my attitude toward the players and also toward my children.
"I want to put our contacts on a personal basis. Shaw's book will lead my coaches to a better understanding of the players. His criticism touches all coaches, and maybe we can all benefit. I call the book preventive medicine."
One more happy high school story. Marion Pleasant became the first school in the history of Ohio high school athletics to win state championships in both football and basketball the same year. And a surprising number of Marion Pleasant athletes starred in both sports. The day after the football team finished its season by winning its 38th straight game, 11 players switched to basketball uniforms. When the undefeated basketball team won its 26th and last game of the season to take the Class A state title, three of the five starters were football players.
You won't have to sit up late waiting for returns in that Oxford University chair of poetry election (SI, April 23). Muhammad Ali politely declined the nomination. It was all very amiable, according to an Associated Press report from London, where another poet, Paddy Monaghan, strummed his lyre and sang:
"The cause of English poetry
At Oxford University
Was dealt a devastating blow:
Muhammad Ali answered, 'No.'
Two dons had asked the former champ
To spare time from his training camp
And take the professional chair
To teach young poets how and where.
Through broken jaw Ali avowed
He felt quite honored, pleased and proud,
But simply didn't have the time
To lecture on the arts of rhyme."
Considering the avalanche of journalistic poetry that might follow the above, it's probably just as well.
Will the anticipated fuel shortage hurt auto racing? No, according to Bill Brodrick of Union 76, which supplies gasoline for stock-car racing.
"Racing gasoline isn't regular gasoline," says Brodrick. "It's fortified and includes different ingredients, and because of this the entire supply is made at one time. I would say we have half a million gallons on hand before the racing season begins.
"Each stock car averages about five miles a gallon in a race. In the Rebel 500 at Darlington, S.C., David Pearson used 100 gallons. In all, 40 cars were driven an average of 450 miles in that race for a total of 18,000 miles and 3,600 gallons. In last year's racing at Talladega we used enough gasoline to supply the average layman for 25 years and enough oil to take a car to the moon 2½ times."
THEY SAID IT
•George Gardner, Los Angeles Shark goalie, on what it was like before masks became popular in pro hockey: "I had nightmares before every game. I'd wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I'd see my teeth floating in a pool of blood. I'd see my own eyes splattered on the wall of the room. It was hard to go back to sleep."
•Tex Schramm, president of the Dallas Cowboys, on the NFL rule requiring 20 of the 26 franchises to vote "yes" on any rule change: "The United States can go to war on a simple majority vote of the Congress. The Supreme Court knocked down the death penalty by a 5-4 vote. Yet the NFL can't even decide two-point conversions by a majority vote."
•Steve Smith, world-record pole vaulter, noting that he has been vaulting half his life and yet fears heights: "If you put me up 18 feet on a ladder and asked me to jump into a foam rubber pit, I wouldn't do it."