Because of the dreadful winter weather Buffalo's pro teams have had a lot of trouble getting to and from games. Late in January, for example, the hockey Sabres had to postpone a home game with Los Angeles because of a blizzard. The day before, the Sabres managed to leave (their flight was 20 hours late) for Montreal to play the Canadiens. Even though four players, including top goal-scorer Rick Martin, weren't able to get to the airport and had to be left behind, the Sabres held the league-leading Canadiens to a 3-3 tie.
Yet the high point of the game was the radio broadcast of it. Ted Darling does play-by-play of Sabre games on radio, except when a game is televised, in which case he does the TV play-by-play. He had never missed a Sabre game since Buffalo joined the NHL in 1970, and he had "broadcast every one of them, on radio or TV. He missed this one. He tried, but it was impossible to get from his home in a Buffalo suburb to the airport. Yet he broadcast it. He was supposed to do the TV play-by-play in Montreal, but a newspaperman was drafted in his stead and Darling did the radio from his home. He watched the game on television and broadcast it by telephone to the Buffalo radio station carrying the game. He turned the TV sound down and had his son Joe listen to it through an earphone so he could feed his father such information as the times of goals, which players were given assists and what the various penalties were.
It was easy. You would have sworn he was there. Oh, the wonders of electronic journalism!
Those Player Locator Boards (SCORECARD, Jan. 31) that were introduced to U.S. golfing fans at the Hawaiian Open last week worked fine. So fine, in fact, that a spectator arriving at noon on the first day was moved to ask, "Where is everybody? This must be the smallest gallery they've ever had at this tournament."
It was actually the largest ever for the Hawaiian, but the least visible. Fans coming onto the course checked the locator boards and scooted off to join and root for their favorites instead of milling about in aimless frustration. The system—a big board with a map of the course and magnetized numbers identifying the players and their precise location at any moment—worked so well that it raised the inevitable question: Why wasn't it done before? One might assume that locator boards now will be erected at all big tournaments. Hawaiian Open officials, their eyes dancing with visions of royalties, are even talking of patenting the system.
NAMES AND NUMBERS
Because Arizona and Arizona State have withdrawn from the Western Athletic Conference in order to join the Pacific Eight, usually called the Pac-8, a small question has arisen over the expanded conference's name. Pac-8 no longer works. Pac-10 seems likely, although a more formal title may be chosen.
This adjusting of name to fit number has given rise to speculation. Suppose the four northern schools—Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State—decide to withdraw from the conference, what then? No problem. With its strength reduced to half a dozen, the conference could rename itself the Six Pac.
A couple of notable basketball shots have been made this season by unheralded people. One, you may recall, was by Dale McCall of Lamar University in Texas who won a trip to Hawaii several weeks ago (SCORECARD, Dec. 13, 1976) by coming out of the stands at halftime and sinking a shot from midcourt. Another Texan, John Kinsey, won a new automobile by sinking a similar shot in a contest at a Houston Rockets game. Getting their money's worth, the Rockets made a little production of the affair by presenting the keys to the car to Kinsey in a ceremony at halftime of a game with the Philadelphia 76ers. A crowd of 16,012 was on hand to see the Rockets go against Julius Erving, George McGinnis and company. After handing over the keys, the Rocket spokesman at the microphone suggested kiddingly that John try another shot from midcourt just for old times' sake. You know, prove that last 50-footer was no fluke, ha, ha.
Kinsey, a good sport, stepped to the center circle, took aim and lofted a left-handed push shot that swished right through the cords. That brought a greater reaction from the crowd than anything Erving or McGinnis had done. In fact, Dr. J made a point of going over and shaking Kinsey's hand.
John didn't win anything extra for his repeat performance, but now people in Texas are calling for a midcourt shootout between Kinsey and McCall.
The showdown could turn out to be a highlight of the basketball season. When McCall arrived in Hawaii on his prize-winning trip, a local TV station wanted to get some footage of him taking a shot from midcourt. Dale agreed. With the lights on him and the cameras running, he stepped to the center of the court and flipped one toward the basket. Swish. Do it again, TV cried. McCall did. Swish again. Then he missed four in a row, proving that he is human, and then raised doubts about that assumption by hitting six more. Eight out of 12, from midcourt.
Billy Tubbs, the Lamar University basketball coach who sponsored the Texas contest that McCall won to get the trip to Honolulu, said, "I told the TV people I'd only promised Dale a trip to Hawaii. I hadn't said anything about the return trip. But he sure earned the ride back with that performance."
Bring on John Kinsey.
Wally Hough is a big, hulking lineman from Plant High School in Tampa who finally agreed to accept a grant-in-aid from the University of Florida. Head Coach Doug Dickey of Florida stopped by Hough's home in Tampa on the momentous day, and so did about 40 of the youngster's relatives, among them his 87-year-old grandmother, known to all as Granny Batson. All 40 relatives filed by to shake Dickey's hand and assure him he'd made a wise selection. Finally, it was Granny Batson's turn, and Dickey greeted the tiny old lady with all the charm and respect he could muster.
"What number are you going to put on Wally?" the old lady demanded. "Well, gee," said Dickey, somewhat startled. "I haven't given that any thought. Let's see. Darrell Carpenter is graduating this year and his number is 67. Will 67 be O.K.?"
Granny nodded briskly.
"That's great," she said. "I'll play the 6-7 at the fronton tonight."
THE SIXTO KID
Although the Milwaukee Brewers finished last in the American League East in 1976 things could be a little brighter for them this year, partly because they have, among other bright hopes, Sixto Lezcano. Lezcano, who batted .285 last year, so far has not been a mover and a shaker in his two seasons in the American League, but he has just won the Puerto Rican Winter League batting title with a neat .366. Puerto Rico? you ask, with an amused smile. Big deal.
Well, you might check over the names of some former Puerto Rican Winter League batting champs and rethink your position on Sixto Lezcano. For instance, in 1955 a fellow named Willie Mays won the title. A couple of years later it was Roberto Clemente. Orlando Cepeda won it in 1959, Tony Oliva in 1964 and Tony Perez in 1967. More recent winners include Don Baylor (1972), Ken Griffey (1975) and Dan Driessen (1976). And Lezcano's league-leading average was the highest in 20 years, since Clemente batted .396.
The special quality of Puerto Rican batting champions goes back a long way. In 1942 the winner was a catcher named Josh Gibson, who hit a cool .480. Gibson, best of all black catchers, never played in the major leagues because of the color bar, but he has a plaque in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown now.
Not that Sixto Lezcano has a confirmed reservation to Cooperstown. But it looks as though he's worth keeping an eye on.
IN THE ROUGH
Life had been going smoothly on the professional golf circuit for Spain's Severiano Ballesteros. After a burst to fame as runner-up to Johnny Miller in the British Open last July, the 19-year-old won the Dutch Open, the Trophées Perrier in Belgium and France's Lanc√¥mé. Ballesteros' wallet was fattened by $70,000. In December he and teammate Manuel Pi√±ero won the World Cup title, a triumph which caused the Spanish daily El País to proclaim, "With this win has arisen a serious problem for national golf. It has to be made popular."
That will have to wait. Ballesteros has been inducted into the Spanish Air Force. His neatly flowing locks have been shorn to meet military standards. For six weeks he will endure the rigors of basic training instead of sand traps and bushes. His stint will last 15 months, but Ballesteros will not keep his clubs idle. "I have received no promises from the Air Force, but I think they will be understanding," he says. Ballesteros hopes to compete in the Masters in April and in the British Open this summer. Perhaps most understanding will be his commanding officer, a golf buff.
Remember the small plane that crash-landed in the upper tier of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium a few minutes after the Steelers had beaten the Colts in their AFC playoff game last December? A minister in Bethesda, Md. recently received a letter from a fellow minister, an American missionary in Salisbury, Rhodesia, who mentioned that he had seen the photograph in a foreign newspaper. As a football fan, he wondered who had won the game, but nowhere in the caption accompanying the photo was the score or the result mentioned. But, he wrote to his friend in Maryland, as he looked more closely at the picture it dawned on him that the Colts must have lost. There at the bottom of the photo were the goalposts, still standing.
A MATTER OF MIND
Paul Westhead, basketball coach at La Salle College in Philadelphia as well as a Shakespearean scholar who teaches English at La Salle, turned this season to psychic energy to help his team. He preaches the power of positive thinking and has given his young charges extensive doses of psycho-cybernetic instruction (basic principle: vivid images of a desired result in the mind's eye help achieve that result).
"We have our guys practice making free throws over and over again in their minds," says Westhead. "We've even had some of the players practice shooting free throws with their eyes closed."
Westhead had an opportunity to put his preachings to use in a game against archrival Villanova. With three seconds remaining and La Salle behind 70-69, the Explorers' Darryl Gladden was fouled. Villanova called time out before the free throw, to put the pressure on the freshman.
"I told Darryl to relax, close his eyes and do his cybernetics," says Westhead. "He looked at me wide-eyed and said, 'Coach, this is no time to screw around.' Everybody on the bench broke up, but I think it helped Darryl get loose."
In any case, the youngster sank both ends of the one-and-one, and La Salle was triumphant, 71-70.
THEY SAID IT
•Earl Strom, NBA referee, to Philadelphia Trainer Al Domenico, who complained that Strom was assessing too many fouls against the 76ers in a game with Denver: "I don't count 'em, Al. I just call 'em."
•Luther (Wimpy) Lassiter, pool player, on what he does to prepare himself for his sport: "I like to practice shooting pistols, rifles, slingshots—things like that. And I spend a lot of time sitting on the curb contemplating life sliding by me."
•Wojtek Fibak, Polish tennis star, on his reaction to Polish jokes: "I am able to laugh at such things. I understand. I watch your television. I see that most of the shows are geared to a certain mentality. Would you want me to judge your country by its television?"