FULL IN THE FALL
Professional football, which recently lost an interference call to an 88-year-old children's classic, is now being pushed around by baseball. The national pastime's decision to extend its season two more weekends into the fall to allow for divisional playoffs and then the World Series is likely to cause early-season havoc for the 15 NFL and AFL teams that play in baseball parks.
The Minnesota Vikings, for instance, are very much concerned, because the Twins' regular September schedule and October playoff and Series possibilities leave the Vikings with only one sure date before Oct. 19. With Minnesota winters as they are, it is not salubrious for the Vikings to put off too many of their home games to the end.
And the Vikings already know something about autumnal uncertainty. Had the Twins won the pennant in 1967, as they nearly did, the Vikings could not have played their early October game with the Cardinals at home, as scheduled, and would have been unable to swap dates because the baseball Cardinals were also involved. The Vikings asked for the use of the University of Minnesota field if necessary and were turned down. Fortunately for pro football in Minnesota the Twins blew that last series to Boston.
The problem is not, of course, just the Vikings'. Eight other NFL clubs and six in the AFL use baseball stadia. Apparently baseball may rule that the division winner with the higher won-lost percentage is the host for the playoffs. So what parks baseball will need for the playoffs might not be known until the regular season is completed, Oct. 2, and by then it might be too late to find alternate football sites.
If indeed there are any alternatives to find. College fields are the only evident ports in the storm—the 49ers are looking to Stanford, the Bears to Northwestern, the Lions to Michigan, the Colts and Redskins to Maryland and so on. But the NCAA has recommended that colleges not allow the pros to use their facilities, except in emergencies. Somebody had better start doing some fast coordinating.
CAN'T GET AWAY FROM IT
The University of Tennessee football team has a dirt boy. At any rate, one of its managers is designated to bring along a bucket of dirt whenever the Vols play at home. UT Quarterback Bubba Wyche says he throws better with a dry, dirty hand, and he insists that resin doesn't help. Without the bucket, since the Neyland Stadium field is covered in Tartan Turf, Wyche would have to go beneath the stadium to find any soil.
We were going to recommend this week that Penny Ann Early—who has so far been prevented by male-jockey boycott from becoming the first lady flat-race rider on a major American track—be allowed to play, instead, for an American Basketball Association team. She seemed a little too sizable (115 pounds) and colorful (in her interviews she was sounding more and more like Mae West) to be overshadowed by horses anyway, and the ABA's red-white-and-blue game ball is the next best thing to silks. It seemed the perfect solution. But then it happened. The Kentucky Colonels signed her to a one-game contract. Now all we can do is (1) trust that Penny Ann does not do well enough as a Colonel to make the ABA look bad; (2) say, as Penny Ann's father is reported to have said when informed by his daughter that she hoped to be a jockey, "jeez"; and (3) wonder why Bill Veeck, who was announced last week to be the next president of Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, Mass., did not get to Penny Ann before basketball did.
It probably isn't because Veeck is getting old and stuffy. It may be, in fact, that the former demon promoter of baseball, the man who invented the midget pinch hitter (let's see...a giant jockey?) has something even better than distaff riders in mind. Last week he had a few things to say about change in baseball and racing. Looking back on the former sport, he said: "Pro football has made continuous changes for the past 25 years, always trying to make the game more interesting and exciting. What changes has baseball made? It took the collar off the players' uniforms, the players can no longer leave their gloves on the field and they're allowed to wear white shoes. Yippee!"