SI Vault
October 12, 1964
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 12, 1964


View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue


The still-famous but aging and destitute ex-athlete long has been a commonplace of professional sport. But the future looks bright for those who can hang on long enough in modern baseball, football and hockey. And it would seem that, from a long-range financial security outlook, the hockey player comes out best.

In the National Hockey League a player with 20 seasons behind him can look forward to a pension of $1,640 a month when he is 65. If he elects to take his pension at age 45 he gets $500 monthly. Baseball's 20-year player would get $550 a month starting at 65, $275 at 50. In the National Football League an ex-player cannot draw on his pension until he is 65. Then, with 15 years service behind him, he can expect $821 a month. The American Football League still is ironing out its pension plan but, "to stay competitive," will strive for a carbon copy of the NFL deal.

In all three sports, players are eligible for pensions if they have had only five years of service. And the pension figures are conservative estimates, since the amount of the pensions depends upon special-game proceeds, rate of return on money invested and such.

An endowment policy for National Basketball Association players goes into operation this season, but not retroactively. Player and team each contribute $500 to $600 a year. When the policy matures in 30 years it will return to the player, "conservatively," $2,000 a year. Not much, but it is an improvement on shining shoes, all that is left to some ex-boxers.


The late-season pennant race in the National League—a race that looked like a placid runaway for the Phillies only a couple of weeks back—astonished fans in St. Louis, in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. But Earnshaw Cook, that mathematician from Baltimore (SI, March 23) who gets his kicks figuring out baseball probabilities ("Don't call them predictions, please!"), said he was not at all surprised.

"According to my charts," he said, "they've all been playing second-place baseball." This opinion was based on Cook's scoring-ratio tables. The scoring ratio is derived by dividing the number of runs scored against a team into the number of runs the team scores itself. Cook has set a ratio of 1.25 for pennant winners, 1.19 for second place and 1.12 for third. The system worked well enough in the American League, where the Yankees' ratio was 1.254 after 155 games and where Cook picked Chicago and Baltimore to follow them in order. But in the National League nobody played well enough to win. After 111 games, the ratios for the four contenders were all between second- and third-place caliber. The Giants were 1.18, the Reds 1.15, the Phillies 1.14 and the Cardinals 1.13. After 125 games the situation was not substantially changed except that the St. Louis Cardinals were playing down at second-division level with a 1.04 ratio.

This might add up to an indictment of Cook's system, but it is really just another indication that the percentages simply cannot provide all the answers for the unpredictable game that baseball is. Cook concedes that "in this business, all you have is a chance to be wrong."


Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5