The baseball season must not be allowed to pass without a final look at the Portland (Ore.) Mavericks, the Class A team managed by Frank (The Flake) Peters that acted its name and set records doing SO (SCORECARD, Aug. 5).
The Mavericks came close, and might have been closer to the Northwest League title if one night Peters had not literally stolen first base to protest an umpire's decision and then heard the umps call a forfeit. Peters was well on the way to forfeiting the next day's game, too, when he produced the bag two minutes before starting time—autographed by all the Mavericks. Not good enough, the umpires felt; so Peters got on his hands and knees at home plate and scrubbed until the base passed muster.
Such shenanigans paid off. The Mavericks upped their record home attendance from 84,397 for 36 games to 100, 224 for 35. They stole 246 bases (legitimately) in 84 games, topping their old mark of 184 in 80, and although they finished two games out in their four-team division, their 50-34 record was second best in the eight-team league.
Peters went to the beach at Columbia River before the season closer and thought and thought about a proper grand finale fillip for the fans. Finally it came to him. He would suit up only nine players, and each would change position every inning until all had played everywhere. It was hell on the scorekeeper, but with their teammates cheering them on in the stands and partaking liberally of the concessions, the nine fell behind 6-1, then came on to win in the ninth 8-7, stealing five bases on the way. So who cares who's on first?
Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream.
—W. S. Gilbert
Over the past few years the sports-reading public has been fed a steady diet of stories about athletes demanding and receiving multi-faceted, million-dollar contracts. In two instances to surface recently, the facts were sobering.
One involves John Matuszak, the giant tackle who was the NFL's No. 1 draft pick in 1973. If the stories printed at the time were to be believed, he had signed a four-year $300,000 contract. Last week it was revealed in court that the Houston Oilers actually had signed Matuszak for a $30,000 bonus plus a $25,000 salary in 1973 and the possibility of $25,000 more in bonuses. His salary was to go up $5,000 in each of the next three years. Good pay, but not the sort to keep Elizabeth Taylor in diamonds.
The Houston Texans, who are trying to lure Matuszak away from the Oilers, reportedly offered him a five-year no-cut contract worth $1 million. The fact: he would receive $50,000 a year for five years.
Another who discovered there was more fiction than fat in highly publicized deals is Maurice Lucas, the exceptionally talented basketball player who had—and hopes yet to have—another year of eligibility at Marquette. Lucas became a "hardship case" last spring and began negotiating with the Chicago Bulls. They didn't offer enough to suit him, and now he is back hoping that he or Coach Al McGuire can persuade the NCAA to relax its rule prohibiting players who had signed hardship letters from returning to college ball, even if they were never paid a cent by the pros. His could be a harder lesson than Matuszak's.
FALL GUY (CONT.)
Mike King, the unflappable high diver who eluded a guard and leaped off a 220-foot building into 14 feet of water (SCORECARD, June 24), was at it again on Labor Day, this time for an official record. With some 2,000 looking on in Fort Lauderdale and Dick Mullins of the Swimming Hall of Fame checking an altimeter, he bailed out of a helicopter, sans parachute, 155 feet above the Lighthouse Point Yacht Club basin, did a double reverse and plunged feet first into eight feet of water, surpassing the previous mark of 135 feet.
As before, King hurt himself—"Only a couple of cracked vertebrae," said his friend and publicist, Tom Noonan—yet he and Noonan were full of plans, including a possible leap from the Golden Gate Bridge. But what the fearless Noonan really wants to see is a dive from 10,000 to 15,000 feet. Both he and King believe it can be done. "Past 175 feet height is no factor," says King, who warms up for this sort of thing by teaching sky diving. "You reach your maximum speed of 120 feet per second at that point. The problem is to hit the water right. If you lose your concentration, you've had it."
Some of those who were there claim the pheasants are still chuckling. Jimmy Breslin's gang should shoot so crookedly.
It all happened in Warmbaths, South Africa, not far north of Pretoria. Members of the Round Table, a service group along the lines of Rotary International, forgathered at a local hostelry to plan strategy for the shoot. But let the Rand Daily Mail of Johannesburg tell it:
"In the past, the events have resulted in the thinning out of the local pheasant population. But last weekend it was the hunters who got the bird. Shots were fired, more shots were fired, but still no pheasants fell.
"Another shot rang out and an anguished cry met the hunters' ears. Mr. Dennis McCord, a local farmer, had sustained a wound. A little later, another shot brought a second anguished yell—this time from a hunter who stopped a bullet [sic] in his back. To crown the day's hunting ignominy, a third member of the party broke his leg."
Well, it's one way to thin out the local human population.
WHAT THE DEUCE!
Associated Press dispatches we never finished reading: "Forest Hills, N.Y. The ILTF and the ATP have come up with a marriage that has produced an offspring called MIPTC."
Thirty years ago that craftiest of boxing promoters, Mike Jacobs, prophesied that the future of the sport would be in bouts staged in TV studios. "I thought the idea was laughable then," says Sam Silverman, one of the last of the old-guard promoters. "Not now."
The cause for Silverman's change of heart was the audience reception in the Boston area to two studio fight programs he staged for WNAC-TV. The first, in April, was a mixed weight double bill and had an Arbitron rating of 36%. The second, which he put on last week, pitted Sugar Ray Seales, the only U.S. boxing gold medalist at the Munich Olympics in '72, against Marvin Hagler, the New England welterweight champion. The bout captured 25% of the television audience.
The idea for the fights originated with Eddie Andelman of the innovative and sometimes outrageous radio show, Sports Huddle (SI, Sept. 4, 1972). Channel 7 General Manager Jim Coppersmith reluctantly went along the first time, but after the good rating did not have to be talked into a second go. Seales had won 17 of his 21 fights by knockouts. Hagler had won 17 straight, 15 by KOs. A capacity crowd of 225, paying an average $15 a ticket, arrived at the high-ceilinged, subbasement of the WNAC studio and howled itself hoarse as the clever Seales mistakenly chose to slug it out with the muscular Hagler. He wound up with a bloodied nose and the bad end of the decision.
The real winner was WNAC-TV. "I've had calls from stations all over the country, and they all want to know how you put on a show like ours," Coppersmith said. Two fights do not a trend make, but they do seem to indicate that there is something out there besides Za√Øre.
EVERYBODY'S DOING IT
The pros are not the only football players who have had strike on their minds lately. According to Charlie Schuhmann, a UCLA running back who has talked with players at other schools, "Within five years there will be some form of protest among college football players unless we get more money to live on." That, or a lot more money under the table.
The problem, Schuhmann says, is to live on $131 a month, the maximum allowed by the Pacific Eight Conference. "It's not so bad during the regular football season when we have a training table. But there is no training table during spring drills. I've seen players come to practice who are eating only one meal a day—a 29¢ McDonald's hamburger and a Coke—because that's all the food they can afford."
Schuhmann's coach, Dick Vermeil, and Athletic Director J. D. Morgan agree something should be done. Morgan suggests raising NCAA limits on scholarship benefits. "With today's inflated dollars, I don't think they're realistic," he says. Says Schuhmann, "I think we are going to have to have some kind of study. I'm not saying I've ever seen under-the-table money, but I am sure it exists and will continue to grow as the money problems continue."
Not a very comforting thought for college presidents who are beginning to wonder who will pay for the next shipment of football cleats.
SIC TRANSIT GLORIA
Which makes one wonder what the rationale is at Baptist Christian College of Shreveport, La. BCC has an enrollment of 174 men and 36 women, yet there are men's basketball and baseball teams and 30 men are on football scholarships, meaning almost one-third the male population is jock. Last year the school's total budget was $164,000; the football allotment for 1974 is $50,000. BCC played 1974's first college football game in 46,500-seat State Fair Stadium. The Little School With Big Ideas, as BCC calls itself, lost to Southern State College of Magnolia, Ark. 40-0. Fewer than 500 attended.
When he is not harpooning men's souls, the Reverend Henry S. Rabb likes nothing better than to pull in smallmouth bass. Minister of the Second United Church of Christ in Harrisburg, Pa., Rabb estimates that in the 25 or so years he has fished the Susquehanna River he has boated a flock of bass—maybe 15,000—putting his faith in a South Bend Midg-Oreno plug, perch colored, with which, he says, "You can do it all."
For those who need further instruction, Rev. Rabb has written his own version of the Ten Commandments, one, considering his records, that has to be more sacrifishious than sacrilegious. Written for the Susquehanna, they apply almost anywhere. They are, in summary: fish the river with an expert; fish from a canoe in order to get over shallow places and into waters seldom plied; take a good supply of South Bend Midg-Orenos; remember that the week before a full moon is when the bass are most active; respect micropteros dolomieu's fighting spirit and use no less than eight-pound monofilament; do not bait fish, or fish on a windy day, or when the river is high and muddy or with careless or unpleasant companions, "lest thou end up in the water with the bass." And, of course, go to church.
THEY SAID IT
•Don Maynard, Houston Texan receiver: "I was 12 years old before I realized my name wasn't 'Git Wood.' "
•Rick Forzano, Detroit Lions coach, after a 28-7 exhibition game loss to Buffalo in which O.J. Simpson gained 116 yards and scored two touchdowns in less than three quarters: "That Number 32, Sampson I guess it is. Well, he looked more like Sampson than Simpson, and we looked like Delilah."
•Horst Muhlmann, German-born Cincinnati Bengal placekicker, forgetting that his boss, Paul Brown, is on the National Football League Rules Committee: "The people who changed the rules must have been some kind of super-idiot professors who have never been on a football field."
•Charlie Ford, former Chicago Bear cornerback, now with the Philadelphia Eagles: "The only game balls I ever got in Chicago I stole."