SI Vault
July 22, 1968
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
July 22, 1968


View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4

Grasping for any lifesaver. General Manager Ed Bastian asked the Seminole Indians to do a "reverse rain dance" prior to a home game. The Indians came but they didn't get to dance. It rained.


A member of Princeton's varsity basketball squad was vitally interested in point spreads last season. But it was not his money that depended on it, just his mark in statistics. John Dodd. a 6'3" forward, decided to do his senior thesis on systems of predicting game results. Using a computer and various sports statistics, he picked the winners in 72% of last season's 57 Ivy League basketball games. He was less successful with the point spreads, picking the correct margin only 3.5% of the time.

Dodd worked with the box scores of all 1966-1967 Ivy League games to calculate the average scoring power of the players on the 1967-1968 Ivy rosters. These averages were based on points per minute played. By totaling individual averages, Dodd was able to estimate average team scores per game. This figure was then adjusted downward by multiplying by .9 "to take into account adjustment to new team situations and to allow for overestimation of scoring due to new players." Another factor computed was the home-court advantage (figured to be 2.5 points per game). Alter each game was played last season team ratings were revised, to accommodate individual improvement or decline in scoring efficiency.

The averages Dodd predicted at the beginning of the season for the league's leading scorers were close (within two points) in 20 of 36 cases. And his forecast that Ivy League Champion Columbia's points-per-game average would be 77.6 was only two-tenths of a point off. But Dodd's finest preseason calculation was his own scoring average—1.4 points per game. That's exactly how he finished the season.



Add to all those theories on the demise of the hitter, one more. Frank Ryan, an official of Hillerich & Bradsby, the Louisville company that makes bats for many major leaguers, says that the trend has been toward lighter bats, but significantly leading hitters in each league—Pittsburgh's Matty Alou and Boston's Ken Harrelson—are now using heavier bats than before.

"The heavier the bat, the better wood you get on the ball," Ryan says. "Today's batters are delaying their swings, trying to hit the ball at the last instant, and to hit it harder. That's why they've gone to lighter bats, hoping to get more whip. They are not hitting the ball where it is pitched. They want to pull the ball for the home run. Harry Walker did a great job with Alou, making him choke up on the bat and let the bat do the work. Alou used a 31-ounce bat when he was in San Francisco; he uses 37-and 38-ounce ones now."

Most major leaguers, obviously enough, disagree with Ryan's thesis, but one who does not is Cardinal Batting Coach Dick Sisler. "The batters went into their hitting coma with light bats, and they're just realizing it now," he says. "With a heavy bat you can hit to all fields better than with a light bat. I've been stressing this for years. I remember in 1948, when I was playing with the Phillies, Manager Ben Chapman wouldn't let anybody on the team order a bat that was under 35 ounces."

Continue Story
1 2 3 4