Both Lee Elder and Frank Robinson were born in Texas, attended high school in California and journeyed East, where each won renown by hitting the daylights out of a small white ball. Elder is 40, Robinson 39. Both are glad that last week, when they respectively became the first blacks to play in the Masters golf tournament and manage a big-league baseball team, is finally history. Their relief is widely shared.
A STATISTICAL SNAFU
So the Washington Bullets' Wes Unseld grabs 30 rebounds in his final regular-season game to edge Boston's Dave Cowens for the NBA rebounding title. So teammate Kevin Porter has back-to-back games of 21 and 22 assists to run away with that title. So Golden State's Rick Barry is the NBA champion in steals. Boston General Manager Red Auerbach remains singularly unimpressed.
"It's ridiculous," says Auerbach. "Every time a guy touches the ball they can give him a rebound. Assists? They don't mean the same thing in any two cities in the league. And what the hell's a steal? A guy gets three steals, his man goes by him seven times and he's a champion. That's asinine."
As Cowens' boss, Auerbach is understandably suspicious about Unseld's season-ending, 30-rebound performance. After all, official scorers and statisticians are hired by home teams, and Unseld's finale occured on Washington's home court. In fact, in the four subjective categories of rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots, every individual and team "high game" was set at home this season. A Washington statistician once briefly credited Porter with two assists in 41 seconds only to discover to his embarrassment that the Bullets did not score a point during that time span.
This situation distresses Seymour Siwoff, whose Elias Sports Bureau compiles official NBA statistics. "I see box scores that look funny, but there's no sure way to check (heir accuracy," Siwoff complains. "We set standards and hope they're followed. Sometimes mistakes are made and there's nothing we can do short of watching films of the games. And that's not feasible."
FOREMAN VS. FIVE MEN
George Foreman's exhibition against five opponents next Saturday in Toronto may be promising TV fare (page 68), but the stunt is unlikely to dispel any of the doubts about Foreman raised by the Battle of Za√Øre. In 1958 Lamar Clark, an undefeated, much-ballyhooed heavyweight, kayoed six foes in the same evening in Bingham, Utah. Clark proved to be a dud and retired in 1961 after being flattened in the second round by a 19-year-old newcomer named Cassius Clay.
SONIC BOON I
The once-rich salmon fisheries around Alaska's Bristol Bay have been badly depleted by hungry beluga whales, which feast on sockeyes that move through the bay to and from spawning rivers like the Naknek, King Salmon and Kvichak. The Alaska Fish and Game Department is about to fight back with something called the Beluga Spooker, an underwater hi-fi system designed to send the belugas scattering from the river mouths in terror.
The Spooker will transmit amplified tape recordings of random conversation of the killer whale, an enemy of the beluga. Fish and Game is currently installing 10 of the battery-powered systems, at a cost of $3,500 apiece, in time for early runs of sockeyes next month. The Spookers are equipped with automatic timers, and these will turn on the recordings at high tide, which is when the belugas go looking for dinner.
Al Menin, a Bendix Corporation acoustics engineer and the Beluga Spooker's developer, insists that playing such ingenious tricks on the whales poses no threat to their survival. "The belugas will still take their fair share as the salmon sweep into Bristol Bay," he says, "but not enough to destroy commercial fishing." The question remains, however, whether lonely killer whales might not be attracted by the recorded squeals and clicks of their brethren. Killer whales are larger, hungrier and more aggressive salmon predators than belugas.
SONIC BOON II
Another state is looking at a different kind of electronic aid to fishermen, only in this case with an unfavorable eye. The Minnesota legislature is considering a bill to ban the use of graph-type depth and fish finders by sport fishermen. It is the contention of Representative Glen Sherwood, the measure's author, that such sonic devices have placed excessive pressure on Minnesota's fish population. He argues that fishermen should be encouraged to rely on skill rather than on sophisticated technology.
Real conservation measures are always welcome—this magazine has espoused many and initiated more than a few—but it is sometimes necessary to wince at the absurdities offered in the name of environmental protection. It is true that good fishermen tend to catch more fish with finders than without them. But it is also true that they use less gasoline in the process—that's conservation, too—and generally release more fish. Carry Representative Sherwood's theories about sportsmanship to their logical conclusion, and Minnesota might also ban outboard motors, downriggers, monofilament lines and other technological advances that help fishermen outwit fish. Sometimes.
If Minnesota is truly concerned about protecting fish, why not simply decrease the daily legal limits? Which is what other states have done.
IMMORTAL & IMMATERIAL
With its annual induction ceremonies next week in Springfield, Mass., the Basketball Hall of Fame obviously means to avoid the kind of sins regularly committed by the shrine of another sport, college football. Specifically, its trustees have studiously ignored Bill Russell's boycott of the induction proceedings and decided to go ahead and enshrine the ex-Celtic great anyway, albeit without the usual fanfare. In recognizing the sport's best performers, non-basketball considerations—including what Russell might think of such honors—have been deemed immaterial.
By contrast, The National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, as the Manhattan-based college football shrine styles itself, keeps succumbing to irrelevancies. Not all of its 341 inductees are of All-America caliber, and foundation officials have intimated that some were selected partly because they went on to enrich themselves in business. On the other hand, those failing to make it include such outstanding players as Charley Brickley, Paul Robeson, Jim Brown and Ernie Davis.
Explanations for the omissions vary. Brickley was a two-time All-America halfback at Harvard before World War I, but later was convicted of grand larceny. Robeson, a two-time All-America considered the greatest defensive end of football's early years, became a renowned actor and singer as well as an embattled figure for his espousal of Marxism. James McDowell, the shrine's executive director, says that both men were bypassed because of "unsatisfactory citizenship," adding, "We consider what players do in later life important."
Brown and Davis were All-Americas at Syracuse. Brown's 43 points against Colgate in 1956 is still a collegiate record, while Davis won the Heisman Trophy in 1961, dying of leukemia two years later. McDowell says that neither has even been nominated. He leaves the impression that both cases are oversights.
Perhaps the foundation brass is simply too busy sniffing out cases of unsatisfactory citizenship, a business that implies investigations into beliefs and lifestyles. Chester LaRoche, the Hall of Fame's founder, has warned that Alabama's Joe Namath is another who might never be selected (inductees must be out of college 10 years and no longer in pro football). "Namath's a great player, but what's he done with his life?" asks LaRoche. "He hangs around saloons." If the foundation would only change its name to the What-They-Did-Later-in-Life Hall of Fame, somebody else might start a college football shrine that confines itself to college football.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL
A lot of folks at the University of Illinois were upset when basketball Coach Gene Bartow begged out of his five-year contract—it had four years to run—to sign on as John Wooden's successor at UCLA. By way of protest, 50 students marched outside Bartow's office and serenaded him with the Illinois Loyalty Song. Only one trouble. Not knowing the words, some of them had to read from sheet music.
AND NOW, HERE'S JOHNNY!
As the man who stages the Michelob Classic, the Monte Carlo championship and other celebrity tennis tournaments on TV, Hollywood Producer Wendell Niles Jr. has been watching show-biz types cavort on the court for the past six years. Niles has now succumbed to the temptation of ranking these players, an exercise that sounds like something left over from last week's Academy Awards. As if Godfather II did not win enough honors, Niles reckons Robert Duvall, the actor who played Al Pacino's baldish, somber lawyer, as the best of the film colony's tennis players.
After Duvall, Niles' Top 10 consists of: 2) Rick Nelson, 3) Jim Brown, 4) Robert Redford, 5) Ed Ames, 6) Bill Cosby, 7) James Franciscus, 8) Burt Bacharach, 9) Charlton Heston and 10) Chris Connelly. Niles followed an informal handicapping system, taking into account, for example, that Nelson was once a top junior player while others on the list are relative novices. "The most prominent new player of 1975 is Johnny Carson," he declares. "He should be in the Top 10 by this time next year."
If the National Football League had its way, it would blame declining attendance, dropped passes, torn ligaments and every other imaginable ill on the 1973 federal law prohibiting TV blackouts of games sold out 72 hours before kickoff. In an unrelenting P.R. campaign against the dread legislation, which Congress enacted as a three-year experiment, Pete Rozelle & Co. habitually talk about "no-shows"—fans who buy tickets for games only to stay home, presumably to watch the action on TV instead.
But the Federal Communications Commission isn't buying what the NFL is peddling. In its second annual report on how the blackout-lifting law is working, the FCC attributes last season's decline in NFL attendance—from 9,707-943 in 1973 to 9,112,160—to such factors as the troubled economy, the rising cost of gasoline, the preseason player strike and competition from the WFL. The FCC notes that until the last two weeks of the regular season, when foul weather and settled conference races dampened fan enthusiasm, no-shows were running no higher at games televised to the home folks than at those blacked out. Even including the final two weeks, the averages for the whole season were 6,413 no-shows for televised games vs. 5,965 for blacked-out games, a difference the FCC terms "insignificant."
Representative Torbert H. MacDonald, the Massachusetts Democrat who sponsored the blackout-lifting measure in the House, invokes the FCC report as evidence that "the law has done no harm" to the NFL. But the league argues that the law will subtly erode the game's box-office appeal over the long haul. No matter. MacDonald predicts that Congress will make the legislation permanent this session, without waiting for the third year of the experiment.
THEY SAID IT
•Tug McGraw, Phillies' pitcher, on his $75,000 salary: "Ninety percent I'll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey. The other 10% I'll probably waste."
•Mike Newlin, Houston Rocket guard: "I thought this team would be in another city before it would be in the NBA playoffs."
•Jerry Le Vias, San Diego Chargers flanker: "I'm all for women's lib. They should all have equal opportunity with me."
•Gary Smith, Vancouver Canuck goalie, discussing 5'5" teammate Bobby La-Londe: "He'd be great in a short series."
•Clyde King, Atlanta Braves manager: "Some hitters try and hit the ball where it's pitched. Ralph Garr hits the ball if it's pitched."