HOPES UP, AND DASHED
The Hopeful at Saratoga is the first major 2-year-old race at a distance as far as 6½ furlongs and is a showcase of potentially classic colts, hence its name. Last year's winner was Affirmed, who edged Alydar. Last Saturday's Hopeful drew seven entrants, none of whom had ever finished out of the money in 26 starts—an extraordinary record. The favorites were General Assembly, the best son of Secretariat yet; Tim the Tiger, unbeaten in four starts and winner of Monmouth Park's recent $100,000 Sapling Stakes; and Jose Binn, a $14,000 buy who had earned $161,317 by winning three of five races, including the Arlington-Washington Futurity.
At 11 a.m. on race day, Tim the Tiger suffered a minor leg cut in his stall and was scratched. Tim the Tiger had been in the sixth post position next to General Assembly, so Jose Binn moved over from the No. 7 post to fill the empty spot. When the gate opened, Jose Binn broke inward slightly, and General Assembly bobbled. General Assembly's front hooves dug into Jose Binn's rear legs, and Jose Binn had to be pulled up by Jockey Angel Cordero.
General Assembly recovered and went on to win impressively over his remaining opposition by 6¾ lengths for his third straight victory. Jose Binn had to be removed from the track in a horse ambulance and will never race again, though he may be saved and eventually be able to stand as a stallion.
Moreton Binn, owner of Jose Binn, nearly scratched his horse just before the race because his wife had a premonition that something would go wrong. He said, "I'm so sick over this thing I barely know where I am. She kept telling me to take him out, that something was going to happen. Cordero was convinced that Jose Binn was going to be his Triple Crown horse for 1979."
General Assembly, of course, is now on his way to becoming a major racing attraction, both because he looks so much like his popular sire and because he is undefeated. His next start will be in the Cowdin at Belmont on Sept. 27, and then probably the Champagne Stakes on Oct. 8. His trainer, LeRoy Jolley, said, "We've gone slowly with General Assembly and we have no plans to rush him. Both Secretariat and General Assembly won their first stakes late—in August at Saratoga."
Both late, both great?
BLUE MEN IN BLUE
When the presidents of the American and National Leagues last week asked for and got a temporary restraining order directing striking umpires back to work after a one-day walkout—the second in the history of major league baseball—the owners, who have criticized players for putting the game into the courts, did just that. In rejecting the Umpires Association's request to discuss the terms of their March 1977 agreement, AL President Lee MacPhail and NL President Chub Feeney said, "The agreement is complete, and there is no obligation to negotiate changes or additions."
"It was signed in March, all right," said Bob Engel, president of the Umpires Association. "By our lawyer at that time. I tried all year to get a copy of it. I kept asking him, 'When are we going to see this document?' When we finally saw it this spring, it wasn't what we had agreed to. Always before, we all sat down around a table, talked, read the agreement and signed it. Nobody signed this except that lawyer. I don't even know if he had the right to sign. We're umpires, not lawyers. I would think that the leagues would respect us enough to listen to us."
IS SUMO SEXIST?
Ancient Japanese sport of sumo wrestling is under attack from honorable director of Japan's Women and Minors Bureau, Ms. Mayumi Moriyama. As reported by Tokyo's Mainichi Daily News, 10-year-old Mei Kurihara was barred from the final round of a children's sumo tournament in Tokyo after she had won an elimination round. Mei is a girl. Ms. Moriyama contended that the directors of the Japan Sumo Association barred Mei on the basis of the feudal sumo ethic, which regards women as "impure."
The directors said, "Sumo is a traditional sport, and we don't want to see a woman clad only in a Mawashi loincloth enter the ring before the public."
THEY'RE OFF AND CRAWLING
"There is a worm with backbone!" That was the reaction when Herman came from far off the pace to inch out a field that included Seattle Slew, Starworm, Luke Skyworm and Swifty in the second annual International Worm Races in McLean, Va. According to The Washington Post, the contestants were put into three groups: the fuzzies, the slimys and the centipedes. A circle was marked on the ground for each of the categories, and the first to creep outside was the winner.
The young owner-trainers were a bit ambivalent about their entries. Seven-year-old Allison Gregg, referring to Swifty, a slimy earthworm, said, "If he loses, I'm going to step on him." Thirteen-year-old John Shope, who found his inch-worm on the roadside the day before the contest, said, "If he wins, I'll put him out to stud." One trainer had been grooming two caterpillars, but two weeks before the event they turned into butterflies and flew the coup.
By midafternoon the winners were crowned. Sammy breezed to victory in the fuzzy category in 15 seconds. The centipede title was captured by Millipedus Maximus, who blazed across the line in six seconds flat, while Herman slinked to glory in the slimy group with a time of 16.9 seconds.
Poor Swifty! "The worm of conscience still begnaw thy soul!"—Shakespeare.
The National Hockey League suffered another severe setback last week when its shortsighted leadership idly watched as 21-year-old Dale McCourt, the first player selected in the 1977 draft and a budding superstar, was removed by arbitration from the Detroit Red Wings—whose teetering franchise he helped save.
It went like this: Red Wing General Manager Ted Lindsay, who has been instrumental in the club's rejuvenation, signed free-agent Goaltender Rogatien Vachon away from the Los Angeles Kings. Under league rules the Red Wings had to compensate the Kings with one or more players. When the two clubs could not get together on what was fair, an arbitrator was brought in. Judge Edward Houston, a former minor league hockey official who knows the game and its players.
Vachon is one of the two or three best goaltenders in the league. He is about to turn 33 but has several more good years ahead of him. Lindsay reportedly signed him to a $1.5 million, five-year contract. In return, the Red Wings offered their own starting goalie, Jim Rutherford—a fine player—and Left Wing Bill Lochead, another regular. The Kings insisted on McCourt, the Wings' leading scorer last season with 33 goals and 39 assists.
Judge Houston ruled in favor of Los Angeles, giving them McCourt as compensation, which crippled the youth movement of the Red Wings. A shocked Lindsay said, "This is the steal of the century. If Dale decides to go, he'll haunt me for 15 years. He's the equivalent of Guy Lafleur now and he'll rewrite the record books. Compensation is not supposed to be punishment to the acquiring team. This is punishment. It's a thrashing every day for the rest of your life."
It is also punishment for Red Wing fans and for McCourt, who loves Detroit and says he may fight the ruling with a lawsuit against the league, the Red Wings and the Kings. (Lindsay says it is the first time in his life he will be happy to be sued.) The whole thing may wind up in the courts for an entire season, cheating McCourt of a year's play.
Obviously none of this is good for the game, which is why NHL President John Ziegler should have stepped in and nixed the Wings' original deal with Vachon when it became apparent that the Kings' demands might be met. Detroit is one of the few American cities where NHL attendance was on the rise. McCourt's departure may change that.
If baseball attendance in Boston reaches 2.3 million this season, as Red Sox ticket manager Arthur Moscato predicts, Fenway Park will have been utilized to an astonishing 85% of capacity for the 81-game home schedule, far and away the highest percentage in the history of the major leagues. (If the Dodgers draw 3 million this season, for example, they will have achieved 66% of capacity.) Fenway, which John Updike once called that "lyric little bandbox of a ball park," seats only 33,502. To draw 2.3 million, the club will have to average 28,395, which they are very nearly doing. As the stretch drive reaches its peak, the club anticipates sellouts for nearly every game. What makes Boston's attendance figures all the more remarkable is that the club televises more than half its home games.
Moscato, who has been in the Red Sox' ticket office 33 years, remembers when times were quite different and they had to struggle to draw 700,000. Things changed with the Impossible Dream pennant of 1967, the year Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown. "When we drew more than 1.9 million in 1968, I thought we had reached the ultimate. I never believed we could draw 2 million in this little ball park. But we did last year, and we'll better that this year."
Support for the team comes from all levels. Humberto Cardinal Madeiros of Boston was at the Vatican last week participating in the selection of the new Pope. Coming from an important meeting. Cardinal Madeiros asked a fellow prelate, "How did the Boston Red Sox make out today?"
"They won. Your Eminence."
The voyage of the helium-filled Double Eagle II across the Atlantic has attracted new attention to the entire field of ballooning, which for the past several years has been experiencing a boom. Fifteen years ago there were only a handful of hot-air balloons in the world; today there are more than 1,200 in the U.S. alone, plus a number of the long-distance helium ones. That represents about 70% of the world total.
One offshoot of the sport's popularity is the formation of a professional balloon-racing circuit, the brainchild of Bob Waligunda. president of Sky Promotions of Princeton, N.J., which has handled hot-air balloons since 1965. According to Waligunda, next year there will be a 12-race circuit, followed by a national championship. Depending on the local topography, the balloons will race in one of three ways: for distance; spot landing for accuracy; or via the hound-and-hare technique, in which a lead balloon is followed by the pack, the winner being the balloon that lands closest to the hare. The good news is that spectating is free; the bad news is that someday you may crumple a fender on the New Jersey Turnpike when a balloon race passes distractingly overhead.
The fate of the circuit hinges on the sponsors Waligunda can find. Only this week he talked to Canada Dry about sponsoring a "hare" balloon that would be shaped like a bottle of ginger ale. And prospects look good. Balloons cost less than $15,000 and, in effect, can be floating billboards seven stories high, attracting starry-eyed gazes. "Only 1% of the people in the country have ever seen a balloon," Waligunda says.
One would think Rise Shaving Cream could hardly resist. Or Seven-Up, racing out of Chute No. 7. And A&W could decorate theirs like a root-beer float. Gerald Ford might launch his racing balloon in time for the 1980 campaign, adorned with his famous WIN logo—Whip Inflation Now. But then, politicians won't need any prodding to jump on the bandwagon: they've been soaring through campaigns on hot air for centuries.
THEY SAID IT
•Lee Corso, Indiana football coach, after his fifth appearance at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon: "I think I've finally arrived. For the first time in five years Woody didn't call me Lou."
•Rodney Dangerfield, comedian: "I went to a fight the other night and a hockey game broke out."
•Mike Sadek, San Francisco Giants reserve catcher, on Mike Ivie's two grand-slam pinch-hit homers this season: "Why doesn't anyone give me credit? I'm the guy he pinch-hit for both times."