THE QUICK AND THE DEAD
One of the more spurious pretensions of baseball is that all baseballs are alike. Though the existence of lively balls and dead balls has been proved over many years, the pretense goes on. Hitherto the changes have been on a season-to-season basis, at one time favoring the pitchers, the next favoring the hitters. Now it appears that in the American League this year at least three teams are concerned about the difference in liveliness, size and method of distribution of two quite different baseballs presently in use.
There are indications that two American League East teams—Milwaukee and Cleveland—are using a livelier ball, put together in Haiti, in their home games. The Red Sox, on the other hand, receive only the comparatively dead ball manufactured in the U.S. Both baseballs are made by Spalding-Reach, but one is stamped "Made in the U.S." while the other, zippier, model bears the marking "Made in the U.S.—sewn in Haiti."
Last time the Red Sox were in Cleveland, the home club, as is league custom, supplied them with six dozen balls for batting practice. The balls came in a plain red box with no markings. Those the Red Sox get at home come in boxes plainly marked with the maker's name.
When the Sox returned to Boston they brought back with them five dozen of the Cleveland balls. They decided to use the "Haiti" balls in a four-game series with the Indians at Fenway Park. The Sox won three and tied one, which may or may not be relevant, but now they are investigating further.
Some eyebrows have been lifted in recent weeks over the number of homers that are being hit in the American League. As of a recent date, there had been 379 homers in 244 games, compared with 284 last season. One might think that the increase in home runs derives from the designated hitter rule. Not so. The designated hitters—at least in the AL East—are not hitting a lot of homers. Still, present indications are that if the current pace continues there will be a 25% increase in home runs in the league this year.
Carlton Fisk, the Red Sox catcher, says he finds considerable difference in the two balls.
"One feels bigger than the other," he maintains. "Maybe it's because of the seams, the way it's sewn."
"The Haiti ball is tighter," according to Eddie Popowski, third-base coach for the Sox. "At least that's the way it seems to me. It's got to be livelier."
Impressed by professional football's technique for strengthening its weak teams by giving them early draft choices, Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles has come up with a plan for spreading the talent more evenly in college football, too.
Noting that the top 20 college teams stay virtually the same, Broyles observed that "the only team I can think of that really cracked the top 20 in the last five or 10 years was Arizona State.
"Colleges can't conduct a draft such as the pros do to strengthen weak teams because we would be depriving a player of his right to choose a school," he said. "But there are other means."
He suggests that a basic 22 scholarships be allowed for every college team. For each game a team loses three additional scholarships would be permitted. An undefeated team would thus be allowed 22, a once-beaten team 25, a twice-beaten team 28 and so on, all the way up to 55 scholarships for the 11-game loser.
Granting that the plan rewards ineptitude and penalizes success, Broyles nevertheless holds that "it's the only way to even things up."
A PICTURE IS WORTH $2
In a successful attempt to block a proposed $2 fishing license for youths up to the age of 16, a Pennsylvania state senator jerked tears from the eyes of his colleagues by recalling those Norman Rockwell paintings of barefoot small boys in T shirts fishing in the creek. Such scenes, said Senator Henry G. Hager, would be gone for all time if kids had to lay out $2 for fishing licenses.
Less sentimental was Senator Franklin Kury, who pointed out that youngsters under 16 now catch 30% of the state's trout. They ought to chip in something for restocking, he felt.
But the senate, by a 26-20 vote, agreed with Hager, and added 40¢ to a proposed $2 increase for resident adult fishing licenses, bringing their cost to $7.40.
Angered over the outcome of a baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros, Gerald Bishop, sports-minded resident of a Redding, Calif. mobile-home community, picked up his .30 caliber rifle and fired 17 shots into or about his television set. One stray bullet penetrated the wall of a neighbor's home as a 70-year-old lady sat knitting in the living room, thereby startling her into dropping a stitch.
What griped Bishop was that the Giants had tied the score at 7-7 only to have Jimmy Wynn hit a ninth-inning home run to win for the Astros 8-7.
Bishop was still seething when put into a police car, where he complained it was too hot and petulantly kicked out the back window.
"Didn't you ever want to shoot your TV?" he demanded in a reasonable way.
There was no television set in the cell to which he was assigned.
A ROOM WITH A POINT OF VIEW
Willie Mays' heart may or may not belong to New York, but his archives will be housed in San Francisco, where he spent most of his playing years as a member of the Giants. A Willie Mays Trophy Room is being established as a museum to display his personal gear, films, tapes, books, magazines, awards, photographs, paintings and press clippings.
The question has arisen as to what will be left for Cooperstown's Hall of Fame. The answer: there's plenty to go around.
Also going around is the funny feeling that San Francisco has no Joe DiMaggio Trophy Room.
HARNESS HELP WANTED
A pilot program to train Vietnam veterans and disadvantaged persons for careers in the standardbred industry has been started by Bernard Hammer, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission. The commission hopes thereby to ease the unemployment problem and increase the number of skilled grooms available.
Chances for trainees to become grooms are almost 100%, Hammer said.
"When a man leaves our training program," he promised, "he will have a thorough understanding of every phase of harness racing. We will screen them to find the best prospects, with priority openings going to disadvantaged persons or veterans who either have a background in caring for horses or those showing a deep interest in horses." The program, a special 12-week course developed by Penn State University, is open to both men and women. The Animal Science Extension of the university will provide instruction in the feeding, management, conformation and breeding of horses.
A STAR IS ABOUT TO BE BORN
When baseball holds its annual free-agent draft June 5, first choice is expected to be David Clyde, a left-handed pitcher from Houston's Westchester High School. Tales about Clyde are as tall as those about every team phenom from Clint Hartung to Nolan Ryan.
He has pitched eight no-hitters, including two in a row, and has averaged two strikeouts per inning this season.
Lou Fitzgerald, a Phillies scout, watched Clyde pitch recently but said, "I don't know why I'm here. We won't get a shot at him. We don't draft until second."
Said Dodger Scout Ben Wade: "David Clyde is the best-looking pitching prospect I've seen in the free-agent field. I mean the best ever, and I've seen a lot of them. I just wish we had a chance at him, but he'll be long gone by the time we get to draft."
There is little doubt that Clyde will be drafted by the Texas Rangers, who desperately need pitchers. But will they send him to the minors for seasoning?
"It would be a waste of time to send Clyde to the minors," says Doug Osburn, a Rice University baseball coach who has followed Clyde since his Little League days. "He knows everything there is to know about baseball. About all he could learn in the minors is how to order meals on the road."
SERMON FROM AN ANGEL
For Paul Deese, general manager of the Salt Lake Angels of the Pacific Coast League, the designated hitter rule is not change enough.
"What we need most," he says, "is a substitution rule that gives us the high degree of excellence on offense and defense that one finds in college and professional football. When a fan spends part of his entertainment dollar to see professional sports, he expects excellence everywhere.
"When an athlete is acquired for college or pro football he is secured to play offense or defense and usually a particular position. A baseball athlete, in addition to playing defense, must hit, run bases, bunt and so on.
"Many baseball players with major-league ability in one phase of the game never make it to the top. They might be excellent hitters but can't catch or throw well. Or maybe they are terrific on defense but can't hit well.
"How many baseball athletes do we have like Maury Wills, who made Walter O'Malley a bundle just on base stealing, who never see the top because they can't hit well or are not strong on defense?"
What Deese would like to see is a baseball platoon system "where we would have the best men on defense, the best at bat and the best running the bases.
"Managers often use their best defensive men in the lineup even though they sacrifice offense," says Deese. "That is one reason why a .280 hitter is considered good today where, in the old days, he'd have been shipped out."
Don't expect anything to be done about this immediately, if ever. The sport's traditionalists, who were horrified when the designated hitter rule went into effect in the American League, feel that was desecration enough. Besides, the league record books might run out of asterisks.
What were billed as the first annual world oyster shucking championships have been held on tiny Denman Island, British Columbia. The winner was 19-year-old Ken Barkley, who expertly shucked 52 oysters in five minutes, thereby winning the Oyster Challenge Bowl and $50.
Thereafter, the crowd devoured the shucked oysters. 6,000 of them, washed down with 200 cases of mainland beer.
The world champion contented himself with a hamburger and a Coke.
"Shucks," he explained shyly (there are witnesses that he said it), "I never did care for oysters."
THEY SAID IT
•Richie Scheinblum, Cincinnati Reds outfielder, recalling his trade from Cleveland to Washington for cash and a player to be named later: "When the year was over they wanted to give me back as the player to be named later."
•Jack Sharkey, former heavyweight champion, discussing his happy life in Epping, N.H.: "I've got everything I need here. The doctor lives right there across the street. The druggist is on the corner. You can see the funeral parlor from here, and the cemetery is right up the road."
•G. Nigel Aspinall, prestigious holder of the All-England croquet title: "Croquet is to be distinguished from cricket and from chicken croquettes, which is a culinary term. It is 10 times more exciting than tiddlywinks, and I'd be very hard put to decide what is less exciting. It's been called the world's worst spectator sport."
•Abe Lemons, ex-Oklahoma City University basketball coach, now at Pan American: "I'd rather be a football coach. That way you can lose only 11 games a season. I lost 11 games in December alone."