CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Last week, in a decision that should cut down on injuries, NFL team owners elected to outlaw the dangerous crackback block. The rule change now makes it illegal for a wide receiver or back to move to the outside, reverse direction, fire back toward the ball and crack back below the waist.
The crackback has been illegal since 1974 for wide receivers lined up as pass catchers, but until this year, running backs were allowed to use it—often grievously injuring defensive linemen.
The crackback is much the same as the trap block, the important difference being that the blocker is moving at full speed when he makes contact with the penetrating lineman, who usually is blind-sided so that the risk of a knee injury is high. In 1973 in Washington, to cite but one example, a crackback block by a Redskins' running back wrecked the knee of the Cardinals' Ron Davis, 22, an injury that ended his career.
The owners also agreed to make the game a more clearheaded proposition for offensive linemen by banning the head slap from the repertoire of pass rushers. Applied by such past masters as Deacon Jones, the head slap gave offensive linemen a headache in every sense of the word.
It now remains for the NFL to find a way of effectively protecting quarterbacks, 34 of whom were injured during the 1976 season.
Tom and Tim Gullikson, 25-year-old identical twins from Onalaska, Wis., were ranked 39th and 45th last year by the U.S. Tennis Association. They are identical save for one thing. Tim is righthanded, Tom is a lefty—a fact that was a relief to Karl Meiler of West Germany.
Not long ago on the WCT tour, Meiler lost to right-handed Tim and two weeks later bowed to left-handed Tom. At the time he did not know there were two Gulliksons.
"When the second one beat me in straight sets," Meiler said, "I was very depressed that there was a player who could beat me using either hand."
A PLUS FOR COLLEGES...
Thanks to the bounty reaped from television, NCAA championship events should be more competitive through the next four years, the duration of the $118-million contract the NCAA signed with ABC last week for college football telecast rights.
The new television package represents an average annual increase of 63.9% over the previous agreement with ABC, and with the added revenue the NCAA for the first time will pay all travel expenses for every athlete who qualifies for one of its 39 championship events in 18 different sports. In the past, since the individual schools often had to pay their athletes' way, many schools were reluctant to assume travel costs, especially if the athlete was a longshot in a sport such as track or swimming.
...AND A MINUS?
Now that collegiate sports programs will benefit from revenues from football broadcasting, the Internal Revenue Service is threatening to cash in on—and perhaps bollix—the deal.
Next week in Washington, the IRS will review a ruling made in its Dallas regional office that college athletic income derived from radio and television is no longer tax-exempt. The basis for the decision was the 1969 tax reform act, which stipulated that income derived from "unrelated" businesses owned by non-profit organizations—for example, a grocery owned by a church—would be taxed as of 1976. If the Dallas decision stands, it might well be catastrophic for college sport. The IRS has indicated that the tax could amount to 48% of the broadcast income. Depending on retroactive obligations, this means that Penn State, for example, might have to fork over $2.5 million.
"This ruling is a good way to wreck the colleges," says Frank Windegger, the TCU athletic director. "They say broadcast revenue is unrelated income. If it's not income related to athletics then I don't know what it is."
"If this thing passes," says Jackie Sherrill, the new football coach at Pittsburgh, "the small bowl games will be eliminated because it won't pay the small schools to participate. They would probably lose money."
The NCAA already has indicated that it will go to Congress or to the courts to seek relief from the ruling, if it is upheld, which is unlikely.
PLAYING THE NUMBERS
Paul Campbell, the traveling secretary of the Cincinnati Reds, has spent almost 44 years in baseball as a player, scout and club executive. Among the many delights of his long career, which ends after this season, Campbell particularly savors the day he got Angel Bravo's number.
Bravo was a journeyman player who left Cincinnati in 1971, apparently to play in Mexico. The Reds, however, were unable to locate him, which was a bit frustrating because only Bravo knew the combination to the lock on his club-owned suitcase.
Campbell kept the suitcase in his office, where, in sporadic moments in the off-season, he idly and vainly attempted to open it by trying combinations at random. Had he realized that any three-digit lock, like Bravo's, has only 1,000 possible combinations, he might have tried to open it in a more systematic fashion. Finally, on a day when eight people were in his office, someone suggested to Campbell that he try Bravo's highest batting average. Some quick research revealed it was .342 for Tucson in the Pacific Coast League in 1969.
Sure enough, the lock opened readily, but with mixed results; Campbell discovered nothing. Bravo's suitcase was empty.
One of the summer's new features at Atlantic City's famous Steel Pier is a Guinness hall of records. To help get the word around, boardwalk officials are looking for a flagpole sitter to duplicate, if not beat, the record set in 1931 by Alvin (Shipwreck) Kelly, who roosted atop a flagpole above the pier for 49 days and one hour. "We will supply the sitter with food, encouragement and prayers," says PR director Peter Fox, who has had a few applicants for the job but isn't certain any of them has the necessary stamina. The prayers may be essential. Kelly sat through 10 storms, in many of which lightning played about his head.
Shortly after Walter Alston retired from the National League to his Darrtown, Ohio farm, he installed a citizens-band radio in his automobile. His chosen handle was "Smokey," the nickname hung on him by his father when Alston was an Ohio schoolboy pitcher.
But on CB, Alston's nickname means the police or highway patrol, and you can guess the reaction. "Nobody would talk to me," Alston says. "So now my handle is 'Double Dozen.' "
Alston wore number 24 for almost a quarter of a century as manager of the Dodgers, who retired the number this month on their Old-Timers Day.
THE SUMMER GAME
Paul Westhead, the LaSalle College basketball coach, has spent the last six summers coaching in Puerto Rico, where he has found that the fans take the game muy serious.
"Their involvement is just incredible," says Westhead, who is coaching the Caguas team in the Superior League this year. "I've had beer thrown in my face after a loss, Jack McKinney [assistant coach of the Portland Trail Blazers] was almost shot at by a fan, and one time the mayor of a city was so enraged at the officiating that he slugged a referee. The fans gave him a standing ovation.
"Another time," Westhead recalls, "we were playing the Isabela team on their home court and our team had trouble shooting free throws, because when one of our players stepped to the line, every light in the building except the exit signs would go out. They stayed on for the Isabela players."
In contrast to the New York Mets' M. Donald Grant, who seems loath to abide anyone critical of management (page 22), consider Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders.
Davis recently recalled the first time he had engaged in a lengthy conversation with Ollie Spencer, the Raiders' longtime offensive line coach.
"It was 1962," Davis said. "I was a coach with San Diego at the time and Ollie was with Oakland. He called me one day to complain about some films we were supposed to have sent. He said they hadn't arrived and accused me of withholding them deliberately. That offended me; I told him where he could put his film canister. He said something uncomplimentary in return and we proceeded to have this violent argument. Finally, one of us—I don't remember which—hung up, and that was that."
Several months later, Davis was hired as head coach and general manager of the Raiders. As is customary for incoming coaches, Davis fired the incumbent assistants but allowed them to be interviewed for their former jobs. Spencer arranged for an audience with Davis but assumed, in light of their argument, that he would not be part of the new staff.
"Spencer came into my office and said that even though he wouldn't be with the Raiders, he'd like to wish us luck anyway," Davis said. "Then he turned to leave. I told him to wait a minute, that I wanted to hire him.
"I'd been watching him for a long time. I knew he was a good coach, but more than that, I liked his attitude. From the way he cussed me out that day, I knew he was my kind of guy."
CALL THE LAW
A sensational catch was the principal clue in "The Sham Sheriff Softball Caper" and it allowed the Austin (Texas) Police Department to bring some unlikely suspects to justice.
Scene of the crime was Bartholomow East Field during a game played between the Austin Police Department and the Travis County Sheriff's Department, both members of a statewide tournament that was supposedly limited to law-enforcement officers.
But when the sheriff's third baseman made a diving catch, then turned two somersaults and came up holding the ball, Steve Forman of the Austin PD detected some skulduggery. Sure enough, the sheriff's squad included three ringers off the University of Texas baseball team, including slick-fielding Third Baseman Rocky Thompson.
"It's the kind of deal where they thought they would be smart and run them through," Forman said. "But when I recognized Thompson, I protested to the plate umpire at the end of the game and demanded that they all put their badges and credentials on the ground for inspection."
The three Longhorns were declared ineligible and, as a result, the sheriff's team was left with only eight players and had to drop out of the tournament.
The guilty Travis County sheriff is Raymond Frank, who campaigned for reelection last November as "The Sheriff That Shoots Straight." He claimed that he deputized the three Longhorns two days before the game. Even so, the Austin PD won, 7-4.
The baseball player who breaks up a game or starts a hitting streak with a borrowed bat is not uncommon, but a new twist has been added by Larry LeNoir, a reserve for Salesianum School of Wilmington, Del.
LeNoir was the unexpected star of a game against St. Mark's High School when he came to bat with the bases loaded and hit a grand-slam homer.
After the game, he thanked teammate Bob Kapa—not for the use of his bat, but for lending him his eyeglasses.
Kapa, the regular centerfielder, had been breaking in a new set of contact lenses and, through no fault of his vision, had knocked himself out by running into a fence as he chased a line drive. LeNoir went in as his substitute and, having forgotten his own glasses, borrowed Kapa's backup pair.
THEY SAID IT
•Andre Harvey, golf pro, asked why he has had only one hole in one in his career while Art Wall has had 41: "The only thing it means, really, is that Art Wall is 40 times better than me."
•Ron Turcotte, Secretariat's jockey, after finishing last by 62 lengths on Make Amends in Seattle Slew's Belmont win: "I needed another piece of equipment. I needed binoculars."
•Carlos Alfonso, recently retired Houston and Cincinnati minor-leaguer, now the Astros' batting-practice hurler, on the strike zone: "The way they used to hit me, it doesn't matter whether I throw high or low."
•Al McGuire, former basketball coach at Marquette, on the courses selected by college players: "Our guys took Shop and Advanced Shop. Shop is when you make a chair. Advanced Shop is when you paint it."