It is conceivable that if the Boston Red Sox make it to the World Series, no one will get to see one of the players most responsible for getting them there. He is Jim Rice, the Red Sox designated hitter, who is batting .323 with 30 home runs and 79 RBIs.
Because, at the insistence of the National League, designated hitters are permitted in the Series only in alternate years, Red Sox Manager Don Zimmer has a problem on his hands—what to do with Rice, besides using him as a pinch hitter. If Zimmer put him in left field—and Rice is somewhat less accomplished as a fielder than as a hitter—Carl Yastrzemski would go to first base, and then what would happen to George (Boomer) Scott, the Red Sox No. 2 home-run hitter? Fred Lynn is in center, so that's out; and the Sox have .286 hitter Dwight Evans, if his troublesome knees hold up, and Rick Miller, also a superb fielder, available for right field.
Another alternative is benching Rice, but how can you bench the team's best hitter? In addition to the obvious disadvantages, it would not sit well in Boston, where according to Herald American columnist Tim Horgan, "...people refuse to go home, even at the stroke of midnight, during an 11-1 game until Jim takes his final turn at bat."
Other AL contenders would also suffer by losing their designated hitters, but none has a DH nearly as good as Rice, one capable of a 50-home-run season. In fact, Henry Aaron has said Rice is the only hitter who could pose a threat to his 755 career home runs.
The following item appeared on the Reuters news wire last week, datelined London: "Kuwait has placed an order with a British firm to supply 25,000 soccer balls—but has stipulated that they must be delivered inflated.
"Mercury International of Longton, northeast England, said it would ship out the balls deflated to save cargo space, but would send out a special team to blow up the balls after they have been unloaded."
It is a measure of the regard that San Franciscans, nay, Californians, have for Willie McCovey that there are not one but three McCovey festivals on the Giants' late-summer social calendar.
Aug. 13 at Candlestick Park was Mac Attack Day, a celebration that was the inspiration of broadcasters Lon Simmons and Joe Angel. Sept. 18 will be Willie McCovey Day. The Giants are aiming at an attendance figure of 44,000,44 being McCovey's number.
Finally, Sept. 26, down south at Dodger Stadium, there will be a Big Mac Night in McCovey's honor, a singularly generous gesture considering that McCovey has hit 33 of his home runs against the Dodgers.
McCovey deserves it all. After two years in virtual retirement on benches in San Diego and Oakland, he is back home this season with the Giants. He has 21 home runs so far, giving him a career total of 486, and he is closing in on his 2,000th hit.
At 39, McCovey is not over the hill, he's king of it.
Last year Ray Sovik was an assistant pro at the Brookside Country Club in Canton, Ohio. Now he is a rabbit on the PGA tour. While Ray struggles to make the cut, his father Elmer, a department store man, fidgets at home in Canton and telephones the Canton Repository sports desk to get the day's scores from the Associated Press sports wire.
On the evening of the first round of last month's Canadian Open, the Repository night staffer, who had gone off to check the wire for Elmer, came back to the phone with what he said was "some good news and some bad news."
"Give me the good news first," said Elmer.
"Ray tied with Ben Crenshaw today," said the night man.
"And the bad news?" said Elmer.
"They both shot 80."
A MIGHTY ROAR
Marauding bears are an occupational hazard to workers at oil-drilling sites in the Canadian north. When a bear killed an Imperial Oil Ltd. employee in 1975, the company sought out Dan Wooldridge, a 29-year-old biologist at British Columbia's Simon Fraser University who had been doing research for some time into methods of protecting people against predators without killing the animals.
With a grant from Imperial, Wooldridge made recordings of the sounds of brown, black and Kodiak bears fighting over pieces of meat at the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, Wash. Experimenting with bears in captivity, he found that by amplifying real and simulated bear sounds to the 120-decibel range, he could produce uneasiness followed very quickly by outright fright.
"The idea," says Wooldridge, "is to make the bear think the world's largest bear is just over the hill."
In the first practical test of his sound system—a cassette player, a ring of speakers mounted on posts, a powerful amplifier and a network of trip wires—at a drilling site in the Northwest Territories, an approaching bear turned and bolted when he was 600 yards from the camp.
Now that Wooldridge has taught Imperial Oil to roar back at bears, he has turned to the protection of backpackers. He is at work right now on a mini-pack of spray repellents, for use on bears, coyotes and wolves, that can be attached to a hiker's belt. Volunteers will surely be welcomed for the testing phase.
Jack Nicklaus II, a tall, skinny 15-year-old, was one of 119 golfers who played 36 holes on Monday, Aug. 15 at the Almaden Golf Club in San Jose, Calif., trying to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. His 79-85 was not good enough, but that he—or anybody else—finished at all was commendable. The field was too large, and there were organizational problems that caused the 36 holes to drag on for 11½ hours. Alongside Jackie every step of the way were Jack I, who had finished 72 holes at Pebble Beach only the day before; Barbara, who had, too, but outside the ropes; and Angelo Argea, the world's most famous caddie.
Has it been a while since your mind enjoyed a good boggle? Then read about the system that the North American Soccer League established for breaking ties during its two-game, home-and-home series playoffs that ended this week.
A game that is tied at the end of 90 minutes of regulation play goes into a 15-minute overtime period. If the overtime is a tie, it is followed by a shootout—each team takes five shots, one-on-one, against the opposing goalkeeper. The team that scores the most goals this way gets one more point and wins the game.
A split series is decided the same way, except that the overtime to decide who goes on to the next round is 30 minutes long. It, too, is followed by a shootout if one is necessary.
However, if the second game of a series is tied at the end of regulation play and the winner, chosen after a 15-minute overtime and a shootout, if one is needed, turns out to be the team that lost the first game, then the series is split and a 30-minute overtime begins on the spot.
If everything that can be tied is tied in a two-game series, the players must endure three hours of regulation play, one hour of overtime and three shootouts before the issue of who advances to the next round is decided.
The Europeans have a slightly more sensible, though also less than foolproof system, which the NASL might do well to consider for next season. In the preliminary rounds of the European and World Cups, which are also based on two-game, home-and-home series, if a series is split, the goals are totaled for the two games and the team with more goals wins. If the total goals are the same, then the ones scored by the visiting team count double. Only if the result is then still a tie is half an hour of "extra time" played.
A drawback inherent in the European system is that the first game tends to become a tight, and sometimes dull, defensive affair, but at least it does not demand so much of the energies of the players. With nine regulation minutes remaining in the second New York Cosmos-Fort Lauderdale Strikers game of the first round of the NASL playoffs, and with the Cosmos down 2-1, Cosmos Coach Eddie Firmani benched Pelé, Franz Beckenbauer and Tony Field to save them for the overtime. If they had stayed in, maybe there would have been no need for overtime. Who knows.
The stereotypical convention-going businessman with a bourbon in one hand may soon have a tennis racket in the other, thanks to Tennis Dimensions, Inc., a company that produces sports "spectaculars" tailored to the needs of the 600,000 corporate conventions held annually in the U.S.
For companies such as DuPont, Dow Chemical and General Electric, Tennis Dimensions provides an afternoon of tennis, golf or swimming, whatever the corporate heart desires, during which the conventioners are videotaped in action, plus a cocktail party at which the tapes are analyzed by teaching professionals and awards are handed out.
If a company doesn't mind holding its convention at Innisbrook, a resort near Tarpon Springs, Fla. that is the headquarters of Tennis Dimensions, it can have a spectacular for $650. Anywhere else it costs $3,000 plus the pros' expenses.
The good news from Maine is that there are more bald eagles in the nests and more salmon in the rivers than have been seen in the state for years.
Gene Letourneau, an outdoors columnist who keeps up with the government agencies that keep up with the state's wildlife, reports that 31 young eagles have been counted in Maine nests this year, the most since the Audubon Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began their eagle study in 1962, and also that chemical contamination in un-hatched eggs has dropped. (Eggs and fledglings are not all that is found in eagle nests. One contained a steel trap which had once held a muskrat.)
The 175 Atlantic salmon taken this year from the Penobscot River are by far the biggest catch there since 1936 and the third largest on record. In addition, 30 Atlantics were spotted recently in the Saco River, above 30-foot-high Cataract Dam. That the salmon fishery has grown so dramatically is happy evidence that even greater improvement can be expected as the quality of Maine's rivers improves and its stocking program bears fruit—er, fish.
In 1976 there were an estimated 20 million skateboards careening around the U.S. whereas the year before there had been only 14 million, an increase of about 43%. In the same period, the estimated number of skateboard injuries increased from 72,000 to 188,000, or 161%.
These figures come from the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. Startled by its own data, the commission has decided to try to determine whether American kids really were almost twice as clumsy in 1976 as they had been in 1975. "If it's people simply losing their balance, there's nothing we can do about it," says David Pittle, a commission member. "If it's wheels coming off, say, that's something else."
Most of the injuries were to younger children, the 10-to-14 age group accounting for 54% of them. And 78% of the injuries were to males, which must mean that girls are smarter, in that fewer of them skateboard, or better coordinated, or chicken.
THEY SAID IT
•Hubert Green, on being the U.S. Open golf champion: "All of a sudden I'm an expert on everything. Interviewers want your opinion on golf, foreign policy and the price of peanuts."
•Don Sutton, L.A. Dodger pitcher, on interleague play: "I hope it comes a) after I have retired or b) after Rod Carew has retired."