Because of the burlesque that football recruiting has become, attempts to be serious about it always sound like lawsuits against hot dog factories, and everybody goes home laughing. The pity is that it has reached such a state. Last week Frank Howard of Clemson and Marvin Bass of South Carolina wailed in harmony against Army's Paul Dietzel (SI, May 28). Dietzel had bagged two South Carolina prizes who had already indicated they'd play in-state. "Makes me so mad I just don't feel like paying my taxes," growled Howard. "Pepsodent Paul is trying to get the cream of our crop," cried Bass. Dietzel stoutly defended free enterprise and the taxpayer's money (Army, he said, recruits solely on funds earned at the gate).
There was more. Army's outriders had hit Tennessee, too, and one coach declared that if Dietzel was calling his players Chinese Bandits they ought to call him Genghis Khan. Previously, SMU's Matty Bell objected heatedly to a U.S. Navy plane's Easter weekend flight which carried four SMU recruits to Annapolis for a "visit." Kentucky cried raid against Miami and Purdue. Kansas and Kansas State dueled over a 190-pound tackle. And on and on.
We find these charades ludicrous, but so are they odious and demeaning—to school, to coach and to player. Often they smack of impropriety. It is time they were stopped.
The limbs of professional baseball players are not as pretty as those of Marlene Dietrich, but they are nearly as valuable and deserve comparable care and devotion from their owners. They don't get it. Instead, ballplayers tend to be lovably indiscreet, fetchingly quixotic. Mickey Mantle, with the kind of limbs he has (fragile), is given to kicking water coolers when flustered. Willie Mays used to hurry home from the Polo Grounds to join the neighborhood stickball games in which he'd blithely dodge fire hydrants and taxicabs in the pursuit of fly balls. Uncle Wilbert Robinson would have been killed had not a grapefruit been substituted for the baseball he was to catch as it dropped from an airplane. The grapefruit splattered on Uncle Robbie's head. Duke Snider ruined his arm trying to throw a ball out of the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Latest zany is Frank Thomas, strongest (and maybe the only) hitter the New York Mets have, daring rivals to test their speedballs against his bare hands from pitcher's mound to home plate. Thomas caught Don Zimmer's fastball recently and escaped without injury, holding up his horny hands in a grand show of defiance. Thus encouraged, he is ready to take on the best arms in the league, and has, in fact, made the challenge. For the sake of the Mets, who need all the unbroken bodies they can find, we hope he gets no takers.
NOTHING LIKE A CLAIM
Those of us who like clear-cut decisions had one last week in the Belmont Stakes (see page 14), but for a few minutes after the race it seemed drearily probable that a foul claim or inquiry would intercept the official result. This didn't happen, praise be, but within the last year 18% of the nation's Thoroughbred races, with a value of $50,000 or more, have been marred by claims and inquiries. By contrast, in 1960 the proportion was 5%.
The foul claim enjoys full voice today for several reasons, foremost of which is that jockeys are riding for steadily increasing purses. Sometimes a rider will claim foul in a close race simply in the hope the patrol film will show something; or, when his horse is clearly second best, he may be tempted to overtake the leading horse by illegal methods, figuring that at worst he will only be relegated to second place. Some track stewards draw their conclusions solely from what they see in the patrol films, and though these films are a definite technological advance, their quality varies from track to track. Patrols still lack three-dimensional lenses. Late-afternoon shadows play tricks. Oddly, when most personal fouls are committed on the inside, or blind side, no track has yet seen fit to put camera towers in the infield.