Serge Savard of the Montreal Canadiens made a blunt comment after the Canadiens swept the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup finals. "The Flyers were the worst thing to happen to hockey," said Savard. "The way they fight, the way they set the example for the young kids. To sweep them, maybe we put an end to all the crap they stand for."
Savard's inelegant language referred, of course, to the Flyers' bruising method of play, which, combined with Coach Fred Shero's analytical all-rink strategy, made the Broad Street Bullies the dominant team in hockey for the past two or three years. And Savard may be right. Certainly more and more people, disturbed by the Flyers' harsh approach to the game, have been making efforts to counteract their influence, and Montreal's victory can only help their cause.
Perhaps the best antidote is one proposed by Bobby Kromm, coach of the Winnipeg Jets. It is simple, yet could prove highly effective. Under current rules, a player serving a two-minute penalty is released from the penalty box if a goal is scored against his shorthanded teammates during his sentence, one goal being deemed punishment enough. All that Kromm asks is that a player be required to serve the entire two minutes, no matter what happens on the ice during his absence.
May 30, 1976
"If the price of a penalty turns out to be two goals, even three," he says, "maybe some teams will smarten up." The goons, the headhunters, the penalty amassers, would become detriments to their teams. Hockey would continue to be the fast, rough body-contact sport it should be, but the deft puckhandlers who can do magical things on ice would be at a premium. Admirable finesse would no longer be obscured by blind violence.
WINNING IS THE ONLY THING
Stan Bondelevitch, who in more than two decades of coaching football at Swampscott High in Massachusetts won almost 80% of his games, had some advice for young coaches as he resigned his post last week. "Only take a job in a losing situation," he said. "Build it into a winner and then leave. Once you start winning, people accept nothing else."
Bondelevitch said he was not giving up coaching. "I'll just do it someplace else," he said. "The pressure here was getting to be too much. I was in a sitation where I had to win 11 out of 10."
Manager Rich Donnelly's Sacramento Solons were losing to Spokane 18-3 with one out in the last of the ninth inning when Plate Umpire Joe Pascucci ejected Charlie Bordes of the Solons from the game. It was the last straw of a long night for Donnelly, who said later that Pascucci had thrown out Bordes because someone on the Sacramento bench was riding the umpires and Bordes refused to say who it was. "Pascucci wanted me to tell Bordes to point out the guilty party," Donnelly fumed. "If he did, he could stay in the game. I told Pascucci I wouldn't stand for that kind of bargaining." Donnelly took his team off the field and into the clubhouse. Most of the fans still at the game got up and left.
Finally, Spokane's manager, the genial, gargantuan Frank Howard, who was suffering from a torn knee ligament, limped to the Sacramento clubhouse to talk to Donnelly. Blessed are the peacemakers. Howard, a former American League home run champion, explained to the 29-year-old Donnelly that the game would be forfeited and the Sacramento club could incur a substantial fine. He reminded Donnelly that the score was 18-3 and that his adamant stand in such a bizarre situation could jeopardize his managerial future. After 20 minutes, Donnelly gave in. He stayed in the clubhouse but let his team return to the field. Spokane Relief Pitcher Tom Widmar joked to Umpire Pascucci, "Hey, Joe, hurry it up. I'm a short reliever." Widmar threw one pitch. The batter hit into a double play and the game was over. "Never a dull moment down here," said Howard.
Track and field is getting all twisted up. Well, maybe track isn't, but field is. You will recall that a couple of years ago a few adventurous long jumpers introduced the flip, a technique in which the jumper, after leaving the takeoff board, throws himself into a full forward somersault before landing on his feet. The powers-that-be declared it illegal, but it is an exhilarating and potentially superior method of jumping.
In pole vaulting, a 59-year-old associate professor of mechanical engineering at Southern California named James Vernon, who vaults for fun the way other people his age jog, has used engineering principles to design and build new vaulting poles he calls Long Bows. "I haven't figured out the optimum shape yet," says Vernon, whose poles are jointed and angular and look as though Dr. Seuss might have put them together. Top vaulters have not yet used Vernon's strange devices, but they're keeping an eye on them. "He's quite a man," says Vern Wolfe, track coach at USC. "He's good for vaulting."
In high jumping, a gymnast named Glen Schmeling at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse stunned the school's track coach by demonstrating a new technique in which he sprints toward the standards, does a cartwheel and dives over the bar headfirst. The first time he did it for the coach, Schmeling, who could jump only 5'8" using recognized styles, cleared 5'10" and, later, 7'2". "I've tried 7'6" in practice," he says, "but I keep knocking the bar down after I go over." However, after Schmeling joined the track team and leaped 6'10" in his first meet, he was disqualified by the judges on the ground that he had taken off from both feet, which is against the rules.
"I know I'm using only one foot," Schmeling says, "but the judges don't believe it. Maybe the solution is to have a video-tape machine at each meet." Dr. Leroy Walker, head coach of the U.S. Olympic track team, says, "I don't mind his style, but he's got to prove he's using only one foot. It could be a very good thing. People laughed at the Fosbury Flop when it first came out, and now everybody uses it."
Schmeling seems amused by the flap caused by his flip. "I think the situation is pretty funny," he says. "I got a letter from a track federation that says my jump is illegal. They've never even seen it. I'm going to frame that letter."
The Shreveport Captains of the Texas League thought they might put their team nickname on the players' caps this year. You know, like "A's" or "Sox." The trouble is, the Captains are usually called the Caps. Management felt that if they put "Caps" on the caps, fans might start wondering why they didn't put "Shirts" on the shirts and "Pants" on the pants. They settled instead for a plain old block "S."
Harness racing is getting on the side of the angels. In West Mansfield, Ohio the Church of Christ received almost $14,000 last year from the winnings of the outstanding pacer, Rambling Willie—enough to remodel the church and hire an assistant minister. One of Willie's owners is Mrs. Vivian Farrington, whose husband Bob is a former harness-driving champion and whose father, the Rev. C. L. Harris, is pastor of the church. Mrs. Farrington believes in tithing, and so does Pastor Harris. He concedes that his congregation tends to frown on such things as lotteries but, he adds, "They know that the horse's earnings are Vivian and Bob's livelihood, and they accept that. But though the money is credited to Vivian and Bob, they also know that Rambling Willie is really doing this, and they're thrilled by it. They'll ask, 'How did Rambling Willie do last night?' We even put his picture up on the bulletin board."
In New York state, Monticello Raceway received an O.K. from the State Racing and Wagering Board to put on a full program of 10 races for the benefit of St. Peter's, a local Catholic church that was gutted by fire in December. Net revenues from betting, admissions, parking and concessions—about $20,000—went to the St. Peter's building fund. His Eminence, Terence Cardinal Cooke of New York, beamed his approval, and Mon-signor John N. Brooks, pastor of St. Peter's said, "We are overwhelmed. We are grateful to the raceway."
If this seems incongruous—churches cheek-by-jowl with racing—it should be recalled that, except in Kentucky and other thoroughbred centers, country people with an aversion to horse racing on the flat have a traditional affection for harness racing. Remember the recitation in Music Man, castigating flat racing? "Not a trottin' race. No! But a race where they set right down on the horse. Like to see some stuck-up Jockey-boy settin' on Dan Patch? Make your blood boil? Well, I should say."
When the Pacific Eight baseball conference was dissolved last year for economic reasons (mostly the cost of repeated trips up and down the West Coast), the four California schools—USC, UCLA, Stanford and California—joined with Santa Barbara to form the five-team California Intercollegiate Baseball Association. Not a very large conference, but a potent one. CIBA teams have won 12 of 29 College World Series, USC an unprecedented five in a row.
But no CIBA team will win the College World Series this year, because none has been invited to play. An NCAA rule specifies that a conference must consist of at least six teams for its champion to qualify for a playoff berth. Teams in smaller conferences are grouped with independent teams and are invited on merit. The four teams picked for this year's West Regional playoffs are two conference champions, Pepperdine and Cal State-Fullerton, and two independents, Washington State and Northern Colorado. On the surface, this seems fair, because Washington State (35-12) and Northern Colorado (27-8) had better won-lost records than CIBA champion UCLA (35-25). But neither of the invited teams played schedules comparable to those of UCLA and the other CIBA members. Fourth-place California had a 24-6 non-conference record, and last-place Santa Barbara beat Pepperdine twice. On the other hand, the NCAA argues, UCLA lost to Cal State-Fullerton twice, split two games with Pepperdine and managed only a 19-17 non-conference record.
California Coach Jackie Jensen, who strongly supports UCLA's bid, says, "We were led to believe that our winner would be chosen because of the strength and prestige of our conference. It's a terrible injustice."
ANYTHING YOU SAY, GARY
Gary Gubner, the massive New Yorker who held the indoor record for the shot-put a decade or so ago and later became a U.S. weight lifting champion, has taken up running. Because of his bulk—Gubner comes in at about 250 pounds—he finds it all but impossible to compete seriously against rivals 100 pounds lighter, who flit past him with ease. But once a competitor, always a competitor. Gubner wants to win a race, or at least have a shot at trying. So he has joined a campaign to get the AAU to establish weight divisions in running. If a beetle-browed man resembling a large oak tree shoves a petition in front of you and says "Sign," it might be Gubner. And if it is, it might be easier all around if you just do what he wants you to do, without argument.
THEY SAID IT
•Warren Spahn, after two months in Japan as a pitching coach: "They're a long way behind American baseball in a lot of ways, but in other ways—well, a high school kid signed for $200,000 while I was there."
•Abe Lemons, University of Texas basketball coach, on the problems of wide-ranging recruiting: "One of these days the NCAA might put in a rule that says you have to have one player a year on your team from your home state."
•Bob Lutz, after losing to Guillermo Vilas in a World Championship Tennis match: "I got tired, my ears started popping, the rubber came off my tennis shoes, I got a cramp and I lost one of my contact lenses. Other than that, I was in great shape."