GEORGE DID IT
Last week the New York Knickerbockers signed George McGinnis—who had exercised a special provision in his contract to buy his way off the roster of the ABA Indiana Pacers—to a six-year, $2-plus million deal. A superlative all-round basketball player, the 6'8" McGinnis is just what the faltering Knicks need. And that, of course, is why they signed him.
The only thing wrong with what the Knicks did is that, according to the rules under which New York, all other NBA teams and, indeed, much of major league sport operate, McGinnis belongs to another NBA team, the Philadelphia 76ers. They drafted McGinnis in 1973 when his class graduated from Indiana University. By signing him, the Knicks flouted the draft system, which is designed to prevent richer teams from cornering the best talent and which NBA owners have claimed is essential to the economic survival of their sport.
What the Knicks did—and what other teams have done in the past—is to violate the rules when it suited their purpose after years of sanctimoniously demanding that the rules be upheld when their competitors were the violators. One Knick lawyer went so far as to declare that the draft is illegal because it constitutes a breach of the antitrust laws.
The attorney is probably right. And that is the reason why the Knicks' action is not only a selfish violation of NBA rules, but shortsighted, no matter how many points McGinnis scores.
It was the older NBA franchises like New York that four years ago condemned Seattle Owner Sam Schulman for endangering the draft system when he bucked the rules to sign the ABA's Spencer Haywood. Indeed, the ensuing litigation in the Haywood case resulted in the elimination of the rule that made players eligible for the draft only when their college classes had graduated.
A subsequent court challenge to the draft, Joe Kapp vs. the NFL, put another dent in the system by limiting the duration of a team's exclusive rights to negotiate with a player it had drafted. McGinnis last week was in the midst of a suit against the NBA based on the Kapp precedent, which he dropped when New York up and signed him.
The mood of the courts in antitrust matters clearly is moving toward vastly altering or, even, eliminating the draft. By signing McGinnis, the Knicks may have hastened that trend. Philadelphia must now either accept compensation from New York or sue to get him. If the 76ers go to court, neither they nor the Knicks may like the result. The victor could be the NBA Players Association, which for years has been challenging the draft system and facing stiff resistance from management. If the players win at last, they can thank the owners for giving them a helping hand.
FAST, FAST RELIEF
It is too soon to place one's bet, but an appropriate name sure can't hurt a thoroughbred racehorse. And that's why you should keep an eye on one of the new colts owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, who has long been noted for nifty names. The dam was Top o' the Morning. The sire was The Axe II. So it figures that the colt would be named Splitting Headache.
ONWARD AND DOWNWARD
In the off chance that folks have been wondering whatever became of Evel Knievel, this is to report that the star-spangled canyon jumper has done it again. This time Captain Crash wheeled away on his motorcycle at England's Wembley Stadium in an attempt to leap over a row of 13 London transport buses parked side by side. And, as happened in Knievel's Snake River Canyon jump last summer, the act ended with a thud.
Battered and variously broken, Knievel was hoisted to his feet and announced his retirement. But in the hospital he had second thoughts, declaring that the show must go on—the next stop being a similar performance at Bristol. To retire, said Knievel, "would let a lot of people down. I shall continue on the tour and do the best I can." Said one of Knievel's staff, admiringly, "This fellow is like a bull."
TEE UP AND TWIST
From out of the great Midwest, accompanied by the faint tinkle of camel bells, comes news that could revolutionize golf. Or, if that statement sounds too extravagant, it will surely revolutionize golf spectating. The Rib Cage Slide is now upon us, and its key practitioner is Carol Isaacs, who coaches the women's golf team at the University of Minnesota. Coach Isaacs also has another job on the side, forgive the term: she teaches belly dancing at the St. Paul YWCA.
The two activities are more closely related than one might think; in fact, the coach cites strong connections. "Belly dancing is good for your upper body," she says. "It is good for your swing and your sense of rhythm. Rhythm and swing might well be the two most important things in your golf game." And that's why the Rib Cage Slide that the coach teaches in her YWCA classes works so well for golfers. "If you can master this," she says, "it can help very much to give you a good turn on your backswing. You want the hips and knees going left first and then the arms coming down as a result of the body movement to the right. The muscle control that it takes for belly dancing can help a golfer develop this movement."
It makes sense. After all, football and basketball players have studied ballet to help their games. But there is one vaguely sexist drawback to the Rib Cage Slide. It's for women only. Says Isaacs: "Men just don't seem to be built right."
CAN'T BEAT 'EM, SIGN 'EM
Except for a few remaining pockets of outrage, passions have pretty much cooled over the sacking of U.S. Little League teams by the Taiwanese five times in the past six years. And while the league officially solved that embarrassment by dropping its mini-World Series concept, at least one American adult was already moving to capitalize on Taiwanese talent.
Hardly had the victors returned home than the Cincinnati Reds had scouts on that faraway island to conduct tryouts, and General Manager Bob Howsam revealed last week that he has signed two prospects. One is painfully familiar to some parents. Eng-Jey Kao pitched for Taiwan when it won all four of its games by shutouts last August in the world Big League tournament for 16- to 18-year-olds. Kao is now 19, has grown to 6'1" and 175 pounds, and "has a good fastball and a good curve for a young boy," says Howsam. The other prospect is Catcher Lai-Hua Lee, 18, "extremely quick behind the plate, good arm and outstanding on foul balls. He runs well and looks like he has bat potential with some power." Both lads have applied for exit visas, although they probably won't be able to play in the U.S. this summer because of military service. But Howsam, with the air of a man having tapped a new source of baseball talent, figures he can wait. The kids are still growing.
DUFFER AND GOLIATH
The organization was a natural, serving to fill a void in golf society. Duffers of the world united to form their own group—only 18 handicap and over need apply. That was 10 years ago; membership has since grown to some 15,000 and things have gone along smoothly from sand trap to water hazard—until last week. That's when the news broke about the first annual George Gobel Duffers Classic proposed for October in Las Vegas—and that's when the U.S. Golf Association did a double take.
Never mind that the Classic sounds innocent enough, certainly no threat to Nicklaus, Miller and the other giants. Out came a USGA press release lashing the event as a "disservice to golf" and urging its member courses to boycott the qualifying tournaments for the event. The controversy seems to center on amateurism. First prize in Nevada would be $50,000—$10,000 more than Nicklaus won at the Masters. Stop right there, said the USGA; any prize over $200 would cost the player his amateur standing.
Apparently there is no fury like a duffer scorned. Executive Director Quillin Porter of the duffers counterattacked by filing suit in New York's U.S. District Court, asking that the USGA cease and desist from interfering with the tourney. "It's ludicrous to say that a guy who shoots 95 to 100 is going to make his living playing golf," he said. Duffer President Tom Drennan of Wichita put it another way. "We're just asking them to leave us alone."
OVER THE HILL?
The dispute over the duffers' tournament was just one item calculated to make old-timers feel sub-par. Even more upsetting news comes from Ohio, where the state legislature debated—and defeated—a proposal to reduce greens fees for senior citizens in state-owned parks. Said Representative John A. Galbraith: "We shouldn't be encouraging our older people to go out on those hilly golf courses. They'll just die from overexertion."
VROOM OR BUST
He may not be king of the road like Richard Petty, but stock-car racer Joe Frasson merits a special warm spot in the heart of anybody who has ever sat fuming behind the wheel of a balky automobile. Seeking to qualify for Charlotte's World 600—a race that Petty won—Frasson had nothing but trouble. Expected factory financial support failed to materialize. Then there was a two-day delay in getting parts and, next, a new transmission blew apart after just 1½ practice laps. Frasson wearily fixed things up as best he could and then came the worst fate of them all: the car wouldn't run fast enough to make the field.
Frasson screeched back into the pits, picked up a jackhandle and fetched his rascally Pontiac several good licks. Feeling better but still steaming, he whacked it again for the press—and almost one more time when NASCAR fined him $100 for conduct unbecoming a race driver.
On the contrary, Frasson's conduct seems fitting. His next try comes this weekend at the Motor State 400 in Cambridge, Mich. and one would hope that all Joe has to do is shake that jackhandle at the car a few times to get its attention—then roll it out and qualify.
COME OUT SWINGING
He doesn't expect to produce any heavyweight champs, says Police Chief Robert O. Matthews Jr., but he wants a training program that will enable his cops to take a punch in the nose. The Howard County, Md. chief requested $3,800 to buy 25 pairs of boxing gloves, 25 head-guards and 50 mouthpieces for the police academy, all the better to develop physical dexterity and combativeness in his rookies. The main idea, he says, is to show new officers what it is like to receive a blow as well as to administer one. "I've been struck any number of times while making arrests," says Matthews.
Presumably, boxing is Lesson 1. Lesson 2 is convincing bank robbers and safecrackers to drop whatever they're doing and put on those gloves.
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR BROOMS
Stage a big race like the Indianapolis 500, invite more than 300,000 people in to see it, and what do you get? One speedway cluttered with an estimated 6.6 million pounds of postrace debris, fried-chicken bones included, and a cleanup task conservatively estimated to last 10 days. No wonder they only race there once a year.
THEY SAID IT
•Fred Shero, Philadelphia Flyers coach, denying that he is unemotional: "I'm like a duck: calm above water, but paddling like hell underneath."
•Lloyd Ruby, 47-year-old Indy driver, asked if he would retire after running only seven laps at this year's 500: "I can drive 20 more years if I only have to go seven laps a year."
•Ben Jipcho, on pro track competition: "Running for money doesn't make you run fast. It makes you run first."
•Rocky Bridges, manager of the Phoenix Giants, on his new diet drink: "You mix two jiggers of Scotch to one jigger of Metrecal. So far I've lost five pounds and my driver's license."