THESE ARE ALL-STARS?
The ridiculousness of voting procedures for the starting lineups in baseball's All-Star Game was never more evident than in a press release recently issued by the New York Yankees. "Yankees Have Eleven All-Star Candidates," the headline on the release read, and the copy boasted that this total was "the most ever by any team." But the punchcard ballots on which these candidates are listed do a far better job of promoting Gillette, sponsor of the balloting, than of helping fans pick a representative team. As usual, the names on the ballots, which were prepared before the season began, are based on past performances and end up bearing little relation to what's happening on the field this season. The only rookies appearing on the ballot are those who received a lot of preseason publicity, like Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles; surprises like Bob Dernier of the Phillies or Kent Hrbek of the Twins, who have played better than Ripken so far, are ignored.
Sure, you can vote for unlisted players by writing in the names; there's a little space on the bottom of the ballot for that purpose, if you can find it. But wait and see; for every write-in vote there will be hundreds cast for players who shouldn't be on the ballot, like most of the Yankees listed. Look at the names: Rick Cerone, hitting .233 when he was sidelined two weeks ago with a broken thumb; Dave Collins, a part-time player, batting .233 with five RBIs as of last weekend; Bucky Dent, who was batting .159; John Mayberry, hitting .244; Graig Nettles, who missed most of the first six weeks with a broken thumb and had only four RBIs; Roy Smalley, batting .226; Butch Wynegar, hitting .245. These are All-Stars? Two other Yankees, Ken Griffey and Jerry Mumphrey, have done better, but not well enough to make them legit All-Star candidates. Of the 11 Yankees on the ballot, only Willie Randolph (.323) and Dave Winfield (.302 and 25 RBIs) are solid All-Star prospects—if one discounts the fact that Winfield went on the 21-day disabled list last week.
All-Stars are supposed to be the best, but the ballot, as now constituted, is inevitably out of date and out of whack. In 1983 baseball should junk this selection system in favor of one that takes into account the events of the season in which the All-Star Game is played.
PASS AT YOUR OWN RISK
It's next to impossible to drive on Southern California freeways these days without seeing bumper stickers that say I'D RATHER BE SKIING or—the variations on the theme are endless—I'D RATHER BE SWIMMING or I'D RATHER BE RUNNING or I'D RATHER BE WINDSURFING. Michael Keaton, a comedian appearing at a Hollywood night spot, the Comedy Store, swears he recently saw a car speeding along the Ventura Freeway bearing a bumper sticker that said, disconcertingly, I'D RATHER BE DRIVING.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR 18-INCH SEATS
Last December the NCAA sought to defuse a mutiny by some of college football's biggest powers by establishing stricter criteria, including a minimum stadium seating capacity of 30,000, for membership in Division I-A. The realignment was expected to force as many as 50 of the 137 I-A schools to drop to Division I-AA, but there was one complication: Within the same conference, some schools figured to meet the criteria while others didn't. The NCAA ruled that if more than half the members of a conference qualified for I-A, all member schools could stay put. If half or fewer of the schools qualified, those that met the new criteria could either drop to I-AA with other conference members, quit the conference or, if they could contrive to play seven or more games a year against I-A opponents, remain in I-A even though their conference was in I-AA.
With that, the realignment scramble was on. Yale, the only Ivy League school that met the criteria for continued I-A status, elected to drop to I-AA with the other Ivy institutions. But another school that qualified for I-A, Southwestern Louisiana, quit the Southland Conference rather than accept demotion to I-AA with its conference brethren. Because only three of its eight schools qualified for I-A, the Missouri Valley Conference is classified as I-AA; however, those three, Tulsa, Wichita State and New Mexico State, hope to be able to play enough I-A opponents—one another, for starters—to remain in that division without having to quit the Valley.
Now consider the Pacific Coast Athletic Association and the Mid-American Conference, which last season arranged to send their respective champions to meet in the California Bowl in Fresno. The PCAA stayed in Division I-A because four of its seven schools met the criteria, including Nevada-Las Vegas, which joined the conference only last November. On the other hand, because only four of its 10 schools are expected to meet I-A standards, the Mid-American will compete in 1982 at the I-AA level.
Despite its demotion, the Mid-American will continue sending its best team to California for what will become, for at least one year, an interdivisional showdown with the PCAA. In the meantime, two Mid-American members—Northern Illinois and Bowling Green—plan stadium expansions to meet the 30,000-seat requirement. Northern now lists the capacity of its Huskie Stadium at 30,050, but several thousand of those seats are 16 inches wide; the NCAA's busy bureaucrats have ruled that to count toward the I-A minimum, seats must measure 18 inches. The purpose of Northern Illinois' planned expansion is to help put the Mid-American Conference back into I-A. Because it will involve, in part, replacing 16-inch seats with 18-inch ones, the expansion will also give some Huskie fans more breathing space, a hitherto unappreciated benefit of big-time football.
•In 1978 four-time Olympic discus champion Al Oerter lent his gold medal from the 1968 Games to a Hollywood production company so that a replica of it could be cast for a forgettable movie called Goldengirl (SI, June 25, 1979). Oerter eventually learned to his dismay that his medal had been destroyed during the copying process. The film's distributor, Avco Embassy Pictures, decided to try to replace Oerter's medal but, understandably under the circumstances, had difficulty persuading some other 1968 Olympic champion to lend the gold medal it needed for striking a copy. Finally, Bill Toomey lent the medal he won in the decathlon—it was insured for $25,000—and Avco Embassy officials were able to cast a replica. Last week they presented the substitute medal to Oerter, who ruefully observed, "It took longer to replace that medal than it did to train to win it."
•Anna Conrad, the 22-year-old ski-lift operator at Alpine Meadows resort near Lake Tahoe who was miraculously rescued after being buried for five days in rubble from an avalanche that killed seven people (SI, April 19), has lost the battle to save her right leg. Doctors at Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, Calif. last week amputated the leg below the knee; Conrad also lost part of the left foot. A hospital spokesman said that the surgery had been necessary because of a gangrenous condition in both legs. Conrad is expected to be released from the hospital in about two weeks.
•After sailing through the House Banking Committee by a 32-7 vote, an Olympic coin bill authored by committee chairman Fernand J. St Germain of Rhode Island seemed a solid bet to win passage on the House floor (SCORECARD, May 24). Instead, the House last week rejected St Germain's bill and passed, by a resounding 302-84 vote, a rival measure sponsored by Illinois Congressman Frank Annunzio. Each side argued that its bill would yield more money to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, although only St Germain's bill contained a guarantee of such a payoff—for a total of $30 million. The St Germain bill, which provided for 17 commemorative coins that would be produced by the U.S. Mint but marketed by private firms, was backed by the White House, the USOC and the LAOOC; the Senate had passed a similar measure. In nevertheless opting for Annunzio's bill, under which three coins would be marketed by the U.S. Treasury, the House concluded that it was bad public policy to allow legal tender to be sold by "middlemen," a word Annunzio used derisively. Unless the Senate goes along with the House bill, it will be up to a conference committee to try to work out a compromise.
WHEN REFEREES HAVE PERSONALITIES AND TEAMS HAVE STYLES, WHO NEEDS A RULEBOOK, ANYWAY?
One of the things people don't realize is that each referee has a little different standard built into his own personality, and what we try to do is not make everybody a robot.... Wally, we know, is a little more lenient, lets the boys play a little more than perhaps a Ron Wicks does, but that's their standards.
—NHL President John Ziegler, responding to charges that Referee Wally Harris permitted Vancouver to flout the rules during that team's Stanley Cup final series against the Islanders.
People felt there was a lot of clutching and grabbing. That was the style of the Vancouver Canucks.
—Harris, on the same subject.
THREE POINTS, CLOCKS, SUDDEN DEATH
The ACC last week voted to adopt a three-point field goal and a shot clock on an experimental basis next season, the former in hopes of forcing defenses out from under the basket and the latter as an antidote to the slowdown style of play that has lately beset college basketball generally and ACC games in particular. In approving a three-point field goal, the ACC joined the Missouri Valley and Sun Belt conferences, both of which also adopted the three-pointer last week, and the Big Ten, which did so a week earlier. The Southern Conference has used a three-point field goal for the past two seasons. In addition, the world basketball federation (FIBA) has taken the first legislative step toward adopting a three-point field goal; final approval is expected in 1984.
The ACC went for a 30-second shot clock, a compromise between the NBA's 24-second clock and the 45-second one used for the past four seasons by the Sun Belt. Following the Sun Belt's lead, the ACC won't operate its clock during a game's final four minutes. As with the other college conferences that have adopted them, the ACC's three-pointer and shot clock will be used in conference games and those non-conference games in which both coaches consent to use them. They won't be used during the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, the ever innovative Continental Basketball Association, a minor league partly funded by the NBA, is trying something new in next fall's preseason games. The CBA showcased the three-point shot and the collapsible rim before the NBA adopted them and last season abandoned traditional won-lost records in favor of standings in which seven points are awarded for each game—three points for victory and one for each quarter in which a team out-scored its opponent. Part of the idea was to make blowouts more exciting by giving outclassed teams a chance to salvage points by "winning" one or more quarters. The scheme worked well enough that the CBA will use it again this season.
The CBA's latest brainstorm is to dispense with the customary five-minute overtime period and award victory to the first team that scores three points in overtime. CBA Commissioner Jim Drucker allows that the impetus for the experiment is a desire to come up with a two-hour "package" for cable TV—i.e., a game free of the scheduling uncertainty posed by the possibility of a traditional OT But Drucker also says, "If you have a down-to-the-wire game that goes into overtime, starting over with a five-minute period is an anticlimax. With this new plan, the game is over right away if a player hits a three-point shot. But should the team that first gets the ball try a three-pointer or an easier two-point shot? And if it hits a two-pointer, what does the other team go for—two or three? And if a team has two points, think of how careful the other team has to be to avoid fouling. All this would make OT superexciting."
One obvious problem with Drucker's scheme is that the team that wins the opening tap in overtime will gain an unfair advantage. But Drucker says, "The other major sports all have some form of sudden-death ending: overtime in the NFL, the game-ending, extra-inning home run in baseball, the knockout in boxing. This would give basketball a sort of sudden death, too."
AT LEAST THEY'RE ON THEIR TOES
At the invitation of new University of California football coach Joe Kapp, ex-Oakland Raiders Defensive Tackle Tom Keating worked as a special assistant during Cal's spring practice. Keating came away from the experience with a graphic idea of what's been wrong with the Golden Bears. "The problem with the program is its image," he said. "Right now the image of Cal football is two guys in tutus chasing a swan."
At about this time last year, Fernando Valenzuela was a rookie pitcher with a 9-0 record, and Los Angeles Dodger fans were in the grip of a phenomenon known as Fernandomania. But at the end of last week, Valenzuela had a 5-4 record, and while he was still a big draw at home and on the road, the more excessive manifestations of Fernandomania were on the wane. The Dodger concessions office reports that sales of Valenzuela T shirts, buttons and the like are "way down from last season." Meanwhile, manufacturers of a once hot-selling Valenzuela poster say they have no plans to reissue it. That's probably a wise business decision. Karls, a chain of 21 toy stores in the L.A. area, purchased 3,600 posters at the height of Fernandomania, sold most of them during a 2½-month stretch last year, but is having trouble unloading the few it still has in stock. As a result, those relics of Fernandomania have been marked down from $2.99 to 25¢.
THEY SAID IT
•H.A. (Humpy) Wheeler, president of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, on next week's inaugural Detroit Grand Prix: "I just can't understand why anyone would run a race in Detroit around Renaissance Plaza that a Renault is going to win."
•Don Zimmer, Texas Rangers manager, summoned to the phone on May 7 after his team snapped a 12-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over the Red Sox: "Is this President Reagan calling?"