THIS IS DRAMA?
"Ladies and gentlemen [time-out], you no doubt are wondering [time-out] why I have brought all of you [time-out] together this evening, [time-out]. I am now [time-out] going to reveal [time-out] what killed basketball [time-out]. Too many [time-out] time-outs in the last two minutes."
TWANG WHEN THE TWAIN MEET
Although the quality of Japanese baseball continues to improve—it is now considered superior to the play in the top U.S. minors—what impressed their hosts most about the visiting Chunichi Dragons and Tokyo Giants in Florida spring-training camps this winter was their conditioning. Although it was winter in Japan, too, the Japanese arrived ready to play and none of them complained of aches or pains or appeared to get hurt. Were they hiding their frailties, or were they as healthy as they seemed?
They were and are plain healthy, said Chunichi Manager Wally Yonamine in Tokyo last week, and one reason is Japan's almost obsessive interest in calisthenics. "With the Japanese, exercise is something as essential or ubiquitous as their morning bowl of bean-paste soup," said the Hawaii-born Yonamine, who has spent 24 of his 50 years in Japan. They begin as kindergartners and cannot kick the habit even in old age. Instead of coffee breaks in government or corporate headquarters, daily at 10 and 3 a shockingly rhythmic air will be piped out on the public-address system and everybody from directors to computer key punchers will break away from their desks and plunge into five energetic minutes of calisthenics.
The habits of a lifetime are even more ingrained in ballplayers, said Shigeo Nagashima, the Tokyo Giants' new manager. The American major-leaguers could emulate the Japanese, he said, "but in the final analysis...the cultural shock would be too great to make it realistic for our American colleagues." He was referring to jishu renshu—literally, independent training. In mid-January, after the close of the New Year holidays, Japanese players go to the mountains in small groups and run up and down the slopes, bathe in icy water and sometimes indulge in Zen meditation for hours on end. By the time they show up for spring training they are in tip-top shape.
But the Japanese may be getting soft. Both Yonamine and Nagashima fell in love with the "heavenly" sunshine of Florida. So did Sadaharu Oh, the Giants' renowned slugger, who left Vero Beach in marvelous shape. Back home in Tokyo, though, the weather suddenly was too cold for him and twang!—he pulled a thigh muscle. He was sidelined until last Sunday's season opener.
FIVE MORE YEARS
In Maryland, new license plates are issued every five years. Bill Burton, outdoors editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun and an outspoken critic of persistent, broad-spectrum insecticides, recently received his: DDT 432.
At last month's NCAA indoor track and field championships, many administrators, among them Don Canham, athletic director at the University of Michigan, were hardly overjoyed to see foreign athletes take nine of 15 titles. Canham said, "We're getting a bunch of semipros who have competed three or four years abroad before enrolling in American colleges.... My big beef is the age difference, with seasoned foreigners of 25 or 26 competing against our teen-agers."
How soon we forget. Back in the 1950s and '60s, when Michigan was more of a track power and Canham was the coach, at least one of his best three athletes in 16 different indoor and outdoor events was a foreign student. Among his Big Ten champions and/or school-record holders were sprinter Tom Robinson of the Bahamas, middle distance runner Tony Seth of British Guiana, miler Ergas Leps of Canada (via Estonia), distance runner Don McEwen of Canada, high jumper Brendan O'Reilly of Ireland, long jumper Lester Bird of Antigua, discus thrower Ronal Nilsson of Sweden and pole vaulter Eeles Landstrom of Finland. There were lesser lights from Denmark, Norway and West Germany, and a host of Canadians. Nor were all of them short in the tooth. Landstrom was 28 when he finished competing.
But this is not intended as criticism of Canham. In recruiting foreigners he may have improved the Olympic prospects of homegrown athletes by subjecting them early to stiff international competition. Certainly U.S. trackmen did well in the Olympics of his coaching years. Not one of his foreign imports won a gold medal.
END OF A PERFECT DAY
Claude, a New Orleanian whose last name is not necessary to this story, was famed for his volcanic temper on the golf course, but on this beautiful day he was quiescent. No grimaces or gestures, no bodily contortions or excuses for errant woods and shanked irons, lost balls and missed putts—although all were there in their customary numbers. Claude played in perfect silence as his companions marveled at the course's splendid condition, at fairways that were rolling, at greens that held.
At the 10th, however, the light banter turned to apprehension. Claude hit three new Titleists into the lake: a blooper, a topper and a slice. He had never before produced a series of shots like this without spewing lava and ash on the sward. But on this memorable day, Claude was a study in rectitude. Carefully, almost tenderly, he put the offending club back in his golf bag, asked one of the foursome to see that the bag was returned to his locker in the clubhouse and, waving a sad, silent farewell, jumped into the lake.
THE HONEYMOON IS OVER
As it must to all men in baseball, the time came when Johnny Bench had to explain to his bride, model Vickie Chesser, the advantages of chewing tobacco during a game.
"To start with," the Cincinnati catcher said, "the catcher's mask offers problems for sunflower seeds, which I enjoy. When you spit them out, they tend to hit the iron bars and pop back at you. They pile up below the lip, and that's uncomfortable.
"Bubble gum is tiring. You have to chew it all the time, and your face rubs against the mask. Worse, try to blow a bubble in a catcher's mask. It can be a mess.
"But with a chaw," Bench said reassuringly, "you have everything. You can chew it occasionally or just let it sit there and rest. Between innings it gives you something to do in the dugout, and it's great when you're mad. You can spit, and get rid of your feelings. An ump would throw you out if you kicked dust on him or gave anybody the bird, but who is to say when you spit whether you're sore or just spitting for personal relief and satisfaction?"
ORIGIN OF SPECIES
A young man with tie pins to sell thought he had a captive audience in the bird watchers fluttering around Newbury-port-Salisbury, Mass. last week in hopes of catching sight of its exotic Arctic visitor, a Ross' gull (SCORECARD, March 17). He misjudged the expertise of his audience, however. The pins cost $3 and depicted what an accompanying card described as "Ross' gull...'The Bird of the Century.' " But these birders weren't so gullible. They quickly spotted the fake as a cross between a herring gull and a tern.
There were some difficult moments before a British Army expedition reached the top of Mt. Nuptse, at 25,800 feet the third-highest peak in the Everest triangle. Nuptse is unique in the Himalayas. Not only are there the usual hazards of height, avalanches and blizzards but the only route to the summit is a sheer face involving Alpine-style vertical rock climbing. At one point the expedition placed several climbers at 20,000 feet only to have them run out of food. Later, after 300 man-days had been used to haul provisions to a point near the summit, the camps farther down the mountain ran out of supplies.
Disaster? Bad planning? Not really. This climb took place on a computer in a management consultant's office in London. Now, with all foreseeable problems solved in advance, the real thing is under way. If the computer was programmed correctly and there are no unforeseen occurrences, the climbers should be clapping each other on the back and offering congratulations all around by the end of this month.
HIS SHARE IN HIS CASTLE
What to give the young married couple who have everything but money? A vacation apartment for two weeks each year, guaranteed forever. With a view, it comes extra.
This winter the Sea Pines Company of Hilton Head Island, S.C., an extensive playground of private homes and rental villas, introduced what it claimed was a new concept in resort realty, time-sharing. The idea got its start in Europe some 2½ years ago, and has been tried on a small scale at Lake Tahoe. In addition to selling condominium apartments to customers, which continues to be its main business, Sea Pines is offering the use of an apartment for a specified period, say two weeks in April, in perpetuity. The purchaser owns the apartment for the same two weeks for as long as he cares to. He also can will it to his children.
The scheme is the child of inflation and hard times. With one-bedroom units at Sea Pines costing from $50,000 to $55,000 and two-bedroom units in the $65,000 to $70,000 range, there is no way many young couples—the age group most likely to be attracted to Sea Pines' tennis courts, golf courses, marinas, stables, bicycle trails, pools and ocean frontage—can afford them. With time-sharing, however, they can buy a one-bedroom apartment for two weeks in the winter, the least desirable season, for $2,900, or a two-bedroom unit for April and the summer, the peak times, for $5,800. Upkeep and fixed costs run to $125 per year. A room at The Hilton Head Inn costs $210 a week to rent, and rentals from condominium owners run from $123 to $1,344 a week.
There are drawbacks. Time-sharers take a chance on the owners the other weeks of the year—51 weeks will be sold, one will be reserved for repair and maintenance—and unless they can trade weeks, they are locked into the same time slot. Further, management will not lift a hand to help rent the apartments, as it does for condominium owners. Still, the idea is catching hold. After six weeks, 120 time segments have been sold in the three condominiums set aside for the experiment, and Sea Pines says it is processing several hundred other inquiries, some from parents who want to give the shares to their children. Jim Anthony, the man in charge, thinks it is possible that sometime in the future time-sharing might be the chief way most people buy their home away from home.
GETTING TO THE COURT ON TIME
Tommy Puckett, a Lexington, Ky. policeman, was scheduled to marry Julie Gaskin at 3 p.m. last Saturday. The invitations were already in the mail when the bridegroom realized to his dismay that the University of Kentucky-Syracuse NCAA semifinal game was scheduled for the same day, same time. With his fiancée's consent he sent the wedding guests postcards bearing a picture of a basketball player, changing the time to 2 p.m. and adding the postscript: "UK is No. 1, Puckett-Gaskin Wedding No. 2. See you at the church and tip-off, too. Julie and Tommy."
THEY SAID IT
•Duke Snider, Montreal Expos coach, advising Pitcher Dennis Blair: "You know you're pitching well when the batters look as bad as you do at the plate."
•Carol Stallworth, former president of the WFL Birmingham Americans, on her new job: "What's wrong with tending bar?"
•Linda Cruttenden, coach of the girls' basketball team at Dieruff High in Allentown, Pa., the state champion, proposing a way of getting around a court order permitting boys to compete on girls' teams: "Make the required uniform skirts. I don't think the boys would want to play then."