THE SHADOW (CONT.)
Accounts of betting coups in AFL games, which have been reported here for the past two weeks, are now making headlines. These accounts, and their implications, are particularly inopportune: the merger between the NFL and the AFL is to all purposes a fait accompli, the supergame is within rooting distance. It is, of course, possible that the fears are exaggerated: bookies are readily spooked and have been known to see things that aren't quite there. Indeed, one NFL official has compared their alarms to flying-saucer sightings. Whatever the case, this is not the occasion for mollifying clich�s. No sport where big money is bet is immune to fixing—not even baseball. We trust Pete Rozelle will see to it that the investigation is rigorously continued. Moreover, at the earliest possible moment the public should be fully apprised of its findings. If the fears prove groundless there must not be any suspicion of a whitewash; if not, the guilty cannot be punished too severely.
Probably the most eloquent tribute paid Sandy Koufax came early last spring from Gene Mauch, the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. "For the first couple of innings," Mauch said, "Sandy stands on the mound and fusses with his cap and rubs his hand over his brow and kicks at the mound until it is absolutely perfect. This is part of Koufax the true artist, and sitting on the bench you realize that he is getting ready to paint a picture that only he wants to look at. You send the hitters up and they come back and each time they throw their bats harder and higher and they say to each other, 'O.K., Clyde, forget it. He's got it again. Tomorrow, thank God, we get somebody else.' "
Honest pitchers admit that during the course of a season they have their "real good stuff" only four or five times; Sandy probably had his only once in 1966, and then it was with the help of cortisone that he beat St. Louis in the last week of the season to put the Dodgers two games in front. Playing with a team that could score, Sandy certainly would have won 30 games each of the past two years. The most remarkable of all his achievements is this: from 1962 on he won 111 games and lost only 34, and in half of his losses the Dodgers got him one run or none.
Koufax retired last week at the age of 30 because of the pain in his arthritic elbow and, more important, because he knew he would never be 27-9 again, and he wasn't willing to settle for less. Not all of us can choose our endings, as it were; Koufax was favored and he chose a good one. We're going to miss him out there, but he'll miss it more. Oh, what an artist he was!
To Muhammad Ali, last week's bout with Cleveland Williams was just another fight, but for the working press it was a mass conversion. In effect, what they wrote was "I believe." Some agreed with Ali that he was the greatest, many admitted he was a hell of a fighter, and a few went so far as to suggest he really knocked out Sonny Liston in one round in Lewiston, Me. Welcome aboard.
As a matter of fact, the Williams fight was only Ali's third best performance. No. 1 was the first Liston fight in Miami Beach when he was, as he has said, like " Columbus sailing into the unknown." Not only did Ali make Liston quit, but he made a mess out of his great, glowering mush; from one combination alone Sonny had a mouse under the right eye, a six-stitch cut under the left. No. 2 was the one-punch knockout in Maine. This ranks below Miami Beach because in Maine Ali had Liston's number, and Liston knew it—empirically.
We caught on to Ali early in 1961, when he was 19 and had had four pro fights. He sparred two rounds with Ingemar Johansson on the Beach, and Ingo couldn't lay a glove on him. But is Ali the alltime greatest? "There has never been another like him," says his trainer, Angelo Dundee. Granted, but comparisons between present and past fighters are never very satisfactory. Let's leave it that Ali is a genius who has transformed and elevated the art or craft of boxing, and that there may never be another like him.
POWER OF NO SUGGESTION