THE OLD LAUGHINGSTOCK GAMBIT
Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts fears that the rest of the country is "looking down on" his state. Norman Schute, a retired Foreign Service officer in San Diego, worries that his city has become "the laughingstock of the nation." The source of Tsongas's concern is Boston Garden, home of the Celtics and Bruins. Schute's chauvinistic anxieties are aroused by San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, home of the Padres and Chargers. Or, rather, they're aroused by the name of that facility.
What got Tsongas to thinking that folks are sneering at the Bay State was the NBA championship series in June between the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. "I felt a sense of shame that all around the country people were looking down on us, watching the games in the Garden being played in 97 degrees and people feeling that Boston was still back in the '50s," Tsongas said. The Democratic senator seized the opportunity to revive a proposal for construction of a publicly funded, air-conditioned arena to replace the privately owned Garden, where the only air that circulates comes through a few open doors. The idea of a new arena offends many fans, who like the Garden's sight lines and coziness, consider the 56-year-old building one of the shrines of sport, and oppose the expenditure of tax money on a new sports palace. They respectfully suggest that if Tsongas thinks conditions were too stifling in the Garden during the playoffs, he ought to ask the NBA why it's still playing basketball in June.
The specific cause of Schute's distress is the reference to Jack Murphy in the local stadium's name. Murphy, the longtime sports editor of the San Diego Union (and for many years an SI correspondent), was instrumental in bringing the Chargers and Padres to town. After he died in 1980, San Diego Stadium was renamed San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium in his honor. But the facility is often called Jack Murphy Stadium for short, and Schute, believing that this has resulted in a loss of identity for San Diego, started a citizens group that has persuaded the city council to schedule a referendum for Nov. 6 on whether to change the name back, simply, to San Diego Stadium. "People outside San Diego want to know who the hell is Jack Murphy," Schute says. In fact, Murphy is no more obscure than William Shea, the New York lawyer-power broker for whom Shea Stadium is named. Besides, naming a stadium after a deceased community-minded newspaperman is a refreshing change after all the ones that people like Briggs, Comiskey, Ebbets, Crosley, Wrigley, Busch et al. have, in their lifetime, unflinchingly named after themselves.
People elsewhere aren't laughing at San Diego any more than they're looking down their noses at Boston. In simple truth, most of them don't give two hoots whether San Diego residents go to the bother of changing the name of their stadium or whether Bostonians dig deep to build a new arena. The fact that Tsongas and Schute pretend otherwise suggests that they're having trouble making a persuasive case for the changes they advocate.
WIN, TIE, NO-SHOW
To attract stronger fields and build fan interest, several racetracks have been offering million-dollar bonuses to horses that sweep three designated races. Such a promotion naturally generates the most excitement when a horse wins the first two events and is going for No. 3, as happened last fall in something called the International Turf Triple, in which given races had to be won in Toronto, New York and Maryland. All Along won in Toronto and New York, heightening interest in the third race, the Washington, D.C. International at Laurel. She won that one, too, to earn the million bucks—not to mention Horse of the Year honors.
However, there's nothing exciting to report about what happened at Arlington Park near Chicago, where At the Threshold, the third-place finisher in this year's Kentucky Derby, won the Arlington Classic, the first leg of the track's $1 million Mid-America Triple, and two weeks ago wound up in a dead heat with High Alexander in the second leg, the American Derby. For statistical and betting purposes, both horses in a dead heat are considered winners, but the insurance policy that Arlington bought to cover the Mid-America Triple specified that insofar as the million-dollar bonus was concerned, a dead heat wouldn't count as a win. Too bad for the track. Dead heats are extremely rare, and it surely would have cost Arlington only a negligibly higher premium to be rid of that exception; in fact, in at least some of the bonus series elsewhere, a horse finishing in a dead heat would still be in the running for the bonus.
The upshot is that instead of great anticipation as to whether At the Threshold would sweep the Mid-America Triple by winning the Secretariat Stakes, the third leg of the series, on Sept. 3, the horse isn't even entering the race. A track spokesman said gloomily, "We would have loved to see him here."
GETTING BACK AT THE 'ROO
In breaking the U.S.'s 132-year hold on the America's Cup last September, Australia II had two secret weapons. One, of course, was her now-famous winged keel. The other was a battle flag on her forestay showing a kangaroo in boxing gloves, a theme repeated in posters and T shirts sold in Newport shops picturing a kangaroo kayoing an American eagle. Although the winged keel no doubt played a more important role, the kangaroo with the knockout punch was certainly symbolic of what happened to the U.S. defender, Liberty.
Now the New York Yacht Club is fighting back with symbolism of its own. The triumphant Aussies have scheduled a defense of the America's Cup off Perth in January 1987, and Arthur Wullschleger, operations manager for a New York Yacht Club syndicate that hopes to wrest back the mug, has come up with a startling motif for a battle flag for his group's new boat, America II. The flag will depict a kangaroo tick, a tiny parasite that preys on the large marsupial. Wullschleger got the idea from an Australian journalist. "I asked him what a kangaroo's mortal enemy was," he says. "I was hoping it was a snake or something, but a tick? Jesus!"
According to Dr. Jim Keirans, a tick taxonomist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, the species that the Aussie journalist probably had in mind was Ixodes holocyclus, which preys on kangaroos and can cause tick paralysis. But Wullschleger appears to be more concerned with the critter's appearance than its moniker. "It's going to be a rotten, nasty tick with huge teeth, and it'll be looking mean at the kangaroo," he says fiercely.
LOST IN THE TRANSLATION
Upon falling 14 strokes behind the leaders after two rounds of the British Open—he finished the tournament in a tie for 31st with an even-par 288—Jack Nicklaus used a familiar American idiom to sum up his view of the situation for the benefit of the reporters. Here's how it came out in the Scottish press: "Well, you know what they say. The opera is generally not finished until the large woman begins singing."
DON'T TELL US WHAT TO DO
Rick Huckabay was probably the most popular man in Huntington, W. Va. last winter when, in his first year as basketball coach, he guided Marshall University to the Southern Conference regular-season championship and then went on to win the postseason conference tournament. People called the team Huck's Herd, and everybody seemed to love Huckabay. Now some residents of Huntington have turned on the coach. He has received hate mail, his wife has been harassed, his 9-year-old son was punched by a 12-year-old and the Huckabay home has been pelted with eggs.
His crime? He criticized the local Little League. A former baseball player himself (he went to Louisiana Tech on a baseball scholarship), Huckabay attended Little League games as a parent and found a lot of things he didn't like. He disapproved of the way managers and coaches treated the kids on their teams. He objected to the antagonistic behavior of adult spectators when youngsters messed up at bat or in the field. He resented the language that was used. As a parent of a 9-year-old, he felt it was wrong for kids of that age to be competing against 12-year-olds.
He asked Little League officials if he could talk to a meeting of coaches about his concerns but was told they weren't interested. So Huckabay, who'd written columns for a Huntington newspaper during the basketball season, wrote an article for the paper in which he made all his points and also offered to help raise money to improve playing facilities. The reaction was instant and angry. Some readers bristled at his criticism. There was resentment of an intrusion into Little League affairs by an "outsider." Even those who said they agreed with him did nothing to support him. Huckabay said that in his 17 years as a basketball coach he had never faced such a tide of animosity.
Still, he didn't recant. "I'm not backing down," he says. "Baseball should be wholesome fun for these kids. The kind of atmosphere which prevails at some of these games is certain to turn the youngsters against the sport."
BRIEFLY BENCHED, HE'S STILL THE GUIDES' NO. 1 FAN
In his story on the Maine Guides, the improbable Class AAA baseball team in the tiny resort town of Old Orchard Beach, associate writer Steve Wulf introduced us to Jerry Plante, the town manager, tax collector, welfare director, roads commissioner, health officer and, not least, the Guides' No. 1 fan (SI, July 9). Alas, Plante apparently is too much of a fan to suit Old Orchard Beach's town council, which recently suspended him for two weeks for poor job performance and because at least one council member felt he was neglecting his duties to attend ball games. Plante defends himself by noting that the Guides' weekday games start at 7:05 p.m., by which time he has typically put in a 12-hour day on the job. He also argues that I baseball is a good antidote for his workaholic habits. Besides, he says, one of the councillors who voted to suspend him goes to just about as many games as he does.
And how did Plante plan to while away his suspension? He told the Boston Globe that he intended to read and go over some town-related reports, "but come seven o'clock, I might go see a game."
For workaholic Plante, baseball is a tonic.
THEY SAID IT
•Rocky Bridges, who managed the Triple-A Phoenix Giants for nine years and is now skipper of the Class A Everett (Wash.) Giants: "I took one giant step backward."
•Ellis Clary, Minnesota Twins scout, whose team is in the thick of its divisional race despite one of baseball's lowest payrolls: "We've got the only players who'll make more in their World Series shares than in salary."
•Frank Tanana, Texas Ranger pitcher, after Cleveland Indian rookie Joe Carter made his home debut by hitting a first-pitch home run off him: "I've given up many a thrill in my career."
•Butch van Breda Kolff, former NBA coach who recently became the coach at Lafayette College, when one of the Leopard players arrived late at the first team meeting: "That'll be 50 bucks. Oh, I can't do that, can I?"