COURTING A BOYCOTT
There's talk in tennis of a player boycott at this year's U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow. Members of the players' union, the Association of Tennis Professionals, are threatening to pass up the Open to protest the treatment of paid officials known as supervisors, who for the past two years have been assigned to oversee the work of linesmen and umpires and to otherwise monitor the conduct of tournaments on the men's circuit. The supervisors also discipline players for tardiness, swearing and other malfeasances, but most players welcome their presence.
That sentiment is not shared by promoters of Wimbledon and the French and U.S. Opens, who recoil at the idea of surrendering any of their authority to supervisors. Among other things, they point out that their tournaments include women, while the supervisors enjoy jurisdiction only over men. Arguing that such help is needed only at lesser stops on the circuit, like Dayton and North Conway, the Big Three have tried to relegate supervisors to little more than an advisory role. The results have been disastrous, witness the shameful shouting match Ilie Nastase was allowed to engage in with umpire Frank Hammond at last year's U.S. Open and the failure to penalize Guillermo Vilas at last month's French Open when he was late for his match with Manuel Orantes, who defaulted in protest. In both cases, the power of supervisors to deal with the miscreants was undermined by bumbling tournament officials.
The dispute over supervisors has been exacerbated by the Professional Tennis Council, which consists of three players, three tournament directors and three representatives of the International Tennis Federation. The council pays and assigns the supervisors, and a few months ago it voted 8-0 (with one abstention) that all tournaments, the Big Three included, had to adhere to its rules and procedures. More recently, however, it backed off and decided by a 6-3 margin (the three players cast the minority votes) that neither the Big Three nor the fourth Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, had to use supervisors. Angered by that decision, the ATP voted overwhelmingly at a meeting in London on the eve of Wimbledon to boycott the U.S. Open unless a supervisor is on the job at Flushing Meadow. And according to the ATP, 25 players have already withdrawn from the tournament.
Since withdrawals become final only on July 15, it won't be known until then how serious the boycott threat might be. What hurts the ATP's leverage is that while virtually every other player belongs to the union, the top four—Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Gerulaitis—don't. Still, they are believed to be generally on the ATP's side in the dispute, and there is no denying that many other players are angry and mean business. Butch Buchholz, the new ATP executive director, says, "I didn't know my players as well as I should. I had no idea they were so upset about this issue."
Lest anybody think that Al Oerter is the only vintage Olympic champion with life left in the old bones, there's also Alain Mimoun, who at 59 recently finished the second annual Paris Marathon in two hours, 49 minutes and 45 seconds. Mimoun's feat is particularly impressive when you consider that his gold-medal time for the 1956 Olympic marathon in Melbourne was 2:25:00. That means that in 24 years he has lost barely a minute a year over 26 miles and 385 yards.
MONKEYSHINES AT ANAHEIM
As president of the San Diego Padres, Buzzie Bavasi had a hand in the baseball debut in 1974 of that famous costumed character, the Chicken. Thus, Bavasi has only himself to thank that Chicken-like mascots have since proliferated at other ball parks. And that he, now executive vice-president of the California Angels, was fated to come face-to-furry-face with Joe Badame.
Badame is a 35-year-old fan who showed up at Anaheim Stadium on opening night clad in a slightly decrepit, decidedly smelly, ape's costume. Promptly dubbed Angel Ape, Badame became a regular at Angel home games, during which he flashed cards to spell out the team's name and led cheers by waving a white towel. But some fans groused that the ape man's antics were less than amusing and that he frightened children. Others complained that he obstructed their view, but, as Bavasi said, "We couldn't make him stay in his seat, because then they complained about how he smelled." To make matters worse, superstitious members of the Angels, last year's American League West champions, blamed the Angel Ape for their skid into the cellar this season. As Don Baylor put it, "He wasn't around last year, and ever since he appeared, we haven't won."
Dick Foster, the stadium's director of operations, finally banished the ape costume, prompting Badame to protest. "I don't know why the players began picking on me. I wasn't on their pitching staff." Badame reemerged for one game wearing a less malodorous bunny suit and billing himself as the Halo Hare, but then disappeared, explaining that with rabbit paws, he couldn't properly hold his flash cards. Bavasi, who admits to growing doubt about the value of mascots in baseball, calls the fuss stirred up by Badame "a pain."
There have been seven presidential elections since 1952, and George L. Grassmuck, a political science professor at the University of Michigan, makes an interesting observation about them. Four of the elections were won by Republicans, and each G.O.P. victory occurred in a year in which an American League team won the World Series (1952, 1956, 1968 and 1972). The three Democratic wins occurred in years in which the Series went to National League clubs (1960, 1964 and 1976). These correlations suggest that baseball's October Classic could have important implications for this November's election. A victory in the World Series by, say, the Yankees presumably would portend a Reagan triumph. An Astro victory, on the other hand, would mean it's Carter again.
It all seems pretty cut and dried. Unless—dare we suggest—Sparky Anderson's surprising Detroit Tigers continue their recent red-hot play and win the American League pennant and the World Series. That highly improbable result could mean that another silver-haired fellow named Anderson, the one running for the White House, might upset the political applecart.
In his review of the martial arts film Kill or Be Killed (page 40), Frank Deford deplores the growing popularity of soccer in the U.S. as an un-American phenomenon that had better be stamped out if we know what's good for us. A similar sentiment is expressed at one critical point in the screenplay of another movie, Escape to Victory, which Director John Huston is currently filming in Budapest. The movie spins a story about a match during World War II between the German national soccer team and a group of Allied prisoners of war. The goaltender for the prisoners is an American, played by Sylvester Stallone, who is introduced to the game by his fellow captives. At first he doesn't cotton to soccer and insists on tackling opposing players NFL linebacker-style.
"If you use that bloody barbaric American style again, you'll be barred—no tackling!" Stallone is warned by a British prisoner, who is played by Michael Caine.
Stallone snaps, "And I still say that's a chicken——rule. I mean, what kind of game is this? For queers and old women..."
Stallone and Caine are joined for the game against the Germans by other prisoners, who are portrayed by an all-star assemblage of real-life soccer players that includes Pelè and Britain's Bobby Moore. We won't divulge what happens except to say that Stallone changes his mind about the worthiness of soccer. Deford may not budge so easily.
It appeared last season that Mike Ivie, the San Francisco Giants' gifted young first baseman, had finally stepped out of Willie McCovey's huge shadow. Having spent the better part of four previous big league seasons being platooned with the slugger on both the San Diego Padres and the Giants, the 6'4", 210-pound Ivie eclipsed the fading McCovey by hitting .286 with a career-high 27 home runs. But last week he seemed ready to slip back into the shadow forever. Three days after McCovey, 42, announced his retirement, the 27-year-old Ivie did likewise. Although Ivie was in the first year of a five-year, $1.5 million contract, he said his decision to play organized baseball had been a mistake, an admission that tended to overshadow his declaration a couple of days later that he had changed his mind about retiring.
Ivie's mistake, if that's what it was, occurred after he was selected by San Diego as the top choice in baseball's 1970 draft. At the time he was 17 years old, and a catcher. Following Ivie's signing, he joined the Padres for a workout and took some needling from older players when one of his throws to the mound went awry. Thereafter he developed an apparent mental block about throwing balls to pitchers, double-and triple-pumping his arm as teammates looked on dumbfounded. When Ivie reached the majors for good in 1975, it was as a first baseman, although he did play catcher in a 1-0 loss to the Cubs in 1976. The lone run scored on a ninth-inning throwing error charged to Ivie, who was so distraught over the misplay that Manager John McNamara questioned his "toughness."
Because Ivie was often slow to return to action following injuries, teammates saddled him with the facetious nickname "Scrap Iron." Ivie also spent an inordinate amount of time checking the lineup card posted in the Padre dugout, for fear, he explained, of batting out of turn. On two occasions he walked out on the Padres. He was traded to the Giants in 1978, when San Diego owner Ray Kroc decided, as he cruelly put it, that he was "last year's loaf of bread."
On the strength of Ivie's performance last season, the team media guide called him "perhaps the best Giant acquisition in recent years," but he injured a hand this season, then went on the disabled list because of "mental exhaustion" and was hitting .231 with just two home runs. Ivie decided to retire over the objections of his wife Pam and without consulting his parents, who exercised so great an influence on him that Giant Pitcher Tom Griffin said, "This might be the first decision Mike has ever made on his own." For his part, Ivie called baseball "dehumanizing" and said he welcomed the prospect of becoming "an average Joe." When he changed his mind and said he wanted to return, the Giants made no immediate move to reactivate him. If nothing else, the troubled Ivie seemed to be proving his own contention that "playing in the big leagues is more mental than physical."
Ken Morrow, one of the stars of the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team, stopped by the Pittsburgh Pirate locker room in Three Rivers Stadium the other day and was introduced to another sports hero of the past year, Willie Stargell. Morrow, who now plays for the New York Islanders, was startled to hear Stargell say, "Hey, that win in Lake Placid cost me a lot of money."
What's this? Could the World Series hero have bet against the good old U.S. of A. in the Olympics? No, it's just that 13-year-old Wilver Stargell Jr. was so inspired by the American hockey team's victory that he hit on Pop—all right, Pops—for new skates, sticks and pads and enrolled in a Saturday hockey camp in Pittsburgh. And since the lad is a strapping 5'6" and "growing all the time," the elder Stargell figures he will have to be constantly replacing that pricey gear. "It's about to break me," complained Stargell. "Whatever happened to the simple things kids played, like shooting marbles into a matchbox?"
THEY SAID IT
•Armand Pohan, president of the Colorado Rockies, introducing Coach Billy MacMillan as successor to the loquacious Don Cherry: "He has a big pair of lungs to fill."
•Second Baseman Jack Brohamer, after Boston sold him to Cleveland and then was walloped 20-2 the next night by the Angels: "See, I was the glue that held the Red Sox together."