SKATEBOARDS ON THE SKIDS
It wasn't too long ago that skateboarding was all the rage in this country, causing apprehension among parents over their children's safety. As things turned out, some of the worst lacerations and contusions were suffered by the skateboarding industry itself. In 1977 there were an estimated 200 skateboard parks in the U.S., but that number has since dwindled to around 70. Meanwhile, skateboard manufacturers have fallen on hard times; some have gone out of business, while sales of firms like Grentec Co. of Burbank, Calif. are running 80% behind last year's totals.
Skateboarding's losses have plainly been roller skating's gain. David Snaith, a consultant to the industry, claims that skateboarding has suffered from being too "macho." "Few young ladies got involved," he says. "Not too many older people were interested. Roller skating is different—it can be a total family thing." Bill Arnett, associate publisher of the Los Angeles-based Skate Industry News, adds that skateboarding also was too specialized even for some boys. "Kids watched those superhuman feats being performed and they couldn't emulate them," he says. Arnett's publication used to be called Skateboard Industry News but changed its name after expanding its coverage to include roller skating.
Some of skateboarding's woes were caused by overexpansion. Skateboard parks often were hurriedly and inadequately designed, and were burdened by high insurance costs. Skateboarding might have better weathered these problems had it become a full-fledged sport. This didn't happen, partly because leading manufacturers were too busy feuding among themselves.
A skateboarding boom of sorts is continuing in South Africa and parts of Europe, raising hopes that a recovery in the U.S. might yet be possible. "We feel our business won't completely die and will eventually come back," says Bob Austin, national sales manager of Hobie's Skateboards, one of the surviving manufacturers. In the meantime, sales of Hobie's skateboards are off by more than 50%, and the firm has shifted much of its production to roller skates.
REINING IN THE FIXERS
After five jockeys and two trainers were convicted in New Jersey last December of fixing horse races at Garden State Park (two other defendants pleaded guilty), action in the burgeoning bribery scandal shifted to Boston, where 21 men were indicted in February on similar charges. Jockey Guy Contrada and six others have since pleaded guilty, four are fugitives, one has been granted a separate trial, and charges against another defendant were dropped. That left eight men to stand trial in U.S. District Court. Last week a jury found seven of them guilty. Jockey Norman Mercier was acquitted.
As in the New Jersey case, the government's key witness was Anthony Ciulla (SI, Nov. 6, 1978), the convicted race fixer whose account of widespread racetrack corruption also resulted in the indictment last year of eight men in Detroit and was the basis of an investigation in Pennsylvania that culminated last week in the indictment of 21 others. Authorities are continuing to investigate Ciulla's charges that he also fixed races in New York—and that major organized-crime figures were involved.
Those convicted in Boston included Howard T. Winter, who was already serving an 18-to-20 year sentence for extortion and is described by federal officials as an organized-crime boss. U.S. Attorney Edward F. Harrington hailed the convictions as the most significant victory over organized crime in Boston in a decade. Yet Harrington expressed alarm over what he called inaction by state racing officials. Citing testimony that jockeys had accepted bribes "with enthusiastic alacrity," Harrington said, "What are stewards doing? If the investigative machinery is not there, it should be set up."
Thomas Lynch, secretary of the Massachusetts Racing Commission, replied that when it comes to investigating wrongdoing, the Federal Government "has many more tools than we have." Clearly it's high time state racing officials—in Massachusetts and elsewhere—acquired adequate tools. One of the jockeys who pleaded guilty to fixing races in New Jersey, J. P. Verrone, declared months ago that Ciulla had an "army" of riders participating in fixes.
Debbie Young, the second baseman for Animal Power, a team in the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Women's Slow Pitch Softball League, was warming up before a game against the Budweiser Brewers when she was struck in the face by a thrown ball. Young, sore nose and all, then took the field with her teammates. She shouldn't have bothered. This simply wasn't her—or Animal Power's—night.
Early in the game Tina Plyler, Animal Power's pitcher, felt her trick knee give out and the game was delayed while she snapped it back in place. Moments later, outfielders Ginny Harris and Julie Henex collided while chasing a fly ball, Harris receiving a badly bruised shin, Henex a fractured ankle that required surgery. Henex was replaced by Bo Mari, who got on base the next inning only to collide with the rival catcher and shatter her elbow, an injury that also necessitated surgery. After Animal Power returned to the field, a ball popped out of Young's glove and struck teammate Dorene Baker on the cheek. Then Plyler, a nursing mother, felt discomfort and left the mound to go home and feed her 3-month-old daughter.
What was supposed to be a seven-inning game was mercifully called in the fifth, Budweiser winning 10-5. Everybody was glad the game was over, presumably including Animal Power's sponsor, a woman deeply concerned about the world's endangered creatures. This accounts for both her team's name and the words on the back of its uniforms: THE RIGHT TO SURVIVE.
Among the things one finds at the ball park these days are furry mascots, pretty ball girls and tractor-pulling contests and, so, who's complaining? Most such adornments are harmless, some are downright entertaining and, cumulatively, they help account for the fact that major league attendance is running 4% ahead of last season's record pace. Still, two incidents last week demonstrated a need for care lest attractions supposedly meant to promote baseball wind up detracting from the game instead.
In Seattle, San Diego's famed Chicken was moonlighting for the Mariners. The Chicken—Ted Giannoulas in real life—is a gifted comic who convulses fans by arguing with umpires, wiping off home plate and doing pratfalls. As the New York Yankees took the field against the Mariners in the fourth inning, he went into another of his routines, standing on the mound and pretending to hold out the ball for Pitcher Ron Guidry. When Guidry reached for the ball, the Chicken dropped it and then began wriggling his fingers as though putting a whammy on him. That didn't amuse the Yanks' Lou Piniella, who flung his glove at Giannoulas as he headed for his position in leftfield. Piniella is a noted hothead, but he made at least a modicum of sense when he later complained, "It's a business to us, not a joke." Indeed, there is a legitimate question whether a performer as skilled as Giannoulas needs to resort to antics that might be construed as showing up a ballplayer—and whether mascots should be allowed in the middle of the field once the game begins.
Far more serious was the melee that occurred in Chicago, where master showman Bill Veeck staged a Disco Demolition Night promotion (conceived by a radio disc jockey who professes to prefer rock music) at a doubleheader between his White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. Customers were admitted for 98¬¨¬®¬¨¢ on condition that each of them donated a disco record for demolition on the field between games. The promotion drew an SRO crowd of more than 50,000, but trouble began during the first game when records and firecrackers were thrown onto the field. After the game thousands of disco records were blown up in a container placed in centerfield, whereupon hordes of young people ran onto the field, tearing up bases, destroying a batting cage and setting fires. There were 37 arrests and, following a 76-minute delay, the umpires declared the field unplayable and called off the second game, which the next day was ordered forfeited to Detroit 9-0.
The bizarre promotion had attracted people who didn't care whether a baseball game was played or not, and a chastened Veeck said afterward that he should have anticipated as much. "The majority of them didn't come for the ball game," Veeck said. "They came for the happening, and they won't come again. That was my biggest mistake." Detroit General Manager Jim Campbell put it more forcefully: "When baseball has to resort to that kind of promotion to get people into the ball park, then baseball is in big trouble." Baseball doesn't have to—and shouldn't.
BRING ON THE BLACK KOJAK
Sal Algieri, the husband and manager of Cathy (Cat) Davis, who claims to be the women's lightweight boxing champion of the world, says his wife has turned down several offers to pose nude for magazine centerfolds because "women's boxing is not a carnival." That raises the question of exactly what to call the spectacle staged the other evening in Portland, Maine. Ostensibly, it was a title fight against West Germany's Uschi Doering, but that billing will be disputed by 1) Ernestine Jones, who is credited with having knocked out Davis last year in Atlanta, which Cat vigorously denies, and 2) Marian (Lady Tyger) Trimiar, also known as the Black Kojak because of her bald pate, who insists that she, not Cat, is the world lightweight champ.
As for Doering, by now she probably couldn't care less. On her arrival from Europe, she had to sleep overnight on orange crates at JFK Airport because nobody was on hand to meet her. Then she endured a couple of postponements as well as the extraction of a tooth—at 3 a.m.—and much hand-wringing by the Maine Boxing Commission over whether to bar her because of her age, which is reckoned to be 35-plus. When Doering and Davis finally entered the ring, only 200 spectators were in attendance, and promoters tried to herd all of them onto the same side of the ring so the arena would appear to be crowded in the movie somebody supposedly was shooting. Davis then began flailing away at Doering, who chose to keep her gloves in front of her face as an alternative to retaliation. The one-sided fight was stopped in the sixth round by referee Willie Pep, who allowed that he didn't much care for women's boxing, anyway.
BIG RED MACHINE
Ex-Stanford star Susan Hagey won gold medals in both the women's singles and doubles in tennis at the Pan-American Games last week, the latter while teamed with UCLA's Ann Henricksson. Hagey was only the latest in a host of past or present Stanford players who have fared well in recent days. In Pittsburgh, Lloyd Bourne won the singles and Scott Bondurant the doubles (with Blaime Willenborg) at the National Amateur Clay Court championships. At Wimbledon, John McEnroe won the men's doubles (with Peter Fleming), while Alycia Moulton and David Siegler were runners-up in junior women's and men's singles. And no fewer than five Stanford products were among Wimbledon's final 16 in men's singles: McEnroe, Pat DuPre, Gene Mayer, Sandy Mayer and Roscoe Tanner, who was beaten in the finals by Bjorn Borg.
None of this alters the fact that Stanford's teams were displaced this spring as both men's and women's collegiate champions—by UCLA and Southern Cal, respectively.
THEY SAID IT
•John Lowenstein, Baltimore Oriole bench warmer, on how he stays ready: "I flush the John between innings to keep my wrists strong."
•Muhammad Ali, explaining how he wishes to be remembered: "That he took a few cups of love and one teaspoon of patience. One tablespoon of generosity. One pint of kindness. One quart of laughter. Mixed it up and stirred it well. And then he spread it over the span of a lifetime and served it to each and every deserving person he met."