THE NOCTURNAL GAME
Baseball traditionalists, such as our own William Leggett (page 101), are strongly against the television-inspired decision to shift Game No. 2 of this year's World Series from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night. The trouble is that the traditionalists are a distinct minority among baseball fans, most of whom now prefer World Series games to be at night. This was demonstrated last year when the Cincinnati-Boston games played in the afternoon were relative flops—so far as numbers watching on TV were concerned—compared to those at night, even though the day games were on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, supposedly ideal times for televised sports. The seventh game, played on a Wednesday night, attracted an estimated total audience of 75.9 million people, the biggest in U.S. television history (and more than 800 times the size of the biggest crowd—92,706, Dodgers-White Sox, World Series, Los Angeles Coliseum, Oct. 6, 1959—ever to see a big-league game in the flesh).
More to the point, that Wednesday night game drew 33 to 41 million more people to their TV sets than did the Saturday and Sunday games. It was in hopes of reaching such a much larger audience that NBC persuaded baseball to take the radical step of switching from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night. Leggett feels baseball is making a mistake in doing this, and he may well be right. On the other hand, if the ratings turn out to be as striking as NBC expects, even in the face of Sunday night prime-time competition on the other networks, all future World Series games are likely to be nocturnal. So much for tradition.
From Cranbury, N.J. comes a letter from a football fan named John Jay Wilheim, who was moved to comment on something he saw in the NFL's Monday night game a week or so ago.
"I should like to bring to your attention a surprising development in the Philadelphia-Washington game," writes Mr. Wilheim. "With Philadelphia behind 17-10 and just over one minute to go in regulation time, Charlie Smith of the Eagles caught a touchdown pass and did not: a) spike the ball, b) drop it back over his shoulder, c) toss it into the stands or d) get down on his knees and roll it. Instead, he put it under his arm and walked toward the bench.
"Mr. Smith's action, it seems to me, smacks of genius. Who would have thought, at this late date, that there remained such creative avenues in end-zone celebrations? I envision an entirely new trend in post-touchdown rituals from this brilliant start. Mr. Smith is to be commended."
In commenting adversely on Ball Four, the Jim Bouton TV series that has been battered around by the critics, John Schulian of the Washington Post says it isn't fair for the show to call its fictional big-league team the "Washington Americans." All that means, says Schulian, looking forward to TV's cutdown day, is that long-suffering Washington fans, who twice in the past 15 years have had major league teams taken away from them, are going to lose one more baseball franchise.
Y.A., Y TEAR, WHY KICK
It used to be that a pro football fan could impress people with his inside knowledge by dropping terms like "blitz" and "red dog," but the game's jargon has long since become far more complex than that, perhaps unnecessarily so. Y.A. Tittle, the old quarterback, recalls that when he was playing pro ball his team once ran a play that was described in the huddle as "Red Up Right, Y Tear, X Open, 29 Near, G-O On Two." Said Tittle, "When I was a kid in Marshall, Texas, we had the exact identical play. We called it 'End run right, on two.' "
Tittle also tells of an experience he had more recently coaching Pop Warner football. He was looking for a player who could placekick, and with that in mind lined up his entire squad and had each boy attempt a kickoff. One 12-year-old trotted toward the ball, hesitated, moved toward the ball again, paused once more and finally stopped dead.
"Kick the ball," Tittle ordered, with some impatience.
"Coach," the boy said, "which foot do I kick it with?"
PLAY AND REPLAY
Long after the telecasts of the Montreal Olympics had faded into memory, Mrs. John A. Fisher Jr. of Memphis was startled to discover her son Charley high-jumping inside the house. Charley is four. He set a cane pole across a doorway at a height of about a foot and a half, put cushions on the far side to function as his PORTaPIT and an ottoman on the near side to give him height and spring. Then he called on his mother to come and watch him jump. He cleared the height—not once, but several times. Mrs. Fisher smiled her approval, applauded and finally turned to go.
"Wait, Mom," Charley called. "Now watch me do it slow motion."
Jack Tatum, the Oakland Raider safety who was fined $750 by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle in the aftermath of the Raiders' post-whistle attack on the Pittsburgh Steelers' Lynn Swann a few weeks ago, was seen reading a book on the Raiders' flight to Boston before last Sunday's game with the New England Patriots. The name of the book was Winning Through Intimidation. Considering what happened to the Raiders in their game with the Patriots, maybe Tatum ought to shift to How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Technically, the award was justified. After all, 1976 was her first season in World Team Tennis. Yet it seems odd to read that, after six seasons of big-time competition and nearly $1 million in prizes, Chris Evert has been named the WTT Female Rookie of the Year.
Rookie Evert and other women on the pro tennis tour will have even greater opportunities to rake in the gold next year. The Virginia Slims circuit, which began in 1970 with one $5,000 event, has increased its purses to $1.25 million for its 12-week season. The treasure hunt begins on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C. and ends late in March in Madison Square Garden with the $150,000 Slims championship. That is also known as the Chris and Evonne Show, since only people named Evert and Goolagong have won the Slims singles title in its five years of existence.
Poor Miami University. The Oxford, Ohio school is having one of the more depressing autumns of its 167-year history, at least in a sporting sense. Its distinguished alumnus Walter Alston resigned as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, its highly rated football team has lost five straight games and now its reputation as football's Cradle of Coaches has been challenged. Regularly, stories appear about the famous coaches who have come out of Miami—Paul Brown, Ara Parseghian, Paul Dietzel and many others. This season Miami has five graduates who are head coaches at Division I schools—Bo Schembechler, Michigan; Bill Mallory, Colorado; John Pont, Northwestern; Jim Root, William & Mary; Carmen Cozza, Yale—certainly an admirable record but no longer the preeminent one.
The honor has shifted to Alabama, which has seven major-college coaches this season—Paul Bryant, Alabama; Bud Moore, Kansas; Richard Williamson, Memphis State; Bill Battle, Tennessee; Steve Sloan, Texas Tech; Jimmy Sharpe, Virginia Tech; Jackie Sherrill, Washington State. And close behind Miami, with four top coaches each, are Bowling Green (like Miami, a member of the MidAmerican Conference) and the University of Utah.
Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Ohio State and Texas A&M are represented by three coaches each, but after that the list spreads wide. So wide, in fact, that almost 20% of the 137 Division I teams have head coaches who came from the small colleges hidden down there in Divisions II and III. Among these are Ohio State's Woody Hayes, from Denison—and Miami's own Dick Crum, who learned his football at a powerhouse called Mt. Union.
Speaking of small colleges, two relatively obscure Virginia schools were thrust into the limelight late in September when ABC Sports suddenly decided to make the game between Madison and Hampden-Sydney its regional telecast. Madison, 3-0, was ranked No. 1 in the nation that week among Division III teams (along with C. W. Post of New York), and Hampden-Sydney was also undefeated, but even so it was the first time the network had ever put on a Division III regular-season game. This may help to account for the behavior of J. Stokeley Fulton, Hampden-Sydney's football coach and athletic director, after he received word that his boys would be on the telly. Fulton promptly phoned Randolph-Macon College, Hampden-Sydney's archrival for more than 80 years, to make sure no one there was pulling a fast one. "My first reaction," admits Fulton, "was one of stunned disbelief."
But it was true; ABC Sports was high on the idea. It was Parents and Friends Weekend at Hampden-Sydney, where the game was played, and that gave TV the color background it cherishes. And the contrasts between the schools made the matchup a natural. Madison, founded in 1908, has around 7,700 students. Hampden-Sydney, founded in 1776 (you know which bicentennial it's been celebrating), has only 743.
All the excitement engendered by the telecast, the homecoming and the meeting of undefeated teams was stimulating, but Hampden-Sydney officials were concerned when it became clear that game attendance might reach 10,000, three times the normal size. "We were worried about where all those people would go to the bathroom," says Martin Sherrod, the Hampden-Sydney director of communications.
But television insists on happy endings, and the Hampden-Sydney people came through in style. They rented 10 portable toilets and then went out and upset Madison 21-14.
This is not a trivia quiz. Below are two lists, one a series of sports terms extracted from the recently published Webster's Sports Dictionary, the other a list of sports that the terms apply to. Try to match the terms with the sport. The editor of this section got all of five right out of 16, mostly by guessing.
THEY SAID IT
•Phil Garner, Oakland A's second baseman: "We were just as crazy a ball club this year as we ever were, so far as griping goes. The only difference was we didn't have unified turmoil."
•Abe Lemons, University of Texas basketball coach, when asked if he felt his team should be ranked in the Top Twenty this season: "You mean in the state?"
•Brian Hall, Texas Tech kicker who has an artificial leg, after his two field goals and a pair of extra points gave Tech a victory: "You've heard the expression 'No news is good news.' Well, I say, 'No toes is good toes.' "