JUST A THOUGHT
This season, as baseball celebrates the 40th anniversary of its integration, the Baseball Writers Association of America should consider naming its Rookie of the Year awards after the first Rookie of the Year, Jackie Robinson. Like the Cy Young Award, the Jackie Robinson Award would have a nice sound to it.
WITH THIS RING...
In the 1954 movie On the Waterfront the character played by Marlon Brando turns in anguish to his brother, played by Rod Steiger, and says, "I coulda been a contender." If that movie were to be made today, the brother would probably respond, "Are we talking the IBF, the WBA or the WBC junior middleweight title?"
The Ring magazine, "The Bible of Boxing," has decided to do something about the watered-down alphabet soup that boxing rankings have become. With its July issue The Ring is returning to the rating system developed by the late Nat Fleischer and used from 1925 to 1962: eight weight divisions, each with 1 champion and 10 contenders. The Ring is also eliminating the single, double and triple stars it has been using to denote the WBA, WBC and IBF champions, respectively.
"Our point is to restore boxing to the purity of the past," Nigel Collins, editor-in-chief of The Ring, says. "Multiple titles have diluted boxing to where it's almost on the level of professional wrestling." As things now stand, 40 boxers hold championship belts of one sort or another. Even boxing historian Jimmy Jacobs, who manages WBC and WBA heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, as well as WBA lightweight champ Edwin Rosario, says, "I can only name about half of the current champions."
Can anybody possibly object to this restoration of sanity? Yes—the boxing federations, each of which prefers to have its own stable of fighters. Also, the TV networks involved in boxing don't want any consolidation of rankings, because they make more money by promoting so-called "championship" bouts. And when the networks make more money, so do promoters, managers and fighters.
Who will like the new-old ratings? The fight fan, for one, who will be spared much of the confusion that now exists in the ratings. Collins also believes that the boxers themselves will eventually benefit. "Being the champ will really mean something," he says. And "I coulda been a contender" will have its old punch back.
Ever wonder where the dirt on a baseball diamond mound or the clay for a tennis court or the cinders of a running track come from? Well, there's a place 50 miles west of New York City that "grows" sports soil. The Partac Peat Corp., run out of Jim Kelsey's 1,000-acre farm in Great Meadows, N.J., supplies dirt for the fields of six major league teams (the Cubs, Mets, Yankees, Dodgers, Expos and Blue Jays) and 19 minor league clubs, and for countless golf courses, running tracks, racetracks, horseshoe pits, tennis courts and boccie courts. According to Bruce Shank, associate publisher of SportsTURF magazine (circulation: 17,500), "Jim Kelsey has taken dirt and turned it into something special."
Kelsey says he owes a large debt of gratitude to the Ice Age. "When the glaciers stopped here in New Jersey, they pushed sand and gravel ahead of them and carved out the lakes from which we get clay and peat." Jim's father, a commodities trader, bought the farm in the 1940s, but he grew mostly vegetables. After his father's death, Jim began growing sod for commercial and residential use and started using the farm's peat for producing sterilized topdressing for golf courses, the stuff needed to grow putting greens. Then, in 1984, Jim bought out Art Kuntz's sports-dirt business in Berkeley Heights, N.J. "I couldn't have done this without Art's expertise," says Kelsey.