GOING TOO FAR?
The U.S. Golf Association has amplified its position on graphite-shaft clubs (SCORECARD, April 30), which are supposed to add considerable distance to a golfer's shots. The USGA says that for some years it has been concerned about the effect new developments in golf balls and clubs might have on the game, indicating it felt that an improvement in a golfer's game should properly be the result of improved skills rather than merely mechanical advantage gained from new departures in equipment. In 1968 it cautioned manufacturers of golf equipment about this, adding that it was determined to maintain the integrity of existing courses (a general improvement in distance by all golfers "shrinks" the size of a course and reduces its validity as a test of golfing skill). It repeated this warning in general terms in 1969 and in specific terms in 1970, these last having to do with things like inertia and radius of gyration in golf balls.
But the USGA clearly implies now that its warnings may have been ignored by the manufacturers. Rules currently exist to govern size, weight and initial velocity of golf balls (although there are no comparable restrictions on clubs), but the USGA says it fears "recent developments in ball dimpling and the introduction of graphite shafts may render existing distance controls inadequate." Therefore, it has begun extensive tests on both golf balls and clubs and will continue them for several months. And, it says, it "is prepared to take action if its tests show that a distance bonus has been achieved."
The aftermath of South Africa's local version of the Olympic Games did not do much to support that country's claim it was making signal progress in establishing a degree of racial equality in sport. A group of white South African athletes issued a statement saying that even though whites and nonwhites had competed against one another at the games there still was "not even an indication of sporting fairness" in the country. And Stan Smith, the American tennis star, in South Africa for a tournament, was reportedly deeply disturbed by the sight of "apartheid at close quarters" after a visit to Johannesburg's black satellite township of Soweto. Not ordinarily outspoken on political or social matters. Smith said he felt America's Arthur Ashe, the black tennis player who has several times been refused entry to South Africa, had every right to visit that country. But, said Smith, "If he saw what I have seen he would go right out of his mind."
THE CLANG OF THE BAT
Those bamboo bats introduced into Hawaii high school baseball (SCORECARD, Jan. 22) did not make such a big hit. The Japanese bats were distributed to practically every high school in the state on an experimental basis, and the results were discouraging. Of a dozen coaches contacted, only two said the bats were still being used regularly, and then by only a few players on the two teams. Most comments were negative.
The bamboo bats were expected to be exceptionally steady and durable, but one Oahu coach said, "Of the six we had, I think four or five are broken. Unless you hit the ball right—where it gets good wood—it always stings."
Experimental aluminum bats have had a far more favorable response. The same coach said, "Aluminum bats are better for the batter and worse for the pitcher. I think that's why scores have been so high here this season. With an aluminum bat, the pitcher gets frustrated. He figures he made a good pitch, but the batter gets a piece of it and it goes for a hit. Most of our players tried the bamboo bat and then went back to the aluminum one." Tom Kiyosaki, executive secretary of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association, who was involved in the original purchase, said, "We bought the bamboo bats because we thought they would be best for the schools. We were trying to save money. We gave each team six, but I won't buy more unless I receive an order from the schools." That doesn't seem likely. Aluminum is another story, however, and if the trend really catches on, baseball will have a new idiom. "Man," one fan will say to another, "he really got good metal on that one."
A family in Virginia had a Great Dane named Cato that bit. After two neighborhood kids were nipped, the family decided to have the dog put away. "We walked around like a funeral party," said Mrs. Jane McCreary, and when she handed the dog over to Dr. William Swartz, a veterinarian, she turned away in tears.
"Mrs. McCreary," said the vet, "have you ever thought of having his front teeth taken out?"
Reprieved by the pliers, and missing his upper and lower incisors as well as his four big canine teeth, Cato is now home and happy, or apparently so. The McCrearys have been waiting for a psychological change, but the day after his de-dentition Cato was happily gumming his dog food and even playing tug-of-war, holding on to whatever had to be tugged with his back teeth.
Cato is still a closely watched dog. "I'm not about to test him on the neighborhood children," said Mrs. McCreary. "He could still bruise them."
Baseball has 24 big-league teams, football 26, yet baseball has far more trades between teams than football does. Oakland Raider Coach John Madden says, "Baseball does a lot of trading in order to give losing clubs a new image. Football has not had to do this. The new faces come along every year in the draft. And after the season you don't trade; you are waiting to see what you'll get in the next draft. Then you want to wait to take a look at the new people you drafted. And you want to see how they go under game conditions."
After all this Madden concluded, "But basically the lack of trading is because most clubs are afraid to take a chance."
AM I BLUE?
There has been considerable talk this spring in baseball circles about Dr. John Nash Ott, who does research into the effect of light on people and who has published a book on the subject called Health and Light. A year ago Ott advised the Cincinnati Reds to change the color of the underside of the bill of the team's uniform caps. Cincinnati's cloth caps used to be green underneath, the helmets red. Ott recommended medium gray, arguing that it reflects light in a more favorable manner. The Reds won the National League pennant, perhaps a coincidence. Now the Chicago White Sox have joined the trend to gray and claim they have gained happiness and better batting. They will have to wait on a pennant.
Earlier, Ott got the Kansas City Royals to persuade a cantankerous young player at their baseball academy in Sarasota, Fla. to switch from pink-tinted sunglasses to gray. The Royals wrote Ott, "It was amazing to observe how he changed from a hyperaggressive, helmet-throwing player to a relaxed, confident person. There was a great improvement in performance." Green and blue sunglasses are also on Ott's bad-for-you list, and so, apparently, are wild, disturbing colors. The Royals had another promising player whose skills retrogressed badly until psychedelic red lighting was removed from his room. He quickly returned to normal.
Ott claims he could have grown grass in Houston's Astrodome ("All they needed was ultra-violet transmitting plastic in the roof") but "nobody asked me and I didn't get around to writing them a letter." The death of the grass originally planted in the Astrodome led to the development of the artificial surfaces that have had such a pronounced effect on both baseball and football.
Asked recently about orange baseballs, Ott said it would be interesting to study their effect. "Off the cuff," he told the Chicago Tribune's Dick Dozer, "I would say they offer less contrast than white. I think they'd be harder to hit, but I don't know."
Some doctors and hospitals expressed disbelief and surprise that Boston Bruin hockey star Phil Esposito could have been so easily wheeled, bed and all, from his room at Massachusetts General Hospital to a team party at a restaurant across the street (SCORECARD, April 30). Apparently it was not all that easy. Last week Esposito received a $400 bill from the hospital for "repairs" to a railing and door frame that were removed during the short happy journey from hospital to bar. To sum up, Mass General seemed more than a little miffed by the whole affair.
A spate of excessively large numbers comes to attention this week. We are told that during the Women's International Bowling Congress, a three-month-long extravaganza now under way in Las Vegas, 48,000 women will lift 500,000 tons of bowling ball, propel that weight 100,000 miles and with it knock down 75 million pins. In college baseball in Maine, Nasson College won a squeaker from St. Francis, 31-0. And in the Politely Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland a $2 show bet on Rambelle, who finished second, returned $159.40, and a $2 show bet on third-place Pegemina paid $124. This requires further comment. The winner of the race was Winsome Imp, a 30-to-1 long shot who paid $67.20 to win, $25 to place and $73 to show. A $2 across-the-board bet on Winsome Imp ($6 in all) would have netted a profit of $159.20, but that was only $1.80 more than from a simple $2 show bet on Rambelle. Pegemina's $124 for show was $31.80 greater than Winsome Imp's win and place prices combined. The reason for these extravagant returns was extremely heavy show betting on Marian Bender, winner of seven straight races and a 1-to-5 favorite, who finished fifth. Of $100,852 in the show pool, $92,908 was bet on Marian Bender. Ray Kennedy, who has been with American Totalisator Company, the tote-board people, for 32 years, said, "In all my years, I have never seen a show payoff like that one."
A LITTLE HUMOR HERE
Pratfalls, however painful to the fallee, are usually funny. At any rate, they make other people laugh. The University of Oklahoma's sad recruiting mishap, which led the Sooners to forfeit eight of their 1972 football victories, brought a swirl of gags in its wake. The University of Texas publicist, Jones Ramsey, remembering that Texas' only defeat last fall was to Oklahoma, ran up and down corridors shouting, "We're undefeated! We're undefeated!" Dallas' Times-Herald Columnist Dick Hitt congratulated himself for not having gotten around to paying off a steak-dinner bet on the Texas-Oklahoma game. He phoned the friend with whom he had made the bet and said he and his wife were available for dinner anytime. At the University of Oregon, which lost to Oklahoma 68-3, Publicist Hal Cowan put in a call to his Oklahoma counterpart, John Keith. Noting that the forfeit had changed the score to 1-0 Oregon, Cowan asked, "When are you going to return the game ball?"
THEY SAID IT
•Bill Grabarkewitz, California Angel infielder, who has been plagued throughout his career by strikeouts, explaining his infrequent whiffs during the early season: "I'm a slow starter."
•Doug Osburn, Rice baseball coach, on David Clyde, Houston Westchester pitcher, who is expected to be the first choice in baseball's free agent draft in June: "They've got to where they've stopped counting his no-hitters—only his perfect games."
•E. W. Kenworthy, New York Times Washington correspondent, on William D. Ruckelshaus, new acting director of the FBI: "He has one large character fault—he is a bass fisherman."