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It looked rather like polo and was played pretty much like soccer, this strange game that was introduced on a recent Sunday at the Cercle La Gourmette-St. Maur, a posh Parisian riding club. Imported from the Soviet Union, it is played by four men and four horses to a team, and the object is to have one of the horses kick a 40-pound, 40-inch rubber ball past the other side's goal line. Since the riders are not permitted to touch the ball, the specially trained horses must use their knees, legs and chests to propel it.
The game caught on nicely with a crowd of 600, which included Soviet and U.S. diplomats. Referee Pierre Brouillet, president of the Del Duca Club Hip-pique, predicted "a great future for the sport in France." It is, he said, "as tough as polo on both horses and riders."
As to its Soviet origin, there seems to be some doubt, though Club Gourmette members staged the match largely on the basis of photographs they had seen in a Russian equestrian magazine and have sent to Moscow for an official rule book.
"Canard," snorted Jean de Faucon, president of the Cercle Hippique de Saint-Cloud. "Horseball was invented and codified by a Frenchman at least 25 years ago."
TOO MUCH HEAT
After working 321 innings for the San Francisco Giants last season, which made him the busiest pitcher in both leagues, Juan Marichal put in 60 innings for his home team, Escogido, in the sunny Dominican League. Then, understandably, Marichal felt weary and retired for the rest of the winter.
The Dominican press blasted him and fans hooted when he attended ball games as a spectator.
"Everywhere I went people would call me names," Juan said the other day in the Giants' training camp in Phoenix, Ariz. "One day at the ball park a whole bunch of guys sitting around me threatened they would kill me. My wife and I couldn't get out of there without policemen. There must have been 50 cops to get us out. We were real scared."
Now, says Marichal, he will have to buy a home in San Francisco and live in the U.S. permanently. What clinched the decision was that Escogido finished in second place, and Dominicans believe firmly that the team might have won the pennant if Marichal had completed the season.