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Do you suppose the silence in which tennis traditionally is played could be responsible for the off-court rancor that continually envelops the sport? Sort of a compensation, a countereffect? At any rate, tennis is at it again. The U.S. Open coming up at Forest Hills in a few weeks promised to be all sweetness and light: no defections, no boycotts, no wrangles, just about everybody who is anybody scheduled to be there.

Then it became known that Forest Hills intended to use the 12-point tie breaker in all matches. As Jerry Diamond, executive director of the Women's Tennis Association, pointed out to Billy Talbert, who runs the Open, this year the women have used the 9-point VASSS tiebreaker system. Diamond says WTA found VASSS the most satisfactory system and that it was much the most appealing to the spectator. World Championship Tennis is using the 13-point system, similar to VASSS in that it can go to a sudden-death one-point decision. But the more conservative 12-point tie breaker, in which a player must take two successive points to win, is preferred by the Association of Tennis Professionals, as well as by the weighty International Lawn Tennis Federation. And the ILTF more or less ordered Forest Hills to use the 12-pointer.

Diamond politely wrote Talbert, "I do hope that if your decision as to the tie breaker to be used is still open, the VASSS system will be utilized for the women's matches." But voluble Jimmy Van Alen, who devised VASSS and incessantly promotes it, was more outspoken. Van Alen declared that there was no logical reason why the women should not have VASSS at Forest Hills even if the men stayed with the 12-pointer. Confusing his genders somewhat he crowed that if the men played the 12-pointer while the women used the more daring VASSS, "the confrontation would divide the men from the boys in short order. The ATPers would look like a bunch of scared chickens in comparison to the WTAers." He said that instead of raising the standard red flag to signal that a match had entered the sudden-death stage, the men should use a yellow flag. With a chicken on it.

Tension, anyone?


In commenting on the spate of managerial firings in major league baseball this summer, William Barry Furlong of The Washington Post noted that there was a certain degree of irony in Billy Martin ending up with the plum (manager of the New York Yankees) after being canned by the Texas Rangers. But, Furlong observed, baseball has always been rich in such irony. For example, the Pittsburgh Pirates dismissed Larry Shepard near the end of the 1969 season, in which the Pirates won 88 games. A year later, under Danny Murtaugh, the Pirates won 89 games (and the division championship) and Murtaugh was named Manager of the Year. In 1973 Pittsburgh fired Bill Virdon late in the season because the Pirates were in second place. In 1974 Virdon, then running the Yankees, brought his new club home second and he was named Manager of the Year.

It took heavy-handed George Steinbrenner, the somewhat suspended owner of the Yankees, to provide the topper. A couple of days after his Yankees bounced Virdon, the New York Mets abruptly dropped Yogi Berra. Steinbrenner, talking to some sportswriters, said, "Wasn't it a damn shame about Yogi getting fired like that?"


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who always get their man, are now getting him on golf courses. Teams of Mounties descended upon a dozen clubs in and around Montreal recently and seized $80,000 worth of bags, clubs and balls that had been made in the U.S. and sold to Canadians who carried the stuff home—where such items are much more expensive—without bothering about customs.

After the owners of the contraband signed documents declaring that the seizure had taken place and agreed that the golf equipment would not be removed from club property, the Mounties released everything to the technical custody of club professionals. Duties and penalties could double the original cost of the U.S. purchases, but Inspector Paul Thivierge of the Mounties indicated that the bite might not be that severe. The point of the raids, apparently, was to remind Canadians that they better remember to whip out their pitching wedges and gooseneck putters at customs as they stream north with bargains.


The hunt for the Loch Ness monster goes on, perhaps now to become an X-rated attraction. Members of a fire station at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England decided to try raw sex as a lure to catch the beastie. They built a female monster siren of wood and papier-m√¢ché, with enormous eyelashes, pink lips, red eyes, smoke-snorting nostrils and a truly grotesque mating call—a tape recording of a love-starved bull walrus. The sex machine was floated across the lake on six 40-gallon oil drums with two intrepid firemen inside operating the controls. The firemen had a safety hatch handy to escape a fate worse than death in the event Nessie appeared, eyes gleaming. But, alas, no Nessie, and the contraption was raffled off to raise funds for the firemen's benevolent fund.

The Houston Astros were waiting in the Houston airport recently when a young woman asked them, "Excuse me, are you part of some kind of group or something?" Tommy Helms quickly replied, "Yes, ma'am, we're all caddies on the golf tour." The woman nodded and left. Five minutes later she returned and said, "You are not caddies, you're putting me on." The Astros laughed, and Helms confessed. "Yes, I was kidding," he said. "We're all really Houston Astros." The woman smiled and nodded. "I understand. If I were in your place, I wouldn't tell anyone, either."


In 1970, Charles S. Feeney's first season as president of the National League, Pitcher Juan Marichal swore he could feel a difference between baseballs bearing Feeney's signature and those signed by outgoing President Warren C. Giles. That's how players are. The slightest change in a baseball, real or imaginary, becomes the cause of wild pitches, home runs, batting slumps. Imagine, then, the avalanche of complaints we'll be hearing beginning in 1977, when for the first time in 101 years the name Spalding will not appear on a major league ball.

Last week, Feeney and American League President Lee MacPhail signed 10-year contracts with Rawlings Sporting Goods Co., which will supplant Spalding as the exclusive supplier of baseballs to the majors. Anticipating criticism, Feeney, MacPhail and Rawlings assured the 24 big-league clubs that the switch was made with "quality as the No. 1 criterion." Sharing that No. 1 spot was money: for the last few years Spalding and professional baseball have haggled long and hard over costs and, considering a well-kept secret the Rawlings people divulged last week, it is no wonder.

For despite the new name, the Rawlings baseball is no stranger to the majors, and in recent years Spalding has functioned as something of a middleman. From 1968 to 1970 Rawlings supplied Spalding with 70,000 dozen blank baseballs, which the latter stamped with its own trademark and distributed. In 1971 and 1972 Rawlings even stamped "Spalding" on the balls before handing them over. Finally, in 1973, when cowhide replaced the traditional but increasingly scarce horsehide in the manufacture of baseballs, Rawlings decided to let Spalding fend for itself. That didn't work out too well, either for Spalding or the majors. Now Rawlings is back, out of the closet, stamping its own name on cowhide balls headed for the majors.

Of course, it's only a matter of time until the first pitcher mutters that he can't get a proper grip on the new balls, the first fielder complains that they take funny bounces and the first batter says they don't sound right when you hit them.

In a generous action a Scottish farmer has given 5,000 salmon fry to the Thames Water Authority. The fish were for the River Eye, a tributary of the Thames, at Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire. They were flown from Inverness to London in plastic bags, and authorities were confident the Thames is now clean enough to support them. It is hoped that they will thrive in the River Eye, then in from two to five years move downriver to the sea and begin again the cycle of returning up the Thames each year to lay their eggs. It has been 140 years since salmon throve in the Thames.


When the Seattle SuperSonics' 6'9" Forward John Hummer came out of a cast after an operation last winter, he felt tired and sluggish. He weighed 237 pounds, his heaviest ever, and could barely cope with the rigors of pro basketball. So Hummer put himself on what he now calls a "capricious" diet, including an occasional cream pie, and tried to run himself back into shape. Results were dismal until he consulted Dr. Nathan Smith, a nutrition expert at the University of Washington. Smith, using calipers to measure various parts of Hummer's body, startled the player by informing him that he was carrying more than 40 pounds of fat—fully 18% of his body weight.

Smith told Hummer to eliminate most dairy products and all animal fat from his diet, but he could have as much fish, lean poultry, fruit, salad, vegetables and spaghetti as he wanted. Spaghetti? Sure, said Dr. Smith, since it provides carbohydrates that an athlete can use up rapidly. In one month Hummer's weight dropped to 210. Now, by exercising strenuously, he is building muscle to bring himself back up to 225. "Not much less than before," he says, "but the difference is I'll only be 8% fat." Which means, despite a net loss of 12 pounds, 22 pounds of John Hummer fat are looking for another job.


Jim Murray, the Los Angeles Times columnist, unearthed the findings of Wayne Reynolds, an economics major entering the Wharton School, who wrote a thesis suggesting that Catfish Hunter was a liability at the box office for Oakland last year. Games Catfish pitched drew an average of 1,300 fewer fans than those pitched by others on the A's staff. Reynolds figured this fall-off cost Charlie Finley a mess of gate receipts, perhaps $80,000. (On the road, where the A's drew twice as well as they did at home, Hunter averaged 2,000 more spectators per game than the other staffers.)

On the chance that, for some reason, star pitchers do not draw well, Reynolds checked Sandy Koufax' record in 1966, his last year with the Dodgers. Koufax drew sensationally that season, increasing home-game revenues by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sandy obviously was a bargain at $130,000 a year, then the highest salary in the majors, but is the $3.75-million Catfish earning his keep with the Yankees? Reynolds' figures, based on the first weeks of the season, said Hunter was still a drag on the attendance market, but by midsummer the Catfish was dragging them in, pulling an extra 8,000 fans to his games.

Still, the A's don't seem to miss him, either on the field or at the gate, where their attendance is some 150,000 ahead of last year.



•Mickey Mantle, on his new job with a Dallas firm: "I'm vice-president in charge of special marketing. That means I play golf and go to cocktail parties. I'm pretty good at my job."

•Alan Eagleson, Bobby Orr's agent, on the bidding for Orr's future services: "The Bruins can be competitive with the Minnesota offer. All they have to do is pay Bobby a quarter of a million dollars a year, for the rest of his life."

•Rocky Graziano, after making his singing debut in a New York City nightclub: "The singin's easy. Memorizin' the words is hard."