Phil Ford, the U.S. Olympic basketball player, spotted a Canadian soldier on guard in the Olympic Village and asked him, "Parlez-vous fran√ßais?"
Canadian soldier: "Ah, oui."
Ford: "Comment allez-vous?"
Canadian soldier: "Bien, et vous?"
Ford: "That's all I know, man."
BASEBALL'S NEW ERA
The agreement between major league players and owners that was announced last week formally buried the reserve clause, which has been an integral part of baseball for more than 50 years. In its place are provisions governing the rights of players who want to leave their clubs, as well as the rights of the club owners to hold on to players for a specified time and to be compensated for their loss when they leave.
Boiled down, the new rules say that a player cannot become a free agent until he has completed six years in the majors, and that a club losing such a player will be given a first- or second-round draft choice from the club signing him. Details, often quite complex, cover ramifications of the agreement—how many clubs a free agent may negotiate with, how many free agents a club can sign, when a player can demand a trade or veto a trade, etc.
What comes as a surprise is that in the future an eligible player does not have to play out an option year to become a free agent; he is free as soon as his contract expires. Even more startling is the revelation that all players now under contract—not just those who are currently unsigned—have the right to play out their options under the Andy Messersmith system and become free agents. In other words, no player comes under the new agreement until he signs a new contract.
Despite this apparent freedom, neither the owners nor the players feel that many will elect to take the free-agent route, either now or in the future. Of the 600 or so men on big-league rosters, only 39 are playing out their options. Provisions limiting the number of free agents any one club can sign should assuage fears that the best players will flow to certain teams. Fred Patek, Kansas City's All-Star shortstop, says, "There won't be many guys jumping around. Too many are happy where they are. As long as they can get their maximum value, most will stay."
The owners evidently agree. If they don't, they are taking an awfully big risk.
DOWN TO BASICS
You've seen the ads. There's Lou Brock in buttercup-yellow mesh, Craig Morton in narrow-cut gray, Vic Hadfield in snappy Scottish plaid. Steve Garvey, Fred Dryer, Terry Metcalf, Ed Marinaro, Jim McMillian, Brad Park, all stripped down to wildly patterned, high-style Day-Glo briefs in an advertisement for Jockey shorts, accompanied by a headline that asks TAKE AWAY THEIR UNIFORMS AND WHO ARE THEY? It's caused a bit of talk.
"It's just underwear," says Marinaro, the running back who played out his option with the Minnesota Vikings and recently signed with the New York Jets. He posed in red briefs and a matching, chest-hugging T shirt. "It was pretty good money and the exposure wasn't bad either, no pun intended."
Morton, the New York Giant quarterback who posed in a gold necklace and bikini briefs, says, "It wasn't meant to be cheesecake. None of the underwear was offensive. It was just something to be illustrated."
However, Metcalf, star running back of the St. Louis Cardinals, admits he was a bit embarrassed. "It was the first time I ever had my picture taken in my underwear," he says. Metcalf wore exotically flowered briefs.
Why the "naked men" approach? According to advertising men, marketing surveys show that about 75% of men's underwear is purchased by women and that they are more likely to buy colorful, boldly patterned briefs than simple white boxer shorts. Yet Marinaro says a woman who had seen the ad wrote a complaining letter to the Vikings, warning them "to keep an eye on what your players are doing."
"She said something about it being disgusting, disgraceful and the work of the devil," Marinaro recalls. "She recommended that I read some book, but I don't remember which one."
Brock says he has had a few angry letters from fathers complaining that he was setting a bad example for kids. "Don't kids wear underwear?" Brock asks. "If they don't, maybe these guys who are so upset should go out and buy them some."
WAITING THERE IS HALF THE FUN
The worst thing about playing golf on crowded courses is the long wait at each tee. Sometimes on long holes there are four golfers on the green, four waiting to hit their approach shots, four walking down the fairway toward their drives, four about to tee up and maybe eight or even 12 standing around restlessly behind the tee, watching the hordes ahead of them. Now, more than a dozen golf courses in and around Toronto are doing something to ease the dreadful tedium of waiting. They've installed practice putting greens behind most of the tees so that, instead of muttering and swearing at the slow golfers ahead of them, waiting players can practice their putts and swear at themselves.
FUN AND VENOM
We told you last week about snakebite and the disagreement among doctors on the best way to treat it. Best advice seemed to be not to get bitten, but, oddly enough, there are some folks who just don't seem to care, like those who recently took part in a lively pastime called bagging at the annual Sinnamahoning Rattlesnake Hunt in Pennsylvania.
What you do in bagging is you and your partner take and put five live rattlers in a sack while somebody else clocks you to see how long it takes. Bob Howe, acting as "pinner," and Jim Chesney, as "sacker," won the novice class at Sinnamahoning in 34 seconds flat. Professional class champions Jim and Tom Kautz got their five snakes in the bag in 20.2 seconds, only 1.9 seconds off the world record set last year by Bill (The Old Man) Wheeler. Wheeler, now retired but helping out at the Pennsylvania event, got nipped by a snake but shrugged it off, suffering only minor distress.
Not so fortunate was Ron Milisits. Although he had been bitten by a rattler two weeks earlier, Milisits entered anyway but was fanged again as he was bagging. He was taken to a hospital and placed in intensive care but, we are pleased to report, he has recovered. We presume he is now out looking for more snakes.
THE LADY IS A CHAMP
Judy Rankin finished 17th in the U.S. Women's Open two weeks ago, one of her worst showings this year, but the $1,229 she earned raised her 1976 tournament winnings above $100,000, a mark never before reached by a woman golfer. "I knew the time was coming," she said last week as she was in the process of winning $10,000 in the Borden Classic, which made her earnings $110,614. "But if you'd have told me in January that this would be the year, I'd have laughed. I made a triple-bogey 8 on the first hole I played this year."
It pleases Rankin that her $100,000 was won in not much more than half a season, so that the significance of her performance cannot be diminished by the higher purses women golfers are playing for these days. And the purses still aren't all that big. It costs a minimum of $15,000 a year to travel and play the LPGA tour, and fewer than 40 of the 150 to 200 women pros are making expenses. Unlike their tennis counterparts, LPGA competitors are not looking for money parity with men, but it is worth noting that David Graham's $60,000 first-prize check at last week's Westchester Classic was equal to all the prize money given at the Women's Open and was greater than total money won so far this year by every woman pro except Rankin and JoAnne Carner.
Thus, Rankin's $100,000 year is a remarkable achievement. She fully deserves to have her name coupled with another pro named Arnold Palmer, who was the first male golfer to win $100,000, back in 1963.
THE WAY IT IS
The hope that springs eternal within the breast of the racehorse owner can be gauged by the names owners give their animals. A recent issue of the Daily Racing Form listed Brave Scout, Fast and Brave, Fast and Bold, Fast Pride and Everfast, not to mention Rapid Barb, Rapid Treat, Splendid Power and Staying Power. For those who recognize the element of chance in racing, there were Lucky Fling, Lucky Speed and Lucky Sway.
But there was one other racer listed in the Form that day whose owner obviously had been through the mill, seen too many dreams turn to tinsel, too much luck go sour. The horse was named Lousy Investment, which proved to be realistic, if disheartening. A 3-year-old running at tracks in New England, Lousy Investment has gone to the post 12 times and has never managed to finish better than fifth.
So much for owners of horses. Bettors, on the other hand, are more optimistic, and are always looking for a system to beat the races. The Holy Ghost. The Chinese Laundry List. Hatpins. Here's a new one. Call it Cherchez les chevaux. The idea is simple. All you do is bet on every French horse starting in the two best-known international races—thoroughbred or standardbred—in this country, the Washington, D.C. International in Laurel, Md. and the International Trot at Roosevelt Raceway. Anyone who bet $10 to win on the French horses that have competed in these races would now have a profit of $652.50. Betting on the U.S. horses in the same races would have produced more winners (18 American horses to 14 French ones), but because there were more American entries and they usually went off at shorter odds, the bettor would have lost $185.
Even more fun comes—and money follows—if you extend the system into triple betting (picking the exact finish of the first, second and third horses), which was possible in this year's Roosevelt International. If you had "boxed" all the French and American horses entered (buying $3 tickets on all possible combinations of first-second-third finishes for the four horses), you would have netted $433.50. And that ain't foin.
DEGREES OF ACCOMPLISHMENT
Everyone who follows boxing has heard of Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban who won the Olympic heavyweight championship at Munich in 1972 and is favored to repeat in Montreal. Not very many have heard of Ismael Ruiz, a Mexican heavyweight who in 24 amateur fights lost only once, to Stevenson in the Central American Games. (That was Ruiz' fifth amateur bout, Stevenson's 115th.) Ruiz turned professional last February and knocked out three opponents before being stopped last Thursday night in Los Angeles by another young fighter named Juan Baca.
None of this is particularly significant, except in light of the fact that along with winning 26 of 28 fights, Ruiz studied medicine, earned his degree, interned for two years at the National Medical Hospital in Mexico City and this past Tuesday, five days after losing to Baca, became a licensed physician.
THEY SAID IT
•Jerry DaVanon, Houston Astro utility infielder, on life in baseball: "My daughter Kelley, who is five, is a friend of Ken Boswell's daughter Ashley, who is the same age. They hadn't seen each other for a while, and Ashley asked my wife if Kelley had been traded."
•Dick Vermeil, who came from UCLA to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, on why he feels Dallas is the team to beat this year: "The Cowboys were in the Super Bowl last season, and I didn't see them graduating any seniors."
•Jack Brohamer, Chicago White Sox infielder, on the club's proposed use of shorts: "I'm not going to wear short pants unless they let me wear a halter top too."
•Bruce Crampton, on tournament golf: "It's a compromise of what your ego wants you to do, what experience tells you to do and what your nerves let you do."