IF IT'S DECEMBER, THIS MUST BE FRANCE
That old Robt Day cartoon showing two sportscasters seated in an empty stadium with one of them saying, "One moment while we take a look at that little old schedule," has come true to life for Hockey Canada, a government agency that gave the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union a $50,000 grant last summer to support a team. The team was to play in a tournament in Grenoble, France from Dec. 28 to 31 and serve as the nucleus for the 1980 Olympic squad. Coach Tom Watt of the University of Toronto duly assembled a 22-man squad and took off for Europe. There the Canadians played exhibitions in Germany and Czechoslovakia and then came home, skipping Grenoble altogether. How come? Before the team's departure, the Hockey Canada officials found out they had misread the date for the Grenoble tournament. It was for Dec. 28-31 all right, but 1978, not 1977. An embarrassed official says, "We had to save face and fulfill our commitment to the Czechs."
Given the phenomenal rise in the number of participants in the marathon, it was perhaps inevitable, but nonetheless somehow shocking, that this famed race, which originated in classical Greece, should now be tainted by cheating.
In the fifth Maryland Marathon last month, 1,546 of the 1,707 starters finished. It was this surprisingly high number of finishers, each of whom received a souvenir jacket, that aroused the suspicion of race officials. "We know the normal, dropout rate, depending on the weather," says Joe Holland, a co-chairman of the race. "If the weather is real warm, you could lose 30%. On a day like we had [it was in the 40s] you're supposed to lose 18%. We lost 10%. Everyone was carried away with getting the jackets. The jackets were only for finishers. The jackets were a magnet."
Unlike the Boston Marathon, which is run point to point, the Maryland race is out and back, and the course can be crowded and confused. Some nine miles from the starting line there is a public rest room, and Holland figures that about 35 to 40 runners ducked in there, stayed a while and then headed back to the finish line, cutting seven miles off the race. "We had three people with guilty consciences return the jackets." he says.
Hank Peters, the general manager of the Orioles, is in a pickle. Last year Peters, wary of losing players to the free-agent draft after Pitcher Ross Grimsley defected to Montreal for $1.5 million, signed Outfielder Ken Singleton and Pitchers Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan to long-term contracts that called for bonuses if they made "significant contributions" to the team. Singleton thereupon batted .328, the highest in club history, knocked in 99 runs, hit 24 homers and finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting. Palmer won 20 and lost 11 with a 2.91 earned run average and was runner-up for the Cy Young Award. Flanagan, a flashy young lefthander, had a 15 and 10 record, with 13 of his wins coming in the second half of the season.
Singleton, Palmer and Flanagan asked for their bonuses, but Peters refused to pay, saying, "The interpretation of 'significant' is the sole judgment of the GM, and I say a 'significant contribution' has to be weighed against two things: what you expect of a player and what you're already paying him."
All three players filed grievances last month. When it dawned on Peters that they might all become free agents a la Catfish Hunter after Charlie Finley failed to honor his contract, Peters paid them $15,000 each. Last week, in a bizarre switch, Peters abruptly announced that the Orioles wanted the bonus money back and would file grievances against the players. Marvin Miller, executive director of the Players' Association, says that Peters is "shooting craps with the heart of the team. They could all be free agents before Opening Day."
Midway through the hot stove league season, Mark Noack, a baseball fan in Lynwood, Wash., looked at a Henry Aaron poster and became intrigued by the number four. Aaron wore number 44, and he broke Babe Ruth's record of 714 home runs in the fourth inning of the fourth game of the fourth month of 1974 against an opposing pitcher who also wore the number 44. The score was then 3-1, which adds up to four, and the time of the homer was 9:07 p.m., which adds up to 16, and the square root of 16 is four. The ball traveled 385 feet, which also adds up to 16, and the square root of 16 is, of course, four. Both Aaron and Ruth were 40 when they walloped their record home runs. Ruth died in 1948, and the square root of 1948 is 44.136152, which rounded off is 44. Which was Hank Aaron's number.
NOT QUITE RIGHT
The Bristol-Myers Co., which began to support track and field when it sponsored the U.S. Olympic Invitational in Madison Square Garden last winter, has come up with another attempted shot in the arm for one of the country's needier sports. The company has just announced that it will sponsor a Grand Prix for the current indoor season to honor the best athlete in 14 meets, from last week's Muhammad Ali Games at Long Beach, Calif. to the national championships at Madison Square Garden in late February.
While Bristol-Myers' heart is in the right place, calling the winner of the Grand Prix the "best athlete" borders on hyperbole because the basis on which points are awarded—five for a win, three for second and one for third—almost assures that the winner will not be a distance runner. Ten of the meets are held on five Friday-Saturday weekends and require overnight travel. A sprinter, high jumper or pole vaulter can rather easily win back-to-back competitions over two days but it will be much harder for a distance runner to do so. Shotputters, long jumpers and women hurdlers aren't even in the running because these events are not contested at some meets.
For sure, the Grand Prix' big winner will be the U.S. Olympic Committee; $20,000 of the top athlete's $25,000 prize will be a contribution to the USOC in the winner's name. The remaining $5,000 goes to the organization or track club to which the winner belongs, while the athlete gets to take home a "specially designed trophy."
Sprinter Steve Riddick, last year's outstanding indoor performer with 15 wins in 15 races in the U.S., says, "It's progress, but it would be nice if the USOC got a little less and the club a little more."
GOODBY TO A GREAT ACT
The Celtics' sad season last week cost Tommy Heinsohn his job, which is the kind of thing that can happen to big-time coaches, and we regret his departure for reasons that have nothing to do with his won-lost record. Heinsohn was an authentic national figure, one of just a handful of coaches whose images—thanks to TV directors who recognize a good thing when they see it—had become fully as large as that of the teams they coached. Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes come to mind, as do John Madden and Billy-Martin and, of course, Heinsohn. Legions of viewers who followed pro basketball only casually knew the bear of a man. He had the best scowl in the business. He could convey great menace by simply rising to his feet. His rages and spells of anguish along the sidelines were always marvelous to behold. There was sham in it, of course; away from the court Heinsohn was a mild man, a painter of talent, a successful insurance man. But his was a great act, and a lot of people will miss it.
DALLAS VS. DENVER
Fourteen years ago, when Mrs. Tom McVie gave birth to a son, she and her husband, who is now the coach of the NHL Washington Caps, decided that Dallas had a nice sound to it and so named their boy. Five years later, Mrs. McVie gave birth to another boy, and she and her husband named him Denver after a character in a TV Western.
Both Dallas and Denver grew up without much fuss being made over their names until Denver and Dallas made the Super Bowl. Now the brothers themselves are at odds. Dallas, 14, is rooting for Denver, and Denver, nine, is rooting for Dallas. By the way, the difference in their ages matches the early point spread.
PUN MY NAME (CONT'D)
Here in response to Richard Lederer's list of writers and sports their names suggest (SCORECARD, Dec. 12) are more sent in by readers.
Archery: Beaumont and Fletcher.
Auto racing: William Carlos Williams, Ogden Nash.
Baseball: Arthur Balfour, Oscar Wilde, Genevieve Taggard, Fannie Hurst, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Taylor Caldwell (umpire).
Bullfighting: Gore Vidal.
Dog shows: Archibald MacLeish.
Football: John Gardner, Les Line and Robert Benchley.
Horse racing: James Fixx, John Betjeman, the Sitwells, Stephen Spender and Mary Ellen Chase.
Hunting: Mark DeWolf Howe.
Mountaineering: Clifford Odets and John Updike.
Rodeo: Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Skiing: Yvor Winters.
Track and Field: Dashiell Hammett, Myles Connolly and Damon Runyon.
THE FUTURE IS WAS
Back in 1972, when international hockey was a novelty, it seemed to be the future of the sport. The future, last week, turned out to be awful. The Toronto Maple Leafs rewarded a sellout crowd by resting four of their best players against Kladno of Czechoslovakia; the Canadian Broadcasting Company canceled a telecast of a so-called "Supersedes" between the Islanders and Pardubice of Czechoslovakia; and Moscow Dynamo drew only 500 people to the Detroit Olympia for its 12-0 stomping of the University of Michigan. More than a dozen teams from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovskia, Finland and Sweden will play in the U.S. and Canada this season. Even Alan Eagleson, one of international hockey's biggest boosters, admits the whole concept has become "a joke."
The dumping of foreign teams on Canada and the U.S. started last year when the World Hockey Association began importing teams during the regular season to hype the gate. So, naturally, the National Hockey League had to copycat. And next year the WHA (if it is still around) will schedule 84 international games. "We've killed the golden egg," says International Hockey Chairman Gunther Sebetsky of West Germany. Overcooked might be a better word. It is obvious that if international hockey is going to have any significance, only top teams should play in meaningful competitions.
A bass fisherman in the state of Washington, who is also a computer statistician, worked out a surefire formula that would allow him to fish without buying a license, yet not get caught. To a computer he fed data on his county's population, the total miles of roads in the area and the number of wildlife agents in the region. The computer gave back the answer that the odds were 10,000 to 1 against his being caught.
The fisherman later explained all this with some embarrassment to Tony de la Torre, a wildlife agent who caught him and charged him with fishing without a license.
THEY SAID IT
•Roy Danforth, Tulane basketball coach: "Our program is three years away. It's a very critical situation because I've only got two years left on my contract."
•Abe Lemons, Texas basketball coach, after a one-point victory over Army, coached by Mike Krzyzewski: "He's doing a great job. If anybody could spell his name, he'd be coach of the year."
•Gary Inness, Indianapolis goalie, to a reporter after the Racers' 7-1 loss to Houston: "What you could do is just not write a story and maybe people would think there was no game."
•Phil Esposito, New York Ranger center, on violence in hockey: "If they took away our sticks and gave us brooms we'd' still have fights."