In 1936 Avery Brundage said to those who protested that the Olympic Games should not be held in Hitler's Germany, "The politics of a nation is of no concern to the International Olympic Committee."
In 1972, on a sultry September morning in Munich's Olympic Stadium, in front of 80,000 people gathered to mourn the death by political assassination of 11 Israeli Olympians, Avery Brundage said it again: "The Games must go on."
As Brundage saw things, men and nations could behave as barbarously toward each other as they chose as long as their barbarities posed no threat to his beloved "Olympic Movement." From 1936, when he was first appointed to the U.S. Olympic Committee, until 1972, when he stepped down after 20 years as president of the IOC, Brundage's name was synonymous with everything that was right and wrong with the Olympic Games. He defended them, and the philosophy of amateurism that he saw embodied in them, with the ferocity of a grizzly sow. If some of us grew up in the unquestioned belief that there was something intrinsically finer about an amateur athlete than a professional one, it was probably Avery Brundage's doing.
It was he who once said, scornfully, "I suspect that if a professional baseball player discovered one day that he could make more money by going back home and laying bricks for a living, he'd go home and lay bricks." Swayed by the strength of his narrow conviction, we would momentarily forget Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and Ted Williams and the young Willie Mays and nod sadly in agreement. How true. How true.
Avery Brundage was a rock, a monument, a force, an influence, a stumbling block and a tough old bird. R.I.P.
The channeled passion of a true collector is usually communicable only to others of the same persuasion. Numismatists talk to other numismatists. Snuffbox lovers seek each other out. But when the object of the collecting passion is baseball cards, even a serious practitioner like Bob Richardson, a copydesk man on the Boston Herald American in real life, can speak to ordinary people.
According to Richardson, the single most-sought-after baseball card in the country right now is a 1909 issue bearing a picture of Honus Wagner. A 1909 Wagner, says Richardson, is worth at least $1,000, its value being determined by its scarcity. There are only some 12 to 14 such cards in existence because old Honus, it is said, did not want his name associated with the tobacco company that distributed them and the company obliged him by withdrawing the issue.
Another treasure, says John Stirling, an Indianapolis funeral director, is a Felins Frank. Felins Frank? Who did he play for? Felins Frank, says collector Stirling, was the name of a company that in the 1920s gave out baseball cards along with its hot dogs.
MILE AS GOOD AS A MISS
The track and field qualifying standards for the 1976 Olympic Games recently announced by the International Amateur Athletic Federation are noteworthy for two innovations. First, they provide for electronic as well as hand timing. American athletes, who are accustomed to electrical timing at big meets, will like that.
The second change is not going to go over so well in the U.S. The IAAF has issued its standards at metric distances only. No more yards and miles. In other words, a 3:50 mile or an 8.9 hundred may be world records, but they are useless as Olympic qualifying performances.
Says Dan Ferris, the U.S. member of the IAAF council, "Since we're virtually the only country in the world not on the metric system, they decided to ignore us."
The qualifying period begins May 31, 1975. It is hoped that at least a few meet directors will stage events at metric distances this summer to provide our athletes with a maximum number of opportunities to qualify for Montreal.
THERE'LL ALWAYS BE A ROONEY
When Art Rooney was in Dublin recently he lunched with Cearbhall O'Dalaigh, the President of Ireland. After the lunch Rooney was waylaid by a newspaper interviewer.
"He asked me all about horses and boxers," said Rooney, "and I was waiting and waiting for him to ask me about football. Finally I said, 'Do you know I am the owner of the football champions of the world, the Pittsburgh Steelers?' He said, 'What are they, some kind of soccer team?' He made me humble."
When The Washington Post needed a new harness racing handicapper, it fell to Assistant Sports Editor Robert F. Levey to interview the 71 applicants who replied to a brief ad in the racing column. "It was relatively simple to weed out the first 75%," wrote Levey. "They either had jobs that would have constituted conflicts of interest or were manifestly mad."
Levey eventually narrowed the field to three applicants who are now trying out for the job. One, who calls himself the Guru, uses drivers' zodiacal signs in his calculations and believes in "spot betting with emphasis on post position."
Another, named Sax, claims to be "very detached emotionally," and the last is a government employee with 15 years' experience in computer techniques who works with a numerical rating system that he calls a "winning horse profile." Each man was given $1,000, and the job will go to the one who has the most money left after 24 racing days.
In the meantime, Levey looks back on the experience fondly. His favorite early washout was the applicant who wrote of himself: "Experienced? Yes (albeit not professionally). Reliable? Hoo-ha."
People who have bicycles in the city and would like to cycle in the country have a problem. By the time they work their way out to the open air they are tired from stopping for traffic lights, jittery from near-squashings by trucks and suffused with various fumes—and it is about time to turn back. In the Boston area, thanks to the efforts of various cycling organizations and sympathetic politicians such as State Senator William Saltonstall, something is being done.
On Saturdays and Sundays the Boston and Maine Railroad now provides special trains by which a person with a bike may be borne 30 miles through the greater metropolitan crud and out into the Cape Ann area, which is pleasant for cycling and from which southern New Hampshire can be reached by bike for a day's excursion. The train fare out and back is only $5.
Furthermore, there is a movement to get the Boston subway system to provide space for bikes on one car in each train. A trial run was made recently, and although a cold rain fell that day upon city and country alike, a hard core of cyclists traveled underground with their bikes to the Ashmont Station, debarked and then pedaled, wearing rain capes, into the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston. In the evening they returned to the station and commuted back to town. Because as serious cyclists they had no fenders on their bikes, each rider was marked with a mud stripe up the back, but that was better than, say, the tire marks of a cab.
GO WESTWOOD, YOUNG MAN
There's a rumor going around Los Angeles to the effect that an awesome threesome of Southern California high school basketball stars have made some sort of blood pact to play college ball together and that the trio is favoring (shudder) UCLA.
Such package deals are not unknown, but when all the principals are considered to be among the country's top 15 high school players, as is the case here, the speculation gets very heavy. Roy Hamilton, a 6'2" guard from Verbum Dei High in Watts, and his 6'10" classmate, Center Dave Greenwood, have played together since junior high. Greenwood was player of the year among Southern California 4-A schools, and Hamilton is thought to be the best guard among this year's seniors.
The third man, Brad Holland, a 6'3" guard from Crescenta Valley High in an L.A. suburb, got to know Hamilton and Greenwood through pick-up games and summer league ball the past two years.
The three players are reported also to be considering USC and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, but, according to the Verbum Dei coach, John Sneed, they are "leaning toward Westwood. The other two are long shots."
The trio is expected to sign letters of intent this week, and Sneed thinks it could be one of the most significant signings of recent years. "They are good friends," says Sneed, "and unselfish ballplayers who complement each other very well."
And here we go again.
There has been a lot of Olympic news out of Montreal lately, none of it good.
•Olympic construction, already delayed last fall by a seven-week strike of ironworkers, again came to a standstill as Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, prompted by the release of a 600-page report on corruption in the province's construction industry, moved to put four key unions—involving plumbers, electricians, heavy-equipment operators and elevator mechanics—under government trusteeship.
The affected unions, all members of the Quebec Federation of Labor, are fighting back and using the Olympic site and village projects and the government's July 1976 deadline as leverage.
As workers were walking off their jobs at the Olympic sites, Louis Laberge, president of the Quebec Federation of Labor, said, "They may be holding the 1976 Games in 1977 if the workers' protests are ignored."
•Basing its estimates on Munich's experience, the Olympic organizers gauged that the sale of tickets through 12 Montreal outlets would require 10 to 15 minutes per transaction. Instead, the paper work was averaging half an hour per order the first day of the public sale, and some outlets had to make appointments for purchases as many as 10 days in advance. "In Munich buyers were purchasing an average of eight to 10 tickets each," said Paul Gelinas, the outlets' harried consumer relations man. "Here most are buying the full 20 and that's why it's taking us longer."
Further, early arrivals at the public ticket wickets found that many of the best seats for prestige events, such as swimming and gymnastics, were sold out, allotted in advance to the Games' sponsors, suppliers and a long list of "priority" organizations.
Ken Farmer of the organizing committee explained, "The only way we would take care of the priority groups was to cut into the largest public allotment available. That was mostly Montreal."
Mostly Montreal was mad.
Feeding the residents of the Washington National Zoo cost $97,000 in 1967. Today the annual food bill has increased to $245,000. Everything, from horsemeat to dried flies, is up and the cost of the fresh grapes favored by the zoo's rare birds has risen out of sight. Canned fruit cocktail has been substituted and the birds have made the adjustment. It is the zoo officials who still feel guilty. They think it's cheating.
George H. Adams, who runs the zoo commissary, says that the Chinese pandas Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing are the biggest per capita drain on his budget, with their nine pounds of apples, carrots and sweet potatoes, seven pounds of rice gruel and honey, 20 pounds of cut bamboo and a couple of dog biscuits per day. Each.
THEY SAID IT
•Pete Rose, on the fans at Dodger Stadium: "I don't know why those people throw bottles at me. I was 3 for 39 here last year. They should have given me a standing ovation."
•Sal Bando, captain of the Oakland A's, commenting on the release of sprinter Herb Washington: "I'd feel sorry for him if he were a player."