The second hottest hitter in baseball this season has been Yankee Catcher Elston Howard. Flail away as he might, Elston cannot win the American League batting championship. An arbitrary rule says that a hitter, to qualify, must make 502 appearances at the plate. Howard, who was frequently platooned, will simply not have enough appearances.
A check of American League statistics shows that the matter is one of concern not merely to Elston Howard. It happens that about 35 players in the league are going to have the required 502 appearances. About 125 batters will be under that figure. We think that any rule that keeps more than 75% of players from having a crack at the game's most important individual honor seriously needs review. Baseball is becoming more and more a platooning game (see page 20), and it is not hard to imagine a future season wherein only a handful of players qualify, and the batting champion turns out to be a .270 hitter.
A DIP IN THE ODDS
Puss n Boots, one of Canada's best 2-year-olds, moved into the stretch at Fort Erie race track three lengths in front and figuring to improve his lead. And no wonder—the $27,000 colt had won his last race by 11 lengths; he was trained by Frank Merrill Jr., a leading trainer; he was garnished with a good jockey, Ron Behrens, and he was well bred (by Solar Slipper from a Bull Lea mare).
Despite all these glittering credentials, at the eighth pole Puss n Boots suddenly leaped over the infield hedge, unseated his rider, fell down, slid across the grass, plopped into the deepest of the track's three lakes and struck out for the opposite shore. It took eight men and a row-boat to head him off and finally bring the colt to safety, unharmed.
We bring this up for one reason only: not to make you feel sorry for Puss n Boots, still regarded as a fine 2-year-old prospect; nor to show that high-priced horses are often failures; nor to prove that betting on horses is still a precarious thing. For years, however, there has been a saying that "there are a thousand and one ways to lose a horse race." Now, thanks to Puss n Boots, there are a thousand and two.